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Scott Menville Interview (Robin of Teen Titans)
Legions of Gotham
July 19, 2005
Scott Menville, perhaps best known to DC animation fans as the voice of Robin in the wildly popular Teen Titans cartoon, has graciously taken time out of his busy schedule to interact with the fans here at Legions Of Gotham!
LoG: Were you a Batman/Teen Titans/DC comic fan prior to landing the role of Robin?
SM: As a kid I was very much into Batman and Robin. In fact, when I was about 5-years-old I had part of a hand-me-down Robin costume. The cape and mask were missing but I had the red and yellow shirt with the ‘R’ insignia on the chest, so I was amped. In the mid ‘80s my younger brother and I got into the Batman Dark Night books. From there I jumped over to the Marvel books (I can hear the devout DC fans hissing—heh-heh) and got seriously into Wolverine and The Punisher. I have to admit I never even knew Teen Titans existed until I began working on the cartoon series.
LoG: Do you read any comics at the present time?
SM: No. I was a devoted reader/collector of the Transmetropolitan series. I thought it was brilliant. I was bummed when it was cancelled. I’m looking for a new comic to get into.
LoG: How did this role come about for you? Did you audition or did someone approach you?
SM: I auditioned along with many, many others. There were a lot of actors reading for this series. In no way is the statement I’m about to make coming from a place of cockiness, but when my agent faxed me the sides (a section or part of a script to be presented as the actor’s audition material) and I saw the character design of Robin, I knew I was going to do that part. My wife, who is very intuitive, took one look at the character design and told me, “You’re going to get this part. That’s you.” “That’s me,” I said. Again, this is not coming from a place of conceit--because there have surely been enough auditions in my career where I’ve felt very unsure—but for some reason I just knew. So I went to Warner Brothers Feature Animation, got cleared by the security guards, signed in, and waited in the lobby with the other auditioning actors until my name was called. The casting assistant led me into the recording studio (where I’d later wind up recording all the episodes of the series) and I walked into a room full of executives. Our director, Andrea Romano, who has known me since I was a little kid working in this business, greeted me warmly and directed me in the audition. This was my first time meeting Glen Murakami, the creator/head character designer/chief story editor/executive producer and overall mastermind of TEEN TITANS. He didn’t say much and kept his head down while I auditioned; he was listening intently. I originally auditioned for the roles of Beast Boy and Robin. I felt okay about my take on Beast Boy and really strong about my Robin audition. A few weeks later I got the call that I landed the part of Robin. And I’m glad Greg Cipes landed Beast Boy because his interpretation of the character is perfect. He knocks it out of the park.
LoG: You're a veteran of voice acting...everything from Rainbow Brite and the Getalong Gang to voice overs on recent video games...how did you get into voice acting? With all of your experience, do you find the lead role in a major cartoon, such as Teen Titans, challenging or is it smooth sailing?
SM: When you put it to me like that, I guess I am a veteran. I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card and my first professional paid acting job as a little kid 23 years ago and I’m grateful to say I’ve been working steadily ever since.
My dad, Chuck Menville (he passed away in 1992), was instrumental in helping me get my foot in the door of the business. He was a successful animator-turned-writer/story editor/producer who generated literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of children’s television programming throughout his career. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film, which he and his creative partner wrote, directed, produced and starred in; He was nominated for an Emmy Award for an episode of THE SMURFS that he and his partner co-wrote; And he won a Clio Award for a Gulf Gasoline commercial that he and his partner wrote and starred in. In addition to being hugely talented he was known for giving new writers and actors a break. As a kid I was getting into trouble in school for disrupting the classroom with weird voices, fake fart sounds, and impressions of classmates and teachers. Luckily, my parents saw a talent in me and encouraged it. They enrolled me in acting classes. In 1982 my dad was working at Hanna-Barbera and heard about auditions for an animated version of THE LITTLE RASCALS. He knew some people involved with the show and he was able to bring the audition sides home for me to read. He recorded me on a little battery-operated tape recorder in my bedroom. I auditioned for four roles, and I remember I was wearing my pajamas. My tape made it to the decision makers at Hanna-Barbera and all the way to the network executives at ABC. I booked the part of “Spanky” and got my SAG card and my first agent from there. I will always be grateful to my dad for believing in me and sticking his neck out there for me.
