Actress and proud Harry Potter fanatic Amanda Troop is quite the colorful character – in more ways than one. She’s the voice behind many beloved characters and feels right at home in the world of animation. Amanda currently plays Maggie Sawyer in The Death of Superman. When she’s not voicing kickass police captains, Amanda focuses on improv, directing the LA-based all-female improv group, Ripley Improv. She remains tirelessly motivated to disentangle improv and comedy from the male gaze, cultivating a space in which the experiences of women from all walks of life are recognized. Oh, and she thinks you should watch Nanette. Like ASAP.
Cliché: You’re well known for your voiceover work. What inspired you to pursue voice acting in particular?
Amanda Troop: I have a lot of characters that live in me, and voiceover is way for me to let them out! I love that through voice over I can play anything, and as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I get to have magic powers, fly through space, you name it. Also, voice acting is really fun.
Do you have to apply specific techniques to voice acting that are different from live action? For example, how do you best convey an animated character’s emotion when the audience can’t see your face?
Voice acting is acting. I think many people assume that voice acting is the ability to make funny sounds or silly voices, but in reality, it’s about character creation, and needs to be as grounded as any other kind of acting. The main thing that changes from on-camera to behind the mic is that you have to imagine the entire scenario that your character is engaged in, from the clothing, the environment and the action. Otherwise it’s all about proximity—where is the other character that I’m talking to, and what’s the context in which the viewer hears my voice. If I’m speaking to someone far away, or to a large crowd, there might be more projection; if I’m hiding somewhere in a scene, or talking to myself, I change the distance at which I’m speaking accordingly.
If you could turn yourself and/or your life into an animated universe, what would it be like?
I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I would add magic to our world in a heartbeat! But without the dark magic… I don’t need He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in my story. I’ve always wanted to see an animated mini-series or show based on the Harry Potter books—just think of the kind of magic that could be done in an animated setting! But I guess if my REAL life was going to be an animated series, it would be about a couple who live near the beach with their goofy cat Norbert, and too-smart dog Sophie. Every day of their life would be about making sure their pets are happy, with hilarious results. Sophie would always be trying to run the household, and Norbert would be causing chaos at every turn. Every season there’d be a camping adventure with Sophie, and an episode that features just Norbert and what he does while everyone is away. There’d definitely be an episode called “Is That Edible? Let’s Find Out.”
Give us the scoop on your new animated feature, The Death of Superman, which just premiered at SDCC.
The film is centered around telling the iconic story of Superman’s death from the comic book. The creators really wanted to build a story where we fall in love with Superman all over again, so when we lose him, we experience the heartbreak afresh. The film is really beautifully animated, with incredible fight choreography, and plenty of light and funny moments to balance out the dark part of the story. There’s a hilarious scene when the Justice League characters are having a meeting—I think it’s my favorite part of the film!
Tell us about your character, Maggie Sawyer.
Sawyer is part of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, so she’s called in when there are unusual occurrences. She believes in good police work, and letting the cops do their jobs without the intervention of the supers, so for a long time she had a somewhat tense relationship with Superman. When we find her in this film, however, she’s accepting of his assistance—sometimes a job really does call for Superman. She has a longtime partner, Dan Turpin, who’s also in the film. What’s unstated in The Death of Superman, but is an important part of Sawyer’s character, is that she is one of the first openly gay characters in a major comic franchise. She’s an incredibly important character in the DCU for this reason and voicing her was an honor.
We also want to hear about your upcoming role on Bobcat Goldthwait’s TruTV anthology series Misfits and Monsters.
I play Emily in episode 4 of Misfits and Monsters. She’s a major worrier, and when she nervously drops her son off for a sleepover, she fears the worst… and maybe she’s right to do so! I had so much fun playing this character—the writing on the show is very funny and dark, and Bobcat also let us improvise a bit, so I got to explore just how neurotic I can be (spoiler: VERY neurotic).
Improv is your other passion. Was it intimidating trying to carve out a space for yourself in LA’s improv scene?
Not for me—I just jumped in. What I’ve learned, and continue to experience, is that improvisers and comedians are usually deeply empathetic—it’s a big part of what makes them funny—and if people are standoffish it might be because they’re just as nervous about meeting new people as you are. Most of the improv I do is with Impro Theatre, and we focus on long-form narrative improv. I’ve done improv in the style of Jane Austen, Twilight Zone, Star Trek: TNG, X-Files, full length Tim Burton style musicals…. it’s incredibly fun.
You direct an LA-based all-female improv group, Ripley Improv, described as “actors improvising artful, long-form narrative about women who save the day, save the world, or save each other.” As an experienced improviser yourself, why is it so important to have an all-female group? What message are you hoping to send about women in improv or women in comedy?
How much space do we have for this article—this is a big topic! First of all, having an all-female group stands out because we’re so accustomed to seeing groups with mostly men and maybe one or two token women, not to mention that there are even more groups that are all-men. We’re very used to seeing our stories told through the male gaze, and having an all-female group allows us to tell our stories through the female gaze. We are literally rewriting the narrative on the stories we can tell through improv. What springs to mind is the famous quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, about when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, and her answer is, “When there are nine.” Having an all-female improv group will continue to be important until it becomes completely unremarkable that it exists. We have a lot of work to do in sharing the storytelling in our society—not only from a woman’s perspective, but interjectionally. We have stories that need to be heard from people of color, people of different genders and backgrounds of all kind. It’s time to hear from more kinds of people, so we can learn from each other and become a more empathetic world. To women in improv and comedy I want to say, don’t be afraid to take up time and space in your pursuit of comedy. You are allowed to try out jokes and have them fail, and then try again. You don’t need to accept that the loudest person in the room is the one the audience should be hearing from. Continue to be fearless and believe in your own voice. Find a community that supports you and lifts you up—leave the haters behind.
Who are your favorite women in comedy right now and why?
There are so many women I admire, and who continue to inspire me, but right now it’s got to be Hannah Gadsby. What she does with her comedy special Nanette is revolutionary. It goes to the core of what I believe great performers can be capable of, which is getting people to really listen to each other, and to potentially help change the world. If you haven’t seen this special, it’s on Netflix, and I can’t recommend it more highly. Gadsby is exceptional.
What advice do you have for young women thinking about getting into improv?
Stop thinking and go! Improv is awesome—even if you’re not an actor, there’s so much to gain from improv. The first rule you learn is “yes, and…,” and this alone can change your whole perspective. Good improv also requires learning how to listen, and how to adapt quickly. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll “be funny.” It’s not really about being funny—it’s about being real and being connected, telling the truth of your life, and your observations as you experience them. The world needs your voice—don’t keep it to yourself.
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Women’s Voices Matter to “The Death of Superman” Star Amanda Troop. Photo Credit: Birdie Thompson @birds_eye_photo. Hair & Makeup Credit: Allison Noelle @allisonnoellemakeup.