411mania.com Interviews: Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 03.26.2012
411mania.com speaks with the husband and wife team of Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt to talk about their work on Ben 10, their new live web series Shelf Life, their co-authored book, and much more.
During the 2012 WonderCon, I got to catch up with actors Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. Recently the husband and wife team had their own co-authored book published, Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind The Mic. Yuri is most known for his work on the hit Ben 10 franchise as the older, teenaged voice of hero, Ben Tennyson in the Ultimate Alien and Alien Force renditions of the show and the soon to be premiering series, Ben 10: Omniverse. Yuri has also done work on the hit Prince of Persia videogame series as the titular Prince, the Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden anime shows as everyone's favorite dark antihero Sasuke Uchiha, Iceman in Wolverine and The X-Men, Superman in Legion of Super Heroes, and Shinra Kishitani in the awesome Durarara!! Tara Platt has also worked on the Naruto franchise as the Sand ninja and sister of Gaara, Temari, rogue Shinigami Lisa Yadomaru in the Bleach series, Tokiko Tsumura in a personal favorite series of mine Buso Renkin ("I'll splatter your guts!"), and also as Jennifer Nocturne in the Ben 10 series. Now the two are currently working on their own live web series, Shelf Life, of which they came to the convention dressed as their characters from the show, Bug Boy and Hero Lass respectively.
Jeffrey Harris: So what are you guys excited about at WonderCon right now?
Yuri Lowenthal: I just love walking the floor and running into the people, technically I work with, but never get to see.
Tara Platt: I also just love seeing artist alley too. There's something so exciting about what's the new stuff being created and generated. That always excites me.
Jeffrey Harris: The Shelf Life series is outrageous and you work with some other great talent like Travis Willingham and Dee Bradley Baker. What was the conception of this idea?
Yuri Lowenthal: Strangely enough, even though I'm the resident nerd of the family, it was Tara's idea.
Tara Platt: I know.
Yuri Lowenthal: She saw the action figures up in my office and spawned the idea and then ran with it. And luckily we surrounded ourselves with really talented, trustworthy people from working in this business for so many years. And they were on the boat too. They were like, "Oh it sounds great! Let's do it!"
Tara Platt: And I think it was also just one of those ideas that you so easily can see. You say it's four action heroes on a young boy's shelf and you can just see what that is. It's very easy to jump into that world and to participate as an audience member, to go along for the ride. And I think it also helped the directors and the writers because now we have guest writers. We've had other directors. So I think building our community of whose involved with the production is pretty easy an idea that's so fun and silly and irreverent in a way.
Yuri Lowenthal: Wait until you see some of the guest stars we got coming up. That's what we're starting to really roll into.
Jeffrey Harris: It's like Toy Story for adults but you have these great costumes and you're playing action figures.
Tara Platt: Yeah, yeah.
Yuri Lowenthal: Yeah exactly because we considered doing a stop motion thing ala Robot Chicken or something. But we thought, you know we know people who make good costumes. We know people who do props. We can do that.
Tara Platt: And I had never seen something like that done before. I've seen things like Robot Chicken where you see action figures and then you hear the voiceovers, but I've never seen it done where the action figures were just people, live action. And so I thought there was really something to be explored with that as an idea.
Jeffrey Harris: How was it for you two writing a book together? Was it easy or did you have to argue a lot about it?
Yuri Lowenthal: It was actually easy from my perspective, and then you [Tara] can let me know how exactly how hard it was to work with me. But it was easy because we both have different strengths. And so she would do the stuff that she's really good at, and she can hand it off to me and I can do the stuff that I'm really good at. And then I'd hand it back to her, and we'd go back and forth like that. So we complimented each other, I thought.
Tara Platt: I because I think just like what Yuri is saying we both have different strengths, but we realized from having previously tried to physically write together that that doesn't work for us so we needed to work on it at separate times. And I'm really good at getting like a first draft down. I'm really good at getting information on the page and just getting it out there. That's something I'm really good at. But he's really good at massaging it and tweaking it and nuancing it and making it funny. I'm just a little more technical and didactic I guess. And it sort of works to compliment the end product because I get all the information out there that he doesn't have to start from scratch from a blank page. He can actually go in and go, "I'm going to fix this and tweak this and then move it around." And then you end up with something that works really well because we've both put our own spin on it.
Jeffrey Harris: Yuri when you were at Comic-Con last year and you were doing the Ben 10/Generator Rex panel, you had your Ben 10 jacket. It looked like you were Ben Tennyson. And just for me sitting in the audience, I was getting emotional. Was that a really huge moment for you? Was that career highlight?
