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Frequently Asked Questions

I recommend the following: How to Make a Million Dollars With Your Voice by Gary Owens, There's Money Where Your Mouth Is by Elaine A. Clarke, The Magic Behind the Voices by Tim Lawson, Making Money in Voice-Overs by Teri Apple, Make Your Voice Heard by Chuck Jones and The 9 Critical Skills to Voice-Over Excellence by Pat Fraley. There are many others available, but these six books will get your reference library started.

Below is a list of the questions most often asked of Nancy,
and we got her to answer them for you!

1. Q: I'm thinking about getting into voice-overs. Many people say that I have a great voice and I should try it. Are there any helpful hints you can give me?
A: For starters, it is more than just a voice, so to speak. It's about attitude, delivery, interpretation, making something your own, and acting really. My first suggestion is to decide, "Do I have the passion it takes to actually be competitive in this industry?" If you are willing to take the time, invest some money, take classes, cultivate relationships, hone your craft, etc., then you might be able to actually work.

Secondly, get yourself a portable tape recorder and start recording radio commercials. Listen to the voices. What kind of image do you get? Mimic the sound. Duplicate the attitude.

Watch Saturday morning cartoons. Listen to the various voices. Most voice talent are hired because they do multiple voices. Listen to a sound and try to find the other voices of that actor. Focus on the differentiation of sounds. You are going to be expected to do the same.

In life, note personality traits of people. Make mental notes so you can use these in your creation of characters. Do the same while watching television. Keep a "vocal journal" on a special reference tape that has your "Cast of Characters" for your own use.

And finally, find a class that you can take. (Community colleges might offer these, but most classes are offered in major cities where voice-work is produced – Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.) Taking a class (or even more) will enable you to have a safe environment where you can find out if you "have the chops" it takes to make it. It will be fun, but only if you don't criticize yourself.

2. Q: Do you sound like Bart all the time — is that your real voice?
A: Thank goodness I don't sound like that all the time. That would be a problem, given the popularity of Bart. Although his voice is a part of me, in real life we don't sound anything alike.
3. Q: How did you come up with Bart's voice?
A: Bart's voice was really something that just came naturally to me. When I auditioned for the part of Bart, I gave Matt Groening one sound, and what you hear is what I did! I was hired on the spot.
4. Q: Who's your favorite guest star on The Simpsons?
A: Tough question. We have had over 250 to date, so it is a little difficult to answer that one. Some of my more memorable ones (Meryl Streep, Michael Jackson, Kirk Douglas, Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.) are documented in my book, My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy.
5. Q: In addition to Bart, what other characters/shows do you do?
A: On The Simpsons I am also the voices of Nelson, Ralph, Kearney, Todd/Rod, Data Base, and Maggie. Currently, I am Chuckie on Rugrats, Rufus, the naked mole rat on Kim Possible, Chip on The Kellys, (an animated series I developed and produced for www.nascar.com), and Earl, the squirrel for Chuck Jones' new animated webisode Timberwolf on www.warnerbros.com.
6. Q: What's the best thing about your job?
A: Getting paid to do all the things most kids get punished for doing: like burping and farting!
7. Q: Can you tell me more about SportsBlast, your Internet animation development and production company?
A: SportsBlast develops and produces sports-related animation content for film, television and the internet. In November 2000, we launched our first show, The Kellys, on www.nascar.com/thekellys. It is the story of a family of professional stock car racers, and is currently one of the most popular animated series ever produced for the Internet. We recently picked up second place for the Houston Filmfest in the Internet category, making us an award-winning show! You can find out more about the company at www.sportsblast.com.
8. Q: You're from Ohio. Whereabouts?
A: I was born in a suburb of Dayton called Kettering. Great town. Great folks. Kettering was named after inventor Charles F. Kettering who invented the automatic starter for the car. (Just FYI!)
9. Q: So it was voice-overs that brought you out to Los Angeles?
A: I came out to study with voice-pioneer Daws Butler. He is mostly known for being the voices behind Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Elroy Jetson, and most of the great sounds of Hanna-Barbera.
10. Q: How do I get an agent?
A: Another tough question. My best advice is you need to cultivate relationships. Hollywood operates on "word of mouth" and referrals. Get into classes. Study. Do lunch. Share ideas. Find networking groups that can assist you in meeting agents, putting together a good demo tape, etc. One such group is Women in Animation. (Men are welcome, by the way.) This group has a voice-over section that is very loyal, dedicated and interested in helping each other in their careers. Most agents are swamped but will listen to tapes that come with a recommendation from clients they already represent. Read the trade papers and go to industry-related seminars. Keep in mind that an agent gets 10% of your paycheck. That means that YOU are responsible for 90% of the work! Get hustlin', man!
11. Q: Why have you succeeded in a career where so many give up in frustration?
A:

