This year marks the 20th anniversary of Kim Possible, the Disney action/comedy animated series about the titular teenage girl and her clumsy best friend (and eventual love interest) Ron Stoppable as they saved the world while also balancing high school life. The characters of Kim and Ron, voiced by Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle respectively, still resonate with fans after all this time as has the friendship between the actors themselves. In fact, earlier this year Romano and Friedle embarked on a new venture with the launch of I Hear Voices, a weekly podcast where they talk with some of the best voiceover performers in the business.
At SDCC, The Beat had the chance to take part in a press roundtable with other outlets to interview Friedle and Romano not only about the I Hear Voices podcast but also their respective careers and other topics including their plans to launch a competition to find the next big voiceover star.
Taimur Dar: I didn’t realize until a recent DC Super Hero Girls press junket I had with you that you got to record Kim Possible with the other actors like John DiMaggio and Nicole Sullivan but never with Christy Carlson Romano. Since recording sessions are where actors usually get to know each other, when and how did you and Christy develop a friendship that led to this podcast?
Will Friedle: Christy and I when we did Kim Possible, she did the first two or three episodes and then went to college. I would record with John and Nicole but she would usually phone patch in. Most of the time we weren’t even there. I think we ended up doing 3-4 episodes where we recorded together. She was in New York and I was in Los Angeles.
The respect was always there because we were both Disney kids. The friendship developed after Kim Possible. Disney is always great at giving its shows like Boy Meets World a second life. It happened with Kim Possible. They did the Disney Kids Awards in London and wanted Christy and I to host it on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. So we hung out in London for awhile. We got to know each other there. I’m also good friends with her husband. And the conventions also brought us back together and we just realized we liked each other. We have kind of a brother and sister thing going on. It works. We have a good rapport. We like making fun of each other during the show and people like it. It blended from just working together to actually being friends. In this industry you often meet people you like and hang out while you’re working. And then you never see them again. But I’ve been lucky with Boy Meets World that Danielle [Fishel] and Rider [Strong] are two of my best friends in the world. And Christy is another one. You do make some friendships in this industry that last.
Q: Has animation allowed you to try different things and characters?
Friedle: That’s always the joy of animation. You get to do something that you wouldn’t get the chance to do in live action. You can get a little typecast. I don’t care if I get the same roles forever in animation. As long as I can continue to do it I’m happy.
Q: What’s the strangest place you’ve had to record?
Friedle: Good question. Sometimes you’re in hotel rooms and you have to record something really quickly on your phone and things like that. Nowadays nothing seems weird. Because of COVID everybody started recording at home or recording where they are. We did an episode of Pod Meets World and I was at home in my childhood bedroom. I’m sitting talking with my sitcom mates from my childhood bedroom about a show we did 30 years like you do on a Tuesday! It was just weird! Rider [Strong] said, “Is that a Dark Side of the Moon poster behind you?” And I say, “Why yes, yes it is. My room is still a shrine!”
Q: What surprised you most doing the I Hear Voices podcast?
Friedle: So far nobody has said, “When I grew up I wanted to be a voiceover actor.” They all wanted to be actors or be on stage. I’m sure we will meet somebody who always wanted to be voiceover actor. But we haven’t yet. They found these voices which then led them to the voiceover world and then they didn’t ever want to do anything else.
Q: What’s a crazy story from a guest about how they got into voice acting?
Friedle: One of my favorite stories is Roger Craig Smith. He voices Captain America but he was a standup comedian. One day after being a standup at the same place for years and years, they brought in a professional agent who was going to watch their sets and give them notes. She was going down the line and when she got to Roger she said, “Roger, the voices you do are really funny. Have you thought about doing that for a living?” He went, “What about the comedy?” And she went, “I think it’s the voices.” Roger said, “From that moment on, I knew I was not a standup comedian!”
Q: Do you have a dream guest?
