Interview with voice/screen actor Jeff TeravainenJuly 7, 2016
From recording artist, to voice acting and now screen actor, Jeff Teravainen has been part of the entertainment businesses for quite a while now. Recently, we had a chance to talk to Jeff about switching from music to acting, how hard acting is and what he loves about his newest profession.
You started out with a career in the music industry. What made you decide to leave that behind and focus on a career in acting?
Jeff: Well, music consumed me, it was everything. We toured, we had videos and stuff like that but it never panned out. We always came very close, almost signed deals, this sort of thing and it was around the time that everything sort of petered out that I got scouted for modeling and I thought ok, I can stand around with a pretty girl and make some money, that’s fine. But then I landed a commercial and I’d always daydreamed that when I was making videos that might lead to an opportunity in acting, and race cars I hoped.
So when did you realize you had a talent for voice acting?
Jeff: That’s a weird one, too. I guess one of the advantages that I had is that I’d spent so much time in front of microphones because that’s part of the job, you really have to know your way around that stuff and it sounds simple but it’s kind of hard. I spent my life goofing off, doing this voices and people would say hey, you should do that. When I started off acting I went to my agent, who wasn’t a voice agent, and said I really want to do this and went out and landed my first gig so I thought ok, we’re onto something here.
What was it like doing voice work for the Sochi 2014 Winter games and what exactly was your role with CBC?
Jeff: Yeah, what I did was, and they call it being the ‘voice of the games’ sort of thing. What I did was everything from the special features, the ‘coming up next’, I wasn’t doing play by play but tons and tons of features, doing stories, openings and closing, it was a lot of fun, like going to boot camp for weeks on end. Getting this job was like anything in this business, you get submitted, they whittled it down to who they want to see and I auditioned for the first one I did, Torino, back in 2006 and luckily after I did that it opened some doors for me and it was a little easier process the second time around.
Once you decided you wanted to try acting, how hard was it to get started, to get your ‘foot in the door’ so to speak?
Jeff: Well for the real acting, not commercial stuff, I would say to anybody who wants to get into it that it’s a lot of work, it’s more work than I ever thought and I don’t mean that in a bad way, the work sometimes is the fun part of it as you’re learning and getting better. I realized right out of the gate I needed to get classes and coaching and I still do to this day, I go to coached when I have a big role because they’re great to bounce ideas off of, to see if you’re on the right track. You have to take it seriously and practice it like any other business or sport.
You’ve done work in music, voice work and screen acting. Do you have a favorite medium to work in?
Jeff: I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you, I love the voice work in the video games but there is something to be said for when you’re playing a really cool role on camera because usually I’ll get together with my family and we’ll watch it which can be terrifying because you really hope you did a good job and you make everyone proud, not just your parents but the production company. I’ll always remember I was doing a part playing a guard at an air force base and I was so in the moment on this little tiny scene that in this scene there was supposed to be jets flying overhead, I could actually see them, weird as it sounds and moments like that are what really make acting so incredible, where you really feel like you’re there. You just can’t beat that feeling.
When you do your voice work do you physically get into the role or do you approach it in a much more reserved fashion?
Jeff: It depends on the type of voice work. I’ve been lucky to do a lot of commercial work so that is sort of a different animal. Sometimes they just want someone to be the announcer type or just do a laid back sort of thing. For video games it’s definitely a physical thing, especially when you get the climax of the game or some major fight scene. I’ve often wondered if sometimes I was going to burst an artery or have an aneurysm. I actually got to the point in one game where I thought I was going to pass out. I always think that you’ve got this one chance to impress people so you want to give it your all, to make it as real as possible. There is always a learning curve, figuring out what works best, what not to do but I love learning so I really enjoy the process.
Now do you plan on juggling voice work and acting or is acting going to be your main focus from here on out?
Jeff: It really all depends on what you get but I don’t think you have to choose, which is the great thing. I did a voice session yesterday, I have one tomorrow and in between I could be auditioning for something. I’m shooting something next week, which I can’t say what it is yet, and it’s one of my favorite shows so yeah, good agents can keep the train rolling and make sure the schedules coordinate well. It’s also nice to go to voice auditions and see these seventy year old guys there, still working, still plugging along, which is inspiring in the sense that it’s good to see these guys happy and working and hopefully that will be me somewhere down the line. The video game voice work is changing a bit now though, as some of it is going to motion capture work which is a whole different ball game. You don’t have these long waits in between takes, you show up and everything is done right there, simply because there are so many cameras ready to capture different angles all in one take.
What would you say is the thing that surprised you the most in the acting business?
Jeff: I guess the biggest surprise for me was the way the acting industry really pulls in one direction. When I started out I did some background, which some people really look down on but I don’t at all, it’s essential to have good background. So I did one movie and two shows and I noticed right out of the gate, some of the big stars like Michael Douglas or Keifer Sutherland were super nice. The director and all the different staff involved in that one movie were really nice to the background guys and I thought ok, this is cool, there are no ‘Hollywood’ egos here like you sometimes hear stories about. That has continued all the way through, now that I’m doing guest stars or whatever, everybody seems to want and pull in the same direction to make everybody else as comfortable as possible and let them do their job. On the other hand, I came from the music industry, and I hate to paint anything with one big brush but man, is that a snake pit at times. I’ve always said that one of the most difficult things is opening up for one of your favorite bands and when you walk on stage your set is basically destroyed because they heard you had a good sound check, that’s the music business. To go from that atmosphere, which seemed to be so cutthroat to this place where when it’s your turn to do your close-up and that big actor you look up to spends the time to be in your face to make sure you are as engaged in the scene as possible, that’s an amazing thing.
Can you tell me about some of the projects you have coming up?
Jeff: Well I have Dark Matter, which I am beyond pumped about. I’m really excited about my character, you’re going to see a lot more of who this guy is. He’s a real person and he cares about six, Roger Cross’s character, so you might not like what he’s done but he did it because he thought it was the right thing to do. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done because it’s a great character and a big role for me. I have a couple episodes of a show called Mayday/Air Emergencies which is pretty cool, it’s basically about aircraft crashes and a couple things I can’t get into, a video game and this show I start next week. I also have Killing Mommy, which is yet to air in Canada but is coming out in October and the other one is Snipped in the Bud with Brooke Shields, that was a real treat. She’s a star, almost a cultural icon and was so down to earth, such a joy to be around.
I want to thank Jeff for taking the time to talk with us