Last September, 2019, production started on the first season of Heroics in a studio just off Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood, California. Over four days a cast of five series regulars and almost an additional 20 guests stars spent hours recording, and re-recording lines.
[Podcast feeds and Box set downloads for Heroics available soon. Follow Heroics on Twitter for updates]
"So production is really fascinating, actually, to watch," Mike Diaz, Heroics producer, said. "We'd been trading scripts for a while [pre-production started in earnest almost six months earlier] and there have been various drafts of each episode going around. But really while getting to watch the actors bring it all to life in real time was an amazing experience."
For many, voice acting turned out to be as strenuous as live theater, and in some ways, a lot more challenging.
"Doing voice work is a very particular set of skills," Nanci Burrows, the voice of Noomi, said. Burrows had previously voiced Dr. Ecobar on EOS10. "We don't have all of the things that actors rely on in terms of our facial expressions and the use of our bodies. For me, though, I think I was still needed to be very much in my body and the process was very much the same. The story really tells itself if we just speak the words. So it was freeing and frustrating at the same time."
While it's customary for voice actors to work alone with a director or recording engineer, the majority of Heroics was recorded radio-play style with the all the actors in a live room.
"It's all audio, but you get as many actors in together as possible because there's obviously there's chemistry. If they can see each other and interact with each other. And it was really great to get to sit in and sort of watch this whole process unfold."
A Super Family
Casting director and producer Annie Chang (also the voice of Gwen), tapped into an extensive network of actors from her days at NYU to bring Heroic's characters to life.
"I was very interested in actors who had theater backgrounds, especially," Chang said. "Not only training, but experience with a lot of text. So whether that's Shakespeare or theater or if they were actually a voice artist, because when you're doing audiofiction, you don't have anything else. Everything has to come through the voice, everything. And so if you don't have a lot of dexterity with text, this is not going to be the right thing for you. So a lot of these actors I did already know that I had a really good hunch before even getting an audition from them that they were going to be right for it."
Everything has to come through the voice, everything. And so if you don't have a lot of dexterity with text, this is not going to be the right thing for you.
That meant a lot of the actors had a history of working together on other projects.
"I mean, it was like a dream come true, I think," Kristina Mueller, voice of Persephone, said. "Most of the people working on this are friends of mine for many, many years. And so there was already this kind of base connection there. There's a lot of chemistry."
Justin McLachlan, Heroics' creator, said that Mueller's character was actually one of the most difficult to cast. "We really had no idea what we were going to do with Persephone," he said. "We auditioned and auditioned and auditioned and weren't getting anywhere."
Then one day, the production team asked Mueller to fill in for the role at a table read.
"I just told her to do whatever she wanted," McLachlan said. "And so she busts out this unflappable, dispassionate German woman and after that I was like will you please do this part? I'm so glad she did. She breathed actual life into that character."
Mueller, who is German but speaks with an American accent in real life, changed the direction of the character almost 180 degrees from what the production team thought they wanted.
"You're seeing the show in your head in a very specific way," Diaz said. "And then you go [into production] and all these brilliant people, all these brilliant actors are adding a completely different dimension to it. So everything was smooth. Everybody was having an amazing time. And I think that that translated into the project. I really think that when you're in production on something and people are having fun it in a strange sort of intangible way, it makes its way into the finished product.
With Mueller cast as Persephone, the series regulars were complete and a new superhero team—a superhero family—was born.
"Some of these people I've known for 12, 13 years, I went to college with some of them," Doug Harvey, voice of Josh, said. "And we've acted together or we've like seen each other in productions. And so that's been really cool to get to work with some of my actor family, too. And in addition, my superhero family."
"Actors have to be very good at breaking down walls with each other really quickly," Jake Elitzer, the voice of Nolan, said. "And, you know, we tend to be pretty good at it, but it's just so much easier and so much more free when you walk into a room and everyone else there is someone you already know and love and you already believe in and trust their choices. And you don't have to worry, you know, whether they're gonna hit their cues or whether they're going to turn pages over your lines. You trust them."
Heroics wasn't, however, recorded in chronological order. Scenes were blocked and boarded based on the most efficient use of the cast's time, and sometimes to work around their availability and other projects.
Actors have to be very good at breaking down walls with each other really quickly ... it's just so much easier and so much more free when you walk into a room and everyone else there is someone you already know and love
"We did a lot of episodes in basically just a couple of days," Chang said. "The cast that we have, they're just pros. We jumped around with episodes a lot, which we were a little bit nervous about how the cast would handle that. And we had a beautiful studio and a wonderful crew helping us, and everyone everyone was great. We thought it was gonna be a marathon, but it was smooth sailing."
Hear more from the cast about what to expect in the first season of Heroics in the video below. For a complete list of cast and crew, visit the Heroics page at planetm.io/heroics.