Voice-Actress / Musician Samantha Newark talks with TV STORE ONLINE about voicing the roles of Jem and Jerrica on the 1980's animated series Jem as well as the much-anticipated live-action JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (2015) movie.
TV STORE ONLINE: So in doing some research this past holiday weekend...I stumbled across your Sound Cloud page--I listened to your album Somethin' Good, but also heard your 2015 Valentine's Day Truly OUTRAGEOUS K-JEM Broadcast. How did that come about?
NEWARK: I have a dear friend named Willie Callahan who helps me with everything, he is also a huge Jem fan himself--and we thought that we'd do something fun for the fans in support of the release of the Jem comic book. I met Sara Richard--who was an illustrator for one of the comic book's covers--and we thought it would be fun to interview her about how she got the opportunity to work on the comic book--and we just went to town. Of course, K-JEM is tied-in to the Jem series...The die-hard fans of the show know all about that...
TV STORE ONLINE: I'm interested in your voice--I can't quite say that your actual speaking voice as I'm hearing it now is as expected when one thinks back about the voice of Jem or Jerrica. But I listened to your Sound Cloud K-JEM broadcast and there it was...How did you find Jem and Jerrica's voice? It's not wholly dissimilar from your normal speaking voice--I hear certain inflections in your natural voice--but Jem's voice---has a specific delivery and rhythm to it...
NEWARK: Right. I think that is because she is younger--it's a higher tone. She's also a little more wide-eyed. Really--I just sort of reach back into that energy and bring that whole vibration forward for the voice. It's not too much of a stretch for me as a human being, even though, the longer you're on this planet the more you get pounded by life. (laughing) My natural voice, now, is a little bit lower--but it's easy peasy for me to snap back into Jem and Jerrica.
TV STORE ONLINE: I think what it is--and I noticed it today when I was listening to your K-JEM Broadcast on Sound Cloud; you place a specific emphasis on certain vowel sounds in the cadence of your dialogue....
NEWARK: Yeah. And I've also had the opportunity to re-visit all of the episodes of Jem over the last few years--I really just go back and find that energy again that I had when I first recorded the shows all those years before.
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you think that you brought to the characters of Jem and Jerrica as an actress that wasn't already on the page of the script?
NEWARK: Well, I felt that she was like a kindred sister to me. I really wanted the job because the writing really spoke to me. Jem wasn't a stretch for me--it was very similar with how I actually wanted to be in the world. She is very fair. She has a very cooperative nature. She wants to protect peoples' feelings. She is very kind. But she doesn't put up with any crap. It was a myriad of all those things--that's pretty much who I am myself. I think it's what won me the job--that essence of what they were looking for in the part of Jem and Jerrica. They heard something in my delivery that just clicked. I was never a bratty kid. I was always a very good girl--and Jem and Jerrica are the quintessential good girls. They are the "Pollyanna" type.
TV STORE ONLINE: I watched Jem as a kid growing up in the '80s with my younger sister--but I re-visited some of the series a year or two ago with my niece--who was visiting me for a weekend over the summer. We were watching the show on Netflix and what took me by surprise was how big the show's ambitions were. Firstly, the animation wasn't typical for the era, the directors were doing interesting things visually in the episodes with the mise-en-scene, and the range of emotions that the characters went through was really intense. In the mid/late '80s--it was a boy's world with cartoons like G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Thundercats....and then here's this stand-out Jem...
NEWARK: Yes, they weren't afraid to delve into a lot of things. The show went into Kimber and Jerrica losing their parents. We called it a "soap-opera for kids." There were some intense situations that other cartoons weren't going into. There was also an emphasis on sisterhood and friendships. Even though it was a cartoon--the director [Wally Burr] wanted us to sound like people that could be identified with.
TV STORE ONLINE: In terms of approaching Jem or Jerrica--was your approach to each different from the other? Or were they both in the same for you as the actress bringing them to life?
NEWARK: There was a very slight difference between them. Usually, it was just the dialogue--Jem was a little more grandiose. She had to be bigger-than-life. Her persona was larger than Jerrica. But there were some similarities and I don't think that Wally the director wanted them to be too far removed from one another because it was shown for kids. It was all about suspension of belief with the difference being--between them--the pink hair and image change.
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back, for a moment, to your music--your Somethin' Good LP struck me instantly when I listened to it online--what Jem and the Holograms might sound like today if they were still on television with the cartoon series. --They might have embraced a more electronic sound in the pop music milieu...
NEWARK: Right because they're very pop. You know--I've often thought about that too! But Jem would have probably gone solo and went out and toured clubs. As far as my music goes--I've always loved the electronic sound and the up-tempo thing.
TV STORE ONLINE: Also on your Sound Cloud page--you've got a recording of yourself which I believe is called "Little Sam Age 8"--and we hear a British gentleman introduce you as "this little wonderful girl" before you start to sing. It's a thing that not all Jem fans know about you; how you were born in England and then as a kid were transplanted to Africa, only to become a young singing star who put out an album of country music. Listening to this recording, for an eight-year-old you're really spunky. It's like listening to a little Brenda Lee or Wanda Jackson....What was your inspiration as a kid to pursue a singing career?
