Danny Phantom

Interview with David Kaufman
Conducted by Zcat6 of the
Danny Phantom Online Forums

Zcat6: Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us! To date we know of no interviews with you regarding your starring role in Danny Phantom, so we are truly honored with your time here today. Mr. Kaufman, can you tell us a little bit about your character, Danny Fenton/Phantom, and what is it like to play him in the Butch Hartman series ‘Danny Phantom’?
David Kaufman: Well, Danny Fenton is your basic, average, run-of-the-mill, not-very-popular high school kid -- wait! It sounds like I'm describing myself in high school! -- what a strange coincidence! Haha. Actually, playing Danny kind of takes me back to my high school days. I had a few really close friends, but definitely didn't run with the popular crowd. So in a sense, playing Danny is just a matter of sense memory for me. Uh...except for the fact that I wasn't half a ghost. ;)

Zcat6: {Switching gears} When did you first decide that you wanted to get into voice acting, and how did you prepare for such a career?
David Kaufman: I actually fell into voice acting as a fluke. I've done mostly on-camera work in my career -- a few television series, some feature work, lots of guest star work and commercials, and theater of course. One day I was at an audition for an on-camera commercial, and the casting director, Danny Goldman, asked me if I wanted to audition for a cartoon. It was to play the voice of Marty McFly in the CBS animated series "Back To The Future". I auditioned, got the part, and the rest is history, as they say. Voiceover work became a big part of my career.

Zcat6: How did how you come to be cast in the role of Danny Fenton/Phantom? Was it a general casting call, did your agent/ agency notify you, did Butch call you personally?
David Kaufman: Every actor in Hollywood was dying to land the role of "Danny"... and I campaigned outside the gates of Nickelodeon for the part until they gave it to me! Ha...seriously, I really did audition for the role along with, I'm sure, a lot of other actors. My agents at ICM got me the audition and, fortunately, Butch listened to my audition and heard Danny in there somewhere!

Zcat6: Did you audition for any specific role in the show, or was it a more generalized audition?
David Kaufman: I only auditioned for the role of Danny.

Zcat6: When did the auditions actually occur (dates, if you remember?) and when were you notified that you had been cast?
David Kaufman: The auditions were actually about a year before the show went into production. I remember getting a call from my agent saying that it looked good that they wanted me for "Danny Phantom" and I actually had to try to remember what they were talking about!

Zcat6: If you were specifically auditioning for Danny, what did you know (if anything?!) about the character (and/or show) prior to the audition?
David Kaufman: I had read a sketchy description of Danny, and I think I saw a single drawing of him. I just built a character around that in my head and went with it for my audition!

Zcat6: What was your first impression of Danny and of the show in general?
David Kaufman: The first show we recorded was "Mystery Meat." When I got the script, I skimmed it for a second and thought, "Huh??" It was hard to get a feel for the show from just the description and glancing through the script. The show is very character-oriented and rich in its story details, though, so as I sat and read the script in detail, I realized how imaginative it was and what fun we could have with the characters. There's a lot of action in the show, but the characters drive the action -- the action doesn't drive the characters, like in a lot of animated shows.

Zcat6: Where exactly is the show recorded (Nickelodeon's studio, etc?), and is it a hefty drive to get to work there each day? We know California traffic can be murder!
David Kaufman: We record the show at Nickelodeon's Burbank studio. It's not too bad of a drive for me. We usually start at 2pm, so I don't have to fight rush hour traffic to get there. (Now getting HOME is a different story!)

Zcat6: Can you give us a brief description of what a typical day in the studio is like?
David Kaufman: When we arrive, they are usually setting up the recording studio, so the cast has a few minutes to sit and talk and socialize. Then we get to work on the episode that we are recording. We are all in the same studio, recording the show like a play -- just like you hear it -- unless someone isn't able to be at that session, in which case we have to skip their lines and those are recorded later.

Zcat6: How many hours a day are typically spent in a single recording session? Is it very tiring work? Have you ever had to rest your voice after any sessions due to strain, etc.?
David Kaufman: It takes us about three hours or so to record a single episode, plus any pick-ups we have to record for previous episodes. It can be tiring in the sense that you're putting a lot of heart and emotion into the characters and dialogue, which takes a lot of energy sometimes. As you know, Danny has a lot of battling to do with his various nemeses, so my voice can be a little hoarse the next day after too many takes of "I'm going GHOST!" Ha ha.

Zcat6: How long (how many days/weeks, etc.) does it typically take to record one complete episode of 'Danny Phantom'?
David Kaufman: Just one little ole day...although we usually come back and record pick-ups later -- plus additional "oofs" and "woahs" after the show has been completely animated and they need vocals when Danny trips or falls, etc.

