The Pilot Podcast - TV Reviews and Interviews!

JP Karliak (Interview)

Episode Summary

We interview voiceover actor, writer, and snappy dresser, JP Karliak, on this week’s episode of The Pilot Podcast!

Episode Notes

Tune in to learn more about JP’s role as The Boss Baby / Ted on The Boss Baby: Back in the Crib (Netflix). We also discuss his acting career and his show Donna/Madonna. And we wrap up with a discussion about his advocacy work with NerdsVote and QueerVox.

JP’s Social Media:

Transcript available on our website

Episode Transcription

BJ (00:09):

Welcome to The Pilot Podcast. This week we have a special episode with voiceover actor, writer, and snappy dresser, JP Karliak.

Mitu (00:18):

Welcome JP. We're so excited to have you. Would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?

JP Karliak (00:24):

Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I'm glad to be here. Yeah, I'm JP Karliak. I've been doing animated and interactive voiceover for about 16 years now. And I've had the good fortune of playing a lot of legacy characters like Wile E. Coyote, Willy Wonka, the Green Goblin, the Tin Man, and one of the bigger ones, the Boss Baby. And I happened to hear your episode reviewing our pilot for the Boss Baby: Back in the Crib. Now playing on Netflix. And I loved the concept of your show. So I just was like, "Hey, y'all."

Mitu (01:09):

Thank you so much again for joining us. And I apologize, maybe not in advance, but in retrospect for how hard I stan Boss Baby as a fully adult woman.

JP Karliak (01:23):

There are no apologies in this room. Mm-mm.

Mitu (01:24):

Thank you. Well, first, actually, we want to say congratulations on your recent nuptials. Your wedding photos are so beautiful.

JP Karliak (01:32):

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah. It was a really, really epic weekend that I still have not fully come down from yet. So, yeah.

Mitu (01:42):

That's a beautiful thing. And another beautiful thing. I mean, can't compare, is to your point, your 17 years of history in this industry, an industry that is famously difficult to break into, especially at the level at how you've done it. Can you share a little bit with our listeners of how you were able to get into the world of voiceover? And also get into the world of these legacy characters that people know and trust so much? That's a lot of responsibility for you to hold.

JP Karliak (02:15):

Yeah, for sure. I always wanted to be an actor, but the way I frame the story is, I was coming of age and starting to have an idea of like, "Oh, careers, jobs," when Aladdin came out. The original Aladdin. And loved Robin Williams and his performance. And my young brain kind of put together like, "Okay, so if I want to do voices, I need to go to Hollywood, become on-camera famous, and then they will let me do cartoons." So I didn't go to college or anything expecting to be like, "Oh, I'm studying to do voiceover. This is what I want." That was the way off in the distance endgame. It was like, "No, no, no, I have to be here to be famous."

JP Karliak (02:59):

So, yeah. As we were just talking about, I went to school in D.C. and then transferred to LA. And, yeah. Just kind of went into it with the whole idea of having an on-camera career. But I was meeting people, including a professor who worked in animation, and they were like, "You might..." Because, I mean, I was an only child who didn't have a lot of friends, so I was doing funny voices in the mirror all the time. And then friends would be grabbing me for like random VO bits that they were doing in class or something that they needed for a project.

JP Karliak (03:34):

And it started being like, "You might want to consider this now, not post-fame." So I had a teacher who worked in animation. He told me to study with a few different people, including Bob Bergen, who's the voice of Porky Pig, currently. And he became my mentor. And from there I got an agent and just started doing the thing. And slowly, but surely, I left behind any aspirations for doing on-camera. I did a couple on camera things. You may see a wonderful episode of me on the Real Husbands of Hollywood, which is not my best work.

Mitu (04:13):

I briefly watched that show, the Kevin Hart joint.

JP Karliak (04:17):

Mm-hmm. Yep. That's the one. I played a singing telegram person in a bellhop outfit. Very, very Clue-esque. And I think Cedric was trying to punk Kevin repeatedly. So I kept showing up to the door with an iPad with Cedric being like, "Eh." Just making that up. Yeah. And I was just the butt of every joke and it was just like, "I don't know if my career is going the way I wanted it to." But they were lovely. JB Smoove is the loveliest person on the planet.

Mitu (04:54):

That means a lot to hear you say that, because he's just the light of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so to also know he's a decent person is very cool.

JP Karliak (05:03):

Oh, no, sincerely the most, there were a couple of bits that he wanted to do. He'd be like, "Come here, come here, come here. I think I'm going to do this. And then could you do that? And then we'll do the..." And it's always nice to have somebody that wants to set up a gag with you and not just slaps you in the face without telling you. Not that he did. That was not one of the gags. But, yeah. Just such a sweetheart. But, anyway. So, just got into VO.

