Grey Delisle visits Babcock Studios workshop at F.A.C.T Family in Westwood
"Do you know Grey Delisle?"
That was one of the very first questions out of the mouths of one of my students when I started a year ago doing a workshop with the F.A.C.T. Family/ GAP program in Westwood for young adults on the autism spectrum. I was invited in as the "acting specialist" after the administrator learned I had just opened my own studio at the time. Not knowing what I was actually agreeing to, I blazed into their rowdy conference room months later with that familiar anxiety of the unknown giving me verve. Walking in it was crawling with rambunctious students jazzed from calories after their lunch hour and bouncing off the walls. One of them literally.
As any classically trained actor knows when confronting a hostile crowd the first rule is: Be louder. (Don't Google that rule just take my word for it.) So, after stomping around shouting and throwing a ball at their heads they began to wonder who I was? Just slightly less known than the Actor Volume Rule(TM) is the Acting Teacher Credentials Rule: Name-dropping shamelessly until they respect you. This is in EVERY rule book. ( It must be or why else would everyone do it?)
Once my well-worn litany of credits seemed to have little or no "Ooh! Effect" (or O.E.) I began to query them on the type of entertainment they enjoyed? This began a cavalcade of hands and voices fighting for attention as each had a very passionate expression of their absolute love and devotion to a certain show or movie. Across the boards the prevalent theme was animation, anime (which I thought were the same? Shame!) and all things to do with voice-over. That's when I mentioned I knew some prolific voice-over talents.
(Rule 6.1 : If no O.E. is heard please proceed to the "Your Famous Friends" chapter of teaching regardless of the strength of the current acquaintance).
"Yes! I actually know a very successful voice-over actress as it turns out!" I did the verbal chest-thump with a specific actress in mind.
And like some magician guessing your card out of a shuffled deck came the Grey Delisle question. While I was stunned at the specificity of her name I really shouldn't have been. She is one of, if not the, most prolific voice-over actresses in history. Her surname now Griffin, even my adult friends get excited recalling her credits.
The list is honestly too lengthy to expound upon in detail. Batman, Scooby-Doo, Samurai Jack, The Rugrats, Star Wars, G.I. Joe...and on and on. Just scrolling down her imdb page your eyes start to get tired. When I mentioned a few stand-outs from memory my new students deluged me with so many projects simultaneously I felt sympathy for my computer when I have too many browser tabs open at the same time.
Then the rubber really hit the road when I was asked if they could meet her? That's always the problem with the name-dropping rule. If you can't cash that verbal check your account balance reaches a zero pretty quick. I hadn't seen Grey is years. Like all successful people if you don't have appointment viewing privileges your courses can divert very quickly.
Since my big-shot "I know so-and-so" quip wasn't to be forgotten (they asked me EVERY week) I pulled the social media Hail Mary and threw a line out to Grey. Within minutes was a gushing response and an all too familiar enthusiasm to sharing her love of what she does. The catch was that she was SO incredibly busy we had to plan it 6 months in advance. Perfect, I replied, we could build up the hype (as if that needed to happen).
On the day, Grey and I exchanged a flurry of communications that could probably rival a NASA Shuttle Landing. As was explained to me, she does four shows a day (Four. Shows. A day) and in-between has auditions that take her all over Los Angeles. As anyone who has had the fortunate displeasure of being truly busy in this town your car feels like you live in a van down by the river. Of course it was all sauce for the goose as the expectation of her arrival became that much more dramatic. The GAP center was wall-to-wall thanks to our great coordinator, John Zimniski, and I ran down to try and help her with parking. Yes, even the van by the river needs a permit in Los Angeles. A giant smile and a huge hug was followed with our life stories in thirty seconds or less as we grabbed her a coffee. I tried explaining the scenario but Grey is a Comic-Con/ convention pro and said "These are my people." How right she was.
What followed was thunderous applause, a brief intro (not needed) and the worst rendition of 'Inside the Actor's Studio' one could ask for. It was clear after the first few seconds I was no longer needed beyond crowd control. Hands flew up, questions spewed so fast they had to be asked again at a pitch beyond a dog's hearing. It all began to blur into a cacophony of their favorite shows and their fervent passion for all the things she had touched over the years that had informed their childhoods.
All along there was Grey. Patient, equally excited and hilarious. You don't always realize you miss someone until the flame of their personality glows before you. Grey is one of the funniest people I have ever met and she had only grown more sharp. She could turn on a dime from one character and voice to another. Each time she would inhabit a character you could see it was not simply from the neck up or isolated to the throat. It was in her body. It was a great lesson and she didn't hold back one iota as she would fill the room with her resonate characterizations. It was simply awesome.
Time flew so quickly as we verged on our expiration to getting her to her next destination. I wondered how I was going to get her out of there? It seems these things have an order unto themselves as she observed the various photographs, animation cells and games in their hands and suggested we get to signing them before she had to breeze out. Before I could even conceive of how to organize such a thing an instant conga-like line formed and she began hitting the sharpie like a pro. Each student was so respectful and appreciative and Grey gave each her undivided attention.
Finally, I led her away to waves and thank you's as we headed for her car. As we were laughing in recollection and I regaled her with my admiration we found several students following us. A few hand-shakes later...and a few more...I explained Grey had to go away now. To which one student replied, "I know, but this is one of the greatest days of my life."
While I can't thank Grey enough I think that last sentiment might just do the trick. In a town that isn't always known for having "class acts" Grey exemplified the expression. While she is a master at doing voices I just hope she doesn't start hearing any. I fear it may be one of my students who snuck into the trunk of her car.