Interview with Transformers: Prime’s Sumalee Montano

{mosimage}Black Oracle has recently sat down with Sumalee Montano, the voice actresses of Arcee on Transformers:  Prime.  Sumalee reveals how it is working on the latest iteration of the Transformers franchise, her background, as well as working with voice acting legends such as Frank Welker and Peter Cullen.

You can discuss the interview on our forums.

From Black Oracle:

Recently, through facebook, I had the priviledge of conducting an interview with the voice actress behind Arcee from Transformers: Prime, Sumalee Montano! Check it out:

Q.1 To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself, Ms. Montano. What is your background? How did you get into acting and voice-acting? What roles have you starred in before?

I’ve been acting since I was a kid, but mainly as a hobby and extra-curricular activity in high school and college. After I got my undergraduate degree from Harvard, I became an investment banker. But after a couple years of doing that, I realized life is too short to be working in a career that you don’t really love. So I quit and decided to become an actress.

My first voice-over job was a radio commercial. My first on-camera job in Hollywood was a recurring role on ER. I’ve enjoyed playing a lot of different guest-starring roles on TV, including shows like Bones, Boston Legal, Big Love, and most recently on a new comedy called Glory Daze. Transformers Prime is really my first TV series where I get to play a “starring,” series regular role.

Q.2 According to your description on your website, you've travelled through Africa, Asia and the Middle East and lived in quite a few places, from Bangkok and Hong Kong to New York and Los Angeles. It seems you're quite a 'worldly' and adventurous person. Which has been your favourite destination to date? And what are your feelings about life in the East and West?

My favorite destination? Wow, it’s really hard to pick just one. It completely depends on what you’re looking for. Thailand is my favorite country to eat in, I know that for sure!

My feelings on life in the East and West? Both are great and I feel lucky to have lived in both. For me, the West is a bit more about celebrating your individuality, while the East is a bit more about strengthening the whole — and the world needs both. I appreciate having the ability to live in the West while being influenced by Eastern philosophies.

Q.3 How much did you know about Transformers before becoming involved in the Transformers: Prime series? Has your awareness of the franchise, its history, its fiction and its fans increased now as a result of working on the show?

Absolutely. I’ve been aware of Transformers for almost as long as I can remember. My male cousins introduced it to me when we were kids. And over the past several months, since being cast in Prime, I’ve become so much more aware of the characters, the franchise, and its rich history. It’s really been an honor to immerse myself in the whole Transformers universe and to get to learn so much through the previous TV series, the movies, Web sites, videos, comics, everything.

Q.4 How did you come to hear about and audition for the role of Arcee? What was it that interested you about the role?

Thanks for my voice-over agents, I heard about the audition for Arcee. I think what interested me most about this role is that she’s part of the Transformers franchise and legacy. I love the fact that she’s a tough female warrior who also has flaws, just like everyone else. It’s an honor to play a strong female character, especially in a world where we do have more women holding positions of influence and power, compared to say, 15 or 20 years ago.

Q.5 Are you aware of the history behind Arcee's character? Do you know of the original Arcee from the Generation 1 cartoon in the 80s?

Yes, I knew about Arcee and Sue Blu from G1. I didn’t remember a lot of specifics though. So to help me prepare for my audition, I watched some of her episodes. It became clear to me pretty fast that Arcee’s role in Prime would be quite different from Sue Blu’s Arcee. But Sue Blu originated the role. I have so much respect for her and it’s such an honor to step into her shoes.

When I finally got to meet Sue in person — I was filled with nervous energy! To me, Sue Blu IS Arcee. So right after we met, all of sudden I blurted out, “Why aren’t YOU playing Arcee?” And she was so sweet, saying that it was time to pass the torch. Even then, it took me a while to really accept that I am playing Arcee, too.

Q.6 Tell us about Arcee's character and how you approached the role of her. What kind of characteristics did you try to bring out in her voice?

I approached Arcee’s character by watching scenes from G1, the original animated movie, both of the live-action films, and a lot of YouTube videos. I also started taking Muay Thai kickboxing lessons so I could really get into her combat moves.

Strength and intelligence are the main characteristics I try to bring to Arcee’s voice, coupled with warmth and loyalty to her family.

Q.7 What were your initial thoughts about Arcee when you first saw her image?

I was ecstatic! At our first recording session, the producers handed each of us our character images. And I thought Arcee looked tough, strong, and sexy. I remember thinking these are going to be some huge shoes to fill, but I’m up for the challenge.

Q.8 From the first two episodes, Arcee has stood out as a very strong and well-written female character to a lot of fans. Do you feel this about her too? How well-developed does her character come across to you as?

I absolutely think Arcee is a strong, well-written character. And because we’re working in a TV series format, we really get to delve into each of the characters over time and understand what about their past makes them who they are in the present. So while I definitely think Arcee is well developed in the mini-series — I think audiences will enjoy seeing her character develop even more as the series continues.

Q.9 Tell us what it was like recording with the likes of Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Josh Keaton, Kevin Michael Richardson and Jeffrey Combs? Any funny or interesting stories from recording sessions?

It is such a great honor and pleasure getting to work with these guys. I like to call them the titans of the VO world! I think the best thing about our sessions is that we all get to record together. The energy and camaraderie we generate in the studio is like nothing I’ve experienced before. It really feels like a tight-knit family.

Any fun or interesting stories? Well, in quiet moments, Kevin Michael Richardson has a habit of breaking out into singing the theme song to My Three Sons. He keeps us all laughing and happy.

Q.10 What's your opinion of the Transformers: Prime series so far? Do you think fans will be impressed the more they see of it? What can we expect from the show in time to come?

I love it! I think it’s filled with great action scenes, strong characters, amazing visuals, and I’d like to think the voice-over acting is on par, too. Every time I receive a script at home, I can’t wait to read it! I find myself being more and more impressed with every script. So I’d like to think that audiences will feel the same way.

While I’m not at liberty to talk specifically about what’s to come, I will say that audiences can expect some amazing storylines that put all of the characters to the test. It’s going to be an incredible ride!

Q.11 So how does it feel to be a part of the successful global brand that is Transformers?

It feels awesome. It is such a privilege to be a part of something that’s so entertaining and that has such widespread reach across countries, cultures, ages, everything. It’s also humbling and motivating at the same time.

Q.12 Any final words you'd like to say to the fans?

THANK YOU for watching. Without you, we don’t have a series. And I hope we get to keep entertaining you for many, many more episodes. So stay glued to your screens. And thanks again.

A big thank you to Sumalee for her time in answering these questions! Stop by her facebook fan page if you would like to show your appreciation: Sumalee Montano/Arcee!