Panel Recap: A Q&A With Kimberly Brooks
The fourth member of our Voice of a Hero panel was one that I was particularly interested in listening to at GeekGirlCon ‘17. Kimberly Brooks, whose voiceover work you’ll hear just about everywhere, shared with us her years of experience working on everything from Rugrats, to Bioshock Infinite and Voltron. A fan of hers myself, I was ecstatic to cover her personal Q&A at the convention.
Art saves lives.
Kimberly was really shy growing up, and faced a pretty rough period during her childhood. It was her 5th grade teacher that really helped spark her creativity. She had a small puppet theater set up in her classroom, and Kimberly started voicing all of the puppets in her own little shows. After listening, her teacher invited Kimberly to audition for the children’s theater. They were putting on Alice in Wonderland.
She gave Kimberly the confidence to believe in herself, and like all creatives eventually do, that’s how she got the bug.
She did the children’s theater, and later moved on to a good high school in LA with a pretty stellar theater department. She was in Sweeney Todd, she played Mrs. Lovett. It was a great experience where she learned different aspects of production, like directing.
Kimberly advocates that art saves lives. Acting was a passion, and it helped pull her through a difficult time. It was inspiring. She also urges that age means nothing. Be encouraging to one another and tell people how important it is to believe in yourself. Her 5th grade teacher has since passed away, but if she didn’t believe in Kimberly, or drive her to after school to the theater, she may not have ended up where she is today.
Making it a career.
Kimberly believed that she could do it, even though it took a lot of time and hard work. Like many, she moved to NYC and waited tables for a few years. When that didn’t work as planned, she moved back to LA and started VO lessons at Voice Trax West. She made her first demo there, and landed an audition based on her performance in class. At the time, Kimberly didn’t have an agent, but she was in the union. From there, she booked her second audition.
“Can you do kid voices?” Her agent asked, when trying to sign. She gave it a go, even though she hadn’t done a ton.
Because of that, Kimberly started out on Rugrats. She later landed role on Scooby Doo—did a lot of work at Warner Brothers, actually. Then on ¡Mucha Lucha!, Danny Phantom, Winx Club… Sound familiar? She was apart of the Golden Age of modern cartoons, working alongside close friends such as Tara Strong (who was also just getting her start at the time).
One of her favorite roles was playing on of the Hex Girls in Scoopy Doo alongside Jennifer Hale.
In addition to cartoons, Kimberly has also worked on a lot of video games. She really enjoyed playing Ashley Williams in Mass Effect. “You know, Ashley, the space racist,” she laughed. Like Fryda Wolff said during her own Q&A, working on a BioWare game is intense. There’s so much depth to the story, and so much to each character. It was an amazing experience, and really made her interested in doing VO work for games. We’ve since heard her in additional titles like Bioshock Infinite, a personal favorite of mine, and other games like Call of Duty, Halo 5, and Fallout 4.
Kimberly has been getting a lot of attention lately for a pretty big role on Netflix’s Voltron revival. She plays Princess Allura, who many may remember as the “blonde bombshell” in the 1984 version of the cartoon.
Kimberly was recording for the role for a long time without knowing what the Princess would look like in the revival. But then she got a look, and that day marked one of the most significant in her career thus far.
Kimberly cited an interview that she did with The Washington Post about that moment. “I’ll never forget the first time I actually saw Allura; I literally teared up because she was so beautiful,” she told the Post. In the revival, Princess Allura is a woman of color—and dare I say, an absolute badass.
Representation is important. That’s why GeekGirlCon exists, Kimberly said. Allura is a complex character, and can stand beside any man in the series. She’s a pilot in her own right, and is just as much a warrior as anyone else.
Being an African American in this industry is rough, Kimberly also explained, and something that she had to learn to deal with early on. When working on Jimmy Neutron, she was told that she didn’t sound “African American enough,” so she was voiced over. This was after she recorded the entire movie. A new production company had taken the reins on the film, and had everyone audition again for their roles.
Kimberly says that some of the biggest culprits are commercials, referencing her work with a big fast food chain and a well-known car company. She noted that the fast food chain only marketed to specific groups of people. Copy is only written for black people, hispanic people…etc., and that’s just downright offensive. “Can you sound more urban or girlfriend?” “Can you lighten up on your blackscent?” They asked her, the latter being so ridiculous it became a sort of bad joke.
Beyond roles, we need to see more diverse, female writers to make them. There’s so much room for improvement, and she urges others to pursue their dreams so we can support better, diverse representation. Kimberly wants us all to experience what she felt when she first saw Allura. To feel included. She wants us all to act as her 5th grade teacher once did for her. To support one another, and promote a more diverse community.