AD=Arty Dawgz, RA= Robert Axelrod, TV=Troy Veenstra, and NNY=Britney Lemmings
AD: Hi Mr. Axelrod! Mewcon III was the third con where I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with you and it has been a pleasure every time. It is clear to me that you love what you do and do what you love. You are a media Jack of all Trades having credits in movies, television, writer, actor, voice actor, in such genres as anime, cartoons, video gaming, a Michael Jackson music video, Bible stories…
Are there any I am missing you want to point out?
RA:That pretty much covers it. Oh, my manager and I have a publicity company called Integrity Publicity. And let’s not forget I was a pro musician for eight years!
AD: What is your favorite area of production?
RA: I love it all! Anything that I can get my teeth into and get a decent salary for my work is my favorite.
AD: What is your favorite genre?
RA: To watch? Science fiction and horror. To work in? Again, anything that I can get my teeth into and get paid for.
AD: What have been your top 3 favorite roles?
RA: Hank Helsing in MISTER DRACULA was one. This was a play I did with The Alexander Repertory Company, a company I co-founded, in Hollywood. We took one of the two DRACULA plays that were written for Broadway and modernized it. Von Helsing the vampire hunter became Dr. Henry Helsing from Brooklyn, NY. We didn’t camp it up; it was a very funny low-key comedy. Dracula was this suave guy in designer jeans. The great thing was that we hardly changed a word of the original dialogue! Second favorite would have to be Lord Zedd on THE MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS. That was my character from the get-go! I was able to really be creative with the character within some pretty strict parameters. Third favorite would be everything else I’ve done. Seriously, it’s all been a joy.
TV: Out of all the characters you have done voice over’s for or played, which one is most like the real you? Why?
RA: The above mentioned Hank Helsing was very close because I had the freedom to create him that way. I made him a New York Jewish college professor cum vampire hunter who is out of his normal waters, because we set the play in Atlanta, Georgia. In the original, Van Helsing is Dutch and the play is set in London, England. It was an organic adaptation! In the voice over department, Wizardmon in DIGIMON will always remain close to my heart because he stood for truth and justice. I pretty much used a heightened version of my own voice for him. As for all the rest, every one of my characters has bits and pieces and chunks of me in them. It’s the way I was trained. The actor’s job is to merge his fifty per cent input with the author’s fifty per cent, the material, to create a whole character.
AD: What did you do before getting into your career in the media?
RA: I went to school for one. I got into acting as a child. I did a couple of local commercials, but for the most part, the first 20 years of my life were spent getting an education, both as an actor and in regular academics. I left acting for eight years and was a pro musician, playing electric bass and singing back up vocals in bands and two man acts that seemed to always be breaking up. I waited on a lot of tables while pursuing my acting career. I drove a cab on and off the six years. I was an apartment house manager, a salesman, I worked for Off-Track Betting in N.Y. City, did jobs that wouldn’t interfere with pursuing my career.
AD: When did you first discover you had an interest in acting?
RA: In kindergarten. The teacher brought in an old big TV set with all the insides taken out. Just the furniture and the screen remained. She lined some of the braver kids up and one by one, in we went into the set and became a TV picture, entertaining the rest of the kids with whatever we could come up with. Kiddie improv, ya dig? Well, I got in and I did a hand puppet show like Señor Wences used to do on the old Ed Sullivan Show. I cracked the kids up. I killed ‘em! It was then, in my five-year-old brain that I formulated the idea that maybe we’ve got something going here.
AD: Who did you look up to when it came to finding your own creativity?
RA: The two director/teachers who were most influential in my development, Norman Taffel and Frederic Cook. Taffel was my director and mentor in New York. We were into Avant Garde theater and Norman taught a very physical approach to acting. He was a dancer you know. He taught how to “think physically”, that what the actor does with his body precludes thought. It was really marvelous. The group he formed, 70 Grand, went on to do a well received show called LITTLE TRIPS.
