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The secret is knowing how a squirrel would talk

July 30, 2006|Susan King

Donna Grillo Gonzales

Animation casting director and voice director

Current assignment: The Cartoon Network animated series "Squirrel Boy," about a 10-year-old boy named Andy and his squirrel friend named Rodney.

Previous credits: "Dexter's Laboratory," "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Duckman," "The Angry Beavers."

Casting cartoons: "I really want my shows to sound different because a lot of times you use the same actors but you will have to find something to make it sound individual. So I'll spend a lot of time talking with the producers and say, 'What kind of a show do you want it to be?' Sometimes the sense of humor is silly, super kid-like, and sometimes it's more dry. Sometimes it's more physical.

"My first part of the job is really getting into the head of the creator of the show and trying to envision what he's thinking. You get into the whole psychology of each character. A lot of times the people who create the show will have something in mind, so they give you a little bit to go on. Hopefully, the dialogue they give you to audition with helps with that too.

"If I look at a picture of a character and see a description, I will probably get several people in mind that would be good for the part. I have been doing this for about 12 years now, and I keep extensive lists of people. I write my own lists of the people I'd like to see, but then I am also very open to what the agents have to say too. From there I'll get a list together and then I'll audition."

The screening process: "It used to be that the actors had to come in, but now a lot of times the actors will go to the agency and record it there. They'll send it over the Internet to me and I'll listen to it at home. If I like somebody, then I'll have him or her actually come to the studio and we'll see if they get along with us, does it feel good to work with that person. It is kind of like a second audition."

Voice directing: "The way I like to record is called a 'radio show,' where I get everybody in and put them behind the mike, so they can riff off of each other. The timing and the stuff they think to do is so magical, and I know it's because they are together. We just do one script [per recording session], and what happens is we just start in, go from the beginning, go through a few scenes and then stop, take notes.

"I prefer my style of directing -- I like a real fresh sound. If you beat somebody up and they do five or six or 10 takes, it gets stale. My guys also know they can play with me. This show, 'Squirrel Boy,' is silly and I promote them to stretch that way, and if they think of something funny I say, 'Do it.' If we don't like it we'll just do another take."

Background: "I was going to be a film producer. I worked at Carolco Pictures for six years. I was a contract administrator there, and then I worked for the head of business affairs. Everybody used to tease me because we would have these meetings about who to put in the motion pictures. I was always like, 'You gotta get Matt Dillon.' Of course, it was everybody I had a crush on. My motivation was I wanted to meet them. I was very opinionated. Everybody said, 'You should be in casting.'

"When I left Carolco, I got a job at Klasky Csupo, who do 'Rugrats.' I started working there as an executive assistant to Gabor Csupo and they were just doing 'Duckman.' I kept telling him, 'You should get so and so.' All of a sudden, he said, 'You should be in casting,' and I said, 'I would like that.' It was just a lucky break that the casting person needed someone to assist them."

Resides in: Los Feliz

Union or guild: "I have been invited [to join], but I haven't done it. I am sort of a freelance gal; I do my own thing."

Age: "My age? You're kidding!"

-- Susan King

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