Toonarific Interview – Maryke Hendrikse

Originally posted: 4-28-2005

The talented voice behind characters on “MegaMan: NT Warrior”, “Braceface”, “George Shrinks”, “Inuyasha”, and many many more!

You may not recognize the name at first, or even be able to pronounce it correctly, but you have most likely heard this great talent on one of your favorite cartoons. This interview started almost as any other we have, with Maryke sending a simple hello from the website, and helping out with some show info. And as always, we attacked her for the chance to pick her brain and to do an interview with her. After careful dissection and analysis, this is what we came up with…

What was your childhood like? What part of the country did you grow up in (if US); if another country, which? Was any of your immediate family in entertainment?
I had a childhood that was both typical and atypical, I guess! I was born in the Bahamas, and we immigrated to Canada when I was 2 1/2. I grew up about 15 minutes from Toronto’s downtown core, and spent most of my weekends throughout my childhood with my dad and brother walking up Yonge Street eating huge slices of pizza from a place called, appropriately, “The Big Slice” , going to movies, exploring Chinatown, hanging out along the waterfront and most importantly, attending all the live sporting events in Toronto that we could! I’ve been watching the Blue Jays and the Argos (our CFL football team) for most of my life, and we went to watch the Toronto soccer team The Blizzard when they were still around, and I have been to lots of Raptors game since T.O. got the team. My showbiz intentions were proclaimed at the age of four, when I requested ballet classes after seeing a performance on t.v. and saying “I want to do that!” I was a very dedicated dance student with my focus always on my goal of becoming a performer, I studied every discipline offered, travelled to lots of competitions in Canada and the U.S.– won some trophies, too!– and eventually attended ballet school in T.O. It was at ballet school, where I was told I wouldn’t become a ballet dancer, that I was encouraged to get an acting agent. I had been involved in the odd play in school and community theatre, and my ballet teachers noticed something, I guess, while I was involved in my ballet school’s youth performing ensemble. So, I got myself a professional agent after doing some research, took myself on the subway to my auditions, and booked my first professional acting job shortly thereafter. I have now been acting professionally for 17 years, in theatre, film, t.v., commercials, radio and animation! There is no-one else in my immediate or extended family who is or has been involved in the performing arts, although my brother should be! My mom had a beautiful singing voice, and my dad has helped me on various occasions to pull apart a script and analyse it, so the love of the arts is in my blood, I guess. I get the odd extended family member who out of concern asks me “so when are you going to go to university and get a real job??”, but because I know the questions come out of love I bite my tongue!!
What was your favorite cartoons/series/shows as you were growing up? Did any of them inspire you to get into the voice-over industry?
I didn’ t really watch too much t.v. growing up, although I do remember loving Sesame Street, The Electric Company and the Donny and Marie Show… I was always quite busy after school with dance classes, and when I was in grade 8 my mom got really sick so I had to get a job waitressing to help support us, so I didn’t have too much time for t.v. But I have to say that my dream all through childhood, besides being a ballerina, was to be in the musical ‘Annie’. I had the record, and played it aaalllll the time, and my Aunty Sue took me to see the movie which I LOVED, so I think it was really that show that made me think in the back of my mind about acting. My beginnings in the voiceover world happened when my agents came to see me in a play in Toronto. In that play my character was taken away in a basket as a newborn, and as I obviously didn’t fit in the basket, the director had me sit to the side of the stage and do the vocalizations of a baby wailing. My agents couldn’t believe how realistic the wailing was, and so they started sending me out on animation auditions. I booked my first voice audition after that play, the lead in a CBS animated series called ‘Blaster’s Universe’– I played G.C., the little purple-haired alien girl.
After High School, did you attend college? If so, what was your major?
I didn’t attend college or university or theatre school after high school. I started acting professionally as a teenager, and as my career was going well, I was making a good living and acting was what I wanted to do, so I couldn’t see the point of giving up what was a real career to go to theatre school to learn how to become an actor. I’m glad that I did what I did, although there have been times in my life when acting has been slow and I had to get a “regular” or as actors call it, “joe” job, and the choices are limited when you only went to high school!! But hopefully I won’t have to fall back on my non-existent post-education diploma ever again!
