411mania.com Interviews: Steven Blum
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 09.22.2013
411mania.com is joined by Steven Blum, the voice of such characters as Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop fame, Starscream in Transformers: Prime, and Wolverine in countless Marvel animated and videogame projects. Steven Blum speaks at a special commemorative screening of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and talks about the importance of his role of Spike, Starscream's role in Transformers: Predacons Rising, working on the Mass Effect franchise, and much more.
Recently I got the chance to attend a special commemorative screening of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie presented by the Art Director's Guild at the American Cinematheque Theater. Among the special guests at the event was voice actor for Steven Blum, the English voice of Spike Spiegel. Blum participated in a special Q&A session and interacted with fans following the jam-packed screening. Later we caught up with Steven Blum for a chat about Bebop and how the role was so monumental for him in his career.
Currently, Blum holds the world record for Most Video Game Voice Actor Roles in the Guinness Book of World Records. He's the longtime voice of Wolverine for nearly all Marvel Animation and Interactive projects. In Avatar: The Legend of Korra, he voiced the main villain of the first season, Amon. Blum also voices Tom, the robot host of the beloved animation block, Toonami, on Cartoon Network. For Transformers: Prime he voices the nefarious Starscream. The show will soon see its effective end with the debut of the new movie, Transformers: Prime - Predacons Rising next month on The Hub network. In the videogame realm, Blum has voiced Grunt in the Mass Effect franchise, the foul-mouthed Grayson Hunt in Bulletstorm, and many more.
Jeffrey Harris: Steven all these years later what is it like to see this movie on the big screen with an audience?
Steven Blum: It's like coming home. It's amazing. It's actually a phenomenol event for me. I was able to A) attend this thing and B) to be able to see it with my friends [is amazing].
Jeffrey Harris: So you were in Europe a couple days ago? What were you doing in Europe?
Steven Blum: I was at a Transformers convention in Birmingham, England and then went on a holiday to Amsterdam and Paris. I just got home.
Jeffrey Harris: I guess if you can put it in words, all these years later, what does Spike Spiegel mean to you?
Steven Blum: Hm. Spike is a benchmark in my career and my life. It's humbling to even be part of something this profound in my life. It's just humbling. Spike has been gigantic benchmark in my career.
Jeffrey Harris: Do you think Spike was the doorway into you getting work on bigger shows and bigger roles? Because I remember Craig Kyle (executive producer and writer of such shows as Hulk Vs.; Wolverine and the X-Men; co-producer of Thor; executive producer on Thor: The Dark World) when Hulk Vs. was coming out speaking about you and he specifically cited your work as Spike Spiegel and called you the "best in the business." So do you think when Spike Spiegel and Cowboy Bebop started getting on TV on Cartoon Network that started opening the door for you to get bigger opportunities?
Steven Blum: Well Spike changed everything. Prior to that, I had been doing all sorts of anime and it was fun, and I was getting recognized a little bit, but Spike took it to a whole different level. Spike was the reason I got to do Tom on Toonami and Jamie on Megas: XLR. It led to so many different things. It opened doors and got people listening which they might not have otherwise.
Jeffrey Harris: I think you're story is amazing because you weren't a trained actor and you just sort of fell into this. You worked at a production company and they just needed people to work on this anime stuff.
Steven Blum: Right.
Jeffrey Harris: So how crazy is it to see how far you've come in really not that long of a time at all when you think about how long some people are in this game when people are still pounding the pavement years later?
Steven Blum: Well the only thing I can approach it with is gratitude. It's surprising. I wake up every morning and I say a prayer of thanks because it can all come crashing down at any moment. The business is fickle. It's great that people still want to hear that I'm putting out there. I think part of it for me is just a good work ethic. I just show up and do the best job I can no matter what it is.
Jeffrey Harris: I saw your sons were here tonight. And they're grown now, but when they were younger and when they saw that dad was playing in these kind of shows, did that give you more cred with them?
Steven Blum: Not until I started doing videogames. Then they're friends started taking notice – it's my whole family. My dad had no interest in my career either until his friend told him that I was famous. But it wasn't until much later.
Jeffrey Harris: The fame thing is interesting because I've been to your panels at Anime Expo or at a convention. And these are rooms filled with thousands of people. And I imagine in your everyday life you don't have to get hounded by paparazzi or anything. Like I saw this image on my Facebook page where Benedict Cumberbatch was so annoyed by photogs that he put a sign in front of his face that said, "Go to Egypt and shoot something that's actually interesting." Does it make it better for you that you can come to these events and see the passion from fans and get to meet them and then you don't have to worry about getting hounded by paparazzi or anything?