JP Karliak (05:28):

And as far as the legacy character stuff, I've always been kind of good at being a mimic. I have a music background. I can usually pick up melodies and pitches pretty easily. And so I just sort of tap into what a character sounds like, and then kind of go from there. And various characters have different needs. Like when I did Wile E. Coyote, a lot of people don't think of Wile E. Coyote's voice when they think of him. They usually think of the silent one with the little signs. So I didn't have as much pressure to sort of be what Mel Blanc used to do.

JP Karliak (06:03):

But then, when you get something like the Boss Baby, they wanted something pretty exact. Although, I don't think I do a terribly good Alec Baldwin. I think I do a really good Will Arnett doing Alec Baldwin. And that was sort of the vibe they were going for, so it kind of worked out. But, yeah. That's how I've been doing the gig.

Mitu (06:23):

That is beautiful. I am curious about that, this notion of getting instructions and having a clear direction of these legacy characters, and also if there is ever a time where you feel like it's smart to make it your own? Or is there a balance that you strike? Because I thought with the Boss Baby, of course there's a little bit of a difference. It's two different humans with different bodies making these sounds, but also I thought it fit the character so well the way that you did it. And I don't think that there was anything missing. In fact, I thought that the way that you voiced the character is additive.

Mitu (07:02):

And of course, as background for our listeners, we had an opportunity to chat with JP before we were on mic, and so I shared that one of my pandemic comfort watches was the Boss Baby cartoons. And genuinely for anyone, baby or not, the theme song is fire of that show, of Back in Business. It's good.

JP Karliak (07:22):

Mm-hmm. It really is. I actually remember when we were recording the first season of it and they would come in and show us drawings and random stuff. And they were like, "Guys, we have the theme song." And I was like, "Oh, okay." And I was just expecting like (singing), something like that "I'm the boss baby". I was like, "What is this? It's so great." It is a bop.

Mitu (07:45):

It is.

JP Karliak (07:47):

As I said with Wile E. it was just sort of my take, and we ran with that. When I did the Tin Man, there was sort of a vague instruction of like, "This show is based on the 1930s movie interpretation of Wizard of Oz." But they never said that they wanted a specific sound alike. So I just kind of did, just sort of a very lilting mid-Atlantic accent and that was it. I wasn't really getting ultra specific. But then for Boss Baby, I feel like, if you've ever watched a show... Okay, prime example is the American Office.

JP Karliak (08:25):

If you watch The Office, the first half of the first season feels like it's really just trying to emulate the British version, and then slowly but surely it finds its own legs and just becomes its own thing. That's sort of what it was for me is like, we were really trying to hone in on what Alec was doing for those first few episodes. And then as time went on, and then the writers were hearing the way I was doing jokes, and then kind of like writing for me, it sort of became its own thing. So they're both still very Boss Baby, whether it's the movies or the TV show, but they're different versions, for sure.

BJ (09:01):

Yeah. You got to put your own spin on it for the medium that you're working with.

JP Karliak (09:05):

Right. Yeah. I mean, we have a longer story to tell that goes over multiple episodes and it breathes a little bit. The Boss Baby movies are like, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. So, Alec, I feel has such, those huge energetic shifts to kind of match the, "We have two hours to get this all in, kids. Let's move."

BJ (09:29):

And speaking of huge shifts, I actually want to shift all the way to another series that I'm really excited about. We have seen on your resume that you're involved in the new X-Men '97 series on Disney+.

JP Karliak (09:42):

Am I? Oh, is that a thing? What?

BJ (09:46):

I'm very excited about it. Big Marvel fan. Know they just announced a lot about it at Comic-Con. Can you tell us anything about the project and your involvement? We know, secrets tend to be tightly kept, but whatever you can share, we would appreciate.

JP Karliak (10:00):

Yes. I cannot yet tell you who I play.

BJ (10:04):


JP Karliak (10:05):

But what I can say is, it is so faithful to that '90's show. I mean, the tone is right. Everything about it just... I mean, people are like, "Is it a reboot?" It's like, "No, no, no, no, no." It is like the needle was picked up off the record and then placed back down." Just picking up where it left off. And it's great. The tone is right. The artwork is right. It just grabs it. And now, since we're in the era of X-Men returning to the MCU and more than once have we heard the little like (singing) in Ms. Marvel and the Multiverse of Madness. I mean, this is the moment for that show to come back. So yeah, I'm super stoked. I can't believe that I have to wait over a year for it to come out, but we're getting there. We're getting there.