Oh, geeze, there is nothing worth fighting for that is ever easy. Is there? Ever since I was a little kid, I always persisted on a “given course,” in an attempt to reach my goals. It does not mean it was easy, but I just never gave up. The difference between the one who will make it, and the one who will not, is simply not enough follow through. Not enough push! There really is no excuse for failure. For example, I had both of my children at home with no drugs. That is not necessarily an uncommon thing in this day and age, but also not desired by the medical community. I had this goal to have my kids at home without drugs, and I did. 

12. Q: Despite your great success, you seem to be doing anything but coasting. What keeps you motivated?
A: I have always been very “goal-oriented.” Growing up I pursued activities that supported the things I loved to do, like making up voices and sound effects. Once a year, not unlike how some folks make a “New Year’s Resolution,” I actually sit down, and write out EXACTLY what I am striving for—to the “t”. Then, along with my team, I write plans and programs on how I will get those things done, so my goals are not just floating around in my mind—it is very practical.  I advise everyone to do it.
13. Q: What are your career goals?
A: In addition to traveling around the world with a university lecture, doing a one-woman show, producing and voicing audio books, creating animated projects for the internet, DVDs and game players, I have a partnership with Turner Sports Interactive. We are developing an animated stockcar-racing themed show for the internet. It is called “The Kellys” and can be viewed at www.sportsblast.com. Oh, and one more thing, I write a bi-monthly article for Animation World News, an internet animation site (www.awn.com).
14. Q: What are the fundamental skills all voice over artists should possess?
A: Some of the skills needed are: The ability to make it sound like it is “the first time”, in other words, when you are doing a record and the director asks you to “do it again” and “one more time” for about the 10th time, you have to make it sound fresh, as if you have never said it before. Another skill needed is, believe it or not, the ability to “Be a Professional.” This is the most basic and a skill anyone from any profession could benefit from. There is a tendency to use the record time to “make friends” or socialize, chat it up, but this is NOT the time to do this. You are hired to do a job using your voice; however, it is my professional opinion that during a record, and the time in between, it is best to keep your mouth shut so that the job can be done smoothly and efficiently. 
15. Q: Can you teach someone to be a great voice over artist, or is it one of those, “you’ve got it or you don’t” things?
A: Of course. You can absolutely be taught. There are plenty of classes out there to prove it. Whether or not you will get cast in a part depends on any number of conditions: how versatile you are, how viable you are as a voice-actor, how much you “hustle” yourself to get the job, your connections, your networking skills, your timing, and your ability to compete with those professionals who are already doing it. Good luck, and I mean that. Make it fun, make it an adventure!
16. Q: In your opinion, what is the greatest misconception aspiring actors have about a career in showbiz?
A: The biggest misconception is that “success” has to do with how much money you make. It doesn’t. Success has to do with your own personal goals and the journey to go on to attain them. Sure money is great; money is only the “agreed-upon” exchange for your time and for your actual value to the project. Money can buy some pretty cool things, but it does not solve any of the problems you might encounter in life, or in your career–that only comes from taking full responsibility for your career and acting upon it.
17. Q: When you were still living in Ohio, you began a correspondence with Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and tons of other characters. To many, it would seem a shot in the dark to call a famous artist thousands of miles away to ask for help. What gave you the confidence to contact him, and have you had the opportunity to mentor other artists as Mr. Butler did for you?
A: I was so young and naive; I never really considered it as “having confidence.” I just did what I thought made sense. I had his phone number and I had a phone, so, I called him. Pretty simple. I think sometimes we stop ourselves from ever doing the important things in our life because we are afraid of what “others” might think. Don’t worry, take chances. At that time, I had no idea that things would actually unfold the way they did–fortunately for me. The bottom line is, I trusted my muse, and myself, my passion... As far as mentoring others, I did for a while, but now my passions reach out into a broader scale. I have a tri-annual newsletter, The Nancy News, that has a circulation of just over 11,000. My website, www.nancycartwright.com, gets a lot of attention worldwide due to the huge fan base of The Simpsons. I taught a class once on “How to Create Characters” but soon realized that it is NOT my arena. There are plenty of teachers out there who have a genuine skill at teaching. I am not one of them. My own interests actually reach out on a broader scale. Most recently, I was selected as the Honorary Mayor of the North Valley, a part of the San Fernando Valley in California that houses about 1.3 million people. This title is not to be confused with an actual “mayor.” It is really a PR position, to be honest, a way to help my community. I feel very privileged that at this point in my career I can actually “pick and choose” what I want to do, and how I want to help. You would have to live under a rock to not notice the illiteracy, the vagrancy, the crime, drugs and lack of personal integrity going on in our neighborhoods. I live in Northridge and with all the problems, we face; I just want to do something to help.
18. Q: After 350 episodes of The Simpsons, how do you keep it fresh?
A: It is not too hard to keep the funniest show on television fresh! I have to pinch myself to remind me that I actually get paid to burp and fart!
19. Q: What do you most enjoy about the job?
A: The freedom I have as an artist to create into vast new horizons, life is like a bowl of cherries, and I am so happy. Plus, as a voice-actor, even though I am famous, I still have the anonymity I want to live a normal life. In addition, there are the charitable activities I get to support. I choose the family arena in which to contribute. As you know, Bart Simpson comes from one of the most dysfunctional families on the planet, but personally, but my kids and I are a great family. I care so much about the state the American family is in, that a friend of mine, Rose Goss and I, co-founded a non-profit organization called “Happy House” whose purpose is “Building Better Families. We are having such a great time developing our program to give parents and kids some workable tools to build a stronger, happier family unit. You can find out more about it by going to www.happyhouse.com.
20. Q: You have had the good fortune to work with hundreds of celebrities on The Simpsons. What qualities do you most admire in the actors you have worked with?
A:

