The versatile actress discusses her role in the latest direct-to-DVD animated feature featuring the DC Comics superheroes
Versatile actress Vicki Lewis makes her second foray into the world of super heroes as Persephone, one of the major Amazonian characters featured in Wonder Woman, the latest in Warner Home Video's series of DC Universe animated original movies.
Lewis is perhaps best known for her performances in NBC's NewsRadio as Beth, the sarcastic secretary to Dave Foley's lead character. However Lewis is also known for her roles on Home Improvement, Seinfeld and 'Til Death, as well as her vocal performances in Justice League: The New Frontier as Iris West, and her role in Finding Nemo.
Lewis sat down to discus giving a voice to Thymesceria's Amazonian "bad girl", where she finds the voices of her characters, and her life-long addiction to Tetris.
Here's what she had to say:
When you read the Wonder Woman script, what was your first impression of Persephone?
Vicki Lewis: I'll be honest, I knew nothing about the mythology of any of this. I got the script, and often times I just kind of look at my part, but this is a fascinating story. I ended up spending half a night on Wikipedia going through the real mythology of the character. Persephone is a very fascinating character in Greek mythology and the comic books. I wasn't a great student, so I love any opportunity at my age to learn something new. So that's how I prepared.
What endeared you to the role of Persephone?
Vicki Lewis: I do a lot of animation, and mostly I get cast as the whacky character. I play a lot of kids, or the strange neighbor next door, or the really off-the-wall person in the script. But this was really enticing because Persephone is a solid, commanding woman. It was an interesting process to find and place her (vocally) - she's a powerful character, and the direction was 'less is more' in the grand scheme of this Greek tragedy. I'm very rarely asked to play the powerful, centered part of myself. It's always there, but I don't get to use it often (in performance). I played Velma Kelly in Chicago, so I think I drew mainly on that character. But this was a great experience. I expected to come in and they would ask me to act like an idiot, which is what I usually get paid to do. So this was an interesting recording session.
Was there a favorite moment for you during the recording session?
Vicki Lewis: When you have 900 people staring at you through the glass of the recording booth, and whispering but you can't hear them, you really want to make sure you give them what they want. And I felt like I got it, because I understood the emotion. This character, Persephone, has some very heartfelt and sad moments, and it was really vulnerable and really human. It wasn't cartoony - it touched something somewhat real. So I was actually affected by it in a way I didn't expect to be.
Was it fun playing the bad girl?
Vicki Lewis: It's always fun being the bad girl. When I was young, I had Barbie dolls and I made them fly. And then my friends deserted me because I turned them into witches. I was always THAT kid. I didn't even know what a comic book was.
Much of the fanboy populus is into gaming. Are you a gamer?
Vicki Lewis: I'm not into the games like the kids play today, but I was addicted to Tetris. I had the Trio, and the Tetris was on it and then my fiancé got me the iPhone for my birthday and I love it. But it doesn't have Tetris. So I've kept the Trio's battery alive to play Tetris. I used to be addicted to Pacman. We were doing The Wizard of Oz at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre, so we were stuck in the middle of Kansas and we would go to the House of Pies every night because they had a Pacman machine in their lobby. And we were obsessed with it.
You glide smoothly between stage, film, television and animation voiceover performances. All three require different techniques. What's the trick to making the transition for voiceover work?
Vicki Lewis: I started out in theatre in New York and then I did movies and I'd been out (in Hollywood) for nine months when I got NewsRadio and it was all a really interesting transition. Somebody who'd been around for a long time came up to me and basically said that the difference between stage and film and television is that on stage the proscenium is where you can see it. Film and television, it's really got to be here (spreads her arms wide). In terms of turning that into voice work, sometimes the voice is very subtle, and sometimes I'm so loud they have me move away from the mike. So in voiceovers, you learn where the proscenium is in your voice. As far as acting, I've been working for so long that I can basically tap into any emotion. I'm like a little trained monkey at this point. So it's just a matter of finding that place, and adjusting vocally as you would onstage or in film.
For voiceovers, like Wonder Woman, I feel really blessed that I'm able to do this and that Andrea (Romano) continues to hire me. She always lifts my spirits, she always makes me better, and she's always so gracious. I keep thinking, 'When is she going to see through me, that I don't have any of this talent she's thanking me for?' She's just so great, such an amazing director.
Produced by the multiple Emmy Award winning animation legend Bruce Timm, Wonder Woman is an origin story and features a stellar celebrity voice cast including Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Virginia Madsen, Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt and David McCallum. Wonder Woman begins on the mystical island of Themyscira, where a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons resides. They have raised Princess Diana, a daughter of stunning beauty, extraordinary strength and incredible fighting prowess. Diana possesses a host of super human powers granted to her by the gods and goddesses of Olympus and her strength and stamina are unparalleled. When Air Force fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization. Meanwhile, Ares (the God of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazons and has decided to exact his revenge by starting a world war that will destroy them all. It is up to Princess Diana to save her people and the world by using her gifts to become the ultimate Wonder Woman. Visit the film's official website at www.wonderwomanmovie.com. The film hits DVD and Blu-ray Disc on March 3, 2009.