Interview Transcript – Episode 7: Christian Campbell

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If you want to follow Christian, you can find him on Twitter and Instagram, @uscanuk.

AL: What’s your relationship to Scooby Doo, did you grow up watching?

CC: I did. I guess that would be, for me, I was born in ’72 so whatever was on with Scooby Doo that I could remember by, whatever. Age four or five is when we start remembering things, maybe a little earlier. Then I guess I was watching some of the original Scooby Doo.

AL: Do you have a favourite personal Scooby Doo related memory?

CC: No, just that it always had to do with – well yeah, I guess I do. It always had to do with coming home after school, getting there before my dad. My dad was a teacher, and he was a single parent. So, he was a teacher and I would just get home by myself, cause you know, we were called the latchkey generation, our parents were never there. And so I’d just let myself in the door, and this was I think in the second or third grade. I’d get home and Scooby Doo was what I would watch while I was doing my homework when I got home. And I was also clearing out any cookies, crackers, and treats I could find before my dad got home. So, fond memories.

AL: How did you first get into acting in general?

CC: It was a family affair. My whole family have been associated with theatre at some point in their lives, if not all their lives. My sister and I are both actors, Canadian actors, and then our grandparents back in Holland were actors. And our parents both went to University of Windsor for the acting program. That’s actually where they met, fell in love and got married. Then I got involved into acting just because – my dad was a drama teacher. I was thrown onto the stage pretty early. Whenever he needed kid parts being filled out in any of his high school productions, that’s where Neve and I would come in. We were doing high school productions by the time we were like seven years-old.

AL: Was there ever a moment when you realized that you wanted to follow in those footsteps or were you kind of pushed into it?

CC: I did. Of course. I enjoy it. I was shy so it was a real struggle for me to want to do this when at the same I don’t really like, or didn’t like the spotlight. So that was my struggle. For a while actually I was tracking towards sort of military, science, engineering, is what I was doing. I was in the naval cadets and was kind of tracking for that, wanted to go to Royal Canadian Military College. But then acting was the thing that came easily, and when I was 14 or 15 I started to make money doing it.

AL: When did you get into voice acting specifically?

CC: Voice acting is actually how I got started. I was doing radio plays for CBC. I did a couple of them. Just small parts, but they got me into the realm of sitting in a room, seated in front of a microphone with headphones on. Sometimes a cast, sometimes no cast and needing to learn how to act and create a world without actually any world being there. Just creating a world with your voice.

AL: And how did the opportunity come up to work on Scooby Doo! Music of the Vampire?

CC: That was straight up audition. I think, I had done a couple of musicals and so I think they knew I could sing. I did a musical called Reefer Madness which was then turned into a movie in 2005, maybe that had something to do with it. A couple of other musicals I did, like a national tour of Tick, Tick… Boom! So I auditioned for it, and I have a feeling they knew a bit of my work as well.

AL: What were your first thoughts when you read the script?

CC: Good fun. This is the Scooby Doo world I enjoyed when I was a kid, except now there’s music and people are being fabulous. It was good. It was good solid fun. And now I found, I’ve got nephews, I’ve got nieces, and they love the fact that they hear my voices in various cartoons.

AL: Why did you want to take part in a Scooby Doo musical specifically?

CC: Is that a trick question? It’s a Scooby Doo musical. I think it’s self-evident. That’s why you want to take part in it.

AL: What did you want to bring to the character of Bram?

CC: I was just bringing my cheeky self I guess. That’s what we do when we’re acting, as a default it’s best just to sort of bring whatever you can of yourself, the most you can to the table. So if that means I’m an evil vampire then I guess that’s who I am, I’m okay with that.

AL: Did you have to do anything specific to develop the voice for that character?

CC: Nah. It was fun. We just got in the room, the actors. Not necessarily the leads, they came in later, but there were about six of us in the room and we all got to work together just throughout the day. And so for preparation, it was just come knowing the music so that you can sing it through and be clear with it and be comfortable with it. The great thing about when you’re doing voice over work is you don’t have to have anything memorized. You have to know your material, you have to come in with ideas and just be ready to play. That’s just pretty much the most important thing, be ready to play.

Bram in Scooby Doo! Music of the Vampire, voiced by Christian Campbell.

AL: Bram’s motivation to help the main vampire is to get immortal life, but would you classify him as a villain for doing that?

CC: I don’t think there’s anything villainous about wanting immortal life. Don’t we all kind of want immortal life? Isn’t that what Botox is about?

AL: But what about his actions?

CC: Oh, we’re having a serious interview, are we? Okay. Well okay, yeah, he went about the wrong actions but you know, every bad guy – the secret in acting or theatre or film or directing or whatever, never treat bad people as merely being bad people. Bad people always think they’re doing good. They always think they’re saving the world in some way or form. It just may not be the way we view saving the world to be.

AL: What was your favourite thing about his character?

CC: That he sang. And he was fabulous. 

