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 October 5, 2003
 


Interview: TAKUA, Take Two-a
Mark: First, let me both apologize and express my eternal gratitude to Jason Michas (the voice of TAKUA in BIONICLE: Mask Of Light) and Jill Swartz (of Current PR who oversaw the interview) for giving of their time not just once, but twice so I could bring this to you. What started out as a curse (my corrupted recording of the first interview), has turned into a blessing in that I have been able to add some additional questions and answers to the interview.

I am speaking with Jason Michas, the soft-spoken actor who voiced TAKUA in the BIONICLE: Mask Of Light video.

Q: Have you had a chance to see the film?
A: I have.

Q: What did you think of the movie?
A: I thought it was really fun. I thought it was really good. And I finally figured out how the ending worked!

Q: Is TAKUA your first starring role?
A: Uh, actually no. I did a cartoon called Bucky O'Hare and I was Bucky O'Hare. It was apparently quite popular. I also recently started doing a cartoon called Oh Mac that is still in production. It's about a dog, and I play Mac. But that (Mask Of Light) is the first feature film movie cartoon I've ever been a lead for.

Q: Scott McNeil (TAHU/ONUA) and Doc Harris (Kohlii Announcer) were also involved with Bucky O'Hare, is that right?
A: That's correct, yes. Scott McNeil, and I can't remember if Doc Harris was but that's probably right.

Q: Not a starring role, but perhaps your best-known role before Mask of Light, is Zak from Dragon Tales.
A: That's probably right, yeah. It's a pretty popular cartoon.

Q: You received a nomination for an Annie Award (in 2000) for that role?
A: I was nominated for best male voice in a cartoon TV show (Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting By a Male Performer in an Animated Television Production). I lost to Dan Castellaneta, the guy who plays Homer Simpson, so I'm pretty proud.

Q: Perhaps TAKUA will surpass Zak?
A: Maybe. I didn't know it would get so big, really.

Q: Did you know what TAKUA looked like before recording for the movie?
A: Yeah. They showed us a short synopsis animation and I saw some cool drawings. I really find it helpful to me. It's a little harder with these robotic sort of characters. When you see the drawing it helps you visualize your character.

Q: Have you seen the TAKUA LEGO set?
A: I haven't. They gave me a hat and they gave me a BIONICLE toy, but it wasn't TAKUA. They gave me some other guy. I gave it to my friend's kids.

Note: At the end of the interview, Jill offered to send Jason a TAKUA set.

Q: TAKUA is a short character in the BIONICLE universe? Are you short or tall or average?
A: Oh, I'm short. I'm a little short of average, let's put it that way. I stand 5' 6", almost 5' 7". I guess if you stood me beside the actual toy, I'd be quite a lot taller.

Q: Do you share any other character traits with TAKUA?
A: Well, you know what? It's going to sound clich. I mean it really did, pretty much, come pretty close to what I was like at that age you could say. I pictured him as kind of a sixteen-year-old young man. And that's probably what I was like, you know.

I'm not saying I was a hero or anything. I certainly was reluctant, but I had potential. That's one aspect. There's definitely some things we share in common.


Q: Does TAKUA's voice differ at all from yours.
A: Not really. No. That was me. That was me in my laid back, young guy mode.

Q: Did you have any trouble with the unusual names or some of the lingo?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. It took a couple of takes to get some of those words out of my mouth.

Q: Did you record the DVD-extras the same time as the movie?
A: No. Actually what happened was they brought us back to do pickups. "Pickups" are when they want another version of a line or something that did not go right. And I think at that time they got me, brought me in to do it.

Q: How much time between when you did the original voice recording and the pickups?
A: I think it was a couple of months. Four or five months later.

Q: What type of voice direction did you receive from your Voice Director, Kris Zimmerman?
A: She's trying to give you an idea of what's going on, giving you context, helping you with what's happening and what you're doing. If she could tell you're tuned into that already, she'd try to stay out of your way.

Not every director is like that. Some directors will direct you down to the syllable. I find that, when they direct you down to the syllable, somewhat of a challenge.


Q: In the "Making of" portion of the DVD, and in the production notes, they note the casting switch between Andrew Francis, who played JALLER, and yourself. You originally came in to read the others' role (Jason for JALLER, Andrew for TAKUA)?
A: Yes.