BJ (11:02):

Yeah. Well, I'll be patient. It's good to hear that you're excited about it. That makes me more excited.

JP Karliak (11:07):

Oh, for sure. For sure. For sure. For sure.

BJ (11:09):

Now going to some projects you can talk about. You have done superhero series, you've done a musical film. Mitu's favorite Q-Force. You've done anime, video games. One of my favorite shows Star vs the Forces of Evil. Do you have a favorite project out of all of these?

JP Karliak (11:29):

I mean, they're all favorites for different reasons, which I know is like the BS answer. But it is the truth. I really loved working on Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, because it was an ensemble record, and it was the same 10 people every week recording like a radio show. And we were spit balling jokes off each other. And it was a blast. It was an absolute blast. And I was working with some of the best people like Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke from SpongeBob, and Kari Wahlgren, Steve Bloom, Greg Griffin, Laraine Newman was the witch, Jess Harnell from Animaniacs was cowardly lion.

JP Karliak (12:09):

I mean, these were awesome people to be in the room with. And this was sort of like just as I was starting to work regularly and it became my job. I was just leaving the day job behind and to be in the room with these people was like a masterclass for three years. So that was great. But as far as like the challenge of a character, I mean, I love the Boss Baby. There's a lot of things about him that I relate to. There's a lot of things about him that I don't. I think he's a bit of a capitalistic nightmare.

JP Karliak (12:49):

But somehow he's the best version of that if that's such a thing. Yeah. And all of the scripts kind of like you mentioned earlier, it's so well written, it's so dense. It is a script that I really had to prepare before I would go into record it. There's no just kind of cold reading it on the fly. You have to really go over it because sometimes I would come in and be like, "Oh, I'm doing other voices." One of my favorite clips is in the first season, Boss Baby is trying to take down the cat villain Bootsy Calico.

JP Karliak (13:25):

And he's getting worked up about it in the living room and telling his brother how it's going to go down. And so he's doing Bootsy's voice and then he's doing his Boss Mega Fat CEO Baby's voice and just doing all these voices and playing all these characters. And it's all really rapid fire. And I love that scene, but I really had to work on it in advance. So yeah, I love him for the challenge. And yeah. And then, I mean, I also played Dante Crescendo on TrollsTopia. Who's just this lovely light and fluffy little troll. And I mean, even if I'm in the worst mood, I walk out of the booth just feeling so just light and cheery, because you can't play that character and not just get a big smile on your face. So yeah. It's all different things.

BJ (14:15):

Okay. So another tough question where you'll have to choose.

JP Karliak (14:20):

Oh, is this the least favorite?

BJ (14:21):

No, no, no, no.

Mitu (14:23):

What do you hate?

BJ (14:24):

We'll stick with the positives. Moving kind of broader than just projects that you worked on, do you have any favorite animated shows or animation styles?

JP Karliak (14:36):

Oh, that I consume?

BJ (14:38):

Yes. And it can be one of your projects as well.

JP Karliak (14:43):

No. No. I'm not that person. No. I love a lot of the stuff that I've been in. But I will say I have been fortunate that there are a few things that I've gotten to work on that are my favorites, but it's mostly because I begged. And just small things. I loved Castlevania-

BJ (15:01):

Ooh. So did I.

JP Karliak (15:02):

... on Netflix? Which I got to do. You'll hear me dying horribly, gory deaths sometimes in the background. I'm not a character. But yeah, that was one thing I was like, "Please bring me on destroy my vocal chords. I want to be a part of this project." Yeah. And I think we're in the Renaissance of adult animation right now where not necessarily anime, but English first run animation produced here that is geared towards an older audience that has real depth of character and just these amazing plots and it's delicious.

JP Karliak (15:40):

And there's so many things that you can do with animation that you really can't get away with in live action, unless you're spending a stupid amount of money. Unless it's like a big MCU movie, you can get away with some really fantastical stuff while also harnessing the talents of great actors and brilliant writers. And yeah. We're in a really good spot. So I love Castlevania. I mean I love a lot of the queer representation that I'm seeing right now, whether it's Owl House or oh I'm watching Dead End right now, which is on Netflix based off a graphic novel. My God. It is so good. It's just beautiful. Yeah.

JP Karliak (16:23):

There's a lot. There's a lot. I try to keep up with a bunch of animation just by virtue of the job. If it has the Marvel stamp on it, I've watched it. I love it. I eat it up. Yeah. Those are my big things right now. And then the show that we finished last night, we just finished watching Heartstopper, which just tore me into a million pieces.

