Transformers: Rescue Bots returns to The Hub with a special two-part episode, "It's Bot Time" and "Bot to the Future" Saturday, August 18. A week later, Transformers: Prime returns with all new episodes on Friday, August 24 starting with "Hurt". Both of these shows feature the talented voice actor Steve Blum, who plays the Autobot Heatwave on Transformers: Rescue Bots, and the Decepticon Starscream on Transformers: Prime. I recently had the chance to speak with Steve about his experiences on both shows.
Take a look at our conversation.
These new episodes of Transformers: Rescue Bots feature special guest star Tim Curry, and appearances by Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. I believe you record as an ensemble, so I was wondering if you could talk a bit about working with Tim Curry in this environment?
Steve Blum: Of course, he's an amazing addition to the cast. I kind of had my fanboy moment when I heard he was coming in. Unfortunately, I wasn't in the recording room at the same time. When I found out when he was recording for his first day, I showed up to the session two hours early, just so I could watch. I got to go behind the glass and watch him from the other side. I don't think I've ever done that in my entire career, but I'm such a big fan of his that I had to do it. My son was with me, and it was kind of a big moment for both of us.
Can you talk about what character he plays?
Steve Blum: He came in as Doctor Morocco, a brilliant, but rotten villain who causes a lot of tech trouble for our fair little city. His presence brought a tremendous new element to the show, so much more than just your average recurring bad guy.
We did a chat with you and (executive producer) Jeff Kline back in February. He was talking about how the show was created out of the lack of a true children's show inside the Transformers universe. I grew up on the original Transformers cartoons. How much of that formula would you say they stuck with from the original in creating Transformers: Rescue Bots?
Steve Blum: I'm not a real great judge of that stuff. I don't create it, I'm just a voice monkey, so I simply come in and do my gig. That's up to the powers that be to create the formatting for a children's show. I certainly love the idea that a whole new generation of kids can be exposed to the Transformers universe, in a child-friendly way with some good messages. I'm hired to play a lot of bad guys in some pretty serious situations, so it's refreshing for me to be a part of such a high quality kid's show driven by the power of a massively iconic and cherished franchise.
Aside from Tim Curry, are there any other guest voices that you were really excited to work with this season?
Steve Blum: Well, I love our resident cast! I'm not the kind of guy that gets super excited about celebrities coming in, ordinarily. I'm still fascinated with the cast that we have to work with on a daily basis, and what they bring to the party. It's an interesting mixture of people, vocal textures and varying levels of experience. It's fun for me to literally watch some of the newer and younger actors grow up on the show - and they couldn't be in better hands. They're getting an education of a lifetime! They're all phenomenal! Of course, having Peter Cullen come in and out as Optimus Prime is always a thrill too. I LOVE working with Peter. I work with him on Transformers: Prime as well, and it's always wonderful to hear that voice join us from time to time and oversee all the proceedings. He has a grounding effect in every incarnation within the Transformers universe. And who could be more impressive than folks like Maurice LaMarche, Lacey Chabert, Jason Marsden, LeVar Burton, DC Douglas, Parvesh Cheena...I'm blown away by EVERYONE in that room!
With this new episode featuring Optimus and Bumblebee, is it always open for them to come in? I know they wanted to keep this separate from the Transformers: Prime universe. Can you talk about what bringing Optimus in every now and then adds to the show, without making it too much like Transformers: Prime?
Steve Blum: I think having Optimus checking in periodically, maintains the continuity of the Transformers franchise. There really aren't many direct references to Decepticons or anything else in the Transformers: Prime universe per se, but there still needs to be a sense of continuity that happens between the shows. Hasbro and the Hub take that stuff very seriously and have a great reverence for the fans who pay attention to those kinds of details. From what I understand, the shows are supposed to be taking place at the same time, and Optimus just happens to stop in every once in a while, to make sure we're staying on task and doing the right thing. I think it's important, especially for young fans coming in, that they get a taste of Optimus. In my opinion, there is no Transformers without him!
Is there anything you can say about the new episodes of Transformers: Prime that starts up next week? What kinds of story lines can we expect?
