Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Showtime Synergy

With those three words the world of a little girl is transformed much the same way that the character Jerrica Benton is transformed into her 'Truly Outrageous' alter Ego "JEM". I used to sit in front of the tv every morning and watch JEM and the Holograms and dream of the day when I to would take my place among the Outrageous, Rock Star, Fashionistas. The show had helped inspire a lifetime love of fashion and music and being truly Outrageous(the 80's Version of Fabulous); that and the VOGUE magazines I started reading at age 9 (Thanks to my big sis), and the music of Jim Morrison and the DOORS I began discovering at age 12. I had all the JEM gear, my parents were sucked into the commerical and consumer vortex associated with a child's program. I had the dolls, the t-shirt, the posters, the cassette tapes, the stage set, the JEM wardrobe, even the Rockin Roadster.
I had THIS exact poster in my room!

Flash forward 24 years and my daughters (bio & step) now watch JEM at ages 3 and 8. They love the music, the fashion as I did so many years ago. Now as a mother I appreciate the messages that are embedded in the show, like very subtle public service announcements and lessons.

I had the cool opportunity to chat with the VOICE of JERICA/JEM Samantha Newark (the singing voice of JEM belongs to Britta Phillips). For those of you who have watched the show as I have since childhood or rediscovering it via re-runs on the HUB I'm sure you have wondered what happened to the people who were behind the characters.

LISA: How did you land the voice (singing/speaking) of JEM/Jerica? Did you have experience doing voice over work?

SAMANTHA: I auditioned for the speaking roles of JEM and JERRICA at Wally Burr Studio's in Burbank California. My family moved to California from the Washington DC area, I'd moved from a pretty big talent agency that represented me for film/tv/commercials and also my solo music career. When I moved to Los Angeles I was represented by a more boutique agency who had a voice-over department as well as on camera commercial department. Back then not too many agencies were handling voice-overs, it was a very niche area, not like it is now being almost totally celebrity driven.

I'm pretty sure JEM was only the second voice-over job I had ever auditioned for and I booked the series. I had relatively no substantial experience doing voice-overs besides one Public service voice-over I had done. I never auditioned for JEM's singing voice - all the music related side of the cartoon (Singers, Musicians, Composers) was already cast in New York before the actors were hired in California so each was recorded separately on the two coasts.

I think all my years growing up in the business as a singer helped prepare me to expand my performing possibilities and I ended up loving the craft of voice-over as it was all to do with my voice and my ears and listening and feeling and being on a mic with headphones in a studio and conveying emotions which is what I do as vocalist. What an amazing opportunity I was given to work with one of the top directors and some of the top voice-over people in the industry, I learned so much during the run, it was wonderful.

LISA: What was the most rewarding part of being the voice behind JEM?

SAMANTHA: I think at the time I did the show, I was amazed that I was having all this fun and they were paying me to show up, that was pretty surreal. The true rewards didn't come really until much later because I had no idea at the time what a huge show it really was and how many people were watching and growing up with JEM.

It's not been until early 2000 really that I started to see online the incredible fan base for JEM that was still very much buzzing and in love with the cartoon. I was at a fan convention in Atlanta a couple of years ago meeting the JEM fans and the guy next to me after watching the fans approach me all day to talk to me about their love for JEM said "Oh my God, You have the LOVE job!! People come up to you and pour love all over you and you give it right back, it's amazing to see"! He really did articulate what I experience at these fan conventions and that has been the most humbling and unexpected reward of all. It's not been until the past few years that I started to understand the levity of JEM's impact and that I was a part of something that has really touched so many people in such a genuine lovely way, It's just really cool.

LISA: How has your career evolved?

SAMANTHA: The voice-over world changed considerably after JEM ended it's run and the jobs were being snatched up by lot's of celebrities, I guess they started to see what an awesome gig it really was and the industry knew there was power in having someones voice out there selling product that was somehow familiar to people even though they may not know who it it was they were hearing, they knew the voice and it is clever from a marketing standpoint. I still did commercials and print jobs and some radio and tv voice-over stuff but I began to focus again on my music and learning the craft of songwriting. I've been a published performing songwriter for quite a while now with my music featured in lot's of tv shows like "Gossip Girl" "Americas Next Top Model" "The Ellen Show" and lots more - I've had the opportunity to sing on a few really cool playstation games like "God Of War" and "Twisted Metal Black". I performed for years all over LA with different incarnations of solo projects. One of the pinnacles for me back in 07 was getting to work as a back up singer for Leonard Cohen, someone who I admire so deeply as a writer. I am about to release my second album of my original music Pop/Electroncia vibe with my friend Dave Polich producing. He was the keyboard programmer on Michael Jacksons "This Is It Tour" and we have always wanted to do a record together. It's a very sexy, fun album and I'm really proud that I wrote everything on it. It's due out in September of this year sometime, no official release date yet but I hope that people will sign up on my mailing list at http://www.samanthanewark.com/ so I can keep everyone posted on my happenings with JEM and my music. I'm really looking forward to putting a great live show together and getting out there there to share my new record with these amazing JEM fans and say "It's Showtime Synergy"!!