Q: Andrew is portrayed as being very serious and conscientious, and they sort of portrayed you as the opposite, more laid back and care free. Is that true?
A: (Laughs) I'll tell you it's probably true, but I'm also very fastidious and quite organized sometimes. I've played lots of computer nerds in my life. So it's one aspect of me to be like that, but I can also be pretty organized. And the same goes for Andrew. But maybe that doesn't make as good of a story for the media.

Q: When you did the actual recording, you did some of that by yourself, but most of it you did with Andrew?
A: That's right.

Q: Did you have any trouble keeping the story to yourself in between when it was recorded and when it was released?
A: I did get one email from somebody, and they were asking me all of these questions, and I was like "Uh, uh, uh. I can't tell you!"

Q: How much time did you invest in the auditions, the read through, and the recording, if you had to lump it all together?
A: Maybe four days, four-and-a-half days. But, you know when we do these voice-over jobs, I guess part of the reason we get hired is because we do it quickly and we don't take a lot of time. It's definitely less involved than when you're doing on-camera stuff.

Q: Do you have a favorite BIONICLE character, other than TAKUA?
A: I like the Toa of Water, GALI. Is it Kathleen Barr that plays GALI? (Yes.) Kathleen Barr, by the way, plays Wheezie who is the other head on my shared body in Dragon Tales. And also, I have to say I really like Lee Tokar's job as MAKUTA. It's really dark.

Note: Jason's original answer to this question (prior to seeing the movie) was different: A: I like the guy that surfboards over the lava: TAHU. Yeah, TAHU's cool. And also the snow guy (KOPAKA). He's pretty awesome.

Q: Did you play with LEGO sets when you were growing up?
A: Oh yes, I did. I had all of the Space sets.

Q: You currently have a CD out, a music CD (Ode to a Dead Bird, see www.JasonMichas.com)?
A: I do. I've been involved in these things, in a hard core way, since I was about 18 or so. I was in rock bands. I studied music. I went to school and studied classical voice. And then after I got out of school, I went like, I'm going to do my own album. I mean I wrote a lot of music and lyrics with the bands I was in before. But after I got out of school, (I went back to school to study some things), then I made an album of my own.

It was released about a year and a half ago. It kind of struggled along because it's tough to be in the music business. It was also nominated for a Canadian West Coast Music Award (2002's "Producer of the Year"). It played on some radio stations, and also Internet radio stations, and even in Finland and places in Europe. That's my other big passion.


Q: Have you ever combined music and theater and done musical theater?
A: When I was a kid, my family, which is composed of eight people: six kids, four sisters and my brother, we used to lip-sync to the musical Grease album. My dad got the video camera out and we'd all lip-sync to Grease and Oliver Twist (Oliver!) and Free To Be You And Me. I think that's how I got my beginning chops as an actor.

Q: I noticed that Nathan Furst, the movie's composer, was also nominated for an Annie Award as you were (2001's Outstanding Individual Achievement For Music Score In An Animated Television Production) and had some involvement with Dragon Tales as well.
A: Yeah, that's what I heard. Oh, by the way, the score for the movie was quite good. I've been trying to figure out if they actually got a symphony to play it. I was pretty impressed.

Q: When you watch yourself in an animated TV show or feature, what is it that you see in your own performance?
A: Hopefully you give a subtle performance. Sounds like I'm talking about Shakespeare, but it's all good stuff. As an actor, you want to do good stuff no matter what. You want to give a subtle performance as an actor, and sometimes the animation might not really show those subtleties as much as you'd like. And actually BIONICLE (Mask Of Light) was quite good about tracking the subtleties in all of our voices.

Q: So you were pleased with how your performance in Mask Of Light turned out.
A: Yeah, for the most part I was. I mean, it's more difficult when you have these more, sort of rigid, robotic characters trying to express human emotions. You know, it's difficult enough when you're drawing characters that are human. They did a pretty good job with it, so I was pretty pleased actually. It turned out great.

Q: What would your recommend for our young readers who might want to do voice acting in their future?
A: Read books! Read books because they help you. Television and video games and all that stuff is good, but reading books fosters your imagination, because you have nothing but your imagination to help picture what you're reading.

Also, reading it aloud. Because when you're doing voice-over, it's about reading text and making it come alive off the page. It's so important for you to read well.


Q: Is there any future involvement for you with BIONICLE on the horizon?
A: You're not supposed to ask me that! That is a big secret that they probably won't tell me. Maybe I'll make a guest appearance. Who knows? It'd be nice.

Q: So overall the BIONICLE experience has been good for you?
A: Oh yes. It's been great!

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Items Related To This Story
BIONICLE: MASK OF LIGHT DVD
Jason Michas

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