Mike Pollock: Portrait of a Voice Actor (Part 2)

Mike Pollock: Portrait of a Voice Actor (Part 2)

by April 22, 2015

From Dr. Eggman to the Future of the Industry

Our conversation with voice actor Mike Pollock continues with his thoughts on the future of voice acting and how playing Dr. Eggman has shaped his career. If you missed the first part of our interview, you can read it here.

TSSZ: As you’ve spent more time in the industry, I’d imagine that you’ve seen it change and evolve to some degree. How have you seen it change, if at all, and where do you think it’s headed?

Pollock: The Internet is a blessing and a curse, much in the way that social media on the Internet has allowed everyone with an opinion to express it. The Internet has allowed anyone who can afford a decent microphone to become an aspiring voice actor, which is fantastic for those who want to get into voice acting, but it also means that there are people who work on the cheap. So, if there are clients who are willing to only pay for cheap, then they can hire a guy for a dollar, whereas I’m not gonna work for a dollar. I have food needs that cost more than a dollar, so…sorry.

That competition increases. However, on the flipside, I can audition remotely for jobs all across the country without necessarily having to be there. I’ve recorded with people from all corners of the country and – in some cases, the world – from here in my lovely home office. That’s a wonderful blessing. I can travel to hotels and, as long as the room is stocked with enough towels so I can create an isolated sound space, I can work from a hotel room. I just did that recently, and the client seemed to be okay with it! So, thanks to the Internet, I can work anywhere, but so can anyone else.

TSSZ: It sounds like there still needs to be a great degree of flexibility in terms of the willingness to put yourself and your talents up against those that are, like you said, coming with a decent microphone and wanting to put themselves out there. Does that come with the territory now as well?

Pollock: It is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Places like YouTube have made stars out of nothing – and I use “nothing” in the nicest possible way! People who weren’t stars yesterday can suddenly say, “Hey! I’m a star because I have videos that people watch a lot!” That’s great, and it’s part of the democratization of the entertainment industry, but it does create a bit of a challenge for people who worked their way up in the pre-Internet days when it wasn’t quite so easy to become a known entity. Now that it is, though, I’m willing to take that in stride. I still have enough clients that I know in person to give me the slightest bit of an edge against someone coming in remotely from some small town with an ISDN connection.

TSSZ: That’s good, I’d imagine it’s nice to have that buffer with you. You’re obviously pretty well-known for playing Dr. Eggman in the Sonic series; I’m not telling you anything you don’t know there.

Pollock: I’ve heard of him, too!

TSSZ: I’d imagine so! How has that role impacted your life and career in the ten-plus years you’ve been performing it?

Pollock: Eleven and a half, but who’s counting? My social media feeds sure are filled with more Sonic stuff than they would have been otherwise! Thanks to that fateful casting for Sonic X back in 2003, which took me three rounds of callbacks to finally book and arguably changed everything, I went from having no Sonic-related online friends on the various independent bulletin boards at that time to having lots of them, because that’s what people know me for, which is fantastic.

It’s important to remind people that I do other stuff – there are many weeks and months that go by when I don’t do any Eggman stuff at all because SEGA doesn’t need anything to be done. In that intervening time, I’ve got a whole career that I’m working on in the meantime. I don’t have an office at SEGA where I show up and do Eggman stuff all day! There’s a few hours of work at a time, if that, and when they need me, they call. It’s a fantastic job, but as I like to remind people, I don’t pick favorites among clients. Every client is sacred, and for the amount of time that you’re hiring me to voice something for you, you’re the center of my world.

TSSZ: Embracing this character of Dr. Eggman for so long and being able to develop your own approach to him is obviously different from how you’d normally approach a one-off commercial, for example. How does recording voice work for a video game or a TV show like Sonic Boom differ from other commercial voice work?

Pollock: It’s very much about the linearity of the job, in that video games can often be a lot more fragmented – there’s main bits of dialogue for cutscenes, but then a lot of it is just isolated responses that can fork in any number of different directions because of the gameplay. So, trying to follow a storyline in your head when it’s forking off in tons of different directions can be challenging. There’s also, in video games, the dreaded “reacts” – just pages and pages of grunts and exertions and fighting sounds that, if they want five in a row, creates the challenge of doing five different-sounding things that don’t sound similar to other things that will all end up sounding the same! Short? Medium? Long? “Is this long? How do you…is this different enough from…” I don’t know. I just hope that what I can create out of my head is enough to make the client happy.

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