In the world of independent film, one must use whatever resources are available to make sure as many people as possible see the movie you’ve made. As such, when Michael H. Harper, a buddy of mine from college, reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to do an interview with one of the stars of an upcoming film that he’d written and produced, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.”
Mind you, I think he knew it was always going to be difficult for me to say “no” when he added within the same email that the star in question was also a voice actor of some note. (It’s been awhile, but you old-timers may remember that I briefly used to have a recurring Popdose feature where I spoke to voice actors: “You’re The Voice.”) Catherine Taber has worked on dozens of video games and several animated series of note, with the most current being The Loud House, which is presently airing on Nickelodeon. She hasn’t always been a voice actor, however: she started her career in front of the camera, and even though cartoons have been very, very good to her, she still gets back in front of the camera whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Which brings us to Haven’s End, the latest collaboration between the aforementioned Mr. Harper and director Chris Ethridge, who last worked together on 2014’s Attack of the Morningside Monster, a film which also featured Taber, albeit in a smaller role. This, of course, is how she found her way into Haven’s End, but as I hadn’t actually written this intro at the time I chatted with her, I obviously didn’t have any idea that I was going to mention it here, hence the fact that I’m about to completely waste your time by asking it as my first question.
My bad. But I hope you enjoy the interview anyway.
POPDOSE: So how did you find your way into Haven’s End in the first place?
CATHERINE TABER: Well, Chris [Ethridge] and I worked together on his previous film, Morningside Monster, which I had a smaller part in, but I just liked him so much and liked the crew he’d put together that we knew we wanted to work together again on something. And he had, I guess, spoken with Michael [H. Harper] and asked him to pitch an idea, and that’s how Haven’s End came about. And basically from the minute I heard the storyline and all of that, I’m, like, ”I’m in!“
In regards to the storyline, can you talk a bit about what people can expect? As you say, your role is decidedly bigger here than what you had to work with on Morningside Monster.
Uh, yeah. And it’s sort of funny, because it’s, like, ”Be careful what you wish for!” We had a pretty tight shooting schedule, and there were certainly days where… I mean, on something like this, things can change because of the weather or whatnot, so what you’re shooting the next day can change rather rapidly, and when you have a lot of words to say… I mean, when it’s 11 o’clock at night, and you’ve just found out that we’re doing different scenes than you thought we were doing, you’re, like, ”Wait, why did I want to be the lead in this?” [Laughs.] But it was really great. Chris surrounds himself with just the best people, so our crew was so amazing, and despite the fact that it was a tight shooting schedule and it was probably the coldest I’ve ever felt it in Georgia…
Yeah, we actually saw later that there was, like, an arctic front that had gone through at that point! [Laughs.] But despite all of that, we had such a good time, because it was such a great crew that was happy to be working on a project that everybody believed in. You really can’t ask for more than that.
So how would you describe Dr. Alison Olsen, your character in the film?
She’s a trauma surgeon, and she apparently does really well, because my apartment in the film was really nice. I was rethinking my career choice! [Laughs.] But she’s intelligent and capable and, like a lot of us, probably takes on too much responsibility that’s not hers. So it was really cool to be able to identify with the character in that way and to see a strong female character who’s taking the weight of the world onto her shoulders as well as the responsibility of her friends’ lives.
It was also fun to play how those things translate when the you-know-what is hitting the fan. It really tests people. And then when you add the element of the supernatural as well as the psychological aspects of what happens when people are confined together and not trusting each other and all that, it makes for a really cool story.
Chris has likened the film to The Thing, which could confuse people if they’re just thinking in terms of its sci-fi aspects, because Haven’s End definitely sounds like it’s more of a locked-room thriller.
Yeah! And it was so interesting, because I love The Thing. I think it’s just one of the greatest movies of all time, and I think it’s one of those movies that holds up despite being somewhat dated. It’s just an amazing film, and that aspect of, ”Wait, I thought I could trust that person, but maybe I can’t…and I thought that other person was pretty cool, but now I’m not so sure,” it makes for a very fun ride.
So what do you think it is about Atlanta that leads it to being destroyed so often in films?
Oh, it’s the CDC. [Laughs.] It’s funny because it’s true! I mean, it’s one of the big cities of the south, it’s kind of central to a lot of different states, and Atlanta is certainly a place that people gravitate to. But I honestly do think that maybe the CDC being there has something to do with it, because I think those of us who like sci-fi are fascinated by that place. I think the first time I ever really heard about it was in a Stephen King story. So, yeah, it just makes sense to me that it’d be the CDC.
So how did you find your way into acting in the first place?
I kind of knew that I wanted to be an actress from the time I was pretty young. Once I found out that you couldn’t be a princess just because you decided to be one and that it wasn’t a job you could just apply for, I had to figure something else out! [Laughs.] So I kind of wanted to be an actress before I even really knew what it was.