AL: Bram gets sent off to prison at the end of the movie, but what do you think he might do after he got out?

CC: Well I think he probably went and got a university education. Likely I think maybe he went for his MBA and now he’s looking to be a business manager for a villainous criminal quartet band on the road. That’s kind of his trajectory.

AL: What was it like to be able to portray a villain-like character in a Scooby Doo movie?

CC: It’s fun. If you want to talk about bucket list, it’s pretty cool. “If it weren’t for those mangy kids!” I don’t think I got to say that line, but I think I felt that line every time I was acting it. It was great. Like I said, I’ve got nephews, I’ve got nieces. They love Scooby Doo. So the fact that I’ve been in a Scooby Doo movie, to them, is just kind of awesome. So, check! I’ve got that one checked off, I’m very happy.

AL: Were they able to recognize your voice or did you have to tell them that was you?

CC: I believe I had to tell them who I was. (in Bram voice) Which just shows you what a wonderful thespian I am.

Which is not necessarily true, so.

AL: Were there any challenges in portraying Bram or taking part in the movie?

CC: No challenges at all. It was a great day. Recording in air conditioned, lovely low-light ambiance in a windowless studio for an entire day with a bunch of funny people. Great thing about working in voice over is that the actors that I get to work with consistently are just. There’s very little attitude in the VO world. They don’t put up with, no one really has patience for egos or for difficult characters, let’s say. And so you know, I always feel safe walking into a recording room because I know that I’m going to have a fun time with the actors. They’re all going to be just great people having a fun time. Clocking in, clocking out, it’s a job. But super talented. The one thing that was clear to me is that some of the actors I was working with are just funny. In between takes they just, line after line these guys were just coming up with things. So to me it was just a day of entertainment.

AL: Do you have a favourite person that you worked with on that movie?

CC: Well I mean, it would be Matt Lillard I guess. He’s my favourite person. Matt Lillard and I actually, we’ve known each other for a long time. He was an actor in a theatre company that I ran for years in LA from ’95 to 2000. I directed him in a play, and he also was dating my sister for quite a while actually. And we are still very good friends. I like him a lot, and yeah, I would say he’s my favourite person. Because Matt Lillard is awesome.

AL: What was it like to work with him so many years later?

CC: It was just “Here we are again, alright.” It was good. I mean, we see each other in events every once in a while and we always have a really good time catching up. We had some good memories in the theatre together, doing some good projects together, when we were in the trenches both of us. Just doing the work before any of us had done anything that put us on the map.

AL: Do you have a favourite part of taking part in Music of the Vampire?

CC: Well, Bram. Bram is just fun because he was singing, he was doing all the things. He would definitely be my favourite. Anywhere where I can sing and be croony. I like to croon. 

AL: You’ve got quite a bit of theatre and musical experience. What are the differences between actually being on a stage and voice acting that you are a performer?

CC: Well number one, memorization. You don’t really depend on memorization when you’re doing VO, for obvious reasons. There is a performance difference that you find. I think, many of us know this, that if you’re in a theatre, you tend to be acting so that the person in the last row can see. That might mean that you have to raise your eyebrow just a little higher so that the person in the back row can see that eyebrow raise. Now if you do the same thing and you’re on camera, it’s going to look overblown. And that’s why there was a history of theatre actors in the past sort of not understanding how to gauge that, and so they often seemed very over the top and grandiose on camera. I think the same applies for voice. There’s a certain intimacy that you got to understand, playing with the mic. And you’re hugging it as if the people are right there in the room with you so we don’t need to worry about projecting or over acting or anything like that. Unless of course theatrically or stylistically the piece asks for you to be over the top. 

AL: Did you record the songs at the same time as you were recording the dialogue for the movie?

CC: Yes, yes we did. It was one day of work I believe. One to two maybe. Two days of work, I think I can remember. Yeah, that’s it.

AL: Can you describe a little bit more about what that day looked like?

CC: Well generally they start around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. You get in, you have some coffee, you meet everyone. You do lots of handshaking and if you’ve worked with anyone you’re catching up with each other. Then you meet with the director, if you’ve not worked with the director before then you sort of get to know them a little bit with the rest of your cast members. Then you move on in to the sound recording room, and in this case – sometimes they’ll have you separated into different rooms but what was nice about this was they had us all in the same room so that we could work with each other. So we sat in a circle, and you’ve got mics for each individual actor, which are in front of us with our own music stands and our own seat. And you’re in a soundproofed room, and you’ve got the director and you’ve got the tech crew and usually the writers will be behind the glass in the other room. And then you get started. You do kind of a quick read-through of things, the director will give notes as to sort of like “Okay, we’re thinking of going in this direction.” And then you sit down, starting to move through the script from the top. And you just start working with the other actors, getting to know each other’s vibe. Often what you’ll do is you’ll give many options for a line just so the director has something to work with in the editing room. And that’s just a skill that’s good to have as a voice actor is being able to give multiple takes. Then we did the music intermittently through it, depending on who was rehearsed for that music, because they would be rehearsing in a different room with the music director. Then come back on in and if there were things that we all had to sing together we’d make sure we’d get that done, the chorus work. And if we’re doing solo stuff then we’d go and just record those solo, separately in a different room. So that’s the day, do a lunch and often you’ll sit around and chat with your cast and get caught up and then move back into the rest of the day, you’re usually done by 5. It’s very sort of a 9-5 gig VO, which I think keeps everyone sane and pleasant to each other.

