McGinnis: Actor Yuri Lowenthal on being a successful voice actorWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever see “Ben 10″ on Cartoon Network? Meet the voice of Ben. Ever play any of the “Prince of Persia” games on PlayStation 2? Allow us to introduce the Prince. Are you a “Naruto” fan? That’s the voice of Sasuke. In short, if you’ve sampled pop culture in the past 20 years or so, you’ve almost certainly heard (and seen) the work of actor Yuri Lowenthal.
“I had always been intrigued by the idea of performing but didn’t really make an attempt until the end of high school,” Lowenthal said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “And as soon as I had been in my first play, I was hooked. I’ve always been a storyteller and was a writer before I was an actor. I think it was just an extension of that.”
While Lowenthal attended the College of William and Mary, it was working on an New York University grad film that he first made the most important personal connection of his life — meeting fellow actor and future wife Tara Platt.
“While I did the professional thing of waiting until the project was finished shooting before asking her out, I think the chemistry was there from the start,” he said. “Our first kiss is actually immortalized on 35mm celluloid!”
The couple soon moved to California, where the realities of trying to make a living in show business soon led to a discovery.
“I’d been collecting unemployment and working as a temp to make money and both Tara and I wanted to explore every opportunity that we could find to make money as actors. Minus, maybe, porn,” Lowenthal joked.
“Voice acting came up, and because neither of us really knew anything about it, we had to start from scratch- taking a beginner course, building our demos to send out to prospective employers and agents. A small job here and a small job there led to others, and here we are today.”
While both Lowenthal and Platt have done numerous roles on camera (including in their own Web series “Shelf Life”), they are highly respected performers in the field of voice-over. The pair has even collaborated on an instructional book about their experiences entitled Voice-Over Voice Actor. Lowenthal said that while recording, with nothing but his vocal performance to do the job, imagination is the key.
“In the booth, especially if I’m not in a cast record with other actors, I have to create the setting, props, situation and other characters myself and make it all as real as possible for me. Then I relax and hope that my reality speaks for itself. And if something in particular is not necessarily getting communicated, I can usually count on the director to nudge me in the right direction,” he noted.
There is a lot that’s liberating about the profession, as well, Lowenthal argued. “I can play almost any character, as long as I can sound like that character. That would never happen on-camera or onstage. I will generally only be considered for roles that suit me physically and think of how limiting that is. But I play older and younger characters and foreign characters and inhuman characters all the time in voice-over. That’s hugely empowering for an actor.”
That feeling extended to his work on “Last of Us,” which Lowenthal said was a lot of fun. “Post-apocalyptic survival stories are my jam. I felt very much at home in the darkness. They [game developers Naughty Dog] were also obsessed with making a quality game and were willing to take their time with it, which doesn’t always happen. They created compelling characters and weren’t afraid to noodle the dialogue until it became very natural.”
In the end, Lowenthal said that he hopes he gets to continue being the storyteller he always wanted to be — whether larger fame and fortune finds him or not.
“I just hope I get to keep telling compelling stories and working on exciting projects with people I love and respect and never retire,” he said. “And I guess if that works out, ‘stardom’ could follow, but it’s certainly not the end goal.”