Interview: Voice Casting Director Andrea Romano talks Casting ‘Superman: Unbound’, Telephone Auditions and Going to Bat for “Rank and File” Actors

Andrea: "Phone auditions are the best. I mean, for actors, how great is that?"

superman-unbound-posterAndrea Romano is one of the top voice casting directors around. From SpongeBob Squarepants to Animaniacs, The Smurfs to Batman, she’s cast dozens of animated shows and films since the mid-80’s.

Lately, she’s been casting the DC animated films (Justice League and Green Lantern to name a few) and her current film, Superman: Unbound, was one of the featured panels at WonderCon.

Andrea is also the voice director on the film that stars Molly C. Quinn as Supergirl, Stana Katic as Lois Lane and Matt Bomer as Superman. She said in a roundtable interview that that means she’s listening to the actor’s work and helping them round out their performance, sometimes even giving the actors line readings after they’ve done 5 or 6 takes.

Andrea was very cool and you’re definitely going to like this interview. She talks about voice casting and finding the right voices, not caring if the actors are known or not, auditioning over the phone, and getting that right “Ahh’s” and “Arghs!”

Superman: Unbound will be released on May 7th on DVD & Blu-Ray

Let’s talk about Matt Bomer. I know he almost played him for McG in the last Superman. 

Andrea Romano: Matt is such a good actor and when we were all talking about thoughts for this character, we found out that Matt was a fan of our work, what we had done before in the various different DC projects, and so that’s always a step in the right direction. They’re familiar with the work that we do and then they’re really good actors. So you’ve already got half the battle won.

Then it was a matter of scheduling, which for an actor like Matt is really a nightmare. Just like it is for Molly and Stana and everybody else who’s got on camera series that shoot 16, 18 hour days and 5 days a week if not 6. But we did get a beautiful cast put together. Matt is got a vulnerable quality that I think is key for Superman. I think there’s gotta be strength to Superman, but I think there’s also gotta be a sensitivity that you don’t see in a lot of other superhero characters like Batman. You hardly ever get to see Batman’s soft underbelly. You know what I mean? But Superman you have to have this kind of… you have to have the idea that he could be in love with Lois Lane, that he’s got that much emotional, you know, that he’s not afraid to extend that much emotion, and Matt had that. So wonderful to work with too.

Was it more the story lent itself as a perfect time moment for Matt to come as Superman?

Andrea Romano: Yes. This particular story I think fit his voice and his acting… kind of his acting sensitivities. You know, his sensibilities, where he would go with it.

And what was so great is, you know, sometimes you hire an actor because they have a great vocal quality and you’re familiar with their work and then they come in and they aren’t quite on the same page as you are and sometimes that works in their advantage where you go, “You know, I didn’t of playing it that way. But it’s valid and it’s good. Let’s go with that.” And then other times you go, “When I look at the whole arc of the story we have to get from here to here to here and where you’re starting is never gonna get us there in time. So let’s make a little adjustment,” and then you kind of gently move an actor to that performance without forcing anything on them.

My favorite kind of actors are the ones that have their own ideas and come in with their own thoughts, but who also understand when I say, “Ok, we’ve done 5, 6 takes of your thought and we’re not there yet. We can either spend 15 more minutes waiting for you to find it organically or I can tell you how to do that line.” And mostly they go, “Oh, tell me. Just tell me and we’ll move on,” because, you know, we can be done 15 minutes faster for every single line. So… and that’s what every actor in this cast was like. They all were like, “I have my ideas, let me do that first,” and then I’d also throw some ideas at them and see what comes together.

Sometimes we’ll have 5, 6 choices of takes that we have to sort of listen in context and go, “Now, which one fits best with what this actor did 3 weeks earlier and see how that flows.” And so we’re constantly editing and putting things together.

Do you guys like to be in the same room or location?

Andrea Romano: I love that.

I know actors are busy and but do you have to go to a separate location sometimes?

Andrea Romano: Well, I try to do ensemble records wherever I can and we always get the best performances when we can do that. Not that we don’t… not that we get lesser performances when we have the actors separately, but when the actors record separately, say I record you… 3 weeks ago I record you, 2 weeks ago I record you, last week. Then when we get the picture together and your voices together, we go, “You know what? He sounded like he was talking to somebody right next to him in the same scene. He sounded like you were across the room and it doesn’t make sense, you know, the levels are wrong.” So we have to either bring your level down and have you speaking like it’s conversational or bring yours up and make it sound like you’re across the room from each other. So that’s kind of a fail-safe at the end.

But my job is to make sure that it sounds like they all recorded in the same room at the same time and that they’re reacting to each other because a big part of acting is reacting. You’re gonna respond to me based on what you hear from me. If I say to you something like this, it’s gonna elicit a response from you. If I say something to you like this, you’re gonna have a different response. So my job is to remember what the actor before them did so I can read them into the line and they can give me that same… the appropriate response.