What was your first job in entertainment? How did you hear of the position; get the assignment; etc?
The first paying job I had in entertainment, was when I was 14… this is so ridiculous, but I was hired to dance at a hair show. My dance teacher told our class about the auditions, so I went, and I was hired. We got our hair cut and coloured, and wore these hilarious (cool at the time, though) Prince-esque outfits (I still adore Prince!!!) and danced at some point in the hair show. It was really fun though, and gave me a bit of a taste of the whole process. But my first “real” acting job was a guest starring role on a t.v. show called ‘My Secret Identity’– it starred Jerry O’Connell, aka the chubby kid from ‘Stand By Me’, who isn’t so chubby any more. My agents got me the audition for that one, and this time I had to wear a bathing suit instead of a Prince outfit, horror of horrors! All I kept thinking about was that the camera adds ten pounds! When I look at pictures of my teeny 17-year-old ballet student self, I could just cry at the fact that I would ever think I was fat, even with 10 extra camera pounds! Ah, the joys of being a girl…
Up to now, you have done quite a few characters across many different series; characters on Braceface, George Shrinks, Berenstain Bears, and Medabots, just to name a few. Of the shows you have worked on, what do you think was your favorite? Of the people you have worked with on these shows, whom did you enjoy the most, learn the most from, etc?
That is such a hard group of questions to answer! I have been sooo lucky in my career to work on amazing projects, with great characters and wonderful groups of people. Okay, I will try to narrow things down… one of my favourite shows to work on was ‘Moville Mysteries’, which starred Frankie Muniz (and no, I never met him or actually worked with him, he was patched in from L.A. and I just happened to never be in the studio when he was). I loved ‘Moville’ because of the varied characters I played. My regular role was an incredibly hyperactive teen cheerleader named Marigold, and she basically spent most of her time talking in shrieks– I even got to “sing” once too. The other roles I played on that show were Betty Butterworth, who was actually Frankie Muniz’s character Mo’s grandmother as a child when they went back in time (long story, get the DVD and watch it!), and then another episode that I never saw where I played both a possessed girl named Hannah and her evil mirror. All three characters were really meaty, and I think one of the things I liked the most about the show was the amazing director, Merle Anne Ridley. I’ve worked with her many times, and she is just so smart, funny and kind, she gives impeccable direction, always clear as crystal about what she needs an actor to do, and is completely positive and encouraging every step of the way– you never doubt yourself or your abilities when you’re in the studio being directed by Merle Anne. Truly a talented person and I would work for her any time, on any project–she would make anything wonderful. Okay, so other characters I’ve really liked have been G.C. on ‘Blaster’s Universe’, where I worked with two really great actors named Juan Chioran and Jonathan Wilson, I loved playing Beo in ‘Beo’s Bedroom’ which was a C.B.C. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is Canada’s national public broadcasting company) radio drama, and I just wrapped the first season, hopefully not the last, of the WB Kids’ new cartoon called ‘Johnny Test’. I play Susan Test, one half of a set of twins, sisters to Johnny Test and scientific geniuses whose experiments drive the plots, and Susan is the Type A twin. I loved her attitude and smart sarcasm, it was really fun to play her. Also on this show, I had a new experience: I just moved to Vancouver BC from T.O., and this was my first prelay show out here (prelay is when you do the voice and they animate to you afterwards, and ADR, or dubbing, which is most anime shows, is the actor matching the mouth “flaps” of the already-animated character– prelay is more free, but ADR is waaay harder… pays less too which is weird)– things are done differently in T.O. For example, often on Toronto shows I’d be alone in the studio, booked for an hour or so to do all my lines, but here in Vancouver everyone is booked all at once and we all sit in for the whole 4 hour record session and work off one another, which is really great (in both cities, ADR sessions are almost always alone, probably due to the complicated nature of matching the mouth flaps to the dialogue, it can be tedious and I can’t imagine sitting through watching other actors try to get it right, it would take days to do an episode if they did it that way, and that would be tons of union overtime!). I had an amazing cast to work with on ‘Johnny Test’, and the amount of laughing we did at everyone’s great and hilarious acting choices was really a bonus. I like being in the studio with other people, it’s just a nice way to do it, especially when you’re new in town and don’t know anyone, at least you get to know people a little bit. I have gotten lots of work on ADR anime series too, which are fun in a different way and totally challenging. The directors at the big studio here in Vancouver