Hello hello Redditors!

As per this thread, it seems as though there's some interest in having me do an IAmA, so here I am! Ask away, buckos. :)

As for verification, I posted an update on my Facebook page; hopefully that will suffice, but if not, let me know and I'll think of something else.


Edit: Oh. Apparently Reddit doesn't like HTML tags. Who knew. Fixed!

Edited Edit: Gang, I'm going to take a break for a few, so I can drive over to Craig Bartlett's top-secret bungalow and get an assist on some of these questions! :) Be back soon!

So Many Edits: Back, with Craig!

Better Verification: Picture with Craig!

Oh Look, Another Edit: ...and we're back! Sorry for the unexpected hiatus, there, folks; my computer crashed while I was at Craig's. We chatted for a bit and I've just now made it home, but it looks like the questions are dwindling anyway. I'll be around for a little while if you have anything else for me to answer, and then I'm off to dance the night away.

I'm indescribably touched to see the outpouring of response here; I'm actually pretty stunned we hit first on the front page for a while there. At risk of cheesing things up in here...it means a lot, and fills me with warm fuzzies. Moreover, I think Reddit is awesome, so I'm particularly psyched to get this kind of feedback in this forum (and it's very cool to feel like I'm contributing something to you all as well). So for this, and all the phenomenal support, feedback, and care that you've shown us throughout the years...thanks, sincerely. We couldn't have done it without you.

Now go out, be smart, be kind, be noble, and do something awesome! :)

Comments: 1046 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

sleazy352 karma

Everytime I go to Starbucks I use a different name. One day I said my name was Arnold. This is what she wrote:


francesca_smith222 karma


SproutandtheBean338 karma

Your IMDB just blew my mind. You were Upside Down Girl, too!?!?

francesca_smith458 karma

I was a whole bunch of folks on Recess, yup. :) There was a lot of cast and crew crossover between the shows.

SproutandtheBean40 karma

No wonder I always liked that show...

sje46434 karma

Both the shows focused on making children seem like adults with their own community quite independent from the actual adults. A lot of kids have different roles, almost reminiscent of tribal societies. For example, you have Gerald who is the keeper of urban myths. And for Recess you have people like King Bob. In both shows the main characters have rivalries with different grades...Hey Arnold had the bullysome sixth graders, while Recess had...the fifth graders, I think?

Primitive societies with their own mythologies and roles and group rivalries. Recess definitely played this up a lot more than Hey Arnold...it was pretty much where most of the humor came from. Hey Arnold had more adults and was more archetype based (for example, one bully, one nerd, one cool kid, etc) but it started the idea of mythology and more absurd characters like Stoop Kid and Chocolate Boy. Recess picked this concept up and ran with it (remember Swinger Girl? The Ashleys?)

I can't recall a children's show before Hey Arnold that had this concept. You had Rugrats which had babies acting like adults, but they almost never played up the "baby society" aspect.

Basically, Recess is the natural successor of Hey Arnold because of the focus on an independent childhood society, a concept Hey Arnold basically invented.

francesca_smith150 karma

Super insightful!

waterfaucet217 karma

Were you obsessed with the voice actor of Arnold and if so did it help you get into character?

francesca_smith271 karma

We were good friends, but I'd hardly say I was obsessed. ;)

Drijidible186 karma

Don't lie. I bet you still have your Craig Bartlett shrine.

francesca_smith281 karma

Who doesn't?

KibblesnBitts85 karma

Weren't there four actors who voiced Arnold throughout the series run?

francesca_smith178 karma

At least. Depends on how you're counting. :) I want to say I worked with a total of 6 or 7, between the pilot, show, and auditions/test runs.

Retell83 karma

Why was it so hard to retain a consistent voice actor? Because of this, does that mean you were paid more than the Arnold actor?

francesca_smith242 karma

Puberty. :/ Voices change.

Retell36 karma

Was it at all considered of using a female as the voice of Arnold? Similar to most of the male kids on the simpsons. Also were you a fan of The Simpsons? What was it like working with Dan and Tress?

francesca_smith77 karma

Answered most of this elsewhere, but useful TIL-fodder here: Did you know that Matt Groening is Craig's brother-in-law? Craig's married to Lisa. So, as a result, our shows definitely a sort of familial bond.

Shirpa203 karma

Nothing to ask, just wanted to say that the episode with the Carmen spoof is one of my favorite cartoon episodes of my childhood. Thanks for the entertainment!

francesca_smith179 karma

Thanks! I loved doing it. Still get the songs stuck in my head.

Shirpa65 karma

So do I, such as right now! I went to see an actual performance of Carmen, and all I can hear is "The south of France!" in my head when they performed the song.

Gredelston59 karma

You too? I always get the "Ruth is a loser, how could you choose her," etc. part stuck in my head, like all the time.

francesca_smith184 karma

"Check out my cuspidor! I'm what you're looking for...Helga won't you dump this guy and come to my bullFIGHTS!" "Hmm...bullfights eh?" "Bullfights and sword fights, rolling in manure! Blows to the head (ding) I can endure! Fighting bulls is all I want in life, plus I could use a wiiiiiife! And several pairs of tights! In shades of bluuuuue! Helga please say I doooooo!"