BJ (16:42):

I think you bring up a great point, especially with the rise of streaming platforms that there's more animation, which is making it easier for there to be animation for different audiences. So now it's not just, you only find animated stuff on Cartoon Network. You can go on Netflix and find something for your kids, for you, for teenagers. And I think that's really fun. And do you try to go after a variety of roles or just, how do you fall into franchises that meet different audiences?

JP Karliak (17:13):

Yeah. I think there are different tones that you want to strike. If you're doing a show for the little, little kids, you don't want to talk down to them, but there is just a slight slowing in tempo. And as I kind of tell my students, you want to round out the sharp edges. Nobody's ever mad, they're upset. Or nobody's bawling, they're just, "I'm sad." Everything is just a little softened. But unlike when I was growing up, I haven't asked your ages, but when Barney was on TV and it was all just so big, and you really had to like hit the words into the kids' skulls. It's so much more fluid right now. It's so much more conversational for the most part. Regardless of whether you're doing a show for the little kids versus bigger kids.

JP Karliak (18:07):

I mean, Boss Baby, ostensibly is for kids under six. But I mean, I'm talking a mile a minute and I'm using words like stock options and stuff like that. So I think it's great and certainly makes those shifts from medium to medium, tone to tone, easier because we're not so concerned anymore about, "Are you understanding us?" It's like, "Nope, we're just going to plow ahead and trust that you'll get it." And kids are smart. They do. I think where the one thing that I don't, I mean, Q-Force is an exception, but I haven't done a lot of adult animation, adult comedy animation. Because a lot of that is either celebrity or standup comic driven in some ways, rightfully so. I mean they're the ones that can sell the joke really well. But I hope to do more of those. Those are a good time.

Mitu (19:01):

Do you ever think in the voices of your characters? Or find yourself speaking in any different voices while you're going about your day, like not in the booth recording?

JP Karliak (19:13):

Oh, just ask my partner, he'll tell you.

Mitu (19:14):


JP Karliak (19:17):

Yeah. If ever I'm trying not to deliver news that isn't upsetting, I'll be like, "Love, do you think maybe you could take out the trash? Do you think you could, maybe?" Yeah, but do I think in my character's voices? Sometimes I think. Especially if I'm reading a script and I'm not necessarily doing it out loud, I'll think in their voice. You start to build a familiarity with characters where you just know how they say things. And once you've sort of figured out their mechanics and breathe life into them in your mind, then it's like, "Oh yeah, I know how they respond to this." So yeah, I do voices. My humor, my natural humor is very referential. So yeah, I'll be doing voices and just dropping lines from random TV shows and movies all the time. Usually obscure old crap that nobody knows anymore.

Mitu (20:13):

Well, not obscure and old, but that's what I loved about Q-Force was how referential it was. The scene where they, to decode something, they quoted My Cousin Vinny to get some access. "It's a bullshit question." I just loved it. It's so good. But in addition to your dope voice acting career, you are also, of course, a writer and performer. So can you tell us more about Donna/Madonna?

JP Karliak (20:43):

Ah, Donna/Madonna. Yeah. So, I'm adopted. And in addition to that, I've known my birth mother for about 20 years. And the experience of knowing both of them, they are very different people. Both wonderful people, but very different. I wanted to write a sort of a love letter to them. And I happened to be in a moment of my career where I didn't have a lot going on. And I was like, "Maybe now's a time to write something, and use this time for me to just do this thing." Not with the hopes of it doing anything or going anywhere, but more just like, "If I write this and perform it and they see it, then that's enough."

JP Karliak (21:38):

And so it ended up being this one man musical autobiographical comedy about being raised by an Italian Catholic housewife from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and later meeting my birth mother, who is a fashion columnist, married to a British pop star. So basically Donna Reid meets Madonna, Donna/Madonna. Yeah. And it did really well. I toured with it. I did it in a bunch of different cities. And it won some awards. I did it on a cruise ship. Which was great, and it's just super fun. And what I loved about it is that it was for me. It was very much for me and for these two women in my life.

JP Karliak (22:22):

But kind of like any creative thing where you just trust that if you like it, and it's funny to you, or it works for you that other people who have a similar sense will also gravitate to it. That worked. It really became my calling card for a while. The funny thing is it's been like, I think we just crossed 10 years since it's actual, actual premiere, I did some workshops throughout 2010. But 2011 was when it really premiered. So yeah. It's weird. It's weird that it's been that long.

