Not only is Ben Giroux a Nickelodeon regular – he voices the lead role, Nate Wright, in their upcoming new animated franchise “Big Nate” – he is also an on-screen actor (having played The Toddler on Nickelodeon’s “Danger Force” for the past 10 years), director (just wrapped the latest Vanilla Ice music video) and a producer. We wanted to know what Ben thinks it takes to succeed in entertainment in 2022 – and why, if all else fails, there’s always a career in sanitation awaiting him!
Let’s start with something fun to set the scene. What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
There’s a photo of me at six-months-old in 1985: my dad is holding me up to a TV screen that plays a “Three Stooges” VHS tape. Moe smashes an anvil over Curly’s head. From that point on, I was locked-in on a career in comedy and entertainment. When I was 4, there was also a brief period when I wanted to be a garbage truck driver so I could control the truck’s mechanical arm and live out my RoboCop dreams. But that was short-lived. And hey, if this acting thing doesn’t work out, there’s always a career in sanitation that awaits.
We know you are both an actor and a VO artist. What did you pursuefirst?
Trick question! On-camera acting and voice acting are both acting – just accomplished via different mediums. So through that lens, I look at both career tracks as one and the same. I grew up doing local theatre in Phoenix, Arizona which propelled me into pursuing entertainment. While in college at USC, I studied theatre and procured an agent – who ultimately helped me book my first TV pilot (a short-lived Farrelly Brothers show on FOX dubbed “Unhitched”).
If it was acting, what led you into the world of voiceover?
I distinctly remember running around the house as a kid, terrorizing my little sister with ear-explodingly-high-pitched cartoon voices. Later, voiceover appealed to me because on-camera acting limits me to certain roles due to my short stature. In VO, I can play such a wider array of characters (and ages!).
What would you say are the biggest differences between being an actor and being a voice actort? Any pitfalls of doing both, or would you say one can help the other?
I originally thought I had to choose only one path in entertainment. That anything outside of television acting would distract from my career or confuse my branding. I’ve completely flipped that perspective now. To succeed in entertainment in 2022 is to diversify and conquer multiple creative pursuits. Add a slash or two to your business card. I’m a better actor because I’m also a director. I’m a better voiceover artist because I’m also a writer. I’m a better producer because I’m also a TikTok creator. It’s all comedy, it’s all creative, and it all combines to fuel a very busy career in entertainment.
What was your first gig? What have been some of the more memorable ones since then?
I’d been working in on-camera TV and commercial voiceover for about a decade before I booked my first substantial role in animation: the lead role of a Nickelodeon animated series called “Bunsen is a Beast” (the last of Butch Hartman’s tenure at Nick Animation). It wasn’t my first role in animation, but it was the first role that really solidified my relationship with Nickelodeon and set the foundation for a prolific acceleration since – leading to roles on the Emmy winning “Love, Death, and Robots” on Netflix, playing Robin in “Batman vs. TMNT” from Warner Brothers Animation, and even an upcomingrole on “Rick & Morty”.
What did it feel like the first time you saw yourself or heard your voice on the radio/television?
To be honest, I don’t really watch much of my own stuff. It makes me squeamish. I’m too self critical of my own work. I will say it is a very nostalgic feeling to see my voice coming out of modern Nickelodeon characters. I grew up watching Doug, Ren & Stimpy, and Rugrats – so it’s all really come full circle.
What are you up to presently?
I’m voicing the lead role of Nate Wright in Nickelodeon’s new animated franchise Big Nate! Our first 8 episodes premiere on Paramount+ on February 17th. It’s been a dream come true. Our cast is filled with brilliant improvisers and comedians – I’m so grateful to collaborate with such a talented team. I’m also recurring on Nickelodeon’s “Danger Force” as The Toddler – a role I’ve been playing on Nickelodeon for almost ten years! I’m directing a lot too. I just directed a Vanilla Ice music video and I’m currently directing a documentary series – all under my production banner Small Red Cape.
What do you love about your job?
The Big Nate scripts are hysterically funny – and I give our showrunner Mitch Watson a lot of credit: he really lets us riff in our voice sessions. But the thing I’m proudest of: we’ve recorded our entire series remotely throughout the pandemic. None of us have ever been in the same room! We all built broadcast-quality studios in our home and perform the scripts as an ensemble via a complicated combination of Zoom and SourceConnect. I think it’s the most unique way an ensemble show has ever been created!
Any acting and VO idols/mentors?
I’m a huge fan of comedic actors who effortlessly dabbled in drama – Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Robin Williams, Paul Rudd. These are the kinds of actors I’d like to emulate as I move forward in my career. In addition, Larry David is a comedic genius and I’m continuously inspired by his career longevity. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.
If you weren’t doing voiceover and acting, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
You can take the actor out of entertainment, but you can’t take the entertainment out of the actor. You could put me at an office cubicle in an insurance brokerage and I’d still find a way to crack jokes and create levity. There’s nothing else I could think of doing, so I guess I’m doing the right thing for my life. At the end of the day, I just want to make cool sh*t with my friends – on-camera, behind camera, in front of the microphone… I love it all. And again, if I fail, the garbage truck’s mechanical arm awaits.
Has technology/home studios changed the way you work?
Absolutely. My entire Big Nate series has been recorded remotely and will continue to be. Before the pandemic, it was always important to have a decent recording setup from home. But was mine broadcast quality before? Probably not. Now, I have a state-of-the-art booth that looks like a vocal spaceship and sounds incredible. It certainly doesn’t replace the in-person camaraderie we all desperately miss, but it’s a heck of a comfortable place to work while we’re still in Covid times. And it’s always nice to earn a living while not wearing pants.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
MAKE STUFF. Be proactive. Create. Opportunities don’t come to you, you have to create them. But here’s the best advice I can give: when I was a young actor working on one of my very first TV gigs, I approached the lead of the show and asked – “what’s the secret to success in entertainment?” He looked at me with a wry, knowing smile and said: “do good work and be a good dude.”
If you had a choice between two superpowers, being invisible or flying, which would you choose, and why?
Actors don’t want to be invisible – we crave the spotlight, ha! I’ll take the power of flight… if only to beat the miserable Los Angeles traffic.
If you got to choose a song that would play every time you entered aroom, what song would you pick?
I’d probably rock out to my own song #BackToThe90s – I’m obsessed with ‘90s nostalgia and I create hip-hop comedy music videos to celebrate various eras. My ‘90s music video amassed 100 millions views, charted on Billboard, and landed me in Las Vegas with The Backstreet Boys in 2017.
And finally….If you were a brand, what would your slogan be?
“I’m lovin’ it.” Oh shoot, that’s taken. Um… how about… “Just do it.” Nope. Um…let’s try… “Starbucks.” I don’t think I did this correctly.