"Start the games!"
TCC: I like to think that we all add a little colour to our formative years in the form of dreams. Whether they begin as little more than childhood aspirations or as an internal visualization of something we know beyond a doubt that we will one day be doing, they are often integral to the direction our lives will take. Did you always envision yourself as a performer or did you just realize one day that, "Yeah, that's what I want to do?"
GAUTIER: When I was growing up, I discovered that I had an ear for mimicry and impressions. Being a bit anti-authoritarian, I used these abilities to ridicule teachers that I was not fond of and drew caricatures of them -- both a safe way to vent my frustration and resentment. This made me popular with my peers and was my tool for acceptance, so I pursued it and found that I got a little better at it. By the time I was 16, I was singing with a band and doing a little standup by myself and with a partner.
TCC: It wouldn't be a stretch by any means to say that achieving lasting success in any avenue of show business is one of the least certain endeavours one can undertake. Obviously, you have to want it badly enough, you have to work hard at it, and even with all that you probably need a bit of luck if you want to make something more of it. When was the first time that you knew you could fashion a career out of being an actor / performer?
GAUTIER: My first professional engagement ($25 for emceeing and doing a little comedy) was at a hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in L.A. and I decided to do some goofy dance (I had very little material). Unfortunately, the floor was waxy; I slipped and knocked myself out cold. They carted me to a nearby office and forced brandy down my throat. I learned that the audience laughed briefly but when I didn't move, they stopped. The fact that I chose to try again on another night told me that I was stubbornly committed to pursuing this unreachable dream.
"Your courage will be remembered."
TCC: You seem to have embraced nearly all imaginable aspects of performance very quickly and successfully, but it took quite a while before you made yourself heard -- pun intended -- in animated voice-overs. How did you find your way into that particular byway of the business?
GAUTIER: I had been a standup in many clubs all over the country, from San Francisco to NY, and most of my act was comprised of characters, voices, etc. My heroes were Sid Caesar and Danny Kaye and you could see it in my work. When I became an actor (thanks to Gower Champion and composer Charles Strauss seeing me at the Blue Angel in NY and signing me as Birdie in BYE BYE BIRDIE on Broadway), my vocal talents were shoved off in an obscure drawer somewhere. I worked so steadily as an actor that I had little time to ply my nightclub trade. My friend Dave Madden (Ruben Kinkaid of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY) had been a standup and was a very successful voice-over performer and he suggested I make a voice tape. I did and within 3 months I was doing several series for Hanna-Barbera. Those led to G.I. JOE (Serpentor) and eventually Rodimus Prime. Rodimus was not a character voice but a hero so it was a different VO for me, but I enjoyed it because of the cast and people I worked with.
GAUTIER: That just goes with the territory. First of all, there are too many VO performers for everyone to become a star, and the public doesn't seem terribly curious about who does what voice for what character. And maybe it's better if they don't; it might intrude upon the magic.
TCC: Although I haven't personally witnessed the process of voice acting, I would think that it comes with certain advantages and disadvantages compared to on-camera acting. On one hand, I would think the actor has the advantage of being able to concentrate all his energy on just one aspect of his ability, but on the other, I would think the actor is challenged by that much more power and emotion needing to be projected through the voice than would otherwise be the case. What is the most attractive part of it for you?
GAUTIER: I like it because NO MAKEUP! I hate makeup. You can show up in jeans or shorts, no COSTUMES! And there is a distinct advantage to reading and not having to memorize and thus fight for lines. All of your energy can truly go into interpretation and acting.
TCC: I'll move onto your part in THE TRANSFORMERS more specifically in a second, but I'd first like to ask you a more general question. Though the original run of the cartoon and its various companions (toys, comics) is long over, there remains a strong on-line community of fans out there today. They span a fairly wide range of ages, from pre-pubescents to adults in their early forties. Many of us host websites; there are quite a few discussion groups on Usenet; there are even annual conventions dedicated to the whole TRANSFORMERS phenomenon, as it were. How do you feel about that? Are you surprised that THE TRANSFORMERS still commands such a devoted following?
GAUTIER: I hate to admit it but I wasn't aware that it did. I liked the show but honestly I rarely watched it. My time is spent writing and painting as you probably saw on my website and consequently there's an awful lot of pop culture that I miss. I had no idea there were conventions, too. What you're describing is a STAR TREK kind of fervor. I'm glad to have been a part of it but I really didn't know.
"You know, I think I've finally started to wise up."
TCC: Through what events were you approached to be involved in the TRANSFORMERS television series, and how did you end up getting cast in the roles of Rodimus Prime and Hot Rod? Were you at all familiar with the show before you were asked to perform on it?
GAUTIER: Yes, I had heard of the show as I just described, but Wally Burr, who directed all the segments I was involved in, called me in after I'd done some Guest Shots and asked me to read. I did and he bought me. Whatever my gut told me to do I guess was in sync with his concept of the character and that was that.
TCC: You mentioned that you did some Guest Shots for Wally. Do you recall what they entailed?
GAUTIER: It's been too long; I can't remember, but forgive me. At the time I was doing lots of TV shows, some movies, personal appearances, etc. VO recording was only part of a larger mosaic of work I was doing at the time.
GAUTIER: I'd never pictured myself as truly heroic. My career has been mostly character roles or as a quasi-leading man so it was fun for me to get into this person. When I left the series I never acted super-heroically or aggressively. If I had, I think you would have read about me in THE ENQUIRER.
TCC: That would have been something for the tabloids, all right. What I'm getting at, though, is how Rodimus Prime was never your average never-fear-your-saviour-is-here type of hero. He was a reluctant champion and he made no bones about the way he felt about his obligation and the demands it made on him. Rodimus didn't always have all the answers, either, unlike most traditional heroes. In my opinion, such traits made him seem more real, in a sense. So I was wondering if there might have been something in those characteristics that appealed to you.
GAUTIER: I tried to infuse him with a humanity and reality that maybe doesn't typify the super hero on most cartoons, but I thought it was interesting and valuable to the series. Evidently, Wally agreed or he would have directed me otherwise.
"You two make me proud."