And then when I graduated, I was just sort of, like, ”All right, well, here’s what I’m going to go do.” And you don’t know what you’re doing, so you’re really brave and you drive across the country. [Laughs.] But then I just kind of got lucky along the way…with some of the voiceover stuff, especially! Someone gave me a chance. I always attribute it to the fact that I am a science-fiction fan and a fantasy fan. I was a big Star Wars fan, so my second audition was for a big Star Wars game called Knights of the Old Republic, and once I got that, it started to fall into place where people knew you, they know your work, and all of that stuff.
A lot of times people will give these success stories about actors and actresses, and it’s written in a way that makes it sound like it happened overnight, but it so rarely, rarely does, even when they say it does. You work, you try to do good work, you try to be grateful for the opportunities that you have, and you hope that the people that you work with like you…and then you’re suddenly go, ”Oh! I have a career, and it’s really cool, and it’s something that I absolutely love!”
Not a bad deal.
Nope. [Laughs.] Not at all!
IMDb is notoriously sketchy with a lot of actors’ early work, so I’m taking this with a grain of salt: was your first film actually The First To Go?
You know, I don’t even know how that’s up there. It’s one of those things where… [Hesitates.] Okay, the answer is ”kind of, yes.” I was still living in Georgia at the time. I think I was out here in California visiting someone and checking stuff out. What’s funny about stuff like that is that you can be in something when you’re really young and you’re barely involved in it, and then a couple of years later, if your name starts to pop up anywhere, you suddenly end up on a movie poster. And people are going, ”Wait, she’s barely even in it!” And you’re, like, ”Yeah, because I was an extra!” [Laughs.] So that’s kind of how that happened. But my first real film was The Girls’ Room.
And that’s what I’d heard, so when I saw The First To Go listed, it was, like, ”Is this even accurate?”
Yeah, and that’s why my answer is ”kind of, yes.” [Laughs.]
Honestly, I wouldn’t even have asked about it, but any film that stars Mark Harmon, Zach Galligan, and Corin Nemec at least seemed like it might be interesting.
It might’ve been if I’d actually worked with any of them! [Laughs.] It’s really funny. I have a hard time even recollecting what it was, but I feel like I was probably some sort of an extra because maybe a friend was involved and said, ”Do you want to know what it’s like to make movies?”
Yeah, your character’s name was just ”Secretary,” so she clearly wasn’t but so well-developed.
Hey, if you know that I played a secretary, then you know more than I do!
With The Girls’ Room, you also had a couple of immediately-recognizable stars: Wil Wheaton and Soleil Moon Frye.
Yes! And I’m still in touch with Wil, who is an amazing human being. I literally just saw Wil and his wife two days ago. That was a real honor and a real trial by fire, because I had seen Wil in Stand by Me, and he’s really a tremendous actor…and now a writer and everything else! So it was very cool, but because it was an indie film, you get one or two takes, and you don’t really get a lot of chances to do a lot of work and explore your character and make all these choices. So getting to work with someone like Wil saves you, because he knows what he’s doing, and the scenes that you’re in with him, you’re, like, ”Okay, I can just kind of go along for the ride on this and trust my instincts that we’re going to be all right!” And that’s basically what happened.
You mentioned your video game work. When you’re recording for a game, is it tedious, exciting, or a combination of the two?
I have to say that I really don’t find anything that I get to do as an actress tedious. From doing commercials to doing video games, I’m always sort of thinking, ”I can’t believe this is my job. It’s really cool, it’s really fun…” The only tedious part sometimes is driving all over the city of Los Angeles, sitting in traffic, because you’re going to an audition here and then you’ve got a session here. These are the moments where you’re going, ”Holy moley, this is not fun!” But the work is always really fun.
Video games, ironically, are some of the most fun, because the stories are the most fleshed-out that you get to work on, you get a lot of dialogue, and — at least in my case, because I usually do lead characters — you have amazing story arcs and development. For instance, if I do a co-star role on a TV show, I’m in my trailer for a large portion of the time, I don’t have a lot of story arc, I kind of come out and do my thing for a few minutes, and that’s exciting and fun, and I love it. But as an actor, you’re not necessarily stretching your acting muscles all that much, whereas with video games, there’s some amazing storylines.
That’s one of the reasons I think some of the games are so popular. You know, shooting things and blowing up things is fun, but it’s also becoming immersed in stories that people really love, and those are the games I love working on and have been blessed to be able to work on. Occasionally, you even get to work with other people, so that’s a lot of fun. Like, on Minecraft: [Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series], we had a couple of sessions where we did stuff with other people, and when I did Metal Gear [Solid: Peace Walker], I got to actually work with Snake. [Laughs.] So that was fun!