Do they have the story boards ahead of time to get a sense of where the characters are in the scene?

Andrea Romano: If they ask for a story board we will supply them. They almost never do. Most actors don’t really know how to read a story board. They know how to read a script, shooting script where it has all the stage directions and everything, but when we bring them into the recording session, we typically give them what’s called a dialogue only script and it only has their words so it’s my job to say, “You know what? During that line, you’re actually running and leaping across buildings. So you can’t just record it this way, you have to record it like this so it makes sense.”

So it would help if they did look at the storyboards. When I used to direct Spongebob, we always gave the actors a storyboard ahead of time and it worked a lot faster and we had to do a far less ADR at the end because they were actually looking at the picture. They could see what was gonna happen. But that isn’t always the way that these.

When they record and you have actors recording different places different times. Do you do some playbacks to the actor from the recording so they can do the dialogue?

Andrea Romano: Every once in a while I’ve done that. More often than not it’s my job to act for them. The thing is that would take so much time because sometimes I’ll record you at 9:00 in the morning and you at 3:00 in the afternoon and to find the takes of his that we liked for sure and play those for you so that you read it right will take us so much time because it’s not edited yet. So it’s just a time issue. And especially with celebrities who can give me a 4 hour block and that’s it, I don’t have enough time to mess around with playing back.

andrea-romano-voice-casting-directorSome voice casting directors say they have an ear to where he can actually hear an audition on the phone. How long has it taken for you to get that ear?

Andrea Romano: I got that pretty fast because you learn that you can’t deal with the visual. You have to just listen. And so whenever I listen to auditions I close my eyes and listen to them. And phone auditions are the best. I mean, for actors, how great is that? I’ll have a role that’s 7 or 8 lines, I’ve got all the rest of the cast filled up. I call an agent, I say, “I need someone that can do this. I’m gonna fax you the copy or email you the copy, give it to your actor, have them call me at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, I’ll read them over the phone.” And I listen to them, I direct them a little bit, I find out if they’re directable, and I book them or I go on to the next person. So it’s just a brilliant thing to be able to so quickly hear somebody.

What is it about Stana that brought this version of Lois to the table?

Andrea Romano: It’s a… Lois is always a very tough character to cast in that she has to be strong. She’s an investigative reporter, so she’s used to being, you know, playing with the boys. She’s tough, she’s the one to get the answers, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty to get the story. But there’s gotta be a soft vulnerability to her too that would make somebody love her like Clark Kent. And so Stana, had that and we’ve seen that on camera, we’ve seen her do that work.

And the other thing about working with someone like Nathan [Fillion] is I’m not afraid to call up Nathan Fillion and say, “Nathan, how is so and so to work with?” And there’s a couple of actors that I’ve used whose names maybe aren’t recognizable, but they’ve been on the show on Castle as like a guest. And I’ll call up and go, “That guy’s voice is so great. It’s raspy and he always plays these bad guys and how is he to work with?” And Nathan will text me back real quick, “Great guy, my new best friend, hire him in a minute.” You know?

And I’m not afraid to call up people that I know that I’ve worked with before that work with those actors to find that, because I’ll get any information I can from anybody. I’ll ask the agent, I’ll ask other actors that work with them, managers, publicists, all those kinds of people. Other casting directors, other directors. All the time we all share information. How is so and so to work with? Well, we got a great performance but it wasn’t easy. You know? So you go am I willing to put that extra work in because this actor is so wonderful and their name will mean something and because I think they’re the right casting?

And when it comes to the bottom line though you guys, I want the right actor for the role. I don’t care if they’re a celebrity or not. To me it does not matter if they are a name. If it’s a rank and file actor who’s exactly right to play that character, I will fight for that actor, I really will. And somebody else is gonna have to convince me that somebody else is a better idea. So I really wanna get the best actor for the role.

You made some fighting noises. Do you have them written down on a script?

Andrea Romano: I work with a brilliant editor named Kelly Downes and I’ve worked with her from Hanna Barbera days, so that would’ve been since 1984. And she has learned how to… she preps all my ADR. She sits there with me and determines all those sounds. And she will literally… I’ve learned after all these years exactly what she means when she writes, “AAH!” or if it’s “AAUGGHH!!!” I know that that second one is “AAUGGHH!” instead of “AAH!” which is what the first one was. So… and she sits beside me when we record. So we do all this and she’s got, like… I’ll call her up sometimes and say, “Kelly, how would you spell a kiss?” And she’ll go, “M-W-A-H-H-H.” Oh, great. So when I write it out it’s like…MWAHHH.

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