Zcat6: How far in advance do you usually receive a script? Are there ever any last minute changes applied while you are in the studio?
David Kaufman: I usually get the script a couple days in advance...although sometimes not until the day before. I always like to read the entire script before I go in to record, so I'm fully prepared and know exactly what Danny is actually experiencing when he says what he says!
And yea, sometimes things are changed in the script while we are recording...usually if one of us comes up with something brilliant (usually Rob Paulsen, who comes up with some great last minute bits for Jack!) or the writers think of something else they'd like to hear.

Zcat6: Have there been any lines or scenes that you truly enjoyed (or truly disliked, haha) performing so far that you can tell us about? Any favorite (or least favorite, if it is not too impolitic to ask!) episodes so far?
David Kaufman: I love when there is a lot of dialogue and/or interaction between the characters, and new things are revealed about them. I thought "Maternal Instincts" was a great episode for Danny and his mom's relationship. Of course, "My Brother's Keeper" had great stuff with Danny and Jazz.

Zcat6: How do you prepare for a typical recording session of 'Danny Phantom'?
David Kaufman: For the first few episodes of the show, I would listen to a CD of my audition as I drove to work -- so I could remember what Danny sounded like! Now he's pretty ingrained in me...I usually show up to the recording session and Danny is right there ready to go!

Zcat6: What is it like working with the great Butch Hartman, the awesome studio team, and the other amazingly talented actors of 'Danny Phantom'?
David Kaufman: Everyone on the show is fantastic. Butch is really a great guy. He makes everyone feel so comfortable and at ease, and allows us to have fun and do our work. Steve Marmel is the same way. He's very funny. The writers, including Sib and Marty, come to most of the recordings and are really supportive. Of course, the other actors are a blast to work with. I'm so grateful to be able to work with this group of talented people!

Zcat6: Are there any official (or fan-run) conventions that you plan to attend in the near future?
David Kaufman: I'd love to go to one of the animation conventions and sign pictures or posters or whatever! I love meeting fans of the show. If something comes up, I'll do my best to be there. I'll have to explore that!

Zcat6: {Shifting gears} Can you tell us a little bit about the production schedule of 'Danny Phantom'? We know it premiered in April of 2004, but that the first six episodes were recorded in 2003 (July-December, I believe?). We even got a tiny sneak peak of the "new Butch Hartman series" as far back as November 2002 during an on-air Nick blurb. When were you (personally) first made aware of the show and did you know about it before the casting call went out?
David Kaufman: The first Danny Phantom recording was in November of 2002! We recorded the next five episodes from January 2003 to June 2003 -- and then kicked into higher gear when Nickelodeon picked up the show for an additional 7 episodes before the show even aired! (I guess they liked what they were hearing and seeing, and were figuring that you would, too!) We've been going fairly steady ever since, and last week we recorded -- episode {Season 2 title omitted} #33!

Zcat6:Can you tell us when the very first recording session (for the premiere episode "Mystery Meat") took place (a historical date!)? Do you remember the very first line of dialogue you spoke for Danny?
David Kaufman: Okay...you got me to dig out my old 2002 appointment book! The first recording session for "Danny Phantom" was November 21, 2002 when we recorded "Mystery Meat." (We had a table reading of the episode on November 14.) I do not remember the very first line of dialogue -- but you can hear it by just watching that episode!

Zcat6: How was Danny's voice developed? Did Mr. Hartman give you specific guidelines or instruction, or did you come up with the characterization independently, and then present it to him?
David Kaufman: Like I said, I got a basic, sketchy outline of Danny before I auditioned. So I just went with that, closed my eyes, crossed my fingers and said a prayer that Butch would like it! ;)

Zcat6: {Back to the production schedule} We have heard that the recording of the show was initially suspended after the first six episodes were completed, in waiting for Nickelodeon to evaluate the series. Can you tell us your initial impressions on the future of the show at that point? 'Danny Phantom' is so different from everything else Nickelodeon usually airs. Did you feel the network would add it to their line-up? Did you have any other thoughts on the show (positive, negative, or otherwise!) up to that point in time?
David Kaufman: Hmmm...as I remember it (I think), the show was picked up for another 7 episodes right around the time we were recording the 5th episode or so. I thought the show was really cool, and was sure hoping that Nick would feel the same way. I know they have a lot of faith in Butch and respect for his work, so I thought we had a pretty good shot.

Zcat6: When were you notified that Nick had picked up the series and what was your reaction? Did Mr. Hartman call you himself to let you know?
David Kaufman: Butch told us at one of the recording sessions...and absolutely -- I was thrilled.

Zcat6: Were there any other "breaks" in the recording schedule once it resumed in 2004, or has recording proceeded more or less continually since that time?
David Kaufman: It's been pretty continuous -- although sometimes there is a little more time between recordings, sometimes a little less. It depends on when the scripts get finished, etc.

Zcat6: Any "crunch time" where extra long hours had to be put in at the studio?
David Kaufman: Not really...although some days, if we have a lot of pick-ups and ADR (audio dialogue replacement), we can be there a little longer than usual. In that case, we take an extra break and grab some popcorn and a soda or coffee in the lounge. (The Nickelodeon popcorn machine in the kitchen is famous!)