You’ve obviously played quite a few characters in the Star Wars universe, but it’s got to be supremely exciting to have played Princess Leia.
Yeah, it was a huge honor. Everybody loves that character. She changed a lot of our lives. I did a panel at one of the cons — I can’t remember which one, it might’ve been actually been at a [Star Wars] Celebration — but it was called ”What Leia Means to Me,” and it was really just the coolest experience. I knew it was going to be a great panel, and I expected it to be all women, but there were a ton of guys who showed up and talked about how the character of Leia had changed their lives…and this is beyond the gold bikini aspect of it! [Laughs.] She’s just such an iconic, cool character. And obviously we were all so saddened to lose Carrie Fisher recently.
In Star Wars Detours — which has not come out yet, but I still continually have hope that it will — I play Leia, and it’s the young Leia, and it’s comedic, and…it’s so funny! It’s Seth Green and those guys, but it’s not like Robot Chicken. It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen. But it’s so smart and funny that I just keep praying that everybody gets to see it, because that is one of my favorite Leia portrayals ever, I must say.
You’ve done a few one-off appearances on various TV series, but the one I feel like I have to ask about is Beverly Hills 90210.
Yeah, that was really early, and that was just super exciting. [Laughs.] Because I religiously watched the show! I think I only worked with women on that, but I feel like Jason Priestley was there, which for a young actress was very exciting!
You also did an episode of a show that’s now kind of obscure, but it’s one I remember watching: Conrad Bloom.
Yeah! Oh, that’s so funny that you ask about that. It’s one of those where, when you’re doing TV shows like that and you’re coming in as a co-star or a guest star, it’s really weird, because every day you do one, it’s like the first day of school, because they’ve all been working together, and they’re either all really good friends or they all hate each other. You can usually tell the moment you walk on the set. So it’s always fun to come in and do something like that, but it’s always scary beyond just the acting aspect of it, because you really are coming in and wondering, ”Are they going to like me? Are they going to be nice to me?” But on Conrad Bloom, I’ll never forget that Mark [Feurerstein], the lead actor on that, rode his bike to the set. And I remember thinking, ”Now that is impressive!” [Laughs.]
Do you have any stories from working on Just Like Heaven?
Just that it was really cool to meet Reese Witherspoon, someone who I admired as an actress and a businesswoman. Ironically, I also made a really good friend on that one. She plays Nurse Maria in the film, and her name is Gabrielle [Made]. She’s another amazing actress, and I’m still in contact with her. So that’s another one of the cool things about this job I feel really grateful for: you work on certain projects and make friends that you keep for life.
Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
Well, one of the ones that surprised me, actually, was an animated series that we did recently for Disney called Club Penguin, which is a franchise that’s extremely popular and has been for years. What I loved about that is that it’s Claymation, and it’s just so lovely. The company doing the work on it was out of England, and we only did three specials, but we thought it was going to be a series, because it was so beautiful to watch and the kids loved it. Also, my fellow cast was just the best cast in the world, and I loved working with them: Fred Tatasciore; Cristina Pucelli, who I work with on The Loud House; James Arnold Taylor, who’s one of my dear, dear, dear friends; Mikey Kelley; and Jason Marsden. It was so good that we were, like, ”This is amazing!“ And then nothing happened. But we did three holiday specials. The only thing I can come up with is that it’s probably just too expensive to make, because some of that stuff for just really takes so much time. But I keep hoping that they’ll bring that back.
Otherwise, I feel like most of the stuff I’ve done, I’ve been happy with how it’s gone over. A lot of things turn out bigger than you think they’re going to be. When I first did Mission Veo in Knights of the Old Republic, I thought it was a teeny, tiny part and had no idea what it was even going to be. So that ended up being bigger than I thought it would be. I think the things that tend to be disappointing tend to be commercials, and it usually ends up having to do with money. The minute someone tells you, ”Oh, man, you’re gonna make a lot of money on this one,” you might as well go, ”And it’s never going to air.” [Laughs.] I have no idea why, but it just happens. It’s so crazy. So anytime anyone says, ”You’re gonna make a lot of money on this one,” I say, ”You shut your mouth!”
Of the characters you’ve played over the years, arguably the best name of the bunch is from Stroker and Hoop: Miss Hoe Cakes.
Yes. Oh, yes. But even that one… I actually use that clip for my demo reel, I love it so much. [With mock haughtiness.] There are no little parts, I always say!
You mentioned this offhandedly a moment ago, but your current voice gig is playing Lori on Nickelodeon’s The Loud House.