are really nice and funny, and I’m enjoying the character I play on ‘Gundam Seed Destiny’, which is Lunamaria Hawke. She’s a tough girl pilot, but has her gossipy and playful side too. Anyway, I really and truly have enjoyed each and every animation job I have ever done– I am so lucky to be able to have gotten my foot in the door in a such a highly competitive aspect of acting, and I hope I get to play great characters until I CHOOSE not to act any more. I think I learn something every day from the actors I work with, their choices, their guts in just going for something, their versatility which always inspires me… although I feel like I learn the most from auditioning. Even today, I had an audition for which I had to do 4 completely different characters and I was all in a panic because I feel as though I’m not as versatile as some actors because my voice is incredibly young-sounding, so I ended up working TOO hard on the audition scripts (called sides, which are parts of the scripts the producers/directors give actors to audition them) and then I couldn’t take the direction given to me as readily as I usually can. And the day before I told one of my ‘Johnny Test’ castmates that I was in a panic about this audition and he just said to me “Don’t worry about the VOICE too much, just figure out the character”. Now I really get what he meant! It’s kind of funny sometimes, doing theatre I would NEVER just figure out a voice and then work on the character afterwards, the voice would come naturally from the type of person the character was, but it’s hard sometimes to work on a voice audition and not try to get all creative with the voice itself because after all, it’s a VOICE audition… I won’t forget this little lesson though! When you do a not-so-great audition, you just have to let it go and hope that the casting person doesn’t hold it against you and never audition you again! 🙂
Since the best part of conversing with the people behind the scenes is finding out info we don’t normally get to hear, here goes. Of the people you have worked with, who do you think was more personable and easy to get along with, and who wasn’t? Was there anybody in particular that liked to cause alot of strife during production?
I haven’t had the experience in animation at all of drama queens in the studio. You get the odd ODD actor, who does things in a slightly different way or needs more encouragement or time to perfect things, but generally people take pride in their work, want to do an excellent job, are willing to share and take direction, have great senses of humour and are a joy to work with. I find voice actors a little more easy-going too, and there’s less directly competitive energy in the room at a voice audition. I chalk it up to the fact that it’s purely about the voice– sound right, get the job. In film and t.v. there’s sooo many more opportunities to dwell on the unknown and the unfair– am I too fat, too blonde, too short, too yellow-toothed??? It’s so easy to get insecure in a film audition room, and to a lesser extent a theatre audition room, but when voice people show up to auditions and work days in such a casual manner it’s easy to just feel okay about things in general… except when you’re panicking about 4 different voices!!!
What is your fondest memory overall from the shows you have worked on? What about your least fondest?
I know I sound disgustingly like Little Mary Sunshine here, but I don’t have a particularly “most fond” moment from my shows. It was REALLY nice to book ‘Johnny Test’ here though, I had just gotten my agent here in Vancouver after moving, and it was during my first week of auditioning that I booked the role, so it was a really triumphant moment for me. It was like, I can have a career here too, and justified my agent’s choice in taking me on as a client! So that was pretty thrilling for me. My least fond voice moment was actually not on a cartoon show, but was on a radio commercial. I could NOT understand what the director wanted me to do, not sure why, but I think it took me 20-odd takes to get this one sentence right. And each take I got more and more panicked, and less and less knowledgeable about ANYTHING, and he kept giving me the SAME DIRECTION each time. So I was like, hello, if I’m not getting what you want, maybe you should try a different way of telling me (of course I didn’t say that out loud) and finally I was saved by the other actor in the session giving me a suggestion that worked!!! It is so awful to feel like you just can’t get it right, and see the wheels turning outside the booth where they’re thinking oh, god, are we gonna have to recast this thing? I can tell you too how uncomfortable it is to be an actor watching another actor go through it– I was in a session once where the director was just laying into the guy I was working with because he wasn’t doing what she wanted right off the bat, which isn’t the actor’s fault because we come into a session having worked on something and made various choices, it’s not exactly fair to decide that someone is all wrong for the job when you haven’t even given them direction to change up the character, just negativity after hearing the first sentence in the script… ugh. Hopefully I won’t be in either situation anytime soon!