To answer the last part of your question: TEEN TITANS has its challenges and smooth sailing aspects like any gig. Some jobs are physically challenging; I just contributed some voiceover work to an interactive game called CALL OF DUTY where I had to scream at the top of my lungs in the heat of a war battle for the entire session. My throat was sore and hoarse for two days after. No complaints, it’s part of the job. The challenges on TITANS come with the subtleties of my character. In voicing Robin—and Tara Strong constantly faces this as well while voicing Raven—the smallest subtlety can make or break the delivery of the line. If your interpretation is off by a hair it can make the delivery of the line completely wrong. Which is why Andrea Romano is such a great director. She has amazing ears and will catch any and all lines of dialogue that she knows can be better. She knows how to help bring the subtle nuances out of her actors. And when an actor nails those subtleties, it brings even more life to the character.
And Now A few Questions submitted by members of the LoG forum for Mr. Menville!
Fan Question: What sort of recording schedule do you maintain on the show? Do you record one episode at a time, or multiple episodes?
SM: When the season is going we always record on Fridays. We usually record one show. Occasionally, due to scheduling, or if it is a two-episode story arc, we’ll record two episodes in a day. The process takes anywhere from two to four hours to record an episode. All the actors and the key players of the production team assemble in the recording studio for a read-thru. We have all received the script days earlier, so this is where we rehearse together for the first time and Andrea describes the action of the scene.
For example: “Slade kicks Robin into the wall, so Ron (Perlman), I’m going to need a big kick effort from you here. And Scott, Robin is knocked unconscious, so I need a big impact sound and then a very small moan so that we know Robin is still alive.” The rehearsal is also used so that the writers can make sure all the lines of dialogue work. During this part of the process some lines are rewritten and punched-up on the spot to make the overall story work better. We then record the episode, stopping if a line is flubbed or a different take is needed. The actors then take a break while the key players of the production team listen back to everything we just did and make notes. This is the final chance to rewrite a line or to get a different take on a line delivery. The actors enter the recording booth again for ‘pick-ups’, recording retakes on only the lines in question. The session recordings then go off to the animators who work their skills. Six months later, the episode is animated and we are called in again to add additional fight sounds, breaths and efforts. And just a few weeks later, the episode is on the air.
Fan Question: What does Scott Menville do for fun?
SM: I play bass in my band Boy Hits Car. We have released three albums over the years. You can check out audio and video samples of our new full-length album “The Passage” at www.boyhitscar.com and check our calendar for live shows.
I grew up surfing and, during my busy schedule, I am always happy when I find time to get out in the waves. Lately, I’ve been surfing with some of the TITANS crew. Greg Cipes, who also grew up surfing, and I have been paddling out with Khary Payton who plays Cyborg, and TITANS writer/story editor David Slack.
Fan Question: What, if any, research did you do into the character of Robin prior to the show? Do you envision yourself as any particular Robin while acting?
SM: Since I grew up on Batman and Robin I felt like I already had a good handle on it. The research came in detailed conversations with Glen Murakami and Andrea Romano about the specifics and subtleties of the character. We also spoke specifically on which Robin it is, which I’m guessing is the second part of your question. Dick Grayson? Jason Todd? I know the answer but I’m sworn to secrecy. Besides, I’m sure most of the fans of the show have figured it out by now. As for the Robin I envision while doing the part: I envision the Robin we all see on screen.
LoG: Lastly, do you have anything you'd like to say to the thousands of Teen Titans fans reading this interview?
SM: I think there is something very special about the show. The scripts are very sharp and the look of the show is unique. I have been a regular on a lot of series and there is definitely something special about all of the people involved in TITANS. I surf with Khary and Greg, I’ve hung out at Tara Strong’s house and played with her kids, and Hynden Walch (Starfire) and I e-mail each other all the time. I am very grateful to be a part of this show. When I take a step back for a moment and think about the little Robin costume I had when I was five, I trip out that I am now doing the voice. It’s a great gig. And there is some very cool stuff that you can all look forward to in the new episodes--lots of twists and turns and surprises. Keep watching.
Please remember to check out Scott's continuing work as Robin in Teen Titans on Cartoon Network. A huge thanks to Mr. Menville for taking the time to chat with us!