Mitu (22:55):

How does it feel to write something so personal and so impactful for your personal circle versus these larger creative projects that you work on where it's often other people's words with your stylings and takes, of course, as you understand the character, but it sounds like with this project, this is you. How did that feel?

JP Karliak (23:20):

Oh, great. Great. I loved having that creative freedom of having complete creative control. There is something great about that. Although, I shouldn't say that, I did have a director and a musical director that I worked with. But yeah. I would say that the voiceover gig is really good. It's a really great gig to have. But in a lot of ways, just like regular acting, I mean, you are in service to someone else's story, kind of like you said. And there is something about... I'm not super prolific, so diving into being I'm a full-time writer or I'm a full-time director. I'm like, that is not necessarily me.

JP Karliak (24:05):

But I do like the freedom to be able to delve into those other creative things and have that control to shape a story or an idea into something of my own. But it's cool. There's nothing as creatively exciting as doing a run of a show and seeing the response that it gets and the way that people react to it. Quick story. Well, I said I did it on a cruise ship. It was an Atlantis Cruise, which is a gay cruise charter. And they have circuit parties and all sorts of stuff on the cruise line, which was not my... So I was very much the church lady clutching her pearls just being like, "Oh no, what's going to happen here?"

JP Karliak (24:51):

But it was actually lovely. It was like camp. Everybody was just super nice. It was really, really nice. But everybody's walking around the whole ship in Speedos, or dressed for the next dance. So there was a jungle themed dance that night and this guy comes up to me, dressed as a giraffe. Now, when I say he's dressed as a giraffe, I mean, he was wearing a giraffe print Speedo and just the little two knobs on the top of his head. So it's like sexy giraffe. That was it.

JP Karliak (25:19):

But he had seen my show the previous night and he's like bawling because if I remember correctly, he was adopted, and his adopted mom recently passed away and it just really affected him. And it was so sweet and just so heartfelt. But I'm standing in the cafeteria holding my soft serve, because I ate soft serve every day on that ship, because it was free. And I'm just holding it. And this guy dressed as a sexy giraffe is saying these things to me. And I was just like, "What is my life?" This is just the best. So yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Mitu (25:53):

That is so lovely that you could write something so personal, but of course it comes with a reminder that we're never alone, there's always someone else who has experienced what we've experienced. But also to get to have that person be a sexy giraffe. That's very cool.

JP Karliak (26:12):

Yeah. Why not?

BJ (26:13):

With your ice cream.

JP Karliak (26:14):


Mitu (26:15):

Yeah. You found your people, the sexy giraffe community. And of course everyone else who's enjoyed...

JP Karliak (26:23):

You know that's a Reddit group or something.

Mitu (26:24):

Oh, it has to be.

BJ (26:25):

That's a thing.

Mitu (26:28):

And just taking things a little bit broader in the world of music and musical theater, any favorite Madonna jams? It just came to mind as you were describing the show.

JP Karliak (26:40):

Express Yourself is my favorite. It was on the playlist at my wedding. I was like, "That song has to play."

Mitu (26:47):

Any favorite musicals or shows that you've always turned to maybe as comfort watches or things that you enjoy?

JP Karliak (26:54):

Okay. So sort of. My most recent it's a musical TV show is Schmigadoon!.

BJ (27:00):


Mitu (27:00):

BJ and I reviewed that.

BJ (27:03):

Yeah. That was fun.

JP Karliak (27:03):

I don't know if you got to the end of it, because I know this is The Pilot Podcast, but that last episode, blah, just a mess. And it was, you were talking about your pandemic therapy. Mine was whenever I found those really just positive shows like Schmigadoon!, Heartstopper that I just finished, they just lit me up. Because I'm an extrovert and I need to feed that positivity off of the people I know and everything. And that just sort of just hit me in the right way.

JP Karliak (27:37):

And my partner who was a Broadway musical theater human, was in the original cast of Book of Mormon. I was singing Schmigadoon! I was all over the house with it. Way more than he was. He's like, "How are you the one that's getting into the musical." And it's not like I don't like musical theater, I loved it. But usually he's the one that's singing it in the shower and all that. But yeah, that show was all about, it was me. I loved it.

BJ (28:05):

Sometimes a show just hits you the right way.

JP Karliak (28:10):

Before that, I would say it was Waitress. Waitress really just got me in all the feels.

BJ (28:15):

So switching gears a bit, as a gamer, con-goer, and pop culture fan, I was really excited to hear about your involvement with Nerds Vote. Can you tell us-

JP Karliak (28:26):

Ah, yes.