Were you surprised to see JEM's return to TV via the HUB? Can we expect the rest of the series on DVD (Season 3 part 2)?

SAMANTHA: There were rumors online for years that JEM was coming back but it was all speculation and no one could say for sure what format it may take, I just had to wait and see like everyone else. I knew that it should come back because I had been experiencing this fan base in a really amazing way and had seen first hand their total devotion to the show - I'm not surprised it back on TV and I'm of course thrilled now so many little kids are getting to experience JEM on "The Hub". And yes JEM is coming to DVD in October of this year. I shot an interview back in May to be included in the bonus extra footage (Cast, writers, musicians, fans et...) for "Shout!Factory" who is releasing the whole 65 episodes I think October 11, 2011. Rhino stopped short of releasing the whole series back in 2004 so this is fantastic news for the JEM fans!! They have been screaming for this for years.

LISA: Are you surprised by the shows relevance and longevity?

SAMANTHA: Yes and No, I am of course kind of floored to be here all these years later talking about my work on JEM but I see why people love something that made them feel so happy as a little kid. I think as adults we reach back sometimes to connect with things that directly connect us to a time when we weren't so stressed and overwhelmed with the weight of the world. I've gotten alot of fan mail over the years from people that said they didn't have the best childhoods but JEM was the one thing that would make them happy and give them hope and inspire them, It gave them something to look forward to in their day and they loved the characters and the music. So many JEM fans were inspired to become singers, dancers, designers and choreographers I think It inspired a lot of creative kids to do what they love. The stories were fun and the show had a real moral compass that fans have shared often that it really made a difference to them growing up.

LISA: Are you still in touch with any of the cast? where are they now?

SAMANTHA: I have been so happy to be able to reconnect with some of the people I worked with on the show and meet some of the music cast too. Jemcon http://www.jemcon.org/ which is an entire convention dedicated to Jem and the Holograms that happens once a year in a different city has done an amazing job of bringing us all together again to meet the fans all over the country. Fans fly from all over the world to participate in this once a year celebration. I think getting to see Wally Burr the director and give him a hug again was so cool and meeting Christy Marx the writer for the first time and Rodger Slifer another writer/producer on JEM and Patricia Albrecht the voice of Pizzazz who actually lives in Nashville like me and Michael Sheehan who playes Rio - all of that has just been the coolest thing.

LISA: Jem's style was "truly outrageous" how would you describe your personal style aesthetic?

SAMANTHA: I love fashion, obsessed right now with this short lace cape I saw and I'm having it made it in a different fabric for my new album cover if all goes as planned. I'm such a high heels girl, Platforms yes yummy!!! love love love boots the higher the better and I love tights, the look of a cool A-line shift dress with black tights and great boots and 3/4 sleeves (my favorite) just simple and flirty and fun. I used to wear alot of black but I'm experimenting way more with color now. Then there is always favorite jeans and a comfy sexy off the shoulder t-shirt. I don't like too much pattern or fuss, I like elegant but a bit edgy and funky. I'm not that into jewelry, but if I wear anything I like some sort of cool cuff or bracelet or fun oversized cocktail ring. I love the bigger bed hair look too, kinda wild and effortless and sexy.

LISA: What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to be a voice of an animated character? any tricks of the trade you could share?

SAMANTHA: I'd say first you have to really love the craft- I would also say since It's such a competitive field right now get involved in some voice-over classes and get your sea legs and get something on tape, a voice-over reel. You can learn so much from folks that have been in and are still in the industry that teach classes and workshops. I think Sue Blu in LA had a workshop for ages and she is Stormer on JEM. There are two routes Union where you join SAG and AFTRA and get an agent and go on auditions or there is the non union where you just would have to network and meet people. There are some online sites that voice-over work is offered on like http://www.voice123.com/ My voice-over story is unique but I did have years and years of schlepping it out at cattle calls auditioning as a child performer and paying my dues in that regard. If It's something you love and you don't mind working nights so you can audition during the day and you have a real talent for it (not just your Mom saying you're great) I say you could be the next voice-over sensation, hurry up and get out there and go for it!!


I loved the fashion component of the show. Who did not subscribe to the "Glamour and glitter, fashion and fame", line in the theme song and quite frankly I still dream of a pair of Jem Star earrings that could project any piece of clothing or accessory at a moments notice for me and all my friends!

I was always more of a "MISFIT" when it came to my fictional fashion.

Truly Outrageous offerings from EVOLUTION VINTAGE ~ unlock he Rock Star in you with these looks:

Vintage Pink Sequin Mini

Vintage 80's Sequin mini dress

Vintage 80's Acetate skirt & top set

Vintage pink/orange halter gown

GUESS Metallic Pumps

Vintage 80's Silver Sequin Bomber Jacket

80's Gold Tone Bomber Jacket

80's Black dress w Sequin shoulder detail


I have since traded my Rockin' Roadster for a Denali and my dolls for real children but I have retained the dream of one day reaching Rock Star/Fashionista status. I think I have the fashionista part down, guess it's time to start singing lessons??

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