My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic airs a very special episode tomorrow on The Hub in which the lovable and charismatic Twilight Sparkle is changing. To find out how much, we spoke with the talented woman who provides her voice on the series, Tara Strong. Hear what she had to say about Pony fandom, the upcoming Teen Titans Go!, and the one animated venue she’d still love to visit.
The Mary Sue: Did you watch the older series of My Little Pony?
Strong: I grew up in a toy store and I always had the best sticker collection and all the ponies, I definitely was into them. I’m trying to remember how much of it I actually watched but I definitely played with the toys and the stickers and the merch.
TMS: To the current news, [SPOILER ALERT] fandom is reacting strongly to Twilight Sparkle becoming a Princess very soon. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a Princess, but we do see them a lot in children’s shows and movies. Will Twilight be a stereotypical Princess or something more?
Strong: Well the good news is, Twilight is going to stay Twilight. She is overwhelmed and surprised and grateful for this new phase in her life but it’s not going to change how she is or how she interacts with her friends, she’s staying in Ponyville. I’m certainly not changing any of my performance and it’s really the same Twilight except she can do more stuff now. She can fly…it’s not going to change the overall feel of the show, she’s going to be with the Mane 6. It’s just Twilight but a little bit better, she can do more stuff! But overall, it’s not really going to change that much. I think that’s what everybody’s afraid of, that it’s going to change sort of that core element that everyone fell in love with these six characters and that’s not going to change at all. I’m not changing a thing about my performance.
TMS: Who, other than Twilight, is your favorite pony?
Strong: [Laughs] Gosh I hate when people ask that because I love them all and I love these girls, they’ve given them so much. I think visually, Rainbow Dash is amazing, she’s just so cool and fun to watch and her cutie mark is really cool. Of course Pinkie Pie is adorable and she reminds me of my Bubble days so she’s really fun and I’m crazy for Tabitha for her Rarity. See? This is not fair. You’re asking me to pick like my favorite kid. It’s not fair.
TMS: Speaking of the visuals, we’ve seen a lot in fandom the cosplay that has spun out of the show, whether it’s extremely literal or very expressive. What do you think of that and is there something you’ve seen fans do in cosplay you really thought they knocked out of the park?
Strong: Well, I’m not sure if you know but I surprised the fans in cosplay myself? [Editors Note: Oh, we saw!] It’s so much fun! I look at the video footage of their faces because they had no idea it was me. It was the first time I ever cosplayed and it was insanely fun and I think I look amazing with purple hair! [Laughs] So much fun and liberating and I see why they do it. It’s really playtime and you sort of get to be a kid again or this other character that has all these magical powers and you’re in a room with all these people who are enjoying the same level of wackiness as you and it’s just so fun.
I would say probably some of the most amazing stuff I saw was like a full Princess Celestia or something where it takes two people to make it work. Like, someone’s in the butt and someone’s in the front [laughs], it’s so good! That’s a whole level of fandom that, I mean, I’m still wearing a dress and legwarmers, these people are like…I don’t know. The other thing I have to say, this fandom is so talented. I don’t know how they make this amazing art, they make amazing music, and they make these amazing costumes. And when you meet them in cosplay they’ve all made them themselves, it’s just astonishing how talented everyone is. I see what they’ve sewn together and created and their interpretation of these characters and they’re just incredible. They’re really incredible.
[Editors Note: It was here I admited I'd be doing my first Pony cosplay at C2E2 in April. We're each dressing in a differen era and I'll be doing a 1920s Twilight Sparkle.] Strong: That’s a great idea for an episode, we should have time traveling ponies!
TMS: Speaking of time travel, Doctor Whooves has really taken off in the fandom from a character that was sort of vaguely placed in the background that is now spawning merchandise and all that. Are you a Doctor Who fan at all?
Strong: Oh my god, growing up I was such a huge fan of the classic stuff. I don’t watch that much television now, so I don’t know much about the new one, but I was obsessed when I was a kid. It’s so amazing whenever the fans go and find background ponies and give it more life and you know, the Hub and Hasbro work together to sort of incorporate it the best way they can. It’s such a collaborative show, I mean, and it’s so cute and I love all the jokes. I mean, anytime you can sit and watch a show that has no age barriers is such a good thing and this Doctor Who thing, you’re going to have fans from all ages that get those jokes. It’s so good!