Now, Fred Cook taught a more intellectual approach, with book work, using the dictionary a lot when breaking down a script to find the playable actions in the words of a script. Fred’s training, which was in Los Angeles six years after I left Norman, gave me a sense of purpose for my work. You know, why am I am actor? Fred’s technique was all-purpose and designed to wean the actor off the dependence on an acting coach. I stayed with Fred five years.
AD: Tell me about your first audition… What happened?
RA: I was nineteen and beating the pavement in New York City, when I came upon an office that had a far eastern name on the front door. Undaunted, I strode in and introduced myself like I’d done perhaps fifty times that week. After chatting with this nice Asian man (head of the company I was to find out) a while, he asked me if I could do cartoon voices. I said “sure” (really?) and proceeded to rifle off a few voices using a book I was carrying for copy. A week went by and I get a call from him asking me to come to Japan and do cartoon voices. Just like that. It was too simple. I smelled a rat and turned it down. It was immature of me but I was a kid. This was the early days of Anime for American audiences. Little did I know that a dozen years later I’d be doing the exact same thing in Los Angeles! Well, that was my first for real audition, and it could have opened up a new world to me.
AD: How do you deal with nervousness before an audition or project you’re doing?
RA: Auditioning is the most difficult area of acting. No matter how good you are at the reading, there are tons of other factors in play. I just look at auditioning as another chance to perform my craft and leave it at that. I guess it gets easier over time. I only get nervous when I put a big significance on the audition like “I’ve gotta get this job”. Once I’m on a project, the role’s mine so there’s nothing to be nervous about as long as I “wear my actor’s hat” and don’t try to run the whole shebang like the egotistical actor does. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun!
AD: How did you get into your career and what was your first role?
RA: My career started when I was a child but I won’t include that. I’ll start with my first adult role. While in college, I was invited to join a professional troupe called 70 Grand by a gal I went to school with. She had seen my work in college and thought I’d make a good candidate for the group. I accompanied her to a workout session the troupe was having at their digs in the Soho section of Manhattan. I watched for awhile and then was asked to join in. What they were doing was very Avant Garde stuff; physicalization, mirror exercises, physical communication exercises, etc. There was no script, they were just creating ex tempore. I loved it and decided right there to join the group. That was the day I really turned pro. I soon left college and joined the group full time, driving a cab to pay the rent. I was to eventually get my first adult paying role in this group, doing a show we developed in workshop called LITTLE TRIPS.
TV: When you did the voice for Lord Zedd as well as Finster in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, did you ever have the chance to work alongside the other members of the crew such as for example Johnny Young Bosch?
RA: Rarely. It was mostly me alone in the sound booth doing line after line. The one time the whole cast gathered in the sound booth was when we recorded the soundtrack for the live show.
TV: Are you still associates with Johnny Young Bosch and is there a chance we will be able to hear you in any future Bleach characters?
RA: I’ve worked with Johnny at conventions. Many of the Power Rangers actors attended Power Morphicon last summer in Pasadena.
TV: What do you do with your off time when not working in the media industry?
RA: I see a lot of movies. I watch TV and listen to music. I have an extensive record album collection. It’s fun to pop an old classic rock album on the turntable, sit back, and listen.
AD: I have had the opportunity to observe the fun at your voice acting and writing seminars on multiple occasions now and have to ask, have you ever discovered any new voice actors or writers at or outside your seminars?
RA: I’ve found a few new comers in my “Voice Over 101” panel who displayed some potential. I encourage them to get training and work on the craft at home.
TV: what advice would you give to new fans or younger people trying to get into the industry as a voice actor? What things can you tell them to look out for?