Steve Blum: Again, I'm not really the guy to go to for story lines (Laughs). I tend to watch the shows out of sequence, and we recorded them quite a while ago, so I'm not studied up on the episodes that are airing. What I can say is we go off in some unexpected directions. There are some new characters being introduced, and it's pretty exciting. As with any incarnation of Transformers, they try to move the story along, and go to different areas that haven't been explored, and I think they've done that very successfully with this series. I'm looking forward to seeing them as much as anybody else.
If both of these shows continue to be successful, do you think we might see any crossover episodes combining Transformers: Prime and Transformers: Rescue Bots?
Steve Blum: I don't know how they would do that, but I would love to be a part of it! It would be a lot of fun from my perspective, but my job is comparatively easy. Not sure how they'd pull it off, but the guys and girls behind these shows are geniuses. The writers continuously amaze me, so I imagine anything is possible. I'd personally love to see Heatwave mix it up with Starscream (Laughs)! Working on two different versions of Transformers at the same time is kind of weird anyway. Hmm... Crankybot vs Naughtycon. Place your bets now, people!
Can you talk about your schedule in general for both these shows? Do both record in the same studio? Does it get overwhelming at times, keeping these characters straight?
Steve Blum: We record in different studios and there are completely different casts and directors, writers and other creatives. The flavor is so unique on each show, that it's not difficult for me to keep them separate at all. For any voice actor, we're used to jumping into different bodies, sometimes several times a day! I do a lot of video game work, and other shows as well, so I'm quite used to changing hats very, very often. That's not really an issue for me, in fact I welcome that kind of challenge! Keeps things interesting.
I also saw that you have done a record amount of video games. I read about your Guinness world record. That's quite an accomplishment.
Steve Blum: That was a happy surprise. I didn't go after that at all! I remember when I was a little kid, I would try to win a Guinness award for longest spit or some other impressive physical accomplishment. When you're a little kid, you have these aspirations and winning a Guinness record was such a huge thing back then. As an adult, those glory quests tend to fade completely. I'm just grateful to go to work every day. When they approached me about the award, it came as a huge surprise. I thought several other people in the industry had way more credits than I did. We had to verify each game. My agent and I had to go through a huge list of games and make sure it was me in them. I'm sure we missed some, because in the production and recording stage of many games, for security reasons, we're only privy to a "working" title until the game is released. Since I'm not a gamer, sometimes I never find out the final name of the game!
That's when you first heard about it, when they approached you?
Steve Blum: Yeah, they contacted my agent and they said they were coming out here for E3, and they were presenting some other awards. They said that if they could verify it, they would have an award for me. I believe we ultimately came up with 261 separate games at that time, and they're going to continue to update the record moving forward. At this point, I think I'm somewhere close to 300. I don't keep track of those things. I'm just grateful that somebody else does, or even cares enough to!
Is there anything distinct about the video game side and the animation side? Is it all pretty much the same to you, or are there any subtle differences, from one medium to another?
Steve Blum: Well, acting is acting. The secret really is to create the character and maintain it in whatever universe you're working at the moment. Video game recording is more taxing on the whole, because there are so many more possibilities within the game. Physically, it's more taxing, because we have to do more grunting and groaning and impacts and efforts, just to cover the whole spectrum of scenarios a player might encounter. A typical animation session is confined by the length of the show, so there can't be too much of that stuff, or it takes away from other actors and other storylines. That would be the biggest difference, but as far as the acting and the performance and the creation of the characters, that's all exactly the same. The other notable distinction is that in most game records, we work individually because there are so many lines to cover in a session - sometimes hundreds! In animated series, unless we're dubbing from another language, we work as a cast and play off of one another like a radio show. Much more fun, but takes a lot longer.
Steve Blum: Well, you guys have to tune in, because there is going to be all sorts of new stuff happening this season and if you miss it, you'll be very sorry - and I might cry and rust. For you Transformers: Rescue Bots fans, more excitement, more characters, some bad guys, and the usual tech gone wrong shenanigans. As far as Transformers: Prime, we're just happy to have it back. The delay was too long, and it's going to get bigger, and badder, and better than ever, so check it out, people, please. Trust me, you ain't seen nothin' yet!
Great. That's my time. It was great talking to you, Steve.
Steve Blum: Thank you, sir. It was great talking to you too.