Alanna Ubach and Tara Strong On Voicing Crude and Vulgar Characters in Hulu’s Crossing Swords [Exclusive Interview]

Alanna Ubach Tara Strong
Alanna Ubach as Queen Tulip. Tara Strong as Coral.

Alanna Ubach and Tara Strong are the masters in the voicing acting world.

When Hulu’s Crossing Swords came along, they both jumped on board with that opportunity.

Ubach voiced Queen Tulip, a sex-crazed monarch, who cheats on the king at every opportunity and lives to torture the princess.

For Strong, she voiced Coral, an eye-patch wearing pirate, who enjoys bullying her brother, Patrick.

Both characters are unpredictable in this medieval world of Crossing Swords, from the producers of Robot Chicken.

LRM Online spoke to the two voice actresses over the phone last week about the project. They told us about the production and voicing on this unique project.

Crossing Swords is currently streaming on Hulu today.

Read the full interview below.

Gig Patta: Congratulations on another successful project for both of you ladies.

Alanna Ubach: So exciting.

Tara Strong: Thank you.

Gig Patta: Tell us about your initial attraction to an unusual project like Crossing Swords.

Alanna Ubach: It’s very uncommon, vulgar, and raunchy with major artistic integrity. You got to bring your A-game on when you’re doing something like this.

Tara Strong: [Laughs] We were both immediately drawn to being able to work with them Seth Green and Stoopid Buddy. They’re so well known for Robot Chicken. As soon as I saw the script’s title, I’m like, “Oh, that’s hilarious!” For Alanna and I, most of the animation we’ve done has been geared towards the children. To get into a studio and to do an adult humor project, it was exciting to deal with intricate sex scenes. Alanna, your character has some pretty fancy sex scenes?

Alanna Ubach: Very sexy. [Laughs] It was a lot of fun. We definitely would jump at the opportunity to do anything with them.

Gig Patta: I’m assuming that you both have binge-watched these episodes. What was your initial reaction?

Alanna Ubach: I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe how they put these [things into a show]. All I could think of is that you do have to have the patience of a saint to be a part of this stop-animation crew. That world is unbelievable with the time and effort–all of that detail.

Tara Strong: It is incredible to see how they were going to have the dislocated hands and arms with those little motions. Then on how they do the fire and how they do the blood. When you see the characters and tour the studios, you can see how intricate and beautiful the soundstage are, but then to see it all come together with the fluidity and understanding. It’s to know that each moment and each second has to be orchestrated. The process was pretty ordinary.

Gig Patta: Before you started the voiceover work, did they even show you what your characters were going to look like?

Alanna Ubach: I also had the opportunity to go into the factory. The drawings were shown to us for the audition. During the recording, when you walk in, I thought they were so much smaller. Maybe they were probably as little pegs. How’s the camera’s set up? What does that look like? When I walked in, they were about as tall as an energy drink can. They’re quite large. There were boxes of so many expressions per character. It’s a fascinating tour. [Laughs]

Gig Patta: By chance, you didn’t get to keep any peg characters. Did you? [Laughs]

Tara Strong: I have a Coral. I have a Coral toy. I might’ve stolen it. I don’t want to reveal that.

Gig Patta: [Laughs] Truthfully, your characters are pretty much farfetched from your real personality. How do you get into your characters?

Alanna Ubach: Gosh, that’s a good question.

Tara Strong: It’s such a departure for us. We are not having sex from the rafters. We’re married old ladies with children. Every actor always wants to play the bad guy. It’s so much fun. These people don’t give a shit about what they do, who they’ve hurt, or what they’re doing. They’re just the most narcissistic little toys I’ve ever witnessed.

Alanna Ubach: [Bursts out laughing]

Tara Strong: [Laughs] To get to play these characters, we were both saying, it’s like we go in for therapy. We’re screaming. We’re doing all kinds of crazy shit that we would never do in real life. That’s always so much fun. With imagination, we got to explore the world of sexuality with pirates in king and queen times.

Alanna Ubach: I like to call it a therapeutic experience. The experience is with walking into the booth, sitting there, and spewing out all the profanity with these big heightened emotions. Because the stakes are so high, it’s a relief. It’s rewarding. You get a check in the mail. I was acting like a real weirdo, and I’m getting paid for it.

ALSO READ: Yvette Nicole Brown on Voicing Sergeant Meghan for Hulu’s Crossing Swords

Gig Patta: How long did it take for you to develop the voice of your characters? You have come up with so many different voices due to so many various projects. How did you come up with this one?

Alanna Ubach: With the Queen, it got to be the Queen’s English, right? I went on YouTube, and I downloaded a bunch of interviews with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren. How can I do this? [Changes voice to Queen] Well, here she is! Yes, yes! This is it! Eureka! [Changes back to normal voice] It was something that was going to make me laugh. I treated this as if I’m in a merchant ivory film with this ridiculous raunchy dialogue. I think it might work. It might tickle a few people. Let’s see what they think.

Tara Strong: For both of us, we get to play a lot of additional characters. Every time there’s a new character, they’re going to give us like a quick drawing of what they look like in a character description. We play around with the voices until it’s mutually gratifying on what they want to hear.

For Coral, she has to be lovable bully–where you’re afraid of her, but you also want to hang out with her. Some of the other characters are just batshit crazy and perhaps out to lunch. They keep us in check. Before the session, they’ll play for us these reference tracks of stuff we’ve done before. So we can get it right.

Gig Patta: I’m assuming when you do your voiceover work, you’re alone in the booth, and you don’t get to bounce off ideas off of each other, right?

Alanna Ubach: It’s interesting. Over the years, back when I was in my early thirties, it was very common to be in the same room with everyone. Nowadays, everyone is busy doing so much [work]. Pre-Internet, I found myself doing a lot of group recordings. Nowadays, it’s quite rare. It’s a very solitary experience.

Tara Strong: For me, it just depends on the show. In some shows, we still work together with Teen Titans with the full cast. We did Rocky and Bullwinkle in a full cast. In a feature film, you do it alone. In a video game, you do alone. Sometimes animations, you do it alone.

It’s always way more fun to be able to play off each other and listen to each other. On this show, we haven’t got the chance to work together.

Alanna Ubach: Maybe, we will one day if it goes to the second season. We’ll see.

Gig Patta: Does it leave room for improv? Is it challenging to do it by yourself?

Tara Strong: We get to improv a little. The scripts are so well fleshed out and well-written. Within our characters, sometimes we’re like it be more her to say it this way or add some other lines. They let us play a little bit for the most part. We stick to the script.

Gig Patta: One last question, since you mentioned that you are married with children. Would you ever allow your children to watch Crossing Swords?

Tara Strong: Well, mine are 18 and 16. So, yes. They already watched it, loved it, and laughed a lot. It’s a little bit of a different situation. [Laughs].

Alanna Ubach: I have a two and a half-year-old. That’s a definite no. Maybe I’ll give him the entire DVD collection when he’s 16.

Tara Strong: I don’t think they’ll have DVDs in the future. [Laughs]

Gig Patta: Congratulations once again. Thank you for speaking with me.

Crossing Swords is currently streaming on Hulu today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive, Hulu

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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