BJ (28:27):

... a little bit more about how NerdsVote got started?

JP Karliak (28:30):

Sure. So Courtenay Taylor, video game voiceover extraordinaire, Courtenay Taylor, who's a good friend of mine, was getting margaritas with fellow voice actor, Ashley Burch. And they both were going to conventions fairly frequently, meeting with fans and everything, while also witnessing the country going to poop politically. And they were just talking about how could we get our fans more involved? And then they were like, "Aha, what if we started voter registration at conventions?"

JP Karliak (29:08):

And that's where the seed of NerdsVote kind of sprouted. So Courtenay grabbed me and our friend, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. And we started this organization. And for a while, it was exactly that. It was, we would liaise with Headcount, which is a big voter registration organization, primarily known for going to concerts and music festivals. And we would liaise with convention organizers and being like, "Hey, can we get a booth for these people to register people?"

JP Karliak (29:39):

And that was going great. And then pandemic hit and convention what? So we had to pivot to doing a lot of social media and online work where Courtenay and I were hosting this show Between 2 Nerds, where we would bring a quote unquote notable nerd on the show and talk about their work and what they're fans of. But also talk about why voting was important to them. And it was nonpartisan in the sense that we never really, we, Courtenay and I, never got into who we were voting for or who we felt the audience should vote for. I mean, if they followed our personal social media, they pretty much knew.

JP Karliak (30:17):

But for us, it was more important to just get people excited about being involved politically. Researching, doing the research before you go to the polls. Do it with friends, order a pizza and get out that voter guide and just start researching all the things you're voting for. And make it fun, make it exciting to get involved and then be like, "Oh, this person won. Let me follow their progress on our town council, or as our sheriff, or whatever, and see how they're doing and hold them accountable." Write letters, send emails, or do tweets, that type of stuff, because that is how our democracy's supposed to work. And so that's where we're kind of at now. We're coming upon a fairly large election in November. Yeah. We want, and we're once again trying to get as many people registered and voting as possible.

BJ (31:10):

And with conventions starting to come back to how they sort of were pre-pandemic. Do you see NerdsVote shifting to having a presence at cons again? Or do you think the new online platform is the future for you?

JP Karliak (31:25):

I think it's a little bit of both. Cons are coming back in a big way. I mean, San Diego Comic-Con was just this past weekend and it was jammed. So yeah. Conventions are here to stay. And I think we'll still want to be on the ground as much as possible. But I do think that regardless of whether you get an interaction live and in person from a voiceover celebrity that you like that's to asking you to register to vote, or you're doing it with them over Instagram live, or over Twitch, or something like that, it's still impactful. So I think it's really creating a two-prong system there.

Mitu (32:06):

So first, thank you for everything you're doing for our democracy and for the nerd community, especially. And another world of advocacy that means a lot to BJ and me, especially as black people who love television, is the work that you've done for representation and the way that you are working to improve the casting of LGBTQ+ voiceover actors. So can you tell us more about Queer Vox and the type of training that you offer with that?

JP Karliak (32:35):

Yeah. I started Queer Vox at the beginning of 2021 as kind of a response to some conversations that I'd had with casting friends who on one hand we were celebrating, "Oh cool, there's an uptick in queer roles that are appearing in animation and interactive titles." However, they're not necessarily getting cast authentically. And there's been this sort of struggle of how do we find a non-binary actor or something like that? And I'm like, "Well, it's not that they're not out there." I mean, they exist. It's probably just that there's not a clear way to identify them or maybe they don't have the training yet, because up until now, we really haven't seen any high profile non-binary and trans actors in mainstream animation and video games. So maybe it's just that they're on camera actors that just need to be trained in VO.

JP Karliak (33:33):

And I found that there are a lot of trans, non-binary, and queer actors who are doing voiceover, but in a lot of cases, it's they might be doing audiobooks, or dubbing, or anime, or stuff that's not necessarily like the big mainstream. I mean, anime is. But big mainstream high profile stuff. So to me it was, okay, so it's partially about training and we certainly want to offer more training without financial burden. But we also want to make sure that we're connecting people for opportunities. So we teach a class that's kind of like the fundamentals of VO and we offer workshops on a variety of different topics related to that.

JP Karliak (34:18):

But then we also have a directory online that casting professionals can search by gender identity, ethnicity, union status, languages they speak, and all sorts of stuff. So they can find that authentic casting. So there isn't that, "Well, I don't know where to find those people." And then we also, on the flip side, try to do some EDI work where we talk to casting professionals or we go into studios and kind of talk with them about, okay, whether it's the casting breakdowns they're writing, or just the overall stories they're putting together, all right, you're considering a character.

