The woman behind several voices in the Airship Daedalus and AEGIS Tales radio adventures, the lovely and talented Caerley Hill recently sat down for an interview wherein she talks about how she got involved in the AEGIS/Daedalus world and what makes her tick, creatively speaking.
Q: How did you come to the original Airship Daedalus radio adventures project? Were you already a fan of retro pulp adventure, or was this outside your genres of interest?
A: About five years ago I was in the play Rumors in West Seattle, Washington, and loved the theater company so much that when I found out they were doing a staged version of the classic radio drama War of The Worlds, I auditioned. That’s when I met the director, Todd Downing, and I’ve been lucky enough to be on several of his projects since, which is how I was brought into the Airship Daedalus cast. I had an interest in retro radio drama and adventure stories, but this project allowed me to take that interest to a whole new level! Not only did I listen to quite a few pulp shows like The Shadow and Planet Man, but it gave me the opportunity to flex my vocal skills in new styles and accents that I’d always admired and loved. Plus, as soon as I heard who the rest of the Daedalus cast was – like Scott C. Brown, Luke Amundson, Trish Heinrich, and Angela DiMarco to name a few – I was just thrilled to be considered to work among those BIG talents!
Q: What did you like most about playing Maria Blutig? What were the challenges? What about the other AEGIS Tales roles you’ve taken on? Are you sick of being cast for your ability to do accents?
A: Gosh, I loved SO much about playing that role! Her character has a rich history that intrigued me from the beginning and I loved that she is such a strong female role, not to mention I happen to prefer villains over heroes. The biggest challenge for me was learning the accent and developing the character’s inflection as her story progresses through the adventures. Like I said, I was working with some incredible voice over actors and I wanted to raise the level of my performance to the quality they were already at!
Other AEGIS roles I’ve played are Chinese sorceress Wu Yao, Italian widow Mrs. Benetti, and a spokesperson for some of the fine Gold Star Essentials products. Todd’s faith in my abilities and his unwavering support are infectious to work around, and I adore the opportunity to flex my skills as an actor. It’s pretty fun to get the challenge to transform my voice for each of these roles, every time I get to bring one of these stories to life I get a thrill! In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of doing projects like these because I have so much fun.
Q: How is your approach different for VO than for film or stage acting, if it is at all different? Do you enjoy voice acting? What’s your process for finding a character’s voice?
A: I truly love voice over acting because it allows me to transform myself with each new character and project. I mean one week I could be a cowgirl in a retro steam punk adventure and the next I’m a kick-ass German double agent. Creating new voices, mimicking regional dialects, and developing a character are all a part of my process as a stage actor as well as a voice over actor, the only real difference as a VO actor is that I get to go to work in my jammies.
It sounds super trite, but my process for every character is different – though the bones of the process do remain the same. I like to read the material a few times so I get the chance to ask any questions I might need to ask, and then I move on to research. Depending on the characters background, their progression, and their actions I start to work through how this person would feel and react to all the situations that are going on around them. Those feelings and reactions are crucial to the characters’ vocal inflections and the emotions that need to come through in the performance. Then, I like to find a prop. Yes, I realize this makes me sound nuts. Be it a wig, a pair of glasses, a jacket, or whatever, when I have an element of the character on my person I can bring more to my performance.
For example when playing Maria Blutig I wore a pair of thigh-high stiletto heeled boots because they made me feel fierce as hell, like I could walk into any room and own it. It made for some crazy looks when I wore them into the booth, but hey, if it works then don’t fix it!
Q: What appeals to you about the vintage pulp formula of storytelling?
A: The highly dramatized nature of the vintage pulp formula appeals to me the most. I love the element of storytelling that paints a picture for the listener or reader allowing them to drop into the fantastic scene that’s unfolding around them. Before television these stories were such a part of the population’s life that they influenced entire movements, like for instance the panic caused by Orson Welles’ War of The Worlds on its first broadcast.
Q: What is your favorite retro or actual vintage pulp character, story or franchise? Why? And what are your overall favorite genre properties?
A: I’d have to say that my favorite retro pulp content are hero stories such as The Secret Six, Ace G-Man and the Suicide Squad, and The Avenger because of the nonstop action. Many of these stories were born out of gritty noir settings and dingy backdrops where a hero arose out of the filth to fight back and defeat the sinister scum that is threatening society.
But if I’m being honest, my absolute favorite genre overall is science fiction. Give me an intergalactic plot in a futuristic setting – say a galaxy far, far away – then I am a happy, happy girl.
Q: Would you say your tastes run toward space opera and the fantasy side rather than hard sci-fi? What other scifi franchises do you gravitate toward? What was the first genre movie, comic or TV show that flipped the switch in young Caerley and made her a scifi fan?
A: I would definitely say that I’m more of the space opera type, but I do enjoy reading hard sci-fi every once in a while. Other franchises I love are Dune, Ender’s Game, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Starship Troopers, and Solaris. I’ve recently been on an Ursula K. Le Guin kick and just eating up everything I can get my hands on!
A story that’s lore in our family is that my mom took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in theaters when I was less than a year old, and apparently I didn’t cry or fuss once. That’s when my family knew I was going to be a sci-fi geek.
Q: What else are you currently working on, and where can we check it out?
A: Not only am I an actor, I am also a writer. So lately I have been working on finishing my first science fiction novel, The Census, as well as an untitled feature-length script with my fiancé. I’ve actually got a first draft of the novel and am now in talks with editors so I can move on to self-publishing. I still do a lot of stage and voice over work in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I haven’t been doing much on-camera work because I’ve also been working on growing a baby. Our little padawan is due in March of 2016, so it’s been a busy time!
Q: Do you plan on raising your child in the sci-fi geek culture?
A: Oh heck yes. This child doesn’t have a chance at being cool.