Yuri Lowenthal: It really is. And that's one of my favorite parts of doing a job with that kind of exposure. I do get a sense of when I go to conventions and I get to meet fans that I'm doing something that affects somebody. And especially with a younger crowd like that and for me to be able to interact with them – and I remember when I was that age, and if I had been to a panel like that, and at that age I wasn't going to conventions. That wasn't until I was in high school. But if I had an experience like that, I would remember it forever. And I understand that because I have had experiences like that growing up. And you're right, I'm glad it was emotional for you because it was emotional for me.
Tara Platt: But I think that also is a testament to that show and that character and the writing of the show and what the storylines are about. Because also, not in a good way, but they get a lot of kids that are Make A Wish kids that come in and watch the episodes as part of their wish --
Yuri Lowenthal: They come watch us record [the episodes]. They come to the studio.
Tara Platt: But what I mean not in like a positive way, but it's great that the kids get to do that. But it's because there is something to be said for that type of show, and I think that's something to be really proud of that you participate in something that's like you said so heartwarming and so touching. I know that's wonderful for you to do something that makes a difference in somebody's life.
Yuri Lowenthal: I remember when I met Chow Yun Fat when I was younger. And he said something that's very inspirational to me. And it was just a moment, and I'm sure he forgot it five minutes later. But for me that was a big deal and I remember it twenty years later. And to be in a position to do that is important and it's one of my favorite parts about my job.
Jeffrey Harris: Was that your favorite Ben 10? Doing a crossover special with Generator Rex?
Yuri Lowenthal: I've had favorite episodes here and there. It was really fun because I also got to work with Daryl [Sabara, the voice of Rex in the show and also most recently Edgar Rice Burroughs in the movie, John Carter] and Daryl's a hoot man. I love Daryl. And then getting to see it because the style is a different – it's sort of Ben in the Generator Rex world. And so it was drawn differently and there was a whole different energy to it. It was kind of awesome.
Jeffrey Harris: Tara, your character in Ben 10, Jennifer Nocturne. Was your character like an actress or an author?
Tara Platt: Yeah I was an actress.
Jeffrey Harris: Who was trying to seduce Ben away from his girlfriend? What's up with that?!
Tara Platt: I was a little bit because he's a cutie you know. My character was kind of like the actress who plays the lead in the Twilight movies in a genericized version of Kristen Stewart. She's a generic version of that. And she does definitely have that sort of – she's not oblivious but she sort of is like, "Well it's my world. And you're cute, so let's go out." It's not that she's trying to step on Julie's toes necessarily, but there is definitely the like, "Hey, you're a hero!"
Jeffrey Harris: And she even went after Kevin!
Tara Platt: I know, I know. She's an equal opportunity lady. And did you see the more recent episode that went up three weeks ago? [It's the] second episode with Jennifer Nocturne.
Yuri Lowenthal: Jennifer Nocturne breaks Captain Nemesis out of jail. And they fall in love.
Jeffrey Harris: And that's Christopher McDonald as Captain Nemesis, right?
Tara Platt: Yeah. He was great to work with. He's a wonderful actor.
Yuri Lowenthal: Actually being in the room, it was great to be in the room watching Chris and Tara work together because they're lovers who go off on this – it's basically The Getaway, the movie The Getaway in the world of Ben 10. It was this whole Stockholm Syndrome thing. It was awesome.
Tara Platt: It was a really great episode. It was edgy, but that's the thing going back to like it's a show that pushes the bounds within the bounds and you get a full experience and these rich characters. But then you learn from them and you watch them and you laugh, but you cry with them. It's a heartwarming kind of experience.
Jeffrey Harris: You two met working on a movie together right?
Tara Platt: We did and it's so funny because the director of that film, it was his thesis film, and he's in New York. He's from New York. He was in town and we had breakfast with him this morning. It was sort of like full circle. He was the reason we met on his film. And now he's got a feature called The Pill, and it's taking the independent film world by storm right now. It's doing really, really well. So it's great.
Yuri Lowenthal: Yeah it's this really cool romantic comedy that I think right now is number five in independent films on iTunes. It's just a scrappy little film that's just tearing it up.
Tara Platt: It's called The Pill and his name is J.C. Khoury.
Jeffrey Harris: Who asked who out first?
Tara Platt: You [Yuri] asked me out!
Yuri Lowenthal: I asked her out. But I waited. I was very professional.
Tara Platt: You were very professional.
Yuri Lowenthal: I waited until the film was done because I know better than to try dating with somebody when you're working with them. So I waited until it was done but unfortunately she was dating somebody already.
Tara Platt: So we became friends [at first].
