By Stephanie Ciccarelli
April 26, 2010
If you have been watching the animated series Arthur over the years on television and loved the voice acting, you are in for a treat!
I'd like to introduce you to Melissa Altro, one of Canada's premier voice talents with over 15 years of industry experience.
Since 1995, Melissa has played the role of Muffy in the 4-time Emmy-Award-winning show Arthur. Recently, Melissa and I spoke on the phone about her career, what it means to be Muffy Crosswire and her coaching services.
Meet Melissa Altro now in today's VOX Daily!
VOX: How did you get the audition for Muffy on the television program, "Arthur?"
Melissa Altro: In September of 1994, I got a call from my agent at the time about the audition. It was my first time trying out for the role of a cartoon character. I had so much fun in the studio reading for a bunch of different roles on the series. When they called to tell me I got the part of Muffy, I was so excited to get started.
VOX: How much of Melissa is in Muffy?
MA: I was definitely an outspoken little girl and loved to play roles and take charge like Muffy does. I hope at this point, as a grown up, I'm a little less pushy about my opinions than Muffy is! Ha!
VOX: You mentioned over the phone that you grew up on recording Muffy's voice on the show. Are there any memories in particular that you'd like to share about being a child voice actor and what that was like?
MA: It was always a treat to record in the studio throughout my childhood / teenager years because I felt like I was a part of something really special (I especially loved to be let out of school early on a recording day!). I especially had a blast recording the songs for the show and working with the other actors. They are such a talented bunch of people.
VOX: How often to you see other members of the Arthur voice cast? Do you record the show in the same studio together or do you each come in separately to perform?
MA: All of the original cast members are living in Montreal. So I haven't seen them in over 5 years now. There are a few cast members that I see at recording sessions here in Toronto, but we rarely actually record together in the booth. Mostly we go in to record separately (it's more time and money efficient that way).
VOX: Do you have a favourite episode of the show? If so, what makes it so special to you?
MA: I really get a kick out of the episode called It's Only Rock n' Roll with the Backstreet Boys show. I was a teenager at the time when we recorded it and a huge Backstreet Boys fan (blushing), so I was pretty excited about being able to sing on a track with them. Muffy gets this idea that she's the manager of their dreams and sings about it. Pretty funny stuff!
VOX: When children star in animated cartoons as the voice of a character, more often than not they lose their roles when they hit puberty or are unable to stay true to the character in terms of their voice has matured. While this is particularly true for boys, for instance, the character of Arthur has been recast a number of times, there are also girls who move on from their roles and which are recast with a soundalike. Bearing in mind that Arthur has been running now for over a decade, and I'm wondering how it is that you've managed to retain your role. Why do you think you are still able to voice Muffy, a third-grader, into your twenties?
MA: I think that the Muffy attitude has and will always be accessible for me because I stay closely in touch with the child in me. I play around, sing out loud, make funny voices, dress up in costumes and say what's on my mind. As for the voice, it's like riding a bike. Every time I get on, I just know how to do it. I seem to go into automatic Muffy mode! Plus, our voice director always had a very clear idea of how she wanted the characters to sound so she consistently got us back on track if she felt the character voice was off or didn't sound the way it had the week before. That being said, some days if I'm not warmed up well, it can be more challenging to sustain that pitch or if I forget to breathe through out my lines, I feel a little out of breath.
VOX: How does it feel to have been the one and only voice of Muffy? Has the character become like family to you in a way?
MA: Yes definitely. I find her to be quite lovable even though she can be harsh and demanding. The good thing is that the spoiled little Muffy always comes around and grows in an episode and I think that's pretty cool.
VOX: Over the past year, you've started to teach in a formal setting and now offer voice over workshops in Toronto. What is your focus and what kind of students are you looking for?
MA: I created Voice Pro Studio last fall and I'm so pleased with how great it's been going. I'm teaching workshops to actors in Toronto who want to learn about the world of animation voice recording. I'm also producing animation voice demos to help actors promote themselves and get heard.
VOX: If there were any words of encouragement that you could impart to someone who wants a career like yours in animation voice over, what would they be?
MA: Don't get discouraged with the competition. Stay focused on what you have to offer even though it's easy to be distracted with those trying to do the same thing around you. Training is also really important and promoting yourself (by making a voice demo). I also think it's important to know what characters you're good at playing, but at the same time don't limit yourself from trying new things.
Do you have anything that you'd like to add or questions for Melissa?
Join the conversation now by leaving a comment!