Legend tells of a legendary voice actor whose voice acting skills were the stuff of legend. Meet Mick. Mick has voiced hundreds of commercials & has lent his voice to a multitude of animated characters. One of his most recognizable and recent roles is that of Po in the Kung Fu Panda video games and the brand new Kung Fu Panda series, Legends of Awesomeness on Nickelodeon.
We caught up with Mick to congratulate him on his awesome new show & he was so generous in answering a few questions we had regarding what it took to get him to where he is today. We hope you enjoy this inspiring and insightfully honest look into what it really takes to “make it” in this industry.
Question número uno: This business is hard with plenty of ups & downs. What kept you moving forward early on in your career?
When I first moved to the L.A. area, I made the tragic mistake of borrowing money to make my fortune. What can I say, it was the early part of the new millennium, everyone was borrowing, the housing bubble hadn’t burst, I had no financial savvy. I had made my share of commercials in my home town and had built my little empire, so I assumed I could do the same in L.A. in less than 3 months.
Well, three months went by and I had no real career advancement to show for it. The upside was that I had made some good friends who were deeply entrenched in the VO industry at the time. One was my teacher and mentor, Pat Fraley, who along with some other animation actors, provided outside confirmation that I had what it took to make it in this business. Pat tells many of his students, including yours truly, to find a champion. He wisely builds his business philosophy upon Proverbs 27:2 “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
Pat became a champion for me, going before me at each of the two agencies I have signed with, in helping me join the union and in building my VO business. Were it not for his practical encouragement and willingness to be hands-on in guiding me, I am sure I would have quit very early. I owe thanks, as well, to actor James Arnold Taylor, who selflessly recommended me to a casting director to fill a role he himself was auditioning for. That role was “Po” in the Kung Fu Panda” videogame. The rest is history.
The other thing that kept me going, especially at a time when work was slow and life was uninspiring, was allowing myself to get to my irreducible minimum in terms of my career. I went through a season in which I found that I had to do VO – it was not optional for me. Even if it were only going to be a hobby, I had to do it – no matter what.
Knowing this about myself was really important. It is what enabled me make the sacrifices necessary to obtain the career I was created to pursue.
I tell a lot of young actors who ask for my input the very same thing. L.A. is a tough town to live in. It is a place of struggle for most. If you can go anywhere else or do anything else, do it. The cost here is high. If you were not absolutely created to do VO, go home and be happy. If you get really honest with yourself and you find that you were, then suck it up and press on. Find a champion, get some encouragement and third party perspective and press on.
Questions número dos: Describe your first big break thru into the industry!!
My first big break was doing the Kung Fu Panda videogame. As I mentioned before, I booked it on a referral. James Arnold Taylor was auditioning for the role because it was a voice-match and he does a lot of that, but he got really honest with the casting director and said, “Look I just don’t do Jack Black, but you know who does? Mick Wingert. You need to call his agent.” And she did.
My agent called me within a day and told me I had a Monday morning audition for DreamWorks Animation for the Kung Fu Panda video game.
I spent the whole weekend studying Jack Black movies, because unbeknownst to James, while I did naturally sound a little like JB, I had NEVER worked on a voice match for him.
I went to DreamWorks and auditioned with the most unrefined voice-match I had ever done. But by the grace of God it was enough. I got a call 45 minutes after the audition saying I booked it and was on call all week to record.
The sessions were a blast and I made some good industry relationships. Thankfully, they were also very pleased with my voice match.
From there, I began to book other things slowly but surely: commercials, and animation pilots through the agency and some narration work and miscellaneous work through making efforts on my own.
Question número tres: In regards to your role as Po on Kung Fu Panda (which, by the way is a FLAWLESS match for Jack Black!!) Did you already have your voice match for Po in your “toolbox” before the opportunity presented itself or was it created & developed during the audition process?
I will also add this: since the video game, I refined the vocal work substantially for the role of “Po.” I took the caricature out of the impression and discovered that for me, the Jack Black impression is a matter of articulation. I have a similar voice print to Jack, but we say words differently. So I stopped working on pitch, tone and other minor variances and concentrated on articulation. That helped a lot. It has also helped me to approach voice-matching more systematically in general.
Mick is hosting several workshops this spring alongside some of LA’s most sought after casting directors, you can get more info here.
Also, Mick is available for private Kung Fu coaching….just kidding, we meant, VO Coaching (which is basically the same, because they both kick butt!!) You can contact Mick regarding those opportunities here.