JP Karliak (34:58):

Why does that character have to be this gender identity or this race or whatever? Can we start from a place of their personality and then let the actors audition, perform, and surprise you and be like, "Oh, okay, I didn't think they would look like this or sound like this necessarily. But they've definitely got the personality we're looking for. So yeah, let's make the character look like them and be like them." Or other different things. So, that part of it is about gaining authentic representation. So that if it's a trans character, it's played by a trans human, but also opening up the idea that there's a lot of characters that a storyteller might not have originally thought, "Oh, maybe that character is trans, or maybe that character is black, or maybe that character is non-binary or something."

JP Karliak (35:52):

And then being like, "Why don't you open yourself up to the possibilities of that?" And also allowing queer people to surprise you with the variety of voices that they can portray. Because there's always this thing about when a casting breakdown goes out, there's like, "We're looking for a non-binary sound." What does that mean? As I tell people, it's not like when you come out as non-binary you join the Borg and suddenly become, "I am the Borg." It's not how it works.

JP Karliak (36:26):

So, we try to get people out of that habit and be like, "If you're asking for androgynous, you can say that. That's okay." But let's also allow yourself to be surprised that a non-binary human probably also can do a very convincing male or female sounding voice for commercials or whatever. And being open to that, because there just isn't... Even if we have authentic representation, which is great, it doesn't create enough work. There just aren't enough queer roles for somebody to maintain a career. And a lot of the examples that I give, are if you think of Phil LaMarr, Cree Summer, Kimberly Brooks. Black actors who started in the 90s and the early 2000s. If it wasn't for them auditioning and getting cast in white roles as well, they wouldn't have been able to build a career because there wasn't enough. So yeah. It's all about spreading the wealth, essentially.

Mitu (37:21):

This is so cool to me for a number of reasons. BJ and I often nerd out about this topic of representation and opportunity in industry. And of course, it's an issue across industries, but we see it in entertainment because of how we take in entertainment versus we're not all watching the people who work at some office work, and unless of course they're babies. So I think that is so cool, your approach of, one let's close any potential knowledge or training gaps. Two let's make sure people understand that you can't go, "There are no queer or trans voice actors." Eliminate that with this notion of a directory.

Mitu (38:04):

And then three, the idea of opening up your minds. It's something that BJ and I often think about not to speak for you BJ, or what goes in your mind, but it's something we've talked about a lot. It's not enough to be like, "Well we've added a black friend to 10 shows." It's that anyone can play Tom with the basketball, and the head of the team, and the boy next door or whatever. That person can actually be played by a number of people, let's just open up our minds about who can be what.

Mitu (38:34):

And I think that's such a cool revolutionary approach. And I think that is the path to, in my very humble opinion, being able to share the wealth and understanding that there's opportunity for all of us. So then it's less a question of, "Oh, if X person gets that role, that means I can't, because we're both part of this community." And rather, there's just more for everyone. We can all get out of this notion of a scarcity mindset and it starts with people understanding that too, the opportunity makers. So that is so cool, this multi-pronged approach you're taking that feels so whole to me.

JP Karliak (39:13):

Thanks. And I also want to give a big shout out to my friends, Edward Hong and Jazzy Frizzle, who run the PGM Voiceover Directory and Voices of Color. So, basically together they are the People of Global Majority version of Queer Vox. And we partner on a lot of stuff and they predate Queer Vox by a little bit. So I take a lot of my cues from their work as well. And they're just awesome. But yeah.

JP Karliak (39:44):

I mean to your point, one of the things that we talk about in some of our EDI work is okay, you're a casting person, level one is casting queer people as non-human individuals. Great. They can play fairies and talking rocks and cows. Okay, check. You've done that. Level two, letting them play themselves, trusting that they have the ability to voice and tell their own stories. And three, bonus level, trusting that trans and non-binary people have the capability to play cis and straight people, because we've probably been playing them our entire lives and we're used to that.

JP Karliak (40:23):

So it's allowing that penetration to all things. And like you're talking about with imagining that Tom with the basketball can be played by anybody. Yeah. Especially when we think of video games where there's additional voices or there's a crowd you need to populate with people. We ask people, close your eyes, think of the crowd that you want to populate into this game. What are the gender identities of these people? What are the races of these people? Did you automatically think of them or when I just mentioned it, did they start popping in? Did it all start as just this lovely little Pleasantville, white homogenous thing? And if it did, I mean, yeah, we all come with biases. It's all good. We're not coming for you. But it's like, next time, challenge yourself to start from a different corner of the map and stretch out from there as opposed to always starting from Pleasantville.

