Kimberly Brooks is one of the most accomplished professionals in the voiceover industry. So it’s hard to imagine that she, like pretty much everyone at some point, suffered from confidence issues early in her career. It’s likely why voicing Karen Beecher a.k.a. the diminutive tech genius Bumblebee in the DC Super Hero Girls cartoon resonates so much for Brooks.
Over the course of the DC Super Hero Girls animated series, Bumblebee has had to contend with not only fighting supervillains but her own inner self-doubt. It all comes to a head in the new Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse crossover animated film. We chatted with Kimberly Brooks about how she drew from her own life in her portrayal of Bumblebee as well as her own recent personal achievements.
Dar: Out of necessity you had to record this project remotely without the rest of the cast. Luckily though, for the first two seasons of DC Super Hero Girls you were able to record as an ensemble. So even though you couldn’t have that back and forth play, did that prior experience getting to be in the same room with the other actors help or inform your own performance?
Kimberly Brooks: It helped having so many sessions together before the pandemic and working with the most talented group of actors I’ve ever worked with. When I’m reading the scripts I’m hearing Nicole Sullivan, Tara Strong, and Grey [DeLisle]. I’m hearing them all voice their characters in my head. Obviously it would have been so much better if we had been able to do a group ensemble record. But having those sessions before really did help. I miss them and it’s just fun. As an actor it’s great to have another actor to work off of but also they’re just so much fun to be around. I miss those sessions!
Dar: Sam Riegel, the original voice director for the first season, has been incredibly busy with so many other projects like Vox Machina so understandably he handed over the reins with his blessing to Gene Vassilaros. You’ve worked with Riegel on a number of projects, but also with Vassilaros when he was still doing casting for Nickelodeon. So was the transition fairly seamless for you?
Brooks: When the show shifted and changed hands it does take on a different energy. I respect everybody and what they do. It’s been so great to be in these productions. It was a little bit different but I love both of those voice directors. They’re so incredibly talented and luckily I get to work with both of them on a number of shows. I’m working with Gene on a different show right now. It was great. I felt super comfortable with him doing this movie because we did get to work as a group before the pandemic. It was pretty smooth sailing. You miss people and I know Sam is the busiest. He’s doing everything. We definitely missed him but Gene was awesome. Two different experiences that were both great.
Dar: When I interviewed the screenwriter, Jase Ricci, he mentioned that although the individual stories of the Super Hero Girls are each different they all share the same thematic arc of stepping up to be their own heroes. It’s not as overt for Bumblebee, but she has a great moment where she finally finds her voice to rally the team. Was that something that resonated with you and were you able to draw from your own personal life or career?
Brooks: That’s an interesting question but I definitely have drawn from my own life for Bumblebee. She felt like she didn’t really fit in. She didn’t have her powers honed in like the other girls. She’s tiny and wanted her voice to be heard. It does kind of parallel with my life because I was like that when I was younger. But I always knew I had this voice inside of me that I wanted to come out. I had to contend with what I looked like being an African-American person in this business trying to make it when there wasn’t a lot of representation. But I stuck with it and persevered and that’s exactly what happened with Bumblebee. So there are actually a lot of parallels between my life and this character which is why she just feels so natural for me to play.
Dar: You were nominated for an Annie Award for your performance in the episode “#EnterNightSting” where you got to play both Bumblebee and a post-apocalyptic future version of her. I’m sure Steven Universe fans can definitely hear a bit of Jasper in the voice you came up with for Night Sting. How did you develop that voice?
Brooks: I could be wrong and we may have recorded this episode twice. That was awhile back and we were in the studio for that. I just came up with the voice based on what the character description was. There are some similarities to Jasper because of the gravel of the voice and the texture and the attitude. That was really fun because it’s such a contrast to Bumblebee. That was a typical voiceover day where we spent a little time coming up with the voice and then we recorded it. We may have had an ADR session where we went back and fine-tuned some of that.
Dar: As hilarious as DC Super Hero Girls is, I really enjoy how much heart the show has and it allows characters to display vulnerability like some of my favorite sitcoms such as The Office. Bumblebee deals with a lot of self-doubt and confidence issues so did you find opportunity to bring some vulnerability in your performance?
Brooks: Yeah, and that’s where the writing comes in because they do such a great job of showing those vulnerabilities and why she has those vulnerabilities and what she has to do to overcome them. It’s always coming from within herself. She has a lot of inner strength and it’s just so powerful to tap into that and use that to save the day. She keeps her cool and keeps it together and she has the biggest heart. She really is the cheerleader for the team and wants them all to work together and everything to work out. She believes in her team. There’s that one line where I say to Supergirl, “How many times has Wonder Woman forgiven you when you made a mistake?” She’s the voice of reason. She’s logical. But she’s also got a really big heart and I love that.
Dar: Finally, I want to focus on you because even with the pandemic the last two years have seen some MAJOR highlights in your career. You’ve gotten to be a part of huge projects like voicing Teela in the He-Man cartoon on Netflix and even getting to be in The Simpsons! And most recently you won a BAFTA Game Award for your role as Hollis Forsythe in the Psychonauts 2 video game. Could you talk about such tremendous accomplishments?
Brooks: It’s been incredible! I pinch myself every day. I’m already delighted with what I get to do and the people I get to work with every day. My daily life is so thrilling. There have been some really cool little things like being nominated for an Annie Award for Bumblebee and getting recognized for that episode was exciting, unexpected, and thrilling. The BAFTA award was also amazing and unexpected. I feel just lucky to be a part of this industry during the pandemic. I already had a home studio and most of us had done some version of working from home anyway. It was an easy transition to be able to continue working on those projects. I’m just blessed that I got to continue to do this. Teela on Masters of the Universe was another great show where it was an ensemble record with another amazing group of actors that were rooting for each other. I really am proud of that project as well when I watch it. You can tell there’s a lot of love just like with DC Super Hero Girls. I feel like we’re all really lucky that we’re still getting to do this. It’s turned out wonderfully because this is the time when we need these kinds of projects.
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital.
Fans can also catch the movie event on Cartoon Network premiering Saturday, May 28 and then on HBO Max beginning June 28.