McManus roves into animation

By Guy Davis


Rove McManus says it's funny how the stuff that used to get him in trouble at school now gets him a job on a really cool show.

That's the secret of Rove's success right there - the sense of fun and enthusiasm the Gold Logie winner brings to his many and varied projects.

One of them is the animated adventure Exchange Student Zero. In the telemovie, set in McManus' home town of Perth, best friends John and Max find their favourite fantasy card game, Battle Day Zero, taking on a new dimension when one of its characters, the heroic Hiro, comes to life.

Passing him off an as exchange student at their school seems like a solution, until more exotic creatures from the game start entering our world.

John, Max and Hiro three of the five characters McManus voices. Marg Downey, Peter Rowsthorn and Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker himself) also lend their dulcet tones to the project.

Sadly, Rove didn't get to work with Hamill this time, but everything else proved to be a "pure joy", he says.

"Not only because I am such a fan of the art form but also there is no greater pleasure than jumping up and down like an idiot and making silly voices for a day," he says.

BEING AWARE OF YOUR AFFECTION FOR ANIMATION AND SEEING YOUR NAME CREDITED TO SO MANY CHARACTERS, WAS EXCHANGE STUDENT ZERO A ROVE MCMANUS BRAINCHILD?


I would gladly take that credit. When they first told me about the idea, I thought it was brilliant and one I wished I'd thought of. But it has come from someone else.

WAS IT ALWAYS GOING TO BE THE CASE THAT YOU'D VOICE SO MANY CHARACTERS?


It ended up being quite an organic process. There were probably about eight of us in the cast originally, when the idea was just getting up. And we would read the script through and Bruce [Kane, producer] would get us to swap roles, finding the right people for the right mix, and you would find yourself doing one or two different roles. Then, on the day, you'd hear, "Oh, do you think you could read this one, too?" Before you know it, you've got five roles, which is actually a real thrill.

WHAT'S MORE, THOSE CHARACTERS ARE INTERACTING WITH ONE ANOTHER, ADDING TO THE CHALLENGE. HOW DID YOU APPROACH THAT?


You don't want them to just sound different vocally but have a real distinction between one character and the next. The main characters, Max and John, are very good examples of guys with a similar kind of sound, although Max has a slight speech impediment because he has these huge teeth. John is more like I was at that young age, while Max is this very heightened, over-the-top type of character, so I can be a bit more excitable. And for Hiro, I watched a lot of anime to get that very hurried way of talking - those cartoons are often made in Japanese then dubbed into English, so there's a lot of speaking very quickly to fit it all in. It's a fun process; it's not just about picking a funny voice out of thin air, it's about building a whole character from the ground up.

IS ACTING SOMETHING YOU'D LIKE TO PURSUE?


I like to think it's in there somewhere because acting got me my start before I started doing stand-up. I acted as a kid but then I got bitten by the comedy bug. Even when I was acting, though, I preferred comedic parts to more dramatic stuff. That led to me getting into performing. I get the feeling my acting know-how may have been beaten out of me through years of comedy because I now tend to play things so large, but I like to think it's still in there and it's something I could tap into. Comedic acting is something I enjoy and something I'd like to do a bit more of, so maybe this is a step in the right direction.

- Hamilton News

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