Review Fix chats with singer and voice actor Zach Callison, who discusses his up and coming singing career and role as the main character on the hit show, Steven Universe.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in voice acting?
Zach Callison: Kind of by accident, really…I was a theater actor first, then a film/TV actor starting from age 9. Eventually, after I had moved to LA, I started getting auditions for animation and got pretty good responses; eventually I booked a regular part on the long-running radio Adventures in Odyssey. From the get-go I was working with voice actors like Will Ryan, Jim Cummings and Jess Harnell; getting to watch them do their thing at eleven years old was a clinic in the craft. That show was a part of my life for five years, and paved the way for everything else I’ve done so far in VO.
Review Fix: How do you prepare for your roles?
Callison: It varies quite a bit between on camera and voiceover roles. These days I do the bulk of my voice acting from my home studio…brew up some tea, light some candles, and go crazy behind the mic for a couple hours to knock out auditions. It’s a very solitary process; even when I’m asking for notes it’s always through email. Voice acting, unless you get the chance to do ensemble records, is a very isolated trade.
On camera auditions, on the other hand, are much more collaborative. They almost always require a second human to read the scene with for proper rehearsal and discussion. I’m always seeking counsel from coaches, friends, and my assistant whether I’m taping the audition at home or I’m preparing to read for casting.
Once the role is booked, it’s a matter of re-reviewing everything and getting back into the mindset I had built for the character when I first auditioned. This part can be deceivingly difficult; I’m always trying to put newly-finished auditions out of my mind as soon as possible so I can keep my sanity and work on the next thing. Getting back into that space is super important before the day of shooting comes.
Review Fix: Any special tricks to keep your voice in shape?
Callison: Singing warmups, hot ginger tea with lemon and manuka honey, and constant practice for stamina. Sleep is important too, but I slack on that sometimes.
Review Fix: What is it like to be a part of Steven Universe?
Callison: Fulfilling, engaging, surreal. On the creative side, it’s an incredibly fulfilling show to work on as an artist. I’m surrounded by a total all-star team on both the cast and crew, and that pushes me to work as hard as possible from a craft perspective to do their work justice.
Being Steven has also opened my mind up to so many possibilities…it was a gateway to doing far more outlandish character voices, it got me back into singing full time and eventually working on my own music again, and it has given me a whole host of new career opportunities that I would never have had otherwise.
Finally, it’s been absolutely surreal to witness the fan response. Our fandom community is so loyal and dedicated; and they really seem to embody the positive values that the show promotes. They’re also not just supportive of the show and our characters, but us as creators in the cast and the crew…whether we’re working on Steven Universe or something else.
Review Fix: Did you think the show was going to take off the way it did?
Callison: Not at all. I was stoked because it was my biggest role to date, and because the show had cool designs and ideas, but I had no idea the depths that the narrative and the message of the show would dive to until Rebecca started sharing her future plans with us in the cast. Once the show had ramped up and revealed how rich the world and the characters are, the “take-off” was sudden and impossible not to notice. It still feels like a blur; everything was so quick and unexpected that it took years to sink in.
Review Fix: Any advice to people who want to become a voice actor?
Callison: Just start. I have so many people approach me and ask for advice, and there’s plenty to give in regards to singing and vocal training, websites and resources as well as good old performance coaching, but the most common thing I see in aspiring actors is the reluctance to just go. The world really is your stage; just because you’re performing for your friends, your dog or your local theater doesn’t make you any less of an artist than the biggest stars, it just means you’re at an earlier stage in the journey. So many people who ask the question are daunted by the enormity of the task ahead of them, when really, it only gets easier the longer you do it.
Review Fix: How do you have the time for your music career?
Callison: The time was always there, but I used to spend more of it on hobbies and fun stuff; once my favorite hobby turned into a career, I could justify spending even more time on it. I still have to force myself to take time off to rest now, but it’s a little easier managing two careers when they’re both something I love to do.
Review Fix: How do the two intertwine?
Callison: They’ve always been symbiotic; singing and music got me into acting, and now I’ve come full circle to make music again as a result of the opportunities my acting career. My day-to-day involves both of them nearly equally these days, and that’s a dream come true. Whenever one becomes overwhelming, or burns me out, I shift gears to the other until it passes.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Callison: A new single, new video content, the EP dropping later this year, and new Steven Universe this spring!
Review Fix: Anything you’d like to add?
Callison: Thanks to the fans for supporting me not only as Steven, but as Zach. To the new fans, thank you; let’s build something awesome together these next few years!