AL: What is it like to be able to play off each other when you’re all working in the same room?

CC: It’s everything. As humans, we’re wired to work off of minute, almost imperceptible nuances of expression, of voice, of cadence, of just how we speak and how we mirror one another in scenes. We’re often not even aware of all of the minute kinds of ways we mirror people as we’re speaking to them. And mirroring is a way of making a person feel like they’re being listened to and that they’re connected in the conversation. So if you’re not doing that with another actor, there’s something that’s missing. And it’s possible, it’s absolutely possible to have two actors completely record only their lines and then have that spliced together. It’s possible, but I would tell you, I’d be willing to bet that if you put them side to side and you asked an audience which did you prefer – that they’d often go with the one where the actors were able to be in the room together looking at each other. That’s where the play happens, and that’s where it’s sort of, I’m going to call it magic, but it’s not magic. It’s a whole bunch of millions of years of being able to read one another as humans so we can communicate in really nuanced ways and that comes across, it just works. Often when you look at CGI movies and if you talk to actors who had to do CGI movies, they’ll often talk about how frustrating it was to do the scenes because there was just no one to act with. They were often acting with a ball that was to the left of the camera and they had to stare at that and have a scene with it, you know. And that just, it’s hard, it’s very hard. So, sitting in a room together is everything.

AL: What was it like to record a duet with Daphne/Grey Delisle-Griffin? 

CC: It was great, it was lovely. Quickly we were able to sort of put it all together and we really had a fun time together.

AL: Do you have a favourite scene in the movie?

CC: No, actually. It’s been a long time since I watched it, so that’s a difficult question to answer. Sorry, I’m going to have to plead the fifth.

AL: Out of the various songs that you performed for the movie, was there one that was your favourite or that was the most fun to record?

CC: I think the one that I can remember the most out of them is (humming). I don’t even know what song that is, but I remember it. So that’s it. I just don’t know the lyrics.

AL: I think it’s Vampires Dance or something.

CC: Yep, Vampires Dance. That would be it. (humming.) Yep. 

AL: What was it like to be able to work on a cartoon that you had grown up watching?

CC: It’s trippy, I guess would be the word for it. So it’s good fun. It’s just a nice thing to be able to say “Oh my goodness. I did that.” At the time when I was watching it I didn’t know I was ever going to be acting in anything and now here I am acting in a Scooby Doo movie. So yeah, it was definitely bucket list stuff.

AL: Why do you think that Scooby Doo, as a cartoon about a mystery solving dog, has held up for over 50 years now?

CC: I think because it has a sense of humour about itself. And that has always been clear, that there’s a certain kind of campy quirkiness to it. A nod to being so, almost like being bad in a way, which makes it so good. And then that’s become its own aesthetic. I think that’s the thing that’s been lasting about Scooby Doo. And then of course all the cultural stuff that surrounds it so, you know. People who get the munchies a lot love Scooby Doo, so.

AL: Have you ever had people coming up to you recognizing you or talking to you about your work on Scooby?

CC: No way, it’s voice over acting. No one knows it was you. 

AL: Except for the super hardcore fans I guess.

CC: Exactly, exactly. But I can tell you, I’ve never had one person ever come up to me and say “Hey, loved you in that.” 

AL: And what have you been up to lately?

CC: I’m obviously in COVID lockdown like many of us, or I would say most of us. And right now I work in theatre and film, and theatre is not coming back any time soon. It’ll probably be the last thing that comes back, after everything else. So at this point, I was in the midst of producing a musical and that has now been put on hold. We were going to be doing Reefer Madness, we were going to be doing a redux of it for off-Broadway. Or in Los Angeles. Los Angeles or New York. So that’s been put on hold, which is fine. And so that’s kind of what it is.

AL: Have you been doing anything in particular to keep busy during the lockdown?

CC: At this point it’s been writing. I’m currently writing a project right now. So that has been at the helm, filling my time right now.

AL: Has that always been something you wanted to do?

CC: I’ve always wanted to do it, I just haven’t needed to do it at any point because I’ve always been working with scripts that were already sort of done. Now I’ve got something in my head and I would like to see that happening and so I’ve been busy at work on that one.

AL: Is there a timeline when people might be able to see that?

CC: Oh god no. No idea. I’m in the research side of things and just about moving, compiling everything together. It’s a sci-fi piece so it’s going to be a while, let’s just put it that way. Sci-fi is never an easy thing to get off the ground.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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