The Dee Bradley Baker interview | 'The force behind Star Wars has always been that of hope'
In an exclusive interview on Star Wars Day, legendary voice artist Dee-Bradley Baker talks about being 'the force behind' the new animated spin-off show The Bad Batch.
Anyone who has followed animated pop culture would have certainly come across the voice of Dee Bradley Baker. The 58-year-old actor has voiced hundreds of characters, the latest being the Clone Force 99 in The Bad Batch, the new animated spin-off show of the Star Wars universe.
In an exclusive interview, Bradley Baker discusses his career as a voice artiste, the trick of voicing similar yet significantly different characters in The Bad Batch, and what he considers the force behind the Star Wars franchise.
Your vocal range is well known, from Daffy Duck (in Space Jam) to Perry the Platypus (in Phineas and Ferb). But in Star Wars: The Bad Batch, you voice clone troopers, who despite being cut out of the same cloth, have distinct identities and voices within the same world. How do you juggle those characters?
Juggling the characters of The Bad Batch feels a little bit easier than just doing a straight-ahead Clone Wars episode. Clones have very small differentiations between their characters and vocal tones, whereas in The Bad Batch, there is a lot more space and variety. With the help of the writing, I go from one character to the other in a way that seems pretty wild but it's actually a little bit easier than it did during a Domino Squad Arc episode in The Clone Wars, where keeping them differentiated was a little more granular in detail. These guys (The Bad Batch) are broadly different characters. So I just switch from one to the other like a flick of light.
You have said that voicing all The Bad Batch characters is a solo act of tremendous pressure, "like a golf game or a standup comedy gig." How do you rise above the pressure and make it sound like a lot of fun?
Once I become familiar with how to jump from one (voice) to the other, than I can relax into it, and we can just let it flow. When we initially started with The Bad Batch or The Clone Wars or even a Clone episode in Star Wars Rebels, with Rex, Wolf, and Gregor, it's the moment of trying to find who these characters are at the very beginning, and getting a lock on it, that's the most fraught process. I'm sweating bullets, and nervous about it then. Because I don't know if it's going to work, if it reads right. It might feel it works to me but then I have the confirmation from Dave Filoni in the old days, and now Brad Rau and Jennifer Corbett. They help keep me on track, honest and accurate. Once you get the momentum, and you're past the initial episodes, then it starts to get easier. It's just that once you start out, it's kind of scary [laughs].
You started off as a voice actor for Olmec, the stone head-anchor of the Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple in 1993. And now, you are the one-man voice cast of a Star Wars show! Over the years, what have you learnt the most about your own voice?
Oh, that's a lovely question!
What I've learnt from years of voice acting is that I have more in me than I thought.
I think any artiste, once they see something pop that they're good at, they excavate that, refine that. In voiceovers, there's incentive for a range of tones and styles of acting. For me, it fit my personality, with how my life came together, and what I liked. So I discovered that I wasn't good at doing just what I thought I'd be good at doing, which tended to be comedic stuff with high energy. The revelation to me about doing The Clone Wars and even The Bad Batch is that it's in a capacity that I never would've guessed I had in me. I just didn't think of my voice like that. In a roundabout way for me, this is the journey of maybe all people, to find the thing you're good at, how far you can take that, and then see if you want to branch out from that, and have the capacity to do something more than that. And that's what's gratifying for me to have found, especially in this Star Wars universe, is this capacity to do more straight-ahead acting, whereas much of the stuff I do is not that. It's the weird, whacky stuff of the animals, monsters, and all that. That's just another mode of acting. But I found it quite surprising that I can also do this version.
Finally, you have maintained that "the force behind Star Wars has always been that of hope." At a time when the world is waging a war against a raging pandemic, do you have any message of hope for fans on Star Wars Day?
Ultimately, Star Wars is about hope. And it's about personal shortcomings and the more global adversities and obstacles you face. The message is about trying to do the right thing and coming together, and ultimately how that can triumph. That kind of vision of optimism and hope is something people respond to, and they need now more than ever. We've seen in a lot of instances that this is the case: People can come together for a cause and they can prevail. Star Wars doesn't play out like this in a direct way. It's more in the way of metaphors. But we need those stories of possibility and optimism. And Star Wars has always been that. It's always been a core part of what resonates with people, and what's unique and appealing about it. And you definitely have that at play in The Bad Batch.
Just want to end with, 'May the Force be with you!'
May the Force be with you [in Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice].
Star Wars: The Bad Batch releases this Star Wars Day, 4 May, on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.
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