If you could work with anyone at all, who would they be and why?
I would love to work with my old high school classmate, who is an icon of the voice field, Tara Strong. It would just be cool to work together, I wasn’t even acting when we first me and I think she’d be surprised! I would also love work with the Pixar people– when I first started acting I told myself I could quit if I achieved a few goals, and one of those goals would be the lead in a Disney cartoon like ‘The Little Mermaid’, but I’ve changed a few things: I wouldn’t quit after that, and a Pixar film would be just fine! Other than that there isn’t anybody in the voice field I can think of that I’d like to work with, unless David Fincher started directing creepy cartoons. I love his movies…
You have also done theater, and from the looks of it, quite a bit of it. How long have you been on stage? Which do you prefer, stage or television? Why?
I have done lots of theatre all over Canada and the U.S. and I LOVE it, and miss it. I haven’t done too much theatre over the last 5 years, as much as I used to, but I co-produced a show, which was 2 one-act plays, a few years ago with some fellow theatre artists. I’ve been onstage professionally for 15 years, but my first time onstage was when I was 5 in my first dance recital, and I performed regularly throughout my years as a dance student. I don’t know which I prefer, actually, they are so very very different. I love rehearsing for a play, really getting into the story and the characters, experimenting with new things, working with fellow artists regularly and consistently, developing something together, and there is nothing like the exchange of energy between an actor on stage and the audience watching them. I find theatre to be intellectually stimulating too, in the best situations, I like working hard, and I have been fortunate enough to work multiple times with Robin Phillips, who is a theatrical genius really and truly, and being in his rehearsal hall is an experience like no other. I would trade almost anything to do a show with him again. All that said, theatre can be tiring, especially when the rehearsal process has been less than desirable, and a long run is challenging because you are doing the same show every night and there is only so much variation you can put in without confusing your fellow actors. I love animation because it challenges your creativity in coming up with new characters constantly, it’s fresh and new all the time, it pays well and it is really an unbelievably enjoyable thing to be doing with your life. I am planning on getting back into theatre here in Vancouver if I should be so lucky, but I wanted to get established in the voice scene first, because play rehearsals are so intensive (10-6 pm, six days a week) that it makes you unavailable for auditions, record sessions etc., so I didn’t want to start saying no to voice gigs when I’m off on a good initial rol in my new city. So maybe next year! One aspect of theatre work that I really enjoy and feel is a strong point for me is doing readings and workshops– they usually come in during the process of writing, when an author/playwright needs actors to actually speak the lines out loud to see where the play is at, and I really enjoy doing those. I like doing things off the top of my head, for readings you don’t rehearse so it’s about instincts and being really in the moment, and it’s fun. I hope to get into that scene out here, I did a lot of it in Toronto, and the work doesn’t make you unavailable for other work which is good. It is a great way to keep your acting chops up too, to make connections in the community and to feel artistically challenged. If I could do a few regular roles in animated series, some guest spots on animated series and dvds etc., plus do a play or two every year, I would be artistically fulfilled, I’d have enough money to be comfortable, and I would be so happy with my career. Wish me luck!
Going back to the ‘Johnny Test’ production. This is obviously something slated for a future seasonal lineup. I hadn’t heard of this series yet, so do you know when it might be airing? Could you divulge who the characters are, and what the plot of the series will be? Who the production company was? Etc
I’m not too sure about how much I can divulge about ‘Johnny Test’… don’t want to get sued! I’ve heard stories that because of the internet and actors’ online resumes etc., production houses have been getting a little irritated (to say the least) when they spend all this money and time doing a big announcement of a new series, and the word gets out weeks early because of the ‘net. Eeeek. But I do know some of the anouncements that have already been made about ‘Johnny Test’, so here goes what I CAN say: it’s a new cartoon for the WB Kids fall lineup, it will air I think at 10:30 am Saturdays starting in September, in between Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon. Not a bad time slot! The series is about an 11 year old boy, Johnny Test obviously, and his twin genius scientists sisters, Susan and Mary Test, and his genetically enhanced (by said sisters) dog named Dukey. The series basically revolves around the experiments of the twins and how they affect and are used by Johnny and Dukey, and the adventures that come out of all the craziness. I play Susan, who is the type A sister, she is tons of fun to play, with lots of attitude– she’s constantly making smart and funny comments. There a lots of little characters who recur throughout the various episodes, it’s a good show and I hope that kids will like it and want to watch it! It’d be nice to do some more episodes…
Ive interviewed those who went all out in theatre arts schools after High School, and those who just went straight into the mix. Looking at how your career has gone so far, and the things you still want to do, would you recommend to anyone thinking of a career in voices or acting to start early and jump right in, or to get some post-graduate schooling to hone skills? Why?