Steven Blum: It's the best of all possible worlds. I get to be a nobody. I go back into the world and I can live my life. I can do what I want to do. I can live my life and nobody bothers me. It's great.
Jeffrey Harris: Speaking of Benedict Cumberbatch, two of your peers were in Stark Trek Into Darkness with him. Beau Billingslea, who plays Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop, was in a scene with Chris Pine as Kirk and Zach Quinto as Spock as a Starfleet captain. And Nolan North was on the Nemesis crew.
Steven Blum: Right, yeah.
Jeffrey Harris: Did you get to see that and see that they were in there?
Steven Blum: I did. And that excites me more than you can possibly realize. I cheer for my friends for everything that they are in. And every time I hear them in a cartoon – commercials too. Beau is on tons of commercials. Nolan is in everything. But every time one my friends is succeeding, it makes me happy. I think that's what makes our community different than most other community in the entertainment business.
Jeffrey Harris: Transformers: Prime recently wrapped up on The Hub. We still have a TV/DVD movie coming up. Starscream lived.
Steven Blum: *In Starscream's voice* Yes!
Jeffrey Harris: Do you think he was legitimately upset Megatron had fallen or were those crocodile tears?
Steven Blum: *Laughs* I think Starscream does have some love for Megatron through it all. I think that Starscream's respect for Megatron is genuine unless it interferes with his plan. But after everything that he had been through, I think that his loyalty had finally returned. Those were genuine tears. At least they came from a genuine place mainly because my relationship with Frank [Welker, the voice of Megatron]. So I thought of Frank, and I thought, "No!" So for me, it was genuine.
Jeffrey Harris: I think he was putting on a show for Shockwave and I think after a proper grieving period, he will put on the crown and Galvatron will show up and say, "Coronation? This is bad comedy."
Steven Blum: Probably, probably.
Jeffrey Harris: You talked a little bit about recording the videogames. And I'm curious about getting hundreds and hundreds of pages for a particular role. So when you are playing Grunt in Mass Effect – who is a tremendous character and I love what you do with that character – there is so much dialogue and story in that game. It's a story-heavy game. How do you guys handle that work load? Is it like four hour sessions? How does that work?
Steven Blum: You literally run through it. On a game like Mass Effect, they really do go for quality. Even though there is a luminous amount of lines, we have to put some really solid chops into each one. And they take their time. Mass Effect, they take their time with us until we get it right.
Jeffrey Harris: Are you just camped out doing Mass Effect for like a month?
Steven Blum: Yeah my role in Mass Effect isn't as big. The Shepherd's are there forever. And Nolan on his games. And he's there for months at a time. I think for Grunt I probably had – they were long sessions, and I probably had four or five of them. But I'm done at that point. I'm not on it for months at a time.
Jeffrey Harris: I remember speaking to Kevin Michael Richardson and Greg Cipes and they talked about how their audition process for something like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a year-long process. Have you ever had a role where the casting/audition process took a year or more?
Steven Blum: Yes. I've had several characters where they did extensive casting on them. They had second, third, and fourth callbacks. But usually it's by the second callbacks or so they got it situated. The longest I've ever waited was about a year, but that was only because of the production schedules. It didn't have to do with the casting process as far as I know.
Jeffrey Harris: I'm so excited that in Ultimate Spider-Man we will be seeing a team-up episode with Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. All three of those characters have so much history with each other, but we've never really seen that ultimate team-up yet in animation. How much did you have doing that?
Steven Blum: It's amazing *laughs*.
Jeffrey Harris: So what are we in for?
Steven Blum: I'm not allowed to say anything. You know better than that *Laughs* . But yeah it was fun, absolute delight.
Jeffrey Harris: But just to see you working as Wolverine on the show and doing the Brian Michael Bendis story was so much fun.
Steven Blum: I got to work with him in the room. He's an amazing guy, amazing.
Jeffrey Harris: Hearing you doing Spider-Man's voice in Wolverine's body was hilarious.
Steven Blum: Yeah, that was crazy. Just getting the names right on the script was the biggest challenge of all. They had them labeled in such a way that we couldn't understand who was supposed to be doing which line and when. So we both did them. And they picked what they needed.
Thank you to Steven Blum for taking the time to speak with us. Also thanks to the Art Director's Guild for inviting us to the screening. Transformers: Predacons Rising premieres on The Hub on October 4. The film then hits Blu-ray and DVD on October 8. The Cowboy Bebop series will be hitting Blu-ray sometime next year. The movie is currently available on DVD an Blu-ray.