Casting director Linda Lamontagne got her start in sitcoms including “Roseanne” and “Cybill” in the early 1990s but less than a decade later she made a full-time pivot to voiceover for animated comedies and films. Crediting “Family Guy” as the title that truly turned the tide for her, she then went onto such projects as “The Magic School Bus Rides Again” franchise, “The Angry Birds” movie, “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Tuca & Bertie” and, most recently, “Invincible,” for Amazon Prime Video.
What made you want to get into voice casting and how different is your process than when you were in live action?
It sort of found me. The first animated thing I did was “The Last Halloween,” this CBS special, and I thought, “This is kind of cool.” And then “Family Guy” turned my career around because all of a sudden I was only known for animation. It is different casting, because you’re having to rely so much on the voice. The world is my oyster — and not even the world, the universe: if I could find somebody on Mars, I would. What’s so great about it is anybody can be anything. I look at it as, I have more opportunity in animation than live action because live action is tied to location, appearance, availability. There’s so much freedom in recording, especially now, when they’ve perfected technology to where you can get people at home.
Lately there has been a lot of discussion about not having just anybody voice anything in animation, specifically having performers of color voice characters of color. How has that affected what you do?
It is making everybody look further and reach out — and that goes across to transgender [characters]. You try to stay true to the script. [Some shows] have men playing women, but I try to do women first, to be honest with you, because I try to stay true to what the script says first. If it says [the character is] Chinese, you cast a Chinese actor; if it says half Black and half Latinx, you’ve got to find that. And I’ve tried to focus on getting physically challenged actors opportunity too.
What is your approach to finding new talent to whom to give their big breaks?
I search literally any English-speaking country. I send breakdowns to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Brazil, all over the place, wherever they want to submit. So, I actually go wide to begin with. The issue with that is, I do get 5,000 submissions. You can’t do that on an episodic [level], but if you’re doing a pilot or series regulars, I do those searches and I have that library that I keep and I’m able to pull from those people for [other things]. In television animation, it is a lot more of an offer situation because you have a short window to get a cast and do a record because they animate off the radio play and the radio play has to have the voices.
“Invincible” has a pretty stacked cast of superstars, including J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh and Steven Yeun — people whose voices may be already well known to many. How did you determine if they were right for roles?
We did do some auditions. [Executive producer] Robert Kirkman had some ideas initially and then it was essentially a lot of lists and audio samples. When I’m offering celebrities [roles] I still pull audio samples so we can hear what they sound like cut against each other. And some people did read.
What is the research process like to find the right audio sample, knowing that how they sound for a past character isn’t exactly what they might do when playing a superhero?
I will include clip from other pieces of work [but also] chat shows — because [on] chat shows sometimes the whole personality of the person comes out and sometimes they’ll tell stories in funny voices. So, I’ll pull those pieces to support audio, especially when you have people who won’t audition. The hard part is that now a lot of that stuff has been pulled off of the internet because of rights [issues] so I do rely on agents and managers for demos of their clients. And to get something current, too, because they may not sound like their old work; you have to be cognizant of where they’re at now.
What was the read process like? Was anything done in person?
Rarely do I do live, in-person reads because you want to hear the voice and when you don’t see them, you can focus on the voice. Even when I do Zoom auditions, I’ll block out the picture and just pull the audio and cut that together.
It sounds like this may be one of few jobs that wasn’t drastically altered due to the pandemic.
I’ve used Zoom since [the company] started. Zoom’s been great because I can connect with everybody, talk to them, get a feel for them. When I did auditions prior to COVID I had an office. I would meet people and then put them in the booth to do the audition. I wouldn’t even look at them then: my back would be to them so I could hear them and run Pro Tools to watch the levels. That has changed. I don’t even have an office anymore; my office is out of my house. So, I use all of the conferencing [software] and sometimes I’ll just send material and say, “Here, you’re good to self-record.” They send it back and I’ll listen and give notes and go, “Can you do this again?” or “Adjust this,” and they’ll redo it and send it back. So, there’s a little more freedom with them, too; it’s not a one-chance situation where you record it, send it and goodbye. Now there’s a little bit more back and forth. I can’t do it with everybody — not with 5,000 auditions — but if they’re close to the part and it’s not totally syncing but I think they can get there, then I’ll reach out and ask them to redo it.
What is your advice for actors who want to get into voiceover work?
I always tell actors, if there’s a show that you want to work on blindfold yourself and listen to the show. If you blindfold yourself you’re going to hear rhythm, and how they project and delivery and speed. And you can imagine what they’re doing when you hear their voice and that’s important as well.
Also, following directions in labeling or slating to make it easy for me to know who they are. It’s a big pet peeve of mine. I write this whole diatribe of how to label, how to slate, and if they do it exactly to the way I’m asking then I can sort it faster. If it just says m4a, I don’t know who it is. I can take the picture and Google to try and figure out who it is, but that’s frustrating.