Jul 092012

Story: Liz Ohanesian
Photos: Shannon Cottrell

If you think that acting is all about trudging from one audition to the next as you wait for the role that will make your career, think again. Like the writers, artists and musicians that regularly appear in “Hard Road to Rad,” actors are working in an industry that’s rapidly changing and they’ve had to change with it. As Tara Platt says, there’s a growing need “to be a hyphenate.” In other words, if you want to act, you have to be able to do other things too, and we’re not talking about traditional day jobs.

Platt and husband Yuri Lowenthal are definitely hyphenates. They work a lot and,  if you’re an anime buff, you’re likely familiar with their work. Both have voiced characters in a number of shows, including Bleach, Naruto and the forthcoming Tiger & Bunny.  They also operate a production company and act as show runners for Shelf Life, the web series that they created and Lowenthal writes. They do whatever needs to be done to get their work out into the world.

“I’m going to rely on myself and my own abilities,” says Platt, “so that I’m not waiting around and saying, ‘I hope someone picks me.'”

Right now, the couple is getting ready for San Diego Comic-Con. They have a panel, “Moving for the Web: Be Your Own Producer,” on Friday evening. They made comic books based on Shelf Life that they will be giving away for free. The swag is irreverent– coming complete with a spoof of the infamous Comics Code Authority stamp– just like their show about action figures left on the shelf of a young boy’s bedroom.

Comic-Con is a biggie, not just because it’s a massive convention, but because it’s the precursor to their next big challenge, crowdsourcing funds for the fourth season of Shelf Life. On July 18, just a few days after the convention ends, they’ll launch their campaign on fundraising platform Indiegogo.  They’ve planned a web event, called Shelf Live, that will start off the campaign.  They come up with incentives for donors and spent their Fourth of July working on content for the campaign. It’s a lot of work, but should be worth it in the long run.

“If we weren’t so proud of it, it would be kind of a drag,” says Lowenthal.

Shelf Life is an incredibly funny web series. It hasn’t gone viral and there’s a chance that you haven’t seen it yet, but the fans are there. The show, which runs on Daily Motion and YouTube, has been generating a positive response from viewers– “Lord knows there’s no reason for people on YouTube to compliment you,” says Lowenthal– and that’s pushing the creators to take it further. This isn’t exactly how the two imagined their jobs when they started acting, but that’s not a bad thing. Lowenthal admits to getting “really fidgety” when he has gigs that only involve acting now and Platt agrees.

Platt had been acting since she was a child, when she was cast in a production of Wait Until Dark in Oklahoma. Her family moved around a lot, but she continued acting, appearing in theatrical productions in Virginia and Michigan before heading to New Jersey to attend Rutgers and then traveling to London and Edinburgh, where she appeared in the famed Fringe Festival.

Lowenthal took up acting at the end of high school and continued through his years at College of William and Mary. He even kept up with acting projects during his two years working a government job in Japan. Ultimately, he decided that he needed to pursue his passion full force and moved to New York. He spent six years there, performing in films with his friends and in plays where, he recalls, “there were more people on stage than in the audience.”

The two met when they were cast in an NYU graduate film– “Our very first kiss is immortalized on 35mm film,” says Lowenthal– and they’ve been married for ten-and-a-half years, exactly as long as they’ve been living in Los Angeles. They made a stop in Las Vegas and eloped when Lowenthal was helping Platt with her cross-country move. Platt was only planning on being in L.A. for a few months so that she could audition for TV pilot season.  Lowenthal had returned to New York, but soon moved out west too.

“We came out [to Los Angeles] with visions of working in TV and film. That’s hard,” says Lowenthal. “Even if you’re really, really good, it doesn’t mean that your going to work all the time.”

They found a way to keep working through voice acting. In fact, they found so much opportunity in voice acting that they wrote the book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic. English-language dubs of anime series provided their start and both have a slew of anime credits to their names. They also do tons of work on video games and Lowenthal is the voice of Ben Tennyson on a number of installments in the Ben 10 franchise. Voice acting offers a unique opportunity for the actors to play parts that go beyond their physical limitations. “With on camera work, there are so many variables. Are you the right height? Are you thin enough?” says Platt. “There’s only so much I can play physically.” They also found a strong sense of community in the voice acting world. Platt attributes that to the nature of the work. “In voice over, the job goes to the person who sounds the most like the role,” she says. “We’re all going to get the job, it just might not be this one.”

Platt and Lowenthal are in a good place. They get to work on projects they like and that work helps keep their personal projects going. While they’ve certainly done a lot, and have had a good deal of success, there’s still more room to grow. “There are days when I wake up and wish I had an assistant and could delegate,” says Platt. “I haven’t given up the dream.”

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