I love it when a celebrity comes in and is willing to just “play." That is so much fun! Mickey Rooney, Meryl Streep, Mr. T, Tony Hawk, Luke Perry, just to name a few. They don't take themselves very seriously and it comes across in their performance; professional but humorous. In fact, it is when they are a bit self-deprecating that I find them most appealing.

21. Q: While it may appear that you achieved “overnight success” with the explosion of The Simpsons, you had been diligently training and working for years prior to that big break. If I plan to one-day move to LA or NY, what can I do right now to begin preparing for a career as a performer?
A: Listen to the radio. Record your voice. Improvise. Try to mimic the best and steal from them. Watch cartoons. Become familiar with “who’s who”. Imitate them or better yet, find your own voices. When is a performer ready to move to LA? When you are ready to play a “big game” that includes study, networking, classes, PR and risks. Good luck.
22. Q: Many aspiring actors have the idea that once you get an agent, you can sit back and wait for the phone to ring. What are the actors’ responsibilities after signing with an agent?
A: Let us face it... the agent only gets 10% of your income. That means that 90% of the perspiration and inspiration has to come from YOU! You have to do the hustle, man. After all, I have not retired yet!! Ha! So watch out! All kidding aside, casting directors are ALWAYS looking for “the new kid in town”. The industry is always looking for good material, so do not shy away or let the fact that this is a small and very select, tight-knit group. I have my own professional challenges too. For example, how to keep it fresh and NOT sound like Bart, Ralph, Nelson, Rodd, Kearney, Database, Maggie, Chuckie, etc. when I audition for other characters. It is harder than you think. Everyone has his/her own obstacles to overcome. The idea is to JUST DO IT.
23. Q: In addition to your work on numerous animated series, you have co-written and performed one-woman shows, and founded The Kellys. Why is it important for you to continue to generate your own work?
A: It is so easy as the artist to blame others for your failure and lack of success. The only way I know how to continue being happy is by staying productive, and keep putting my voice out there. It is a constant challenge. And the best way to be productive is to create your own destiny by doing your own projects. I work with my friends whose own goals and purposes are aligned with mine. That really helps too, and it gives me a good safety net in case I fall.
24. Q: What impact has creating your own work had on your career and your development as an artist?
A: All I can say is that I am happiest when I am productive and I am very busy all the time, doing things my agent and my in-house team have gotten as well as things I create for myself by networking. Aside from that, I am raising two teenagers—yikes! Still, I do not think I am doing enough! (Hehe)
25. Q: You have said that artists are the ones who set the example to help change the planet. In your opinion, what is the role of the artist in our society?
A: What a great question, thank you for asking. I believe the artist has one of the most important roles in society, as he is the dreamer of dreams! To contribute to and/or create projects that utilize the artist’s ability to expand to brand new horizons by entertaining, inspiring and/or enlightening those, he/she meets. It is my own personal “mission statement,” and makes me happy!
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