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article imageChatting with Bob Bergen: Voice of 'Porky Pig' in 'Looney Tunes Special

By Markos Papadatos     Aug 26, 2019 in Entertainment
Emmy-nominated actor Bob Bergen chatted with Digital Journal about his career and the digital age of entertainment. He voices the character "Porky Pig" in the popular Warner Bros. cartoon "Looney Tunes."
On his Emmy nominations, he said, "Believe it or not, each time it has been a total surprise and shock. Even though I myself am hands-on with my Emmy submissions, I never go into the process expecting a nomination. Being a non-celebrity, relative to my fellow performers who do on camera with known faces, I won't have a network or studio behind me during Emmy season."
"Plus, when I was first elected to the Board of Governors at The Television Academy, my co-Governor at the time, the late Kathryn Joosten, advised that I, as well as all actors, be hands-on in the editing of their Emmy submission, even if they happen to have the support of the network or studio," he elaborated.
"This way we can control how we are represented in the submission, rather than rely on others. It was great advice. Kathy won twice and had several more nominations. She was a dear friend. I miss her," he admitted.
"The morning of the nominations that first time I was nominated, I woke up early to check online the list of nominees. When I got to the voiceover category, my first thought was, 'Wow, someone else with my name got a nomination.' Then a few seconds later, reality sunk in. It was a pretty surreal moment," he acknowledged.
"And I gotta tell ya, the second and third nominations were just as surreal and exciting. I do not take any of this for granted," he exclaimed.
He is not one of those actors that campaigns for a nomination. "There have been many years in my career where I didn't even submit. I won't submit unless I think the work is worthy. I am pretty critical regarding my own work. In fact, I rarely watch my work as I'm too picky regarding my performance. For me, the love is in the doing, not the viewing," he said.
"The nominating and honoring of The Emmy is a peer to peer competition. I just feel yucky campaigning for a nomination. Now, if studios or networks want to do this on my behalf, then bless them. But if I get a nomination, I want it to be because my peers found my work worthy," he said.
"If and when I do get a nomination, I absolutely use that as leverage to promote my career and the honor. And that nomination is indeed terrific for an actor's career," he said.
In the future, he hopes to continue doing what he is doing. "I am what you call a full-service voice actor. I am well known for some well-known characters. But my day to day is all over the map: commercials, promos, games, narrations, and toys. The only genre of voiceover I do not do is audio-books. I just don't have the skill set or patience. I adore listening to them, but I leave the recording to those who excel at it and enjoy the process," he elaborated.
"One aspect of my future that I am indeed looking forward to exploring is The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which I was invited to join this year," he said. "One of the reasons I got involved in serving The Television Academy is for my sheer love for TV. I have the same love for film, and I look forward to opportunities to getting more involved at AMPAS."
Each day, he is motivated simply by doing what he loves. "I seriously still drive on the lot of Warner Bros. or Disney and think to myself, 'Really? Me? I still get to do this?' It never gets old."
"Also, the microphone and booth is my happy space," he said. "Just being in my home studio auditioning and I am content. Actors have to act. Notice I didn't say actors have to get paid to act. Don't get me wrong, it is wonderful to be able to make a living doing what I love. But that is a fortunate circumstance. Acting feeds my soul the way food feeds my body."
Digital age of entertainment
On being an actor in this digital age, he noted that it's a blessing and a curse. " The Internet did a huge disruption in the business of voiceover. Before the Internet, the voiceover industry was isolated to the major markets of Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago."
Bergen continued, "The Internet opened the industry up to anyone and everyone on a silver modem. On one hand, it handed opportunity to many who never thought they'd have a chance to compete. But it was also electronically taken out of the hands of traditional actors to a population who don't relate to the life of an actor."
"Many who work in what I call the e-generation of voiceover might take a job that pays $250 which would have paid $1000, plus pension, health, and residuals to a professional union voice actor," he said.
"If you are someone making minimum wage, getting $250 to have fun talking into a mic in the comfort of your own home is great. As far as you are concerned, you hit the lottery. You don’t relate to the business life and mindset of those in voiceover who came before you, and the actors in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago don't relate to you," he said.
Bergen acknowledged that the digital age is "what it is." "The philosophy of a disruption in the entertainment industry is not new and has been constant for decades. Silent movies disrupted vaudeville," he said.
"Sound disrupted silent films. TV disrupted movies. Cable disrupted network television. On-demand and binging disrupted scheduled traditional broadcast TV," he explained.
"Now, here's the blessing in my world of cartoon voiceover," he said. "When I got into this business in the early '80s, there were only three networks broadcasting Saturday morning cartoons. There were very few animated features," he said.
"Today, there are 24/7 cartoon networks. Every major studio has a thriving animation department. We have primetime cartoons on network and cable. We have games, streaming content. There have never been more opportunities for the animation voice actor than today, and much is due to living in the digital age," he said.
"Also, when I was just fantasizing about getting into this business my most productive tool was the phone and phone book," he said. "I was fortunate to have found Mel Blanc in The Pacific Palisades phone book but many players whom I wanted to reach out to I just could not find."
"Today due to social media, between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, practically every actor, producer, writer, and creator of content is assessable. Now, how and when one reaches out, that is as important a factor today as it was before the digital age. No matter how or what one uses to market, you still have to be a savvy marketer," he said.
For young and aspiring actors, he encouraged them to "study acting." "Study improv. Worry not about working or getting paid. Just study craft. Once you have your acting chops honed, then study voiceover. You will know when you are ready to compete but do not even think about that until you are ready," he said.
On his definition of the word success, he said, "Well, success doesn't have a dollar amount. The moment we put a dollar amount to success, once you hit that amount you will realize you are no better off than you were before. And, you will then set another dollar amount. Success is pursuing what you love. I get a high at the mic. To me, it doesn't get more successful. Being paid for it has been a fortunate circumstance."
"Regret is far harder to deal with than failure. When one is old and on their deathbed, looking back regretting that they never tried their passion is more heartbreaking than having tried and failed. But if you love what you do, you never feel like a failure," he said.
For his fans, Bergen concluded, "Thank you. We never really knew we had fans until the Comic-cons of the world, as well as social media. I try to make myself available to both fans as well as those interested in pursuing voiceover. If it weren’t for those who enjoy what we do, we wouldn't have our homes or be able to keep on keeping on doing the kind of content we are so lucky to be able to do. So truly, thank you."
To learn more about Emmy-nominated actor Bob Bergen, check out his official website.
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