BJ (41:24):

Yeah. I think that's great. Kind of echoing off what Mitu said, I do have the same thought she can read my mind sometimes. It's great to hear you're talking to people in the industry to help change the idea of checking off boxes. That's something Mitu and I notice a lot in the pilot episodes of TV shows, where it seems like a character is included just to say, "We are more inclusive." When it's like, just tell a story and whoever can help tell that story is the right fit.

JP Karliak (41:53):

Exactly. I mean, we've seen a rise in shows that are entirely populated with queer characters or characters of color. And that's great. But if it doesn't come from a place of an honest story to tell, then the whole thing just feels like service. Then it starts to feel like the woke Olympics, which is like, "No." There's a big difference between woke, which I think is posturing and just giving people the opportunity to tell authentic stories, and hiring the people around them that also are fulfilling that authentic story. It should not be about checking a box.

BJ (42:34):

Yes. And speaking of these authentic stories, do you have any future authentic stories you want to tell our listeners about that you'll be involved with?

Mitu (42:43):

Or any other projects?

JP Karliak (42:46):

Sure. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. That's them. No. Let me see. What do I have? Oh, I mean, the one that I know that I know can talk about, because it's coming out to Switch, is this adorable game that I'm in called Wylde Flowers, Wylde spelled like Oscar. No, that's not how you spell Oscar Wilde. W-Y-L-D-E. And yeah, and I play a gay baker, which is really cute. It's like one of those games where it's like your character can farm and bake and fix things, but also do magic and all that stuff. It's adorable. And it's plot is kind of like Charmed. It's got a sort of sweet CW, cuteness about it. So yeah. That's the latest thing. I know there's one more season of TrollsTopia coming out soon. X-men is a year and a half away, or 14 months. Yeah. That's the stuff right now. The funny thing is especially when you do stuff that's on streaming, you don't know until like the week of. It's like, "It's coming out." Oh, oh right. Yes. Cool, fine.

BJ (43:58):

That's an exciting list. Cozy video games, trolls and X-men.

JP Karliak (44:03):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's not bad. It's not bad.

BJ (44:06):

And then a question we like to ask all the creators who join us for interviews is, what advice do you have for our listeners who want to make it in the creative industry?

JP Karliak (44:16):

Oh, don't do it. I think the advice I keep coming back to is your job as a creative, whether you're in front of the mic or behind the glass directing who's behind the mic, or writing the words that we're supposed to say, or whatever your position is, your job is to be a collaborator. So you are neither better nor lesser than anybody else. And I feel like actors sometimes come into the room with this very like, bowed head like, "Oh, thank you for this job. I will do whatever you say," attitude. And it's like, "No, it's not about that."

JP Karliak (45:02):

Don't come in like a diva. But you're there in that room, not to impress, you're there to solve a problem. You're all there to solve a problem. There's a character that needs a voice. And you are all there working to solve that problem together, and thinking about it as a collaboration. I know my career changed dramatically when I stopped being like, "Oh, I'm so glad to meet you, mister." And it was more like, "Hey, how's it going? Good to see you. Let's do this work." And being genuinely interested in what other people were up to outside of the office, as opposed to like, "I need to make good conversation with them." Cut yourself some slack. It's just about being just open to just chatting with people and collaborating, solving a problem.

BJ (45:51):

Wow. I think that applies to just anyone who wants to be a professional, know your worth and make sure you're there to work with other people.

JP Karliak (46:01):

Yeah. And valuing other people's contributions to that. Yeah.

BJ (46:04):

Awesome. So where can we find and support you? What are all your favorite social media platforms?

JP Karliak (46:13):

My website is My Instagram and my Twitter are also @JPKarliak. It's the nice thing of having a very unique name. I don't have to work hard to find my handles. But Instagram is where I live most of the time, really.

Mitu (46:29):

Cool. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, JP. We'll make sure to find you on Instagram when you're home, and also on other social media, and your website. And we'll also make sure to include all the links to find you in our show notes. And please be sure to join the hive, the Boss Baby hive, and check out Back To The Crib on Netflix. And for us, you can find more episodes on The Pilot Podcast on and all your favorite podcasting platforms. And you can also follow us on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter @thepilotpod. So thank you so much for joining us.

JP Karliak (47:08):

Thank you. This was awesome. This was such a great conversation. You guys are really good at this.

Mitu (47:13):

Oh, thank you.