The talented voice actor talks about this new DVD set, the upcoming movie and the rigors of Broadway

Peter Fernandez has been doing voice work for almost 50 years, including the voices of Speed Racer, Racer X and others on the original 1960s version of Speed Racer. His latest effort is as the voice of Spritle in Speed Racer: The Next Generation - The Beginning. I had the chance to talk to the voice actor over the phone about his voice work and this new DVD. Here's what he had to say.

You've done the voices for Speed and Racer X in the past. For this one, what made you want to do Spritle's voice instead?

Peter Fernandez: Well, I thought it sounded like such a fun thing to do. I'm still good friends with Corrine Orr, who was the original Trixie and Spritle, and I thought, 'Oh, she'll really get a kick out of this. I'm replacing her.' It just sounded like a good concept for a sequel to the original one. They made two other sequels, earlier, and they were just terrible.

(Laughs)

Peter Fernandez: They wanted me to get involved. I looked at a couple of episodes and said, 'No way.' When this came along, I thought it looked promising.

You've seen all the other stuff with the series, but were there any other influences that you took on with this new voice?

Peter Fernandez: How did I get this voice for him

Yeah.

Peter Fernandez: Well, I saw a sketch of him and he looked a like a working man, like a mechanic, sort of. I thought I'd do him that way, with a slight sort of a brusque, roughness. It seems to work.

In the whole mythology of the whole series, where does this fit in to the series as a whole?

Peter Fernandez: If you're referring to the earlier series, it looked to me, when I saw a couple of episodes, that each one was drawn or animated by a different group. The shots didn't match, the people didn't match and I couldn't follow the storylines either. The characters didn't look like the same ones, from episode to episode, and both of them had a very cheap-looking aspect. This one, seeing the characters sketches and everything, I thought this looks better, and I was right.

So the production quality on this is one of the better ones in the whole series?

Peter Fernandez: Oh, yes. Every episode of this new series, the ones that I've seen, are just terrific. I mean, those car races are three-dimensional. It puts it into a whole other category. It's like a feature film.

Are there any special features on this DVD that we should look out for?

Peter Fernandez: There's an interesting sort of panel, saying how they made this series. All the creators were on there. It's really quite interesting. It's very well done, yeah.

You've done voice work for almost your whole career. Has there ever been the desire to be just a straight-up actor?

Peter Fernandez: I have been many many times, but I was younger when I did that. I did seven Broadway plays and the last play I did, I knew on opening night, that I was opening a terrible flop. There's nothing more of a letdown. It's opening night and everything. I said to my agent, 'Don't ever send me for a Broadway play ever again,' and they didn't. Doing plays, for instance, you do the same thing. The actors will say, 'I give it a new approach each night,' but my first play I was in for two years. How fresh can you be?

Yeah, exactly. There aren't too many different approaches you can take over two years.

Peter Fernandez: I also had a terrible habit, which I fought in every play, to stop from yawning, in between lines. Oh, God, that would be torture, to hide the yawn. I didn't have to worry about that for radio, which I did a lot of. I could do it and nobody would know.

Yeah, exactly. You can hide a little bit. So, is there any dream voice that you've always wanted to perform but haven't had the chance to yet?

Peter Fernandez: No, I think I've done about every voice I possibly can. I don't keep a library in my head. A lot of actors do. I don't. I just look at the character, think about it on the job and whatever comes out, comes out. If I saw a little thin skinny guy, I'm already thinking, and it comes out.

So how was your experience working on the new Speed Racer theatrical movie that's coming out this weekend?

Peter Fernandez: Well, I saw it Saturday night. I'd gotten word a couple of days earlier because Corrine Orr saw it in California and told me, but I didn't know if I'd be in it or not. They flew me over to Berlin. I was over there for a week but, really, it was only one day of shooting, which was very weird because there's no set. They do it all in front of a blue-screen or a green-screen. I'm a race car announcer and I had to keep moving my eyes around like I'm following cars and I'm not following anything.

Is there anything you're working on now or working on soon that you can tell us about?

Peter Fernandez: No. There's nothing coming soon. If the phone rings, I've got something, but right now, no.

Play it as it comes, eh

Peter Fernandez: Well, this business, you're employed or you're not employed. There's a lot of time in between jobs, which is good if you have other things to do, which I find I have.

Finally, Speed Racer, the whole series has been around for ages now. With everything being reborn, the new Speed Racer and this new Speed Racer: The Next Generation - The Beginning DVD set, what do you think it is about this series that still related to audiences today?

Peter Fernandez: The new series is really upscale with effects and animation and everything. Those racing sequences are out of thise world. You go along with the animated characters and then a race starts and each episode has a race. It goes in three dimensions, on your TV or even your computer.

Well that's about all I have for you. Thank you so much for your time today, Peter.

Peter Fernandez: OK, thank you.

Speed Racer: The Next Generation - The Beginning races up to the DVD shelves on May 6.

Cinemark Movie Club