How did you become involved with
Magic Railroad to voice 'James'?
After checking through my Daytimer for 2000, I see that
I had an audition at 2:00pm on Friday, April 28th at Dave Studio (which is what it was then called) in Toronto. Underneath
the call time is a notation that reads: "Looking for youthful, approachable engines. Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
Animated feature film."
When I turn to the following week, I see that I had a callback - this time at CineVillage
- and beside that notation is written "Britt Allcroft".
Then, turning to the week after that, there's
another call time: Wednesday, May 10th at 2:00pm at Dave Studio. This has "James - Thomas and the Magic Railroad"
written as the only notation.
Were you already familiar
with Thomas's world, in particular - the character 'James', the books by the Rev. Awdry or the television series?
that point, I was not very familiar with Thomas nor with the television series - but I most certainly knew about them.
I remember thinking how lucky I was to be able to work on a quality project that already had such an enormous, loyal following.
Given how these steam engine
characters have a universal and ageless appeal, what were your thoughts and feelings about taking on the role? What did family
members and friends (especially the younger ones) think?
I was DELIGHTED when I got the part of James! I auditioned
for three or four roles, and James was the engine I absolutely liked the best, the one that felt the closest to me.
Most of my friends (certainly the females!) zeroed in on the fact that Alec Baldwin was in the film, wondering if I might
run into him at the studio. Not a likely scenario - but we can always dream, can't we?
Did you get to meet Britt
Allcroft and any of your fellow cast members?
I met Britt at the callback and that was an enormous
help. She was so conversant with each and every character - their personalities, their nuances, their secret hearts,
and everything in between.
I remember feeling very comfortable with her at the helm.
Nothing was left to chance, she knew exactly what she wanted - but she also encouraged and welcomed creative input from the
actors which, in my books, is a gift from the gods.
Your characterization of 'James',
combined with your voicing him in a british accent is very youthful and memorable. As a voice actress, did the role pose any
Oh, thank you! My mother was British so that sound,
that rhythm has been rolling around in my head for a long, long time. You know, sometimes you find yourself involved with
projects that have no distinct voice, no apparent direction - and you just have to fly by the seat of your pants and hope
that you can figure out what it is that they want.
But that was absolutely not the case with this project.
Right from the get-go, we were made to feel integral to the film, as vital components of that special world. This was a collaborative
effort. When you're working to such high standards, the only thing you can think about is doing your absolute best.
When recording your lines
in the studio, did you have any visual aids, such as video footage of James to help you 'get into character'?
recorded our lines to picture, so we were aware of each and every little wink and blink and eye roll that appeared on the
screen. That's always an enormous advantage - when you can actually see the animation, you can incorporate all those
wonderful little idiosyncrasies into the dialogue. Even the fact that James is a red engine was a strong, visual clue
as to what he was all about.
Lastly, do you have any
special memories or anecdotes of working on the movie?
I think that, in order to be a good
voice actor, you have to be able to remember vividly what gave you the most pleasure as a child, and I know that I would have
been enchanted with Thomas and all the engines on the railroad.
It was wonderful to be a part of bringing that to life
- to think that somewhere out there was some little kid, who could have been me, falling under the spell of such a vibrant,