RA: Take a good voice over class, then constantly work at home honing your talent. Work with an MP3 recorder or tape recorder. You can find great commercial copy in magazine ads. Just tear out the page and get to reading. Read the newspaper, novels, whatever! Working with a recording device gets you used to working with a microphone. Listen for any vocal glitches you might have like regional accents, and work to get rid of them. If accents are part of your repertoire, then they better be spot on. Make a simple vocal demo. Find a studio that won’t charge you an arm and leg. Make a general demo that will help you get an agent. Once you get an agent, they’ll guide you through the demo maze. Generally, just work, work, work!
AD: What skills have you learned from being an actor?
RA: Well, I’ve learned confidence. I’ve learned how to make decisions and stick to them. I’ve also learned to be a better communicator. I’ve learned how to be grateful for what I get and how to handle disappointments.
AD: How does one go about creating and sustaining a career in the entertainment industry?
RA: Learn how to get jobs. Fred Cook, my mentor in L.A. taught a class in Actors Administration: How to get acting jobs and job opportunities. I took to that class like a duck to water! So much so that I ended up teaching the class for Fred a year after I’d taken it and applied the data to my career. It was just what I was looking for. Networking is very important. It’s the actor’s job to “get known and well thought of”, like any other product on the market. It’s sales! I studied sales for my career; how to mine for prospects and turn them into hot prospects. It’s 50% of the business! It’s part of the job of an actor, no matter what level he or she is on. In order to sustain a career, the actor has to hold his position as an actor in the universe, so to speak, and continue to do so over the years. Also, the more you can do in show business, the more you’ll work. When I was doing vocal dubbing in Anime, I took the plunge into script writing and became one of the top writers in Los Angeles. Writing led to directing. And so on. I became so good at the business of acting, that I opened up a Public Relations firm called Integrity Publicity. The script writing led to writing play reviews, which I do to this day for ReviewPlays.com.
TV: I imagine with each con you go to you come across some interesting and rather odd fans. What has been your most interesting, odd, or even scariest fan you have met?
RA: I’ll tell you, there are fans out there who really know their anime! I find that most interesting. I really admire the cosplayers as well. The costumes they create are magnificent.
TV: Some actors like to take a memento from the sets or studios where they’ve worked. Do you have any mementos such as these? If so what is your favorite memento?
RA: I did an episode of the show THE PROFILER where I played a mental patient being profiled by the police profiling team. Part of the observation they were making was when my character has a psychotic break and starts beating up on these department store dummies. I mean, I had to go totally wild on these dummies and they hurt! I had bruises all over me. They gave me a beautiful new terry cloth bathrobe to wear between takes and in the dressing room as my character was supposed to be dressed in flimsy hospital pajamas. So, at the end of the day, I was so beat up from this scene that I was able to give myself a reward: I took the bathrobe, and still have it to this day.
AD: I hear you are back in Los Angeles working on a new film. Can you give me any hints about your current project?
RA: It’s called MONDAY and it just wrapped last week. There’s supposed to be a wrap party happening soon, where I’ll learn more about the film’s future. I did a film that was just retitled THE REVENANT that is looking for a distributor. I went to the screening recently and was impressed with the film.
NNY: For us fans who want to see you again, what is your schedule for con attendance this year?
RA: So far these are the cons on my schedule with more to come.
SCI FI ON THE ROCK – New Foundland, Canada April 16-17
ANIME-ZING! – Bettendorf, Iowa June 17-19
GLASS CITY CON – Perrysburg, Ohio July 9-10
KIN-YOOBI CON – Hayward, California August 5-6
RAMONCON – Merrillville, Indiana August 19-21
CHIPIBA PHENOMENA – Palm Beach, Florida November 4-6
There are more dates pending finalization.
AD: Do you have anything additional you would like to tell your fans that may read this interview?
RA: I’d like to thank the fans for their devotion to the genre. The fans keep us alive and the fans I’ve met out there at the conventions across North America have been totally enthusiastic. I compliment them and thank them for their attendance, participation and dedication. It warms my heart!
AD: Thanks for spending time with us Robert! I am looking forward to seeing you when our paths cross again!