Published on August 21st, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Peter New
Peter New’s voice is familiar to viewers of a variety of animated television shows like Littlest Pet Shop and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to go along with his diverse screen credits which include everything from Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to CTV’s Motive.
With the demand for animated programs and voice actors higher than ever, we spoke to Peter New to learn more about his career and the art of voice acting.
Tell us a little bit about you and what projects you have on the go right now.
I’m doing voices on Littlest Pet Shop, among other shows, and I’ve recently finished shooting a fun turn in Electra Woman and Dyna Girl for Legendary Pictures.
What was the moment when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
I was maybe 5. I had a menagerie of animal characters I played. I used to put on shows curated by Ruff Ruff the Talking Dog.
Who were some of your greatest influences early on?
Terry Gilliam. Samuel Beckett. The Frantics. I just realized that Samuel Beckett and the Frantics sounds like a terrible band.
You’ve enjoyed a variety of roles on stage, on television, and on film. What creative rewards do you get from each of these three platforms and do you prefer one over the others?
Each individual job has its own challenges and rewards. I don’t really see the forms as being altogether different. Each has its joys and limitations. Indeed sometimes the limitations themselves are the source of the joy.
When you look at your career, what have been the most memorable moments for you?
I have to say chatting idly with Terry Gilliam while on the set of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus about one of my all-time favourite shots from any movie – the epic pullback from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen when Baron Munchausen is surrounded by the Turks army. To have this casual moment with someone whose work I’ve long respected was the kind of perfect moment that can sometimes happen in film.
As someone who has been inside the Vancouver film industry for a long time, how do you think it could be improved?
I think the main improvements – and this is nitpicking to an extent – would have to be at the political level. There are rules around distribution and citizenship which I read as grossly skewed. I have eked out a fine career despite this, however, so I’m not sure how wise it is to bite that feeding hand any harder.
You are getting a lot of recognition right now for your voice acting on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Littlest Pet Shop. What does it mean to you at this point in your career to have a large fanbase that you’ve gained specifically through voice acting?
It’s incredibly humbling. That anyone at all would call themselves a fan of me or my work is deeply touching. Let alone a group of people. It’s incredible, regardless of whether it’s from voice work or whatever.
How does your creative approach change when you are preparing for a voice role vs. a live action role?
It doesn’t really. I mean you have to memorize a live role, so that’s a change, but every scene is a conflict featuring a character who wants something. Deciphering that and then rendering it is the job of the actor, regardless of the format.
What advice would you give to an actor who wants to specialize in voice acting?
Start by acting. Voice is not the operative word. Acting is. Get on stages, join improv troupes. Use the audience to learn how to make fast, bold, successful choices.
You won a Leo Award for your writing on Point Blank. What are the three most important elements that every screenwriter needs for a successful screenplay?
I disagree with this question. Each screenwriter needs to serve the story being told. Each story requires different things, has variable needs. Writing is a process of discovery, like any art. Understand that everything will be wrong before it feels right. But I disagree with the approach that there are specific creative fundamentals. I think that’s a recipe for pat stories and dull screenplays.
What books have been influential in your creative journey so far?
A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previto & Scott Zigler.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan.
Where can we find out more about you and keep up with your projects?
Our thanks to Peter New for speaking with us!
True and False
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan