On this special edition of THE INTERVUE at AwesomeCon 2019, if you’re a Washington Capitals fan (and who isn’t) then you have heard his voice blaring at Capital One Arena. Arlington native Wes Johnson is the man behind the voice that you heard when the Capitals play their home games! And now, he talks to me about making it big the voice over arena on the final day of AwesomeCon!
Wes, is this your very first AwesomeCon?
No, I think this is my fourth AwesomeCon.
I’ve been coming for awhile now. They have me out here because I do—not just the cast, but I do video games, and about six different characters in video games. I’ve done film and television. I try to keep myself busy and out there, and this is a great chance to come and talk to people who have enjoyed your work, because you know getting behind a mic and doing things, it can be solitary, so to be able to come out to talk to people who have actually enjoyed what you’ve done is really awesome.
Especially since I just found out that you and I were actually in a film together.
Which one was that?
“Head of State.”
Oh yeah! Now, who were you in “Head of State?”
I was a waiter, but my scene was cut from the final product. Yes. (laughs)
Oh, man! I was one of the teamsters.
Remember when the guys are saying, “maybe you should consider Sanderson,” talking to Chris Rock?
Chris Rock was great. I remember him saying, “the faster you say something, the funnier it is.”
And as he’s saying this, a fly’s buzzing around his head and he reached up and (makes swatting sounds) snapped the fly out of the air. And then I’m like, “I don’t know if anybody’s as fast as you are, Chris. That’s pretty fast.”
That’s pretty fast, indeed. So, I want to know, since I know my humble beginnings, when did you realize you had been bitten by the acting bug, the voice-over bug; that you must have the voice of God, that you decided you wanted to pursue this as a career?
I went after the acting bug at first. I got bit by that bug early on. You watch early Jerry Lewis movies as a kid, and then you go out, do a show for the Muscular Dystrophy for the neighborhood and you get performing and you see something going on. The first time you walk out onstage and somebody laughs and you’re like, “yeah, alright.” And the next thin you know, you’re growing up, doing plays. You’re going out and ding stand-up open mic nights, sketch comedy, improv. Next, you know, I’m doing radio. I’ve worked with Wolfman Jack.
I was on HFS for a number of years.
Yeah, and then it moves on to working on film. And as you know, work begets work. And you get out and you start working with people and they know what you can do, or they think they know what you can do. Like when you first came in and you talked to me about being an announcer for the Caps. A lot of people know me as the announcer for the Caps.
WJ: They don’t know about the video game part, and those who know me as certain characters like Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness don’t know I’m Lucien Lachance of the Dark Brotherhood or Fawkes in Fall Out 3, or any of these different characters. But what makes me happy is doing stuff that is chameleon-like, that they buy what that character; that they buy what I’m doing as an announcer; that they buy what I’m doing in a role in a John Waters’ movie where I play a biker who’s Selma Blair’s biker boyfriend.
Now I’m trying to think of the film.
“A Dirty Shame!” Yes!
Yes, that’s it.
And a teamster in “Head of State,” where you were in and all these films try to be something different each time, but be bought and immerse yourself into the story so that they don’t think of you as anyone else but that. To me, that goes back to the days of Peter Sellers, who I was a huge fan of.
Who made people think of him as Inspector Clouseau.
But the man was so many other things—
DR: Right, especially with Dr. Strangelove, which he played three different characters.
Oh yeah! Amazing, right
Yes, it was.
People like that who can just disappear into something…I’m in awe of. I am in awe of. It makes me happier than anything for people not to now that it’s the same person in these roles.
It is amazing. So, what types of techniques do you do when you see a different movie or video game character, to understand the character and get the right voice-over for the character you’re about to play?
Well, I read a book by Mel Blanc, who was the greatest voice-over artist of all time
His book was called “That’s Not All, Folks, and I highly recommend it if you want to do voice-over, if you want to do voice acting, but it’s also a great representation of a bygone era. I sometimes wonder if I was born in a different time. You know, from radio, old-time radio shows. Being able to do theater of the mind, and Mel Blanc was able to go from show to show to show and be different people. And he was the first one to get credit in a cartoon as an animation voice-actor. The reason why people know him is because he asked for a raise and they said, “we’re not going to give you a raise,” and he said, “then I want a vocal credit.” And it was smart, because the moment people realized Mel Blanc, vocal characterizations by Mel Blanc, it increased his work in radio.
Work begets work.
When people know what you do and what you can do, you can do even more, especially if they can trust you. So for me, it’s never about…I don’t necessarily want to be famous; I just love what I do and I want to do more than that. The closest I get to being famous is sometimes being down at Capital One Arena and everybody there all the Caps fans know who I am, and within two blocks, I can’t walk anywhere.
Yeah, I might as well have George Clooney’s face within those two blocks because people know me.
You don’t want to have George Clooney’s face, not in this town. (laughs)
The thing is, I walk two blocks away from Capital One Arena, and boop! Bubble pops, back to anonymous, and that’s the beautiful way it should be.
You do your job, you have fun, you entertain people; then you can be yourself. You can go out to dinner with family, you can do things like that. George Clooney can’t go out to dinner with his family.
He can’t go out in public—
And what’s the best piece of advice to someone who wants to start off, or continue a voice-over acting career?
Well, first of all, go out to…there is voice123.com. Look up the name Dee Bradley Baker—
Yes, from “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and so many different cartoons.
What’s he’s done is he’s put a website together and it’s IwantToBeAVoiceActor.com. I believe that’s what it’s called, but go look up Dee Bradley Baker, a voice-actor and it’ll bring up the page. He will spell out everything you need to do from beginning to end. I sometimes read it for inspiration. Get yourself voice demos and then put your things out to places and people who are going to be doing that kind of work, you know, who are going to hire. It’s easier and tough at the same time to do it these days, but if you really want to do it, keep pushing at it. And remember, voice-acting isn’t the be all and end all; acting is. It’s just acting. Act wherever you can, do whatever you can. Take the work, because work begets work.
Absolutely. Well, thank you very much, Wes Johnson. Keep an eye on for the final interview from AwesomeCon with Parks & Recreation star Jim O’Heir