TMS: Is there any existing character outside MLP you’ve always wanted to play, either live action or voice?
Strong: If I was going to voice a character that I haven’t done it would have to be The Simpsons. I do Family Guy from time to time [but] that’s one show I think would be a lot of fun to do. Other than that, I’ve really been so lucky in the voiceover world to book legacy characters like Batgirl and Harley and Raven, and the sequel to the Little Mermaid and Timmy Turner. I’ve just been so lucky so that’s probably the only one. Then on camera, you know I really love doing everything, it’s just fitting in the time to do it. I have a recurring role on Big Time Rush but certainly a sitcom would be tremendously fun as long as I can fit in time to My Little Pony.
TMS: Speaking of your superhero work, I think the latest thing that really got people excited was the Super Best Friends Forever shorts on DC Nation. What was that experience like?
Strong: Well of course they were all so wonderful because they were created by Lauren Faust who is such a genius. And I love playing Batgirl. I don’t know if you heard my podcast with Kevin Smith but he’s like an encyclopedia and he’s like, “Do you know that you’ve logged more hours playing Batgirl on television than any other celebrity in the world?” And I’m like, “I did not know that!” So any time I get to play Batgirl is fine with me and because it’s Lauren it sort of had that young energy spin on it that was totally adorable and I would love if that went to series. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen but it was totally fun and the t-shirts are cute! Someone has to get me one of the Batgirl t-shirts.
TMS: You’re voicing Raven again for Teen Titans Go! On DC Nation.
Strong: Yup! All the returning cast! And you guys are going to love it so much. Initially I was concerned because it wasn’t a continuation of what happened. I’m like, “well what about Trigon?” It was such a cliffhanger when the show originally ended that I was worried that the fans were not going to be into this show and then…first of all, it’s all the original cast and we had so much fun when we get together and it’s like an old family, but when you watch the first episode, I’ve seen a few of them, they’re so well done that even the grumpiest person sitting there not wanting to like it is going to love it. So well done, and so hilarious, and the colors are amazing and there’s all these funny songs and it’s just so crazy. It’s addictive. It’s a similiar thing to Pony where you have to see the next episode. I’m crazy for this. I was nervous myself, being a fan of the show, and I’m crazy for this version! I think fans will not be disappointed.
TMS: You’ve have such a huge career of voice acting and we have a lot of younger girls who read the site. Is there any advice you would give to someone who wants to get into voice acting?
Strong: I would say to definitely get into all kinds of acting classes. When I was little I didn’t know that that would be my main source of income so the acting work that I did in other areas really helped mold who I am today and any time you’re working on your craft, that’s helpful. I took improv at Second City and singing lessons and scene study. A lot of people think, “oh I have a funny voice, I can do voiceover” or “it’s just reading” and it’s not just reading. People that do it really well understand the concept that you are becoming these characters when you’re in the studio, you’re bringing these characters to life. That takes a tremendous amount of skill and natural ability and of course experience. Initially it’s very frightening to get to a studio with all these seasoned genuine voice actors but I always recommend that. And if you can get into a studio, especially if you’re in L.A. or New York, or any other place that does animation or commercial casting, if you can get time in front of someone who does commercial casting, a lot of people get their start that way.
We actually have a course online too it’s VoiceStarz.com that has advice from everyone in this business on how to get into it and just knowing that it’s not a business that’s open arms that anyone can do it. You want to really make sure you’re ready and at the top of your game before you even attempt to do it because you sort of have to be someone who can come in and wow everyone and blow everyone away. I mean, I see the same ten to twenty people everywhere I go and there’s a consistency to that because producers know that in their amount of studio time, these actors are going to get it right between take one and three and there’s just a comforbility level that comes from doing it so much. So before you just jump into an audition, you don’t want to ruin your chances by going in too early, just make sure you’re really ready.
TMS: Anything else you’d like to mention?
Strong: Just follow me on Twitter, @TaraStrong and vote for me for a Shorty! Of course my charity which is Little Kiki’s cancer fund. This little girl would not be alive without my fans today and their family is so greatful. They’re actually really good friends of mine and this little girl has a stage 4 brain tumor and she would not be here without my amazing, amazing fans. So I’d definitely like to tell them how grateful I am and how grateful the family is and just to keep supporting them.
You’ll be able to catch Tara this Saturday, Feb. 16th for the very special coronation episode of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic at 10:30 am ET only on The Hub.