You know, there are many advantages and disadvantages to jumping right into things professionally, and the same can be said for theatre school. The thing is, unless you live pretty close to a large urban centre, there’s not much of a chance for you to get into things professionally as a kid or teenager. That’s really what it boiled down to for me: living in Toronto, it was all right there. So eventually I built up my resume by working, and casting directors got to know me and so it was easier for me to get auditions. The thing is, if you didn’t start working professionally as a kid or teenager, it is virtually impossible to get things rolling with nothing on your resume as an adult. That’s when an actor NEEDS to go to theatre school, because a casting director will generally see an actor who’s got good training on their resume from a recognized theatre school, and many go to final year’s performances to seek out good new people. Although a good actor onstage does not necessarily make a good voice actor… it’s so intangible, really. I’d say, though, if you’re close to a big urban centre, try it out. Get as good of an agent as you can and jump in there. If you haven’t had any success by the time you get to university/college age, go off to the best theatre school you can manage. Then when you get out, you’ll hopefully get some auditioning opportunities. All that said, the voice field is by far the hardest to get going in. And what you need to get going IS A KICKASS DEMO. Don’t bother trying without one. It’s going to cost you money, but do it. I have a demo that is made up of clips of various shows I’ve done, but any GOOD voice demo studio has tons of radio and animation scripts available, and will do it up with music, some sound effects even, and will give you studio time with a knowledgeable person who can help you along if you haven’t done any work professionally. Another huge tip I can suggest is to find out who the voice casting people/persons are in your city, and find out if they give workshops. This is like an audition– you gotta pay for it, but it does get you in the door and if you’ve got any ability they’ll snap you up. I actually did that and it worked! Some people also send their demos right to the casting people, I don’t really know anyone who’s done that, but you never know what can happen. If you get a good agent, they’ll take care of that asap– when I moved to Vancouver and signed with my awesome agent, he had my demos out to all the studios here in a day. Don’t settle for less than that! 🙂 I have really been lucky though in lots of ways in the voice field, you might have noticed that I said my demo is made up of professional work, I didn’t have one at all before all that work! But I knew the casting directors from my teenage days, had taken a workshop with the big casting person in T.O., and my agents just pushed. I used my demo to get my agent here in Vancouver, because an agent may not even consider your resume unless you have a demo to back it up… so that’s my long-winded advice and opinion! I hope they help.
Since you didn’t have the typical ‘raised by TV’ childhood, you may or may not have a hard time answering this one. However, comparing animation of yesterday and today, both theatrical and televised, do you feel that a lot of the issues of the next generations are brought on by what they see in these shows, and not just the lack of family togetherness? What is your opinion on the quality (storylines, characters, creativity) of todays productions compared to those of years before?