NEWARK: Well, actually--my inspiration was this child singer named Lena Zavaroni. She was from Scotland. She toured Southern Rhodesia when I was living there. My parents took me to see her in concert and when I saw her I just knew that I wanted to do what she was doing. My parents bought me her record, and I got to met her, and she signed the record for me. Then over the next few months--I memorized all of her songs and sang with them. My uncle heard me one day and realized that I could actually sing. So my parents began to encourage my talent. And not long after that, I was singing at old people's homes and at swap-meets.
TV STORE ONLINE: Living in Africa as a child did you witness the atrocities of apartheid?
NEWARK: Oh yeah. We lived there during apartheid. I remember, they wanted to draft my dad. At the time--I was touring on the "Meet the Stars" tour. My parents and my sister traveled all around with me while I was singing with all of these famous South African artists. I had recorded my album by that time. We had to travel with armed convoys and weren't allowed to travel at night because of the chances of being ambushed. We tried to get entrance into South Africa but couldn't. The only way we could get out was to buy round-trip tickets to England. But we never went back. My parents lost their entire home and everything that we owned when we left. It was very traumatic and very scary.
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you remember about doing voice work on The Transfomers?
NEWARK: Jem was recorded as an ensemble. But with Transformers--they'd ask me to stay after we would finish a Jem session and I would just record my parts for Transformers that way or I'd go in to do some pick-up dialogue. They were just guest-spots and I didn't work with any other actors on it.
TV STORE ONLINE: During a hiatus from Jem you appeared in the film SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE (1987)...
TV STORE ONLINE: A film with actor Chuck Connors and Melissa Reeves from Days Of Our Lives... With a script that was co-written by Penelope Spheeris and a soundtrack done by Ted Neeley form JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1973)...
NEWARK: I know! We all did a song with Ted. For some reason though--they pitched the voices down from the session for the song--so we all sound really weird on it. We were just all twenty-somethings running wild up in the hills of Los Angeles. We had a blast shooting the film. My character didn't know if she was a good girl or a bad girl--she was somewhere in between. (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: Is there any truth to the rumor that it was you who voiced the part of Peter Pan's mother in Steven Spielberg's HOOK (1991)?
NEWARK: That is true. I still get residual checks so I can prove it. With voice-over work--sometimes you don't get credited and that was what happened with HOOK.
TV STORE ONLINE: So was Spielberg a fan of Jem?
NEWARK: (Laughing) I don't know! But I know that he had to sign-off on my audition for it. So it's quite lovely to think that he said, "Yes!!! I love her..." (laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: And that leads us up to the release of the new live-action Jem movie that's coming out this October 2015...I know you have a cameo in the film...What can you tell me about it if anything at all?
NEWARK: I do! All I can say is that I was on the set for a day and I have pink hair in it. The director, Jon Chui, who is super-cool, grew up with Jem. He's a big fan and he's been trying to get the film made for over ten years. He had pitched it and pitched it but it wasn't the right time before now. It's the 30th Anniversary this year. It is sad that they didn't bring [Jem Creator] Christy Marx on board, at least as a consultant. It was very surreal walking around the set and seeing the trailers with the Jem characters' names on them. I have high hopes for the movie.
TV STORE ONLINE: You're a Nashville resident now--so it's only fair to point out that Jem in the new JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (2015) movie is being played by Aubrey Peeples--who plays "Layla Grant" on ABC's Nashville series. I'm a big fan of her work--especially from the mid-way point in the last season of Nashville...
NEWARK: Oh yeah, she's amazing. And I love Nashville! When I found out that she was going to be playing Jem--it made it all that much more special. The movie also has Juliette Lewis in it.
TV STORE ONLINE: Right, and on IMDb.com she's listed as playing the role of "Erica Raymond"--which suggests that, maybe, they'll be no "Eric Raymond" in the film but a female version of the character. How do you think Jem fans will react to such if it actually goes down that way in the movie?
NEWARK: Well I can't say--I'm under a non-disclosure agreement. But I've seen that on IMDb as well. I don't know how the fans will react. It'll depend on how open-minded the fans are. If they get frustrated--it's only coming from a place in their mind that is super-protective of their childhood memories. But things change--and we'll always have the original cartoon series. I just hope that Jem fans will give it a chance. Some aren't going to like it and some are going to really get into it--but you can't please everyone.
TV STORE ONLINE: What are you working on now?
NEWARK: I'm writing for my third album. I'm hoping to have it out this year, but I'm not sure if that will happen. I really want to write some good material and come up with a fun concept for it. I'm also doing the Jem Tour. It's really awesome to meet the Jem fans. I'm meeting a lot of little kids now because their parents grew up with Jem and now their kids are watching the show. It's really fun. When I meet the kids--it's really cute because they're not quite sure why I'm not a cartoon character. They see me with the pink hair. I tell them to close their eyes and I start to talk and their response is: "Oh my God!" It's so much fun! (Laughing)
For more with Samantha Newark please visit her official website HERE
Follow her on Sound Cloud HERE