Interview with Neil Kaplan Interview with Neil Kaplan

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 5:34pm CDT

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Seibertron's own Raymond T recently had a chance to interview Neil Kaplan, who provided the voices for Optimus Prime and Ro-Tor in the Transformers R.I.D series.

In the interview Kaplan discusses his past, present and future work as a professional voice actor in both the animated and video game industries, goes into depth about portraying Optimus Prime in R.I.D, his impressions on the new Animated series, his involvement with "Audio Theatre for the Troops" and his work on "I, of the Wolf".

The following are excerpts from Raymond T's full interview, to check out the full interview, please click here.

ST: Hey Neil! Thanks for doing this interview for
NK: My pleasure. Anything for you and your readers, Ray.

ST: It has come to our attention that not everyone knows you or your work. So would you mind telling us who you are and what you've done before becoming a voice actor?
NK: I do voice work. These days most of my work is heard on video games and Anime. I am, proudly, best known for providing the voice of Optimus Prime on Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Other credits include Hawkmon on "Digimon", Diabolico on "Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue", "Justice League: Heroes", "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic", "Star Craft II" and many, many others.

ST: What were the important traits for you doing the voice of Optimus Prime? How much did you want to remain true to the old Peter Cullen character and how much did you want your Optimus Prime to be Neil Kaplan?
NK: Well, everything I did on Robots in Disguise was based on the fabulous Peter Cullen. His work had stuck in my head for 15 years, so using that as a touchstone, I knew I'd be best served.

"R.i.D." was voice directed by TWO different directors, one of whom (The affable Michael McConnohie) had worked with Peter on G1, back in the 1980s. So, he would direct me to slow it down, play it more like John Wayne.

The other director, (The fantastic Steve Kramer) was the MAIN director on the show and he wanted to play Prime more as an action hero. So, you can hear the difference between their episodes.

Fortunately the character had a face shield, so we didn't have lip flaps to worry about. That alone made it incredibly easy to adjust. Oddly, neither director knew of that situation until the season had basically wrapped.

ST:Was there anyone or anything in particular you based your Optimus Prime on?
NK: Yes, I based it on Peter Cullen and then on my desire to portray a HERO in the post- 9/11 world.

ST: How is your Optimus Prime different than Primes of the past and future?
NK: Well it was the first time Optimus Prime was a Fire Truck, so this version was a FULL TIME hero. There was no down time, even when not in robot mode. Our first episode aired on September 8, 2001. Just a few days later, giving voice to a fire truck changed for me in ways I dared not to even imagine.

ST: Do you miss working on Transformers?
NK: Of course I do. But life moves on.

Would I like to do a guest role on Animated? Sure I would. Would I like to work on the live action movie? Certainly. But, I'm an actor, that is what I do and want to do.

I still am a voice actor, but I have also moved on to writing and creating.

ST: Have you had the chance to (really) meet any of the actors from other Transformers shows?
NK: Yes. David Kaye and I had a lovely chat at Comic Con a few years back. Jack Angel has become a good friend and mentor. and of course, meeting Dick (Rodimus Prime) Gauthier was HUGE thrill for me as both a professional and as a fanboy.

ST: Who does the best Prime? You (RiD), Peter Cullen (G1), Gary Chalk (Armada), or David Kaye (Animated)?
NK: Again another EASY question. Hands down, it's Peter Cullen.

ST: What has been your impression with Transformers fans, now some 7 years after doing Transformers?
NK: I my self am a fan of many, MANY things. They are basically the same as any other type of fan. Most of them are very, VERY nice people. Many are quite loyal and passionate about this universe that they LOVE! I am just happy to have been a part of it, if only for a little while.

ST: Can you tell us what you have been up to, since Robots In Disguise?
NK: WOW a LOT. I have voiced quite a few video games; Spider-Man Battle for New York (I was Green Goblin/Norman Osbourne), Spider-Man3 (Kraven the Hunter), John Woo's Stranglehold with Chow Yun Fat (Ty Lok), Conan the Barbarian (Bone Cleaver), Justice League: Heroes (Gorilla Grodd), Night at the Museum 2 (Ivan the Terrible), S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Command and Conquer 3, Bee Movie Game.

I�ve also worked on various anime series including Naruto, Tokyo Pig and Zatch Bell, among others.

Mostly though, I have been working on writing and creating my own material. Many fans had the chance to check out the pilot for the educational/sketch/history show I created called The Way it Wasn't which has found a home and is under development. I have a GREEN game show I am meeting with producers on so keep your fingers crossed.

On another note, based partially on meeting a firefighter named Mr. Optimus Prime. (Yes, THAT gentleman!) I have created an organization called "Audio Theater for the Troops". A not for profit organization, we use donated scripts, studio time and actors talents to (one day) create a huge library of entertainment for the brave men and women in uniform serving us.

After getting this organization up and running, I would love to spearhead the movement to do the same for the troops for our friends and allies. (Great Britain and Australia leap immediately to mind)

To check out Raymond T's full interview with Neil Kaplan, please click here.

For more information about Neil and his work, you can check out his following sites:

Credit(s): Raymond T, Neil Kaplan

This article was last modified on Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 5:44pm CDT

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Re: Interview with Neil Kaplan (812836)
Posted by Sabrblade on October 14th, 2008 @ 6:22pm CDT
Very nice interview. Many consider RiD to be the worst TF series and thus look down upon his Prime (Fire Convoy). Yet, he was fantastic as Prime in that series. I think he deserves a little more appreciation, as does RiD in general.
Re: Interview with Neil Kaplan (812840)
Posted by Sledge on October 14th, 2008 @ 6:27pm CDT
People look down on RID? Give me their names and addresses, I need to post them turds.

Great interview, and good to hear about the man who voiced probably my favorite Prime after G1. The Peter Cullen influence really came through in the show.
Re: Interview with Neil Kaplan (812849)
Posted by Raymond T. on October 14th, 2008 @ 6:36pm CDT
Yes, I am very happy with how this interview turned out. Neil is a great guy. And it was a pleasure doing this with him. :)

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