Yes! Again, it’s another case of a captain at the helm of a project making it amazing, and that’s Chris Savino, who’s our show creator. He did Kick Buttkowski, and he’s a great writer, a great artist, and the quality of the people that he put in the show is part of what makes it so amazing. It is funny, though, because it’s the #1 kids animated show, so I have all these wonderful fans of Loud House, some of which are adults. A lot of which, because it’s a show that translates for adults. But with the kid fans, I’m always, like, ”How do I post stuff about Haven’s End?”
And I also did this other really cool project this summer called Hail Mary Country that’s going to come out this year, and it’s got guns and some language and all of that stuff. And I’m, like, ”How do I mitigate these two things? I want to talk about this project, but…” Do I need to start putting, ”Loud House fans, check with your parents to make sure you can follow this link to watch this trailer, because I’m not sure how old you are, and there’s some bad language”? [Laughs.] It’s funny to do work that really spans the whole gamut. I’m lucky to be able to do that, but…it makes it interesting!
You know, it’s funny: I noticed that one of your fellow voice actors on Loud House is Grey Griffin. I actually did an interview with her for the site several years ago.
I literally work next to her every Friday. [Laughs.] She’s great. She’s basically been an idol of mine since I started in voice work. She’s amazing and multi-talented, and unlike a lot of things in life, Grey lives up to the hype around her. She’s that talented. And we get to see it every time we work. She’s also very funny, but if you interviewed her, you already know that.
But what’s funny is that she’s a mother, and a lot of us on the show don’t have kids, but we have kids who come in and work on the show, so you’d think that Grey — being one of the mothers – would be the one keeping things kid-friendly. But it’s hysterical, because it’s always Grey who’s got a potentially off-color joke when there’s a kid in the booth, and I’m the one in between them, and I’m looking at the kid, going, ”Take off the headphones! Don’t listen to this!” [Laughs.] So, yeah, she’s a notoriously fun one to have in sessions!
Well, tell her I said ”hello.”
I absolutely will tell her. She just recently had the addition of a beautiful daughter to her family, so she was out for a little bit, but she was there last week, so I expect to see her next week as well, and I will let her know.
Well, before we wrap up, I know we’ve got awhile yet until Haven’s End comes out, but I still wanted to circle back to it, since it’s what brought us here today. How was the overall experience of making it?
As an experience for me, being in a thriller, one which turned out in some ways to be an action-y thriller… I mean, I got to do stunts! I got to do the kind of things that I’d watch in a movie and go, ”It would be so bad-ass to do that one day…” So I was, like, ”Wait, I get to do that?” [Laughs.] And we had the greatest stunt coordinators: Andy Rusk and Jason Kehler. They were just so great. Chris gets a lot of people to work with him because he’s so nice, and people like him. It’s surprising some of the resources he’s able to pull out.
But it was so cold, and we had these long night shoots, and we were doing the stunts outside at night, so there were times when you’d go, ”This is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my life!” And then you’d go, ”This is the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life!” But I think we’re all going to be super proud of it. They’re working on it right now, and I wish it was going to be done tomorrow, because I’m so excited for people to see it, but I think Chris and Michael are thinking it’s going to be in the fall. But I encourage everybody to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates, and I’m sure there’ll be a trailer at some point soon.
Also, one of the other great things about the film — which you’ll get to see when they have a trailer — was the amazing work of our cinematographer Bryan Redding, There were some shots that we got that I was able to see in playback that…it just made me so proud of the people I worked with on this film, and that’s why I can’t wait for everybody to see it.
Yeah, I realize Chris doesn’t have a huge budget to work with, but there are definitely moments where you can’t tell.
Yeah, and that’s what’s I’m talking about with some of these shots that Bryan got. That’s what’s crazy. As an actor, you feel the budget because, like I said, the shooting schedule is so tight, so you only get one or two takes. That’s why it’s also really important that Chris puts together a cast that’s good, because the only reason that you get extra takes on films like this is usually because either there was a technical glitch or…because you really suck. [Laughs.] No, I’m kidding! Chris is great, because he’ll always be, like, ”Okay, if you want to do something else, we can, but…” If he’s happy, though, you’re usually, like, ”No, that’s okay!” The pacing of it makes it move quickly, but he puts together such good people with such good attitudes about everything that even in the cold and the rain and with the long days, everybody’s just excited to be there. And I think that’s going to show on the screen. It has the look of quality.
So, yeah, I think we’ve put together something really cool, especially for people who enjoy this end-of-the-world thriller genre. They can be cheesy and they can be over the top, but I think this is going to be a great version of that genre, it’s a great story, and I just think people are really going to enjoy it.
The producers of Haven’s End have high hopes that the film will see release sometime in the back half of 2017, but, hey, it’s never too early to get the buzz going, right? So if you like what you’ve just read about it – and the folks who put their blood, sweat, and tears into it really hope that you do – then you can keep tabs on the film by following Haven’s End on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Instagram.