Friedle: We put up a pretty major announcement. We are actually stating a nationwide search to find the next big voiceover actor. iHeart is going to be doing it with us. The first major prize is you sign with my voiceover agency, CESD, for a year. That is going to allow us to bring on all the guests we want to bring on because we’re going to have mentors for some of the contestants. Some old school directors are going to direct them. We’re keeping a list of some of the guests we want. Kevin Conroy and Eric Bauza were some of our first guests. Mark Hamill would be amazing to have on. I worked with him on Batman Beyond. Plus I know how generous an actor he is. I would also love just because I’m a mega nerd is bring back entire casts of shows I loved growing up. I want G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., He-Man, and Transformers G1. My dream really is to find that next big star. We’re super excited about this.
Q: When you started this podcast did you always know you’d do this contest?
Friedle: This was the dream but the infrastructure needed to conduct a contest of this size was out of the realm of possibility. When iHeart come onboard and we told them the ultimate plan they thought it was great. They have been incredible to work with and got it right away. When you find somebody who instantly gets it and takes it to the next level, that’s great. Flying out the winners to Los Angeles and having lunch with me and Christy was all their idea. We’re hoping it will culminate in a big live show at the iHeart Theater. A giant cast of voice actors will be there to judge and pick the next winner and will be like welcoming a colleague in the fold. They’ll be brought to iHeart and get to record the promos for I Hear Voices. They’re going to be doing the voice for I Hear Voices for a little while. They all have to be amateurs. They can’t already have an agent. Teaming up with iHeart was the only way to do it. We might get 50 submissions. We might 50,000 submissions. We’ve only been doing this for 4 months. From the start we knew that this is where we wanted to go. The next few months are going to be pretty crazy but we can’t wait!
Q: How do think Ron Stoppable changed from the start of Kim Possible?
Friedle: I haven’t watched Kim Possible in awhile. But I started watching it and the first few episodes he is totally different! It was just my voice at the time. It was like Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World. It starts one way and becomes something completely different. Writers write the character and then they get to know you. And then they start writing for you. That’s pretty horrible when you think about where Eric went and that’s when they were writing for me towards the end. They know I’m just a nut and he went crazy. It was kind of the same for Ron. The voice went a little higher and it was kind of my own spin. I go back and wish I started at the same register I ended in or wished I kept it the same the entire way. That being said all character progress. Watching it is a little jarring for me. It’s not as jarring as the change from Eric Matthews. With Pod Meets World we’re watching the show again and I’m just waiting for the show where he’s totally a different character.
Dar: It’s pretty easy to tell when animation producers and voice directors like working with certain actors. Aside from Kim Possible, you also appeared in some episodes of Penguins of Madagascar and the Big Hero 6 cartoons, which Kim Possible creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle were involved in as well as voice director Lisa Schaffer. How has your working relationship developed with them?
Christy Carlson Romano: I was so happy to get calls for both of those projects from them because it felt like I was coming home. Bob and Mark and Lisa work together and work away from each other. But the fact that they thought to cast me in things because they were together was so touching. I don’t technically work in voice acting as much as I would like to. I’m more of a content creator. I live in Austin, Texas. My life is very different than living in Hollywood. I was still living in Orange County at the time when I got both of those calls. I was just so touched to come back to the studio. It was like being home with the family. I do think you’re right in so far as there is bonding that happens. That is why you see a lot of the same people booking over and over again. But with so many different shows there’s definitely room for the next generation to be brought into the mix of things.
Q: How does it feel to bring Kim Possible to a new generation?
Romano: I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me [to see] the little girls dressed as Kim Possible. I’m a mom of two girls now and seeing that brings me a joy that I can’t even explain. I certainly wouldn’t have realized that when I was 16. It’s really come full circle for me 20 years later. I do think that Kim still has this mentality of inclusion and inclusion and fighting for good. Those are things I can get behind and be very proud of.
Q: Can you talk about your musical theater background helped you with voiceover?
Romano: We were talking about Fred Tatasciore’s ability to warm his voice up and cool his voice down. I had nodular surgery after establishing my voice as Kim Possible. Kim is very healthy for me because even as I’m talking I’m pitching my voice very high so I can save my voice from getting trashed. That’s just instinct. When I was a kid I was doing musical theater like Annie. I was screaming and belting and not using my voice correctly. I ended up having nodular surgery and did Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. I had to relearn techniques to not trash my voice again. We’ve seen it with people like Julie Andrews. It was risky and I don’t want to lose my voice forever whether I’m going to sing again in my lifetime or just reading stories to my kids. Even though I’m not working a ton as a voice actor, it means so much to me as a part of my life. Singing and how a voice is a used is very important to you.
