"As an actor, it's a dream job. Now I get to play all the roles." — Tom Weiner
EH: (reading resume) New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Rep. It says here you graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Psychology, but actually majored in Rock and Roll?
TW: I was a rock drummer during my college years in Santa Cruz, but I’ve been acting since I was ten. My professional acting career really began In 1974, when a friend called and said, “Come see me in As You Lke It in Golden Gate Park! It’s a really fun production!” That was my introduction to The New Shakespeare Co. of San Francisco, which I joined a few days later, performing first in San Francisco, and then all over the country — three nationwide tours covering 46 states — for three wonderful and exciting years.
I was with OSF in 1978-79, then did San Jose Rep’s first season, then I moved back to L.A. The sound designer at the Globe Theatre, where I was playing Claudius in Hamlet, asked me if I’d be interested in some dubbing work. At the time, I had no idea what “ADR” (Automated Dialog Replacement) was, but it turned out I was a natural. Dubbing foreign films into English can be quite challenging, because an actor has to sort of become the actor he’s seeing on the screen — finding a way to interpret the dialog that matches that actor’s facial expressions, body language, and emotional agenda, rather than his own — and do lip sync at the same time! Well, somehow, I could wrap my mind around the process from the very start. Three months later I wrote my first ADR script, and three months after that became an ADR director, and so began a 25 year career in post production dialog. Some of my favorite roles: the title role in The Ghost in the Shell; General Bison in Streetfighter; the voice of Sid, the possessed ventriloquist’s dummy, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and the Transformer Grimlock in Transformers: Robots in Disguise.
I moved back to Oregon in 2005, and began narrating audio books for Blackstone Audio in Ashland. I’ve now recorded around 150 books, my favorite genres being thrillers and sci-fi. It’s great fun, especially the fictional stuff, ’cause now I get to do all the roles. Sometimes, though, I have to do so many roles that it drives me crazy trying to find different voices for them all, like Without Warning, which has 165 characters, including 32 women, speaking in accents from all over the world. Or weird voices, like in Valis, by Phollip K. Dick, in which I had to do the voice of a two-year old female reincarnation of The Buddha. My favorite accents are Cockney, French, Russian, and East Indian, but my very favorite is Italian. To me, Italian has a musicality that comes straight from the heart. My work as a narrator has earned me an Audie nomination, two Earphone Awards, and a Narrator of the Year Award from Audiofile Magazine.
For several years I’ve wanted to get back on stage, and Peter Alzedo at Oregon Stage Works has been kind enough to grant my wish. Playing Warnock “Ticky” Waldgrave in The Nerd is a whole lotta fun. “Ticky,” the stage directions explain, “hasn’t smiled in 47 years, and then it was gas.”
I find working in front of a live audience is more rewarding than recording in a studio. There’s a chemistry between the actor and the audience, and that chemistry changes with each new audience. No matter how many times you perform a role on stage, every performance teaches an actor something new, leads to a deeper understanding of the character.
I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be doing live stage work again. It’s really a blast!