I hope I’m going to answer this okay, I THINK this is what you’re asking… You know, one of my favourite things that I’ve heard was when Charles Barkley, the NBA star said “I’m not your kids’ role model”. I just find it hard to believe that television, music, public figures etc. can affect your behaviour and morals and sense of what is right or wrong if your parent(s) did their job properly! I know that past a certain point your friends influence your behaviour greatly, and listening to music over and over again, or watching a particular show can give you ideas and get you involved emotionally in something, but I really feel that if you have a strong sense of yourself and what your limits are, there’s only so far you’ll go. A strong early base at home, which STARTS with family togetherness, whether you’re in a single-parent household, a foster home, or in a “typical” family of mom, dad, 2.7 kids, dog and cat, is what is important in my opinion. The family togetherness will then dictate how you see and absorb things that are questionable, and will make it easy to discuss those things in an open way WITH your family, and to figure out how to use or discard these things from your life. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong in this viewpoint, or if I’m even answering what you’re asking… I just think that Charles Barkley was right, don’t blame Eminem if your kids spit in the fries at their fast-food restaurant jobs, or Britney Spears if your daughter dresses like a stripper when she’s 8, or Tom and Jerry if the kids beat each other and the family pet with hammers. As far as the quality of animated shows goes, I was amazed by what I saw in ‘The Incredibles’, and if that’s any indication of what’s to come, I think there’s not much comparison between old animation and the new. I know that some people are purists and prefer the look of the older style of drawn-by-hand animation, but I like the new stuff. Storylines to me haven’t really changed much in terms of creativity: a great idea for an interesting story is inspired and made into a great show pretty frequently, I think, and always has been. I’m always astounded by just how creative writers can be. Although I think because of such advanced technology being realized on a daily basis, there is perhaps more room for plotlines to take crazy twists, but it’s interesting to see the “old” stuff where people really did come up with ideas with no basis to leap from, like in times before computers etc. made almost anything possible.
Now for the “Dear Maryke” advice column. For those of my readers who do plan on one day becoming a voice actor, what would you tell them to get them started in the right direction? Any mistakes you have made that you can try and prevent others from making?
I guess I answered most of this question in my long-winded answer to number 11! But mistakes, that’s a good one… I think I mentioned earlier in the interview that I sometimes find myself over-rehearsing audition sides, and then getting a bit stuck in those choices when I get conflicting direction. So I would tell an actor to make a strong choice, because that’s a good thing, but not to get too bogged down in perfecting that choice. Make sure you have a few other choices/ideas in your mind, so that if the director in the audition says, “well, I’d like to hear her sound 3 years older with a valley girl accent”, you can be flexible and turn on a dime. You will NEVER think of absolutely everything they could possibly want, but by practicing a few different characterizations at home, choosing the one that feels the most right of course, I think you’ll be less “stuck” in the moment. Another big mistake I made was not having a cell phone! I missed a booking a couple of months ago because I was out of the house (doing volunteer work with the youth group at the community centre up the street from my house– and they say no harm can befall you on the way to a good deed!), and in the 2 1/2 hours that I was gone, my agent called with a same-day audition, then sent over my demo, from which the clients booked me on the job, and he called a few more times, to book me offically and then because he hadn’t heard from me, and by the time I got home I’d missed the booking! So, now I have a cell phone just in case. You don’t necessarily need a cell phone, a pager will do, just something where you can be reached right away should a last-minute thing happen. I’m sure you’re all reading this going “Hello, is this girl in the dark ages? I’ve had a cell phone for like 5 years!”, but I’m just trying to think of mistakes I’ve made! 🙂 I’m sure there’s been other mistakes I’ve made, but those are the two to come to mind. A kind of funny thing to remember, and this hasn’t happened to me thank god, but when you’re in a studio with your fellow actors and you want to make a negative comment about the script or what your director on the other side of the glass is wearing today or why do you have to sit around for the whole session when you only have two lines that occur on the last page of the script, DO NOT ASSUME THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HEAR YOURSELF IN YOUR HEADPHONES THAT THE MICS ARE OFF. ‘Nuff said.
Finally, what is your favorite color? What is the state bird of Arizona? And what was the name of Garfield’s teddybear?!
My favourite colour is blue, the state bird of Arizona is the cactus wren (ah, Google, you are my forever friend) and I think Garfield’s teddy bear is named Pooky. I did not Google that! Other things you might want to know: my cat’s name is Grrr, 2 of my life’s dreams are to go to Hawaii, and to attend a Summer and a Winter Olympic Games, my brother is a forensic scientist who specializes in ballistics and firearms, my name is mispronounced in many creative ways and I don’t mind, just don’t call me “Mareeka”, and my eyes change colour according to my mood, the sky and my clothes. Anything else??? 🙂
Obviously, Maryke is only in the beginning stages of her acting career, so I know we will see, or hear, her in many more up and coming shows. I know I’m looking forward to them, especially the already mentioned Johnny Test! I’m very greatful to Maryke for being able to do this interview, and I know we will stay in touch to find out all about new projects that she’ll be working on. Until next time…