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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Exclusive Interview with...: Vocal Artist and voice of Gordon, Percy, Edward and others, Keith Wickham

So Keith, how did you get into voice acting?
By doing lots of stand up gigs, sketch shows and then sending tapes in to agents. It took a little time to get work, but one meets various people and eventually I ended up doing cartoons quite by chance. I was befriended by a company that specialises in finding voice artists for cartoons. For about ten years I was doing 5 or 6 series a year.

You have been involved with Thomas & Friends since the feature-length special Hero of the Rails. How did you get the job of joining the new voice cast?
I auditioned, along with most of the voice actors in London. It took three re-calls and a lot of waiting. There are only 4 of us doing the UK voices, with one other added recently, so we were very lucky.

Was it you're choice to voice characters such as Gordon and Henry, or was it Hit Entertainment's decision?
No choice. I auditioned for all the characters, they decided who was to play whom.

The end credits don't list what characters you voiced. To confirm for people who are interested in knowing, what characters do you lend your voice to?
Fat Controller, Henry, Gordon, James, Edward, Percy, Ben, Salty, Captain, Harold, Dash and Dowager Hatt.

Did you think of how to interpret the voices to fit in with the characters?
Yes, sort of. I was told what they wanted and sort of worked round it. Gordon was obvious, as was the Fat Controller, but the others needed some work.

What is the routine like when you arrive at the studios and do you view a screen showing an episode which requires your vocal talents?
I do voices in the US and the UK version. The US version is done like all the other cartoons I do, in a studio with the other actors, and with a script. The animation is then done, and a couple of months later, I do the voices for the UK version, which are done to match the finished animation, line by line, with one actor at a time.

How long does it usually take every day to voice your lines from start to finish?

Depends on the episodes. The hour long episodes take several sessions, the short ones take a couple of hours each. The US sessions take longer.

You have worked on other popular kids TV series such as The Koala Brothers and The Mr. Men Show. Do you feel privileged that you are now part of a phenomenom that is of Thomas?
Yes, I'm very lucky. I was lucky to do all of the series I'm in, but this is the most high profile series I've been in.

You were involved in the Children in Need music video, Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band. You notably reprised your voice roles of the Koala Brothers. How much did you enjoy to be part of the good deeds of the Children in Need charity?
That was a fun gig, and well spotted by the way. It was good to do it, of course, but it took about half an hour, so it didn't seem like a major gig until it went out on TV. Being a part of the whole thing was really good.

You and Ben Small who voices Thomas and Toby previously worked on Watch My Chops. How did you feel to work with each other again?
That's great, but we rarely work together. The UK episodes are done one actor at a time. We did the voices for the stage show together, but otherwise, we work separately.

Do you have a character that you like the most who exists within the show?
Not really. I suppose I would choose the Fat Controller, but then I'm biased.

Who is the character that is your favourite to voice?
Can't choose. They all have their charms. Percy gets the most response from people, he's cute, but they are all fun.

Did you know or watch Thomas & Friends before you joined the series and did you have any knowledge of it?
Have to say no to that I'm afraid. I was aware of it of course, and knew that it was on TV, and the names of some of the engines, but not having children, I never watched it.

Michael Angelis now only provides the narrative rather than voicing characters, have you spoken to him at all?
I met him once as he was leaving the studio and I was going in. He's usually recorded on different days to me, so I haven't spoken to him other than 'Hello'.

How much do you love being a part of the series?
Very much. As I've said, I'm lucky to be in it, and I'd be silly not to enjoy it.

You are involved in the next feature-length special Misty Island Rescue which features four new characters, Bash, Dash, Ferdinand and Captain. Are you voicing any of these characters?
Yes, I'm Dash and Captain.

Thank you Keith, finally, is there anything that you want to say to us fans?
Keep watching! I hope that the voices and the new animation are popular, it's a huge change for the series, and I'd like to keep doing it for as long as they want me in it. Thanks for asking me to answer these questions, and enjoy the show.

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