Rhona Rees is one of those people that you can’t help but be drawn to. She has an amazing presence both on the screen and behind the scenes which makes her a real deadly combo when it comes to the acting game. She’s worked in front of the camera on projects like Netflix’s Wu Assassins, Lifetime’s Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story, and Hallmark’s Mystery 101: Words Can Kill. Rhona is also well known for her voice work which includes Netflix’s The Dragon Prince as the voice of Nyx, Marvel’s Absolute Carnage, and Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Let’s get to her interview and learn more about this tour de force!
DFAT: You started your career as a child actor, what was it like acting at age 11?
Rhona: I loved every second of it. I had been itching to be an actor from a very young age, so when I booked my first gig I was so excited. You know that incredible little kid excitement where you’re sure they’re going to jump out of their own skin? Like that. Because I was new to it, everything was fascinating. Wardrobe fittings? A thrill! Hair and makeup? Joyful! On-set tutoring? Super fun! Actually come to think of it, I still love everything about being on set.
Although I was young and very green, I took my job very seriously. I watched and listened to everything going on around me instead of goofing off between takes, and always showed up prepared. I’m proud that little me had such a great work ethic, it really set me up for a wonderful career.
DFAT: That’s fantastic that you realized that work ethic at such a young age! Also, when is wacky-sack making its comeback? Oh that all rhymed! What’s one of your favorite moments from your early days of acting?
Rhona: When I was about 13. I had a ten episode arc on the fourth season of a show called Ocean Girl. It was this fantastic children’s drama about a teen mermaid/alien who makes friends with kids who lived on a marine research base. I was a huge fan of the show already so joining the cast was extra special. I got to play an evil alien spy, and film scenes underwater! I got trained in the ‘Ocean Girl Swim’ technique and worked on my lung capacity so I could hold my breath long enough to perform the required sequences. As if that wasn’t cool enough, they also flew me from my hometown of Melbourne to Port Douglas to shoot on the gorgeous tropical beaches there. The timing worked out so they needed me at the start and end of my school break, so instead of flying me back and forth, they agreed to fly my big sister up to look after me and have a vacation instead! It was so fun…I was 13 and she was 22 and we were thrifty enough to share my per diem and still have enough spending money to buy matching t-shirts!
DFAT: Everything that you just said. First, I’m tracking down this show because it sounds just bonkers. Second, who doesn’t like matching sibling t-shirts!? How did you transition to voice acting?
Rhona: I think I had a good reputation for being very professional from a young age, and I had experience on the microphone from doing ADR from my on-camera work. So I booked a few commercials as a kid and never looked back. My unique voice print has booked me a lot of commercial work over the years but it wasn’t until I moved to North America that my animation career really started to flourish. I took classes at On The Mic Training (the school where I now teach) and made a demo. It was a slow start with some indie and guest role bookings before I booked the role of Bev in Littlest Pet Shop: A World of Our Own. From there I’ve been fortunate to work on lots of super fun projects like Polly Pocket, Mega Man: Fully Charged, Lego Elves, Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu and season three of The Dragon Prince, which just dropped on Netflix.
DFAT: Really loved your role on the latest season of The Dragon Prince! That sounds super fun. What’s been one of your favorite characters to come up with?
Rhona: That’s tough – I love them all! I remember reading the breakdown for Nyx, my character in The Dragon Prince – it said something like “if Han Solo was a winged elf’. How cool is that? I just saw her episodes and her design is stunning. In the animation world I’ve had the pleasure of being a bounty hunter with a jetpack, the guardian of light who can transform into a wolf and an eagle, and a prank-loving robot who moves at lightning speed. Oh to be half as cool as my characters!
DFAT: Its great that you’ve been able to take on so many broad roles in voice acting as well, shows off your range. Do find it’s easier to be in front of the camera or behind it in a booth?
Rhona: I love my job so much that I don’t really think about the difficulty of it. Any day I get to work is a good day! Voice is probably a little simpler because although you have to prep your scripts you don’t have to be off book, and the hours are shorter. No one is pulling a 12 hour day in the booth, but that’s standard on set. I also like that no one cares what I look like in the voice over world, they just care about my performance. I’m never too tall, too fat, too brunette, too old or too young…it’s just all about that sound.
DFAT: Well, from what we’ve heard of your work, you SOUND like you’re the person for the job! You were recently nominated for a Voice Arts Award for your performance as ‘Bev Gilturtle’ in Hasbro’s “Littlest Pet Shop: A World of Our Own”. What was it like receiving the announcement on your nomination?
Rhona: It was quite a shock! I submitted myself at the start of the year and forgot about it, so I did a total double take when I received the nomination email. Then I got very excited! My Dad was visiting from Australia when I got the good news so it was lovely to be able to share that with him in person. Sometimes the importance of things gets lost in a sea of messages on the family Whatsapp chat! He was extremely proud and we popped some prosecco that night to celebrate! To be included in a pool of nominees including Tom Hanks, Kit Harrington and Kristen Wiig was such an honour, and kind of surreal!
DFAT: I can only imagine. Would have loved to see what the after party to that event was like. What would be a dream role either in front of the role or in the voice over booth?
Rhona: In the booth I’d love to voice a Disney Princess! Maybe I’ll be the first Aussie princess…but princess of what exactly? Someone call Disney and tell them we need an Aussie princess. The BBQ princess? OK no-one steal that, I’m working on an outline now! In terms of on-camera I know there’s a Lord of the Rings TV series in the works. If Dad was proud of my SOVAS nomination, he’d lose his mind if I got on that show, he read me the book series when I was young. I mean…I’ve played two elves in animation, surely that’s good work experience? Move over Blanchett, there’s a new elf in town!
DFAT: Hahaha, okay let’s see this BBQ Princess, STAT! Who’s a character you’d love to voice but haven’t yet?
Rhona: I’m also a writer, and I’ve experienced the creative joy and satisfaction of bringing my own words to life on camera, but never in the booth. I’m developing an animated series at the moment and it would be so wonderful to get to bring one of my own characters to life as a voice actor!
DFAT: Oooh, you’re gonna have to tell us all about this series next time we talk with you, we’re intrigued. Let’s switch to an even more geeky side of things. What superhero would you play in front of or behind the screen, and why?
Rhona: Ok full disclosure, I just googled female superheroes so I could come up with an interesting answer…and HOLY COW THERE IS A CHARACTER CALLED SQUIRREL GIRL! And now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and consume ALL THE SQUIRREL GIRL THINGS. How did I not know about this bushy-tailed beauty before? She has ‘squirrel-related powers’…it’s too much! If I can play her and the BBQ Princess I can happily retire!
DFAT: Oh my cats that’s the best answer! We could TOTALLY hear you as the voice of Squirrel Girl! What advice would you give to other actors out there that you wish you would have received sooner?
Rhona: Go and work in a casting office, or volunteer to read for indie projects. It will demystify the process and teach you how utterly subjective our business is. I work as a reader in Vancouver and it has really allowed me to let go of my attachment to booking roles. There are so many factors that influence casting – you can give a heartbreakingly good performance, but if you look too similar to the lead you’re not going to get the job. All you can do is give 100% and then as Elsa would say ‘let it go’, or as the BBQ Princess would say “throw another shrimp on the barbie”…OK, I’ll keep workshopping her catchphrase!
DFAT: I think you’re off to a great start with the catchphrase and looking forward to seeing the BBQ Princess come to life!
Rhona has been just an amazing person to talk to and we appreciate her taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us here at DFAT. You can find her on all the Social Medias including Twitter and Instagram. We can’t wait to see what she’s going to be up to next!