TMNT Voice-Actor Pat Fraley on voicing Krang, Baxter and Casey Jones on the original 1980’s TMNT Animated Series [AUDIO]
Audio available on bottom of post
Q: Growing up–where do you think your interest in voice-work came from? As a kid were you an admirer of the work of people like Daws Butler, Stan Freberg and June Foray?
FRALEY: When I grew up–I didn’t have an interest per se in voices. I just liked cartoon characters, but I never looked at the credits. I did like comedians like Red Skelton, who had his own group of characters on television, and Jackie Gleason–the characters that they did and how they owned them somehow always appealed to me.
I wasn’t familiar with people like Daws Butler, Stan Freeberg, June Foray or Paul Frees, until I arrived in Los Angeles after having studied to be become an actor. Then when I got the opportunity to work with them and to hear them doing those voices I was just floored by how wonderful all of those people were. They were the first generation of voice-over and animation people.
Q: How did the Turtles come to you? Did you have to audition? Did you go in solely for the part of “Krang” originally or others?
FRALEY: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came to me in a very unusual way. I was called in to replace a director who had cast himself in the pilot and given himself four roles. I came in, and they gave me the script. I saw the title “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and I didn’t think that was going to go anywhere.
Then they gave me the role of Krang. In the script it said that Krang was “a verbal blob. A villainous character, but funny.” So I decided to throw it all against the wall in the hopes that I could come up with something that would fulfill all of the various descriptions for that character. I also auditioned for “Baxter Stockman” and “Burne Thompson” and “Vernon Fenwick.” The producer wanted to give me all of the roles and I said, “I can’t do all four. I can only do three…” The role of Vernon went to actor Pete Renaday. In the nine years that we recorded together–Pete Renaday got more laughs from the cast than anyone else.
Q: Seems like I read somewhere a long time back that you took inspiration for the voice of Krang via a “Jewish Mother.” Could you expound on that a bit?
FRALEY: When it came to the voice of Krang–he was this evil blob. I also talked backward–as if he was getting heartburn because he was angry. I had done that in the audition. He was also supposed to be funny; I thought that if I added in a ” Jewish Mother ” it would work very well. Krang worked very well as he was in partnership with Shredder. James Avery did Shredder and he always did this one-note where he was always mad and evil. In combination with Krang–Shredder and Krang worked well together and we referred to them as The Odd Couple in space.
Q: You also provided the voice for Casey Jones on the Turtles series…What was your inspiration behind that voice? How did you find it?
FRALEY: The inspiration for Casey Jones was very simple. As is most often the case, it’s not complex–it’s simple. They wanted me to voice Casey Jones and the Producer suggested that I do a young Clint Eastwood and that’s how I came up with him really–but I pitched the voice upward a bit more.
Q: When you voice a character like Krang, or Casey Jones or even Baxter Stockman do you get to see a drawing of them in advance or a description–also, how much do those things help you create the voice versus what is simply just in your imagination?
FRALEY: Most often when you’re working on an animation project–and this was the case with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–you get model sheets. Model sheets are drawings of the characters from a couple different angles–but sometimes just one angle. So I did get to see, in advance, Krang, Casey Jones and Baxter Stockman, and while those are helpful to many–pictures have never really been helpful to me and I’ve never figured out why that is, but, maybe, that I’m just not visual. One instance where it did help though was when I was asked to voice “Slash”–who was a Turtle who was upset all the time. He had all of these teeth that were splayed out in the drawing. He was passionate and upset about everything. So I thought about actor Kirk Douglas and how he was always so passionate in everything he did as an actor.
Q: Did you voice Baxter Stockman pre-fly change, or just after he became a fly? Baxter Stockman’s voice is fun… He seems to struggle with that fun emphasis on the “eeee…”
FRALEY: I knew that Baxter Stockman was going to change into a fly before I became his voice. He was a scientist–so I pitched his voice up. When he became a fly all I did was wiggle my throat–I just rubbed my fore-finger and my hand against my throat as I talked. It’s a great trick. When you do that it allows for one to elongate vowels and I would focus on the “e” and “aw.”
Q; Did you ever hear from Kevin Eastman or Peter Laird regarding your work on the series and what they had thought about it?
FRALEY: Yes I did talk with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and they were very encouraging and also very complementary of Krang. I think I was a good match for Krang. I took all of the descriptive elements of the character and laid them out in the sound of his voice where he would progressive through various scenes. I was very pleased with my work as Krang–because it was the strangest voice that I’ve ever done and you never know if the Producer is going to like it or not.
Q: Was there ever a Turtles voice that you wished you would’ve gotten the opportunity to voice? Who? Why? What would you have done differently?
FRALEY: Well, the show was so well cast that I couldn’t possibly have wished for the opportunity to voice another of the show’s characters. All the actors cast paralleled the characters personalities directly. Rob Paulsen is a smart aleck and so he was perfect for Raphael. Leonardo–Cam Clarke is my cousin (although several times removed)–and he was great because he had that “hero” sound to his voice. Townsend [Coleman] was wonderful because he had kids in high school at the time and he just got it. Barry Gordon, couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as Donatello–he’s an egg-head, a smart guy–and while he was working on the show he was also going to law school and at the same time serving as the President of the Screen Actors Guild.
Q: Why do you think the Turtles have stayed so popular over the years with the original fans and the generations that have since come?
FRALEY: I think the Turtles became popular, originally, because it was fresh. It was off-the-nose and a little weird–and it was one of the first times were teenagers were presented as they are, or how we’d like them to be in popular culture. Often there’s a lag time–because the writers are older than their audience. Then there’s the style of the time, which I think that the writers of the Turtles just hit. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was always about selling toys–so I think that when you have all of these little kids playing with the toys and at the same time watching the show–it has created a nostalgia all of these years later.
Q: What are you working on currently? Where can people find out more about you?
FRALEY: I’m doing a lot of teaching these days. In fact, there is a free lessons page on my website for those who are interested. I also teach people voice-acting through a home course as well if they don’t reside in the Los Angeles area. You can check out my site http://patfraley.com and also the instructional materials I have available in the store on my site.