Q: Gotta ask about recording the song “We Went to the Moon in 1969” in the Even Stevens musical episode and its legacy.
Romano: When you hear a lot of the old school DCOMs you assume it’s in this production booth. A lot of the producers and directors in Even Stevens like Sean McNamara and David Brookwell were all in a band in Santa Monica/Venice like The Beach Boys. So what would happen is that they would hire out a lot of their friends along the way who ended up in the industry. Long story short, the guy who created all of that music including that song was just scoring the show’s music and went into song writing mode. I went and performed it in this garage. It was just some ragtag thing that I didn’t even think of. There were other times that I would sing on Even Stevens like the Twitty-Stevens Connections [song] “Sacramento Girl” that I never took seriously.
I think there’s a generation that watched all of that musical stuff even before High School Musical. In a weird way that was their connection to music and Disney. It’s weird to me because we all know Disney being this very musical place but it wasn’t like that for a long time. Sidebar, when our musical episode tested off the charts for some reason they started talking internally about High School Musical. That was verified to me by [Disney TV President] Gary Marsh. They had had some milestone marker map that Disney brought out for some anniversary of Disney Channel, and that musical episode was a milestone for Disney Channel.
Q: Who has been your favorite guest on the I Hear Voices podcast?
Romano: That’s so hard to say! I cannot play favorites. I will say that my favorite person on the podcast is Will Friedle! He’s in the weeds with this voice acting job. I’m not as much as he is. Not only that but he’s a huge nerd. I’m a nerd but I like Harry Potter and Twilight. I’m more in the female demographic nerdom. He’s straight up Dungeons & Dragons. It’s fun because I’m from a different perspective. We’re both from two different ends of the spectrum in terms of our appreciation of animation, yet we’re both still professionals in the craft.
Romano: The voice of Naruto, Maile Flanagan, her father was a spy and she was recruited to be a spy by the CIA. She was in completely different world and life and yet here she is [voicing] Naruto. We really enjoy at I Hear Voices deconstructing not just the face of the voice but the story of the person coming to the craft of voice acting. The community is so friendly and everyone is so willing to talk to you and have a real authentic conversation. Since moving to Austin, I’ve learned there’s a big difference between people who enjoy community and people that want to be the most important person in the room. What I enjoy about comic cons is that there’s a community too. We wanted to make a community that can travel wherever we go.
Q: How does it feel knowing you impacted so many girls who grew up with Kim Possible?
Romano: “Girl Power” has taken on a quite a different ring to it. I think over time the “Girl Power” movement has shifted quite greatly. When I was growing up in Disney Channel I was very proud to be a part of what was their main demographic. Disney Channel’s main demographic was essentially middle class/upper middle class, little girls from the age of 8-13. And then they would switch over to The CW. I didn’t really understand that until I started to play Kim Possible. When it came to how Kim was represented it was a huge deal. And it directly came from how people were writing how they wanted to see her. They wanted her to be a real person which I always think is interesting. I don’t work all the time like Will but people know my face. I almost feel a little bit of imposter syndrome. But because of that legacy of empowerment and “Girl Power” I have no reason to be afraid of that. When people say, “Why are you still talking about Kim Possible?” I say, “Wouldn’t you?” There’s just nothing wrong with it in my opinion. No matter what happens to the future of who KP is, I’ll always back the fact that she represents something positive.
Q: Any dream guests you’d like to have on the I Hear Voices podcast?
Romano: I can’t wait to get someone like Sam Riegel. He’s really big with Critical Role. It’d be cool to have the director’s perspective. I was for a little bit of doing a lot of audiobooks before I was pregnant. When you’re not doing animation and want to keep your voice going, you do audiobooks. Sam was on the other side. Overall I’m a big fan of animation. Every guest we have I’m just happy they’re willing to sit down with us and have an authentic conversation.
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!