Jeffrey Harris: You both work on Naruto, so what do I have to do to get this show back on TV?
Tara Platt: Don't ask us! We don't know!
Yuri Lowenthal: People ask us this all the time. And I wish I could answer them. I mean, we haven't stopped recording them.
Tara Platt: Yeah, it's still recording . . . they don't tell us anything.
Yuri Lowenthal: Yeah unfortunately they don't tell us anything about how it's going to be distributed. But I have been recording, I just recorded the Sasuke vs. Killer Bee episode which is way into like the, we just became the Taka Group.
Tara Platt: And the videogames keep going. So I mean, there's more videogames.
Yuri Lowenthal: And I saw in the bag that we got when we signed in to WonderCon today, they had two things in there, a button for something and an article for the new Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations videogame.
Tara Platt: So they're clearly continuing to promote it and get it out there. So I can only imagine that they're not going to just let it go to the back. But I'm not really sure where you can watch it.
Jeffrey Harris: What are you more excited about this summer: The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers?
Yuri Lowenthal: Awww! **** you! That's too far. You've seen our show.
Tara Platt: Avengers, Avengers. You can say Dark Knight because I know you need to.
Yuri Lowenthal: You know what? I'm a huge Batman fan, but I think I'm more excited about Avengers. And I'm going to go and see Dark Knight, but the trailers, everybody is like, "Yay! There's Bane!" and all that. And the trailers have not done it for me, and I will go and see it and I'm ready to love it. But I'm not there yet. Christopher Nolan has never steered me wrong, but I want to see what Joss [Whedon] does with Avengers. But when I see The Avengers trailer, like tears come – and they do that big sweeping shot – Hawkeye draws [his bow]! That's the movie that's been playing in my head since I was a kid.
Jeffrey Harris: Yeah like Hulk jumping up and catching Iron Man.
Yuri Lowenthal: Oh my god!
Jeffrey Harris: I want to see big heroes interacting with each other—
Tara Platt: In a fun way, yeah.
Yuri Lowenthal: And I love Captain America.
Tara Platt: Less talking, more action!
Yuri Lowenthal: I'm excited, so yeah.
Jeffrey Harris: Tara you played Anna Williams in the animated Tekken movie. So are you a big Tekken fan or gamer?
Tara Platt: I'm not a very big gamer mostly because I suck at it. I enjoy watching other play.
Yuri Lowenthal: And it gives you vertigo.
Tara Platt: It gives me vertigo. I actually had to stop playing videogames because I realized I was getting really queasy. And I thought it was because I was just sucking at it, but it's actually because I get vertigo playing videogames which sucks.
Yuri Lowenthal: But I think that comes with giant TV's.
Tara Platt: Yes, probably. But I actually really enjoy people who are good at playing videogames because then I can just sort of stand back and observe it and watch the game happen whereas when I'm trying to do it I'm so busy trying to figure it out and then I get myself dizzy and then it doesn't work. But I don't tend to come from like a fighting personality-wise. I play characters who fight all the time, but I don't come from like a fighting background so that's not really my sort of genre point. I mean I love the game. I think it's really well done and I'm proud to be a part of it, but I like butterflies and cupcakes.
Jeffrey Harris: Yuri you also work on a lot of videogames. You're the lead character, Patroklos, in Soul Caliber V which just came out and the Prince in the Prince of Persia videogame series. Are you a big gamer?
Yuri Lowenthal: I used to be. And I still would love to be, but I just don't have the time anymore. I would almost much rather give the game to a twelve year old nephew and watch them play the hell out of it because they're automatically good at games and it takes me too much time. The only games I'm playing recently are Portal 2 and Saints Row: The Third. But I haven't finished either one.
Jeffrey Harris: Any Twitters or websites we should follow you guys on or check your work out?
Tara Platt: You can always check us out on Twitter. I'm @Tara Platt. He's @Yuri Lowenthal. And we're getting ready to do an Indy GoGo campaign for Shelf Life. It's going to be forty days and forty nights for $40,000 for season four.
Jeffrey Harris: You guys should have a panel at Comic-Con this year.
Tara Platt: We're working on that. We're working on that.
Yuri Lowenthal: Working on it. And this season four and five, the plans we got are epic.
Tara Platt: It's going to be exciting. We just had a story meeting the other night and really just setting the things that are coming up.
Yuri Lowenthal: [We're] taking it off the shelf. Getting some guest stars.
Jeffrey Harris: Can you like push Travis Willingham off the shelf in an episode?
Tara Platt: Who knows? Who Knows?
Yuri Lowenthal: That'll probably happen. I want to do it every episode.