Hey, it’s me, Ryan. I have to explain a couple things first: I recently found out about this incredible opportunity to interview Alexandra Niehlan, the famous voice actress that you’ve definitely heard of. I’m a huge fan of Niehlan’s work, as I’m sure you are, and talking to her in person felt like it could be a turning point for me, a career-shaping experience.
Well, it turned out all of that was too good to be true, and the actual interview assignment ended up going to one of my interns, Kevin Knutsenson. I really wish it could have been me, but them’s the breaks.
Kevin’s interview appears here in its entirety, in compliance with the policies of his Introduction to Journalism course. His internship at rcveeder.net has since been terminated.
Kevin Knutsenson: There’s a story about how you got into voice acting.
Alexandra Niehlan: I think I know what you’re talking about. It’s a myth. The story is, Edward Graves, who did The Pretty Lousy Show, was at one of my shows. Which is plausible enough. But the story is, he went to the men’s room, and on his way in or out or whatever he hears me over the PA, and something I said caused him to laugh so hard that he slipped on the floor and fell over and cracked his skull. And then I ran in and rescued him; I got him to the hospital and he hired me and gave me my big break.
KK: But it’s not true?
AN: No! I’ve never been in a men’s restroom! [Laughs] Well, maybe I have. But no, it was someone else who took him to the hospital. I have no idea.
KK: Graves did give you your big break, though.
AN: That’s right. I joined up with The Pretty Lousy Show, and really soon everyone in animation was saying “Who’s this Alex Niehlan? Where’d he come from? We gotta get him!” They assumed I was a gentleman.
KK: A lot of your characters from Pretty Lousy were men, or boys.
AN: Like Little Dicky James! That little brat. [Dicky James’s voice] “Are addy of those jelly beads for be?”
KK: Or Gary Glider.
AN: People were very— [Gary Glider’s voice] People were very forgiving when it came to Gary Glider. We could have gotten in a lot of trouble for doing a character talking like this and acting the way Gary did. [Her own voice] It was a different time.
KK: Thinking about your Lousy Show characters, was Shalermo supposed to be a boy or a girl?
AN: I never thought about it. Shalermo was a drawing that Bill [Mailer] showed me in his sketchbook, and I pulled the voice out of, I don’t know where, and that was it. We never stopped to consider his gender identity. Although I guess I just said “his”…
KK: Say something in Shalermo’s voice.
AN: [Shalermo’s voice] “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few heads!” [Her own voice] What a violent creature.
KK: What’s the difference between the voice of Shalermo and the voice of Vanna, from Vick and Vanna?
AN: The difference is that Vanna has a lot more depth to her personality. [Laughs] No, I don’t think there is any difference. I think I cheated on that one.
KK: Do Vanna’s voice.
AN: [Vanna’s voice] Vanna sounds like this, [Shalermo’s voice] and Shalermo sounds like this. [Her own voice] Yeah, I’m not hearing it.
KK: I think I can notice something, but I don’t know if I can put it into words. Can you do Vick’s voice?
AN: Well, Vick was Mark Arden’s character. I think there are union laws that say I can’t do Vick.
KK: Well, then do Harriet [of Living in Omaha].
AN: All I remember about Harriet is [Harriet’s voice] she sounded like this, and she wore that green dress, and she was married to Harry. [Her own voice] Very odd, for a woman named Harriet and a man named Harry to be married to each other. I guess that’s what you call suspension of disbelief.
KK: It’s probably happened at least once, somewhere in the world.
KK: You also had a character on a few episodes of Emily’s Encyclopedia.
AN: That was Gertrude. She would have spelled it with an A-E—“Encyclopaedia.”
KK: Do her voice.
AN: [Gertrude’s voice] “Emily, do you even know what a scone is? This is not a scone.” [Her own voice] Or something like that. I’m getting a little tired.
KK: Do Molly [of Buzz Killz].
AN: Really? [Molly’s voice] This is Molly speaking. I’d like to go home now.
KK: Molly sounds a lot like Gertrude, except for the British thing.
AN: Well, there’s only so much that one throat can do. I really need to get going.
KK: Wait. Let me hear Gertrude again.
AN: [Molly’s voice] Oh, Emily, I’m sorry about the scones. [Her own voice] Can I go now?
KK: That was Molly.
AN: Okay, I’m leaving.