Raphael Sbarge is an actor with dynamic range. His acting background includes roles in video games, television, and theater. In video games, he has voiced the roles of Kaidan Alenko of the Mass Effect trilogy and Carth Onasi from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He currently stars in the ABC television series, Once Upon a Time, as Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket.
Not only does Mr. Sbarge have the talent for acting, he is also a bonafide environmentalist. It was his fascination for the environment that lead him to create the non-profit organization, Green Wish.
We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Sbarge some questions about his passion for the environment, voice acting, and his roles in Mass Effect and Once Upon a Time.
Insert Coin to Begin: You have tons of acting experience with different mediums: theater, television, and film. How did you get involved with voice acting?
Raphael Sbarge: My voice acting was an extension of the work I do on stage and on camera. As actors, we are freelancers and always looking for new places to do what we do. I started by working in commercial voiceover, after years of doing on-camera commercials, starting at 13. I did some early video games; that then lead to “Babes in Toyland,” an animated feature for MGM, and ultimately, the Star Wars games, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect series, etc.
What is interesting or challenging about voice work is that it’s you alone in a room with a microphone and your imagination, and that’s it. I have to say that my time working in the theater is the single most valuable asset to assist in doing this kind of work.
ICTB: Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into character for the recording booth?
Sbarge: Not really—only that I try not to drink too much coffee (ha!) so I am loose and easy. I also warm up my voice, so that it’s “resonating and ready.” It’s always best if I’m at the recording studio early so I’m not rushing (tension, in my opinion, goes into an actor’s throat). Loose, easy, voice warm— everything you would do for a night in the theater, as well.
ICTB: One of your first voice acting roles was for the character of Carth Onasi from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. How did you learn about the role, and what were your thoughts on his character?
Sbarge: I loved Carth. I loved his sense of humor, his devil-may-care attitude, and the fact that he was kind of a funny guy, who could also be bad-ass when you needed it. I auditioned for this game, as I did for many others, and had a blast recording it.
ICTB: For the Mass Effect trilogy, you had to record thousands of lines. Do you have any favorite lines or funny stories from the recording sessions?
Sbarge: Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. There were indeed thousands of lines over almost 10 years (for parts 1, 2 and 3). I would say that my favorite parts were where they explored the Kaidan/Shepard relationship. The tension between Shepard being the commanding officer and them having feelings for one another was great writing, with lots of levels, subtext and tension underneath simple exchanges. Loved doing those.
In general, what I loved about the writing in the ME series was that it was more like a film. Yeah, we had our share of shooting and shouting, but we had moments of intimacy, and relationship, and personal struggles that got to come through, as well. This really made all the difference; it’s what has defined the ME series, created fans that have such a passionate voice about the characters (because they “felt something” for them), and made it all so much more fun to be a part of.
ICTB: During your interview with Kimberly Brooks on your Barking Frogs audioblog (http://www.BarkingFrogs.com), you mentioned that you’re finally going to start playing Mass Effect. Did you ever get to playing it? If so, what is it like for you to play as Shepard and then hear your own voice through conversations with Kaidan?
Sbarge: Ha! Yes. I did. And I can say it’s a rather odd experience to play a game with someone who is not you, with your voice. I spoke to Mark Meer about it, and he told me you get used to it after a while. Let me say that I am not a gamer—I haven’t had the time to commit to it, at the moment. But I can see how thrilling, exciting and addicting it is to step into another dimension and get lost.
ICTB: Along with voice acting, you have quite the background in theater, film and television. Is there a character you’ve played with whom you identify best?
Sbarge: I believe that every character that is working has a piece of you in it. As an actor, you find a place in yourself that you are connected to, and work from there. Because of that, there’s a little bit of you in each character, and it’s hard to pick a favorite.
But let me say that I feel deeply about Archie Hopper— that is, that he traveled down some dark personal roads to get to a place where he is intent on doing the right thing. I do resonate with that, for sure. As well, both Kaidan and Jiminy Cricket seem to have an underlying theme of “conscience.” I aspire to be a man of conscience (sometimes more successfully than others) and do try every day to make a difference, so while I had no control on how people cast me for these roles, I do find it interesting that one’s personal “passionate commitment” in life seems to resonate through the work into characters we do.
ICTB: Let’s talk about your other projects. You are the founder of Green Wish (www.greenwish.com), and you are producing an online series, On Begley Street (www.onbegleystreet.com). Can you tell us about your environmental passions and why you became involved with these projects?
Sbarge: I think I have always just had a natural tendency toward the environment. I have a thing for trees— they kind of speak to me, as it were, and I have felt strongly about doing my part. I compost, recycle, have had a garden (not currently due to my travel schedule, sadly), drive a hybrid, turn off lights, conserve my water usage, etc. I have for a long time.
I have also been alternately shocked and alarmed by the news I read of how humans are overwhelming the planet. Things look a little complicated ecologically (to say the least) if we continue on our current course. So I have tried for many, many years—both by example with my kids, as well as for my own personal sense of “doing the right thing”—to make decisions that consider the environment. Seems to have come quite naturally, as it were.
Simply put, Green Wish is a nonprofit that raises money for other nonprofits that have green/sustainable goals. The idea is to find organizations that are local and doing good work within the community and get them much-needed funds. What happens is that a new chapter gets formed in an area with a board and a group of concerned individuals. They reach out into their community to identify organizations that are doing important work within their area, and then vet those nonprofits. We ask that the groups range across a spectrum of earth, air, water and sustainable education. They then work with retailers, businesses or individuals who are interested in a “community helping community” message, and raise money and awareness for the work being done right around them. This is, effectively, an “open source” charitable giving concept. New chapters work within our existing nonprofit status but then raise money locally to go into their communities. Ed Begley Jr. is the face of Green Wish, and on the board—which is just wonderful, as he’s arguably (other than Al Gore) the person most associated with environmental activism in the U.S.
Out of the inspiration from Green Wish, I have developed and now produced a show about the Begley’s new home— a LEED Platinum-certified home that’s being built in Studio City, California. The series is called “On Begley Street,” and it captures the Begleys’ adventure of building this new home. It also explores the science, technology and innovation associated with building, all of which, frankly, has exploded recently. Make it Happen Productions is the production company with a “conscience” and a commitment to using media to promote this idea, and the producers have all agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds to Green Wish. We have plans to launch the new show both on the Web, as well as PBS. The network has given us strong support, and we feel this is a perfect place for us to do this show.
ICTB: “Once Upon a Time,” is back from its midseason break. What can we expect to see for your characters, Dr. Archie Hopper and Jiminy Cricket?
Sbarge: Well, let me say that that I believe that still waters run deep. That he does his work because he cares and truly wants to do the right thing. He seems to have “done wrong, so he can do right”—and honestly, we are looking at some yet new chapters yet to be explored for Archie, such as his love relationships, some of his personal life. And his decision to stay in Storybrooke to fight, to try to make a difference. Stay tuned!
ICTB: And finally, is there anything that you would like to say to your fans out there?
Sbarge: I want to thank everyone for the incredibly kind expressions of support you have given me over the past year. I invite anyone who is interested in finding me to join me on Twitter @raphaelsbarge, or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/officialraphaelsbarge). I do spend time reading postings, and welcome you to join in. As well, I can let you know about news, updates and developments with everything I am working on. Please also visit GreenWish.com for more info about what we do there. Cheers!
You can watch Raphael Sbarge in his role as Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket on ABC’s Once Upon a Time – Sunday nights at 8PM EST.