James Arnold Taylor is the talented voice actor who portrays both Green Arrow and Guy Gardner on the Batman: The Brave and The Bold animated series as well as a host of other characters in film and video games. I got the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with Mr. Taylor during the San Diego Comic Con to discuss his work on the show, his comic book reading habits, the nature of the voice acting business and a galaxy far, far away.
As it turns out, James was a huge superhero fan as a kid and like many of us, he still has his entire collection. While he doesn’t keep up on the current goings on, he regularly revisits his collection and was a huge fan of Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Flash growing up: which undoubtedly makes his current job all the more rewarding. As a matter of fact, I asked him about working on Brave & the Bold as compared to other work he’s done in the past…
“There is a difference because on this show, we all get into the room and there’s so many great people and great guest stars and great stories … again, it goes back to the writers. It’s a fun show to do. They also let us have fun on it. It’s never just “Oh, I gotta go to work.””
But the talent doesn’t stop with green heroism; Taylor also voices the venerable General Obi-Wan Kenobi on the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series. He had a lot of positive things to say about the series and his experience working on it…
“It’s really a trip to say “I am Obi-Wan Kenobi”: to have George Lucas say “You are now Obi-Wan Kenobi” … that’s you now. It’s great fun and at first there’s some trepidation, you know those are big shoes and also there’s been a lot of … you know, people have their opinions of Episodes One, Two and Three and … I had the chance to go up to the Ranch and see some of season two and I gotta tell ya – honestly, I’m really excited about it because it’s … it should be on network TV. It’s up there with Lost and Heroes. They’re telling stories that are really cool and they are the stuff that the die-hard Star Wars fans wanted. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
I recalled that Ewan McGregor had stated that his Obi-Wan was really just an imitation of Alec Guinness. I asked James to give me a little insight into his interpretation of the character. How much was him and how much was impression?
“It’s funny because what I’m doing is an impression of Ewan McGregor doing Alec Guiness, because I’m playing the younger Obi-Wan. It’s great because now I’m actually able to make it my own. At first, when I started doing it a couple years ago, I was trying to sound just like Ewan. And now I’m able to take it and put it into my own thing and make it my own character.”
I asked him to run down the list of other projects he’s currently working on and got more than I bargained for: this guy has a huge resume: he’s the voice of Harry Osborn on the Spectacular Spider-Man, Johnny Test, Wooldoor Sockbat on Drawn Together, Leonardo of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, Ratchet in the Ratchet & Clank video game series and… the list goes on and on.
Another surprise turned up during the interview: Not only did Taylor provide the voice of The Fallen in the Transformers 2 video game, he also recorded the dialogue for the movie before being replaced by Tony (Candyman) Todd. I asked him how it felt as a voice actor to be replaced by someone who is not really in the same line of work. He smiled and told me that he understood that it’s all part of the game but admitted that it can be a little disheartening sometimes…
“It’s tough, having it just happen. Because I had recorded the film in February, it seemed as though it was going to be me. (You can hear his work on jamesarnoldtaylor.com ) With celebrities – if you’re gonna put a celebrity in it… as my good friend Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, says: “ If you hire Roseanne Barr to sound like a cow, she better sound like Roseanne Barr. But if you hire me to be the voice of a cow, I better sound like a cow.””
“If we do our job right, nobody knows we exist. A good portion of my work is dubbing for stars when they’re not available. I replace their voice. From Johnny Depp to Ewan McGregor and David Spade… if I do my job right, no one knows I exist but … it’s the life we’ve chosen.
The one thing I take, I don’t wanna say “offense” to because I don’t want to be taken the wrong way, but when people say ‘Oh, voiceover people – they’re just making funny cartoon voices’. If I’m doing the voice of an 11 year old kid or I’m doing the voice of an 85 year old guy, I kinda think that takes some acting. I call myself a voice actor rather than a voiceover artist.”
I couldn’t agree more.
On a personal note, I found that James Arnold Taylor is not only the voice of some of my favorite animated characters, but also a really nice guy who is enthusiastic about his work and takes a lot of pride in it. I’m looking forward to more Green Arrow in the next season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold as well as the upcoming season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.