Interview to José Luis Angulo. Spanish Knight Rider’s Voice

We talk with José Luis Angulo, one of the most recognized voices in Spain. Dubbing director and dubbing actor, he’s provided with his voice to great characters such as Michael Knight in Knight Rider, Lord Voldemorth in Harry Potter, Heathcliff or Danny Tanner in Full House.

As a dubbing director he’s been in charge of some great films: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Hunger Games, The Life of Adéle, Harry Potter, American History X, Hugo, Argo, The Dark Knight or Snow White and the Huntsman.

Interview to José Luis Angulo. Spanish Dubbing actor and Director

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What was the origin of your vocation?

It was really from the very start. In fact, when I meet friends from my childhood and adolescence, all of them say to me: “When we were little, you took us to a garage and you talked us in different voices, you turned the lights off and changed the pitch, you even did some sound effects…

Since I was very little, I had enjoyed the voices I heard in the movies, some very resounding voices… I remember I asked my parents for a tape recorder. And then, when we went to the movies, I carried a bag with the recorder inside, and I recorded the sound of the movie, and then, at home, I played it back and tried to imitate the way they talked, very film-like.

How did you get your first jobs?

The first thing I did was to browse a phone book, so, I looked for the names and addresses of dubbing studios. I approached each studio’s entrance; I was very shy and I didn’t dare to get in. Sometimes I was a full morning standing there and I ended up going away. I guess they probably thought: “What’s this kid doing here?”.

Sometimes I was able to introduce myself: “Hi, I’m so and so, I’d like to be a voice actor. Could you test me?” At no point their answer was no, instead, they always said: “Well, I don’t know if we can do it today, there’s lots of people working today…If we finish up early, we will test you.” The truth is that nobody denied me a chance. That’s how I got started.

When you start to work doing this job, you notice that you’re better at it each time, you gain confidence, your diction improves, you’re faster getting the feel of each take… you get hired more often.

Dubbing David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider made your voice famous everywhere in Spain. Do you have any particular memories of that particular job?

I have very nice memories of my work in Knight Rider… I was starting to get hired for important parts, in some studios I had played important characters, and, in some others, I did several small roles, a police officer, a robber, whatever.

Then, Television Española (Spanish Television) run a casting for that part, and a dubbing director, Ana María Simón, thought that it would be interesting to test me, and Television Española chose me.

Actually, it took some pains, because I thought I was well prepared for that kind of roles, but I realized that I was still lacking some skills. Thus, the director took the time to hone my performance: “Go lower in that sentence… let this one end higher…” She was really tough, but I always say that I’m grateful for it.

Of all the roles you’ve played, what would be your favourite?

I had a lot of fun when I played Heathcliff, around the same time as Knight Rider, and also with Full House, when I played Danny Tanner. But if I had to choose one, I would go for Heathcliff, because when I saw him, with his little tooth, I decided: “I’m going to make him speak like this…”

Interestingly, the scripts were translated into Spanish from French, and it was very literal, so Televisión Española allowed me to ad-lib, make up the lines, I had a lot of fun, and sometimes, when all the workmates were doing the job together, they were a little baffled, because if the cue was “I need to get home…”, I changed it, and they said: “So, how do I fit into this?”. 

Dubbing direction. Is it any different than just dubbing?

It’s quite different… as a director, take care of the dialogue adjustment. With “adjustment”, I mean looking for lip syllables and making the length of the phrase fit the time the actor has to say it. You also take care of the casting, and you give directions to the actor. You sometimes give a small explanation of how his character is, and he, simply out of experience, starts to stick to the screen.

Many people ask me: “But, doesn’t the actor see the film in advance?” No, he doesn’t, because if he is used to copying the original, if he sees that in a certain scene, he’s how he may be: euphoric, sad or ironic, he copies it and nails it, curiously, and there’s no need for him to see the movie.

Of course, you give him directions, because the actor has already enough work with memorizing the text, or reading and watching, and fitting, and sometimes he can miss certain nuances. So, you have to tell him: “No, look, listen, here, he says it more ironically…” Because, of course, he already has enough work with the rest of the job.

How important is performance when dubbing a movie?

I give acting a great deal of importance; thus, I want them to copy as much as possible, (given that we’re not the original, obviously). I ask them to copy it. And when they’ve done it, and even if it’s not exactly a match, it rings true to me, I usually give my OK.

How was dubbing in the old days different to nowadays?

The way of doing it has changed, but essentially, it’s the same. In the old days, takes were cut, which required to pause, remove the celluloid or magnetic tape thread another piece, start… And strangely, nowadays when I’m directing, I notice that the actor, between takes (we don’t pause, thanks to digital technology) sometimes doesn’t match the sound of the previous take.

And nonetheless, back in the day, all the actors did, in spite of a time margin between the recording of each take, of minutes, and they resumed, and when you pieced it together, it sounded just right.

When I started to work, a voice actor had to do every kind of job: dubbing as much as voiceovers. Now it seems that they’re two separate ways, but I think that the old way to get started, I really think so, was ideal.

Because one day they called you to play a role in a movie, and the next day you participated in a documentary, which required you to read well, and give certain nuances that the documentary required, so, it was a very interesting way of learning.

Nowadays, it seems that they’re two different roads, and sometimes, in schools, they have voice acting classes, and then voiceover clases, or commercial classes… when previously it was all the same. You had to learn, period. And you did learned.

And what’s your opinion about the industry here in Spain nowadays. Is there a future?

I’m certainly glad, and besides, really, I can’t say it enough: there’s a lot of young people today who want to be a voice actor, and many of them are actually starting. It’s a wonderful generation, and also, they’re very interested in learning, and when I, for instance, make a small test when they record a test, and I say: “OK, we keep it”, and I watch them, and I see that they go: “No, I would like to repeat it”, I think to myself: “°Bravo!”, because they want to push the envelope.

What would you advise to those who one to start working in voiceover or dubbing?

To a young person who wants to pursue a career, I would recommend attending classes at a school. That they start from the below, and depending on their learning capacity, it may not take that many years to reach a professional levels: sometimes, there is people that in very little time, goes from beginners class, to intermediate, advance, etc… it depends on each person. There are also cases like, for instance, Ramón Langa.

Ramón Langa, was great from the start, he was excellent. When I still didn’t know him, people talked me about him: “He’s doing Moonlighting…” and I said “I don’t know him…”. Sometimes, it happens that there are people with a gift, aren’t there? But then, of course, I’ve seen people who had a hard time at first. I don’t mean a student, but a workmate, whom I observed, he wasn’t getting it right then, and nowadays he’s doing it perfectly well.

Did you find interesting our conversation with José Luis Angulo? Is there any character of his you like better? Please, leave us any comment you might have. Thank you.

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