AVClub has an incredibly detailed interview with Janet Varney on her voice acting experience, relationship to the voice actor of Azula and what’s it like working on Legend of Korra. We’ll post an excerpt, but be sure to read the entire interview here.
VC: You’re friends with Grey DeLisle, who voiced Azula on the original series. Did you know her while she was working on the original show?
JV: No—or, rather, I did, but it had nothing to do with me. She’s one of those voiceover people who works all the time—she can do a million different voices, she’s so skilled it blows my mind. I did meet her because of her voiceover career, through Matt Lillard, because Matt is Shaggy on [Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated] and Grey is Daphne. Matt and I shot a pilot together for ABC, one of the many pilots that gets shot about, like [perky] three couples! [Laughs.] I’d been hearing about her through the grapevine for a while, like, “I think you guys would really get along!” And sure enough, five minutes into us meeting, we were completely in love with each other.
AVC: Had you seen the original show at the time?
JV: I had, but I didn’t know much about voiceover at the time; I still sort of put cartoons and animation in the world of “Oh, those are real people!” I wasn’t thinking much about “Who voices this character?”
AVC: Did she have any advice for you when you were cast as Korra?
JV: I don’t think she had any specific—well, actually, I guess she did; she had already experienced the love the fans have for Avatar, so her advice was “Get ready for your life to change.”
AVC: In interviews, you give a lot of credit to Andrea Romano, the voice director for both Korra and Avatar. What have you learned from her?
JV: I’d done voiceover before, but I’d never had a series; the old adage of learning on your feet has never been more true [Laughs.] than it is for me with this show. Andrea’s so mindful about having the scene in her mind and helping you flesh out the physicality of what’s happening. When we go into ADR [to rerecord lines that don’t work with the animation], she’s able to say, “Okay, now you can see Korra’s running. So we need to make sure we’re getting the concern in her voice, because this just happened, and the urgency, because this just happened, but it’s also much more physical than we thought.” I really do jump up and down if I’m supposed to be jumping up and down—I’m pretty physical when I’m in the booth.
AVC: How do you communicate the tiny details that are off about a line reading?
JV: One of the things I love about Andrea is, she can redo the weird sounds that come out of our mouths for us. It’s embarrassing, but it’s really helpful. Like, I’ll do a line, and she’ll say, “Okay, we need to do that again, I heard a weird [strangled bear noise] in there.” Your first thought is, “Well, that was embarrassing,” but she just pointed out so specifically what went wrong that you know, unequivocally, what you need to not do. It took me a while to not be bashful about it—it’s this direct, specific, explicit criticism you don’t get when you’re on camera. You get this instinct to pull back, to tuck inside yourself and protect yourself, like [tiny sad voice], “I really screwed that up.” And there’s no time for that, and there’s no reason for that. You eventually just learn what a huge gift she’s giving you. It’s a really great way to learn how to take very specific criticism about something.