Zcat6: We know that Mr. Hartman is very busy with Fairly Odd Parents, and that TV Networks can be very fickle (we remember the sad early demise of "Freakazoid"). What are your thoughts on the future of 'Danny Phantom'?
David Kaufman: Well...I, for one, am hoping that I'll be going to the Academy Awards when "Danny Phantom: The Movie" is nominated for Best Animated Feature! ;)

Zcat6: Speaking of Freakazoid, what was it like voicing Dexter Douglas? Like Danny, Dexter was also a shy, nerdy kid with a superhero alter-ego - does it feel like you often get typecast for such roles?
David Kaufman: I loved working on "Freakazoid" -- it was such a...well...FREAKY show. Really funny. Wacky. The great thing about "Danny" is that it has its share of comedy and weirdness, but also digs so deeply into the characters. They are very three-dimensional. I think there is a vulnerability that I bring to these characters that people relate to -- they aren't the typical superhero. They are very human -- with their own faults and flaws. Those are interesting characters to play, and I guess it comes through in my work. At least I hope so!

Zcat6: Are you working on any other animated series right now? (The Buzz on Maggie! Others?) Any future projects you can share with us?
David Kaufman: Yes...I'm working on "The Buzz on Maggie" which is going to air on Disney Channel starting this June (I think) and then will be on ABC Saturday mornings in the fall. My character on that show -- Aldrin -- is VERY different from Danny. While he does have his flaws, he doesn't see them. He thinks he is perfect. Much to the chagrin of his younger sister Maggie. He is filled with enough hot air to supply all of the balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving parade! I'm also working on an animated series called "Z Force" now -- we've only recorded four episodes of that show, though. It's in the very beginning stages, and is a very traditional "action heroes" type of show, involving twelve young guys who become the "Zodiac Force."

Zcat6: Are you being "sought out" more for voice acting work since your starring role in the overnight success that is ‘Danny Phantom’? Is this your first animated "starring" role, btw?
David Kaufman: I don't know if I'm being "sought out" -- but I have been doing a lot more. I just provided the voice of a fish for a new animated show at the Georgia Aquarium...I even got to sing as the character, which was a first for me in animation! It was a lot of fun. My first "starring" role was actually my first animated series -- I played the voice of Marty McFly in CBS' "Back to the Future: The Animated Series" several years back.

Zcat6: {Shifting gears yet again} We know you are an active member of the West Coast Ensemble, and that you frequently perform in live action film and TV series. Is it difficult to balance a schedule consisting of stage, screen, and voice acting?
David Kaufman: Yea, it can be challenging and crazy at times. But each medium is so unique. As an actor, you have to be prepared in every way -- because there is so little work for a LOT of actors. The more well-rounded you are, the more opportunities to work you are going to have. And, of course, stage is THE actor's medium. It's where the actor has all the control and holds all the cards. Once the curtain goes up, it's just you and the audience. An editor isn't going to change anything. It's immediate, present, a little dangerous and very exciting.

Zcat6: Which type of work do you enjoy the most?
David Kaufman: I guess you can tell that I probably enjoy theater the most. But the perfectionist in me loves working in film and television, where you get the chance to do it over and over until it's JUST right. ;)

Zcat6: For 'Danny Phantom', a vast majority of fans feel that you absolutely "make" the show - that you bring a depth of personality to the character of Danny that, please pardon the pun, almost supernaturally brings him to life for us. For many of us, the show would never be the same without you in this role. Many times, voice actors will move on to new projects while shows are still running. How does it feel to have such a huge fanbase right now? And most importantly: Can you give us fans a solemn promise to stay in the role of Danny for as long as the show stays on the air?
David Kaufman: Ha ha...are you kidding? I couldn't bear giving Danny up to anyone else's interpretation! As far as I'm concerned, I would like to give Danny his voice for as long as he is around.

Zcat6: Is there anything you would like to say to us, your fans, or to any aspiring voice actors out there?
David Kaufman: Yes...I would really like to send you a big, sincere THANK YOU. You guys are truly awesome. Your support of the show -- even when you are critical of an episode or two, haha -- is fantastic. It means so much to all of us on the show that you like what we're doing. I hope it inspires anyone interested in animation, or acting in general, or the arts overall for that matter, to aim high for your goals and have fun while you're reaching for them. Take your work seriously, but not so seriously that you forget to have fun while you're doing it.

Zcat6: It has been a tremendous pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much again for taking the time to chat with us. There is no way we can ever express out gratitude for your time and devotion to your loyal fanbase. Best of luck in all your endeavors!
David Kaufman: Thanks, Zcat6! And thanks to all you "Danny" fans -- and a big hello from the entire cast and production team!
David ("Danny")

David Kaufman Interview copyright 2005, Danny Phantom Online Forums

'Danny Phantom' and all its related characters are the exclusive intellectual property of Butch Hartman.

 

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