...why is this still in my memory...

bbj0lty188 karma

i'm just picturing helga on the other end of the computer answering these questions with her arnold shrine made of gum beside her.

francesca_smith297 karma

That is, in fact, precisely what I look like.

HughMility92 karma

Do you still talk to any of the cast? How old were you when you were doing it? Were you famous around your area from it? Is that your regular voice, if not, how did you find that one in specific? How were you hired? Do you do other voice work? ..Thanks :)

francesca_smith140 karma

I do! Most of us are at the very least friends on Facebook. I believe my first audition was when I was about 8, I was 9 when I did the pilot, and then did the majority of the show between about 10-17. I'm not totally sure about the "famous around your area" question...could you elaborate? I've always said that Helga's voice is my own, but her attitudes and emotions, as well as the things she says, are so different from the way in which I normally conduct myself that you might think of it as a different voice altogether. So, Helga really is just a specific part of me...as with most of my acting, I consider the personality and emotions first, and the voice usually emerges fairly organically from that (with some exceptions, of course; some really cartoony projects ask for a fairly specific-sounding voice that you want to accommodate). I was hired as one would be for any other V/O job: My agent called me in and had me do an audition, the casting team liked the audition and called me in for a callback, and (I think we only had one round of callbacks for HA!) they hired me. :) I've done quite a bit of voice work...my IMDB page has a relatively complete list: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0808216/

sje4697 karma

Holy crap...I assumed you were forty years old or something. I didn't realize that the voice actors for Hey Arnold were actually kids themselves. That kinda blows my mind. Your voice didn't change at all?

francesca_smith90 karma

That was one of the things that helped make HA! particularly distinct among cartoon shows.

My voice changed a bit over the 8 years or so, but not noticeably enough to cause a real problem. I think what you're more likely to notice is that the character evolved over the course of the show, and sounded a bit more nuanced and mature as a result...all of the main characters did, to some extent, I think.

HughMility39 karma

Thanks for the quick and very in depth answers! It's awesome to hear all this stuff after growing up watching the show :) By famous in your area, I meant did kids you went to school with know who you were and that sort of thing. Congratulations on everything :D

francesca_smith101 karma

Ahh. Well, I was homeschooled, so a lot of the people I spent time with were already in the industry and knew. When I ventured out into the "real world," I would get mixed reactions (even today, people occasionally do weird things with what they perceive as "fame"...it's hard for them to see you as a real person, and that can manifest itself as mockery/derision or idolizing, neither of which are particularly fun). I would say that the balance of people being cool about it was...not fantastic when I was younger. ;) However, I didn't get recognized much, which probably made things easier. My brother was also a Nickelodeon actor, though he was on a live-action show ("The Secret World of Alex Mack"), so sometimes family outings would be...awkward.

[deleted]61 karma

I loved Alex Mack! Who was he?

francesca_smith66 karma

Louis Driscoll. :)

Zohmbi79 karma

Spell "qualm."

francesca_smith111 karma


reuvenb78 karma

Did you really punch that guy in the face?

francesca_smith160 karma

Depends on who's asking. <_<

reuvenb37 karma

How old were you when you did the show?

francesca_smith115 karma

Answered elsecomment.

metwpost77 karma

Wouldn't it have been easier to type two digits here for this poor soul than spell out "Answered elsecomment"? :P

Peanut2232138 karma

But then I wouldn't have been introduced to the term "elsecomment".

francesca_smith189 karma

Exactly. My mission is thus rendered successful.

francesca_smith67 karma

Read the elsecomment; the answer is a bit more complicated than two digits! :)

bowlnoodlez71 karma

If somehow, somewhere Craig Bartlett was able to actually make "The Jungle Movie", would you be interested in retaking the role and having every Hey Arnold fan die in happiness?

francesca_smith91 karma

Of course. Although I'm not sure I'd agree that such an event would result in "having every Hey Arnold fan die in happiness"...

[deleted]64 karma

How many seasons did you do? What was the production schedule like as a voice actor? Were the voices recorded all together like in the Futurama movies?

francesca_smith134 karma

I voiced Helga for the full run of the show, if that's what you mean? The production schedule, if memory serves, required me to come in once (sometimes more) a week for several hours to do an 11-minute episode. Then it was usually something like a six-month turnaround to get the animation back, at which point we'd do any necessary ADR. All the actors recorded together as much as possible; this way of doing things wasn't all that common in my experience in voice-over work (I'd say maybe half the shows I did recorded this way?), but I felt it made a huge difference.

Toastradamus63 karma

By some insane coincidence, I came upon this while watching Season Five of "Hey Arnold!" I just wanted to tell you that I am a huge fan of the show, which was (and I guess still is) a staple of my childhood nostalgia.

What was your favorite episode, or storyline, or type of episode? What was it like working with some of the other actors, like Dan Castellaneta, Tress MacNeille, or Maurice LaMarche?

francesca_smith95 karma

Thanks for saying so! :)

I'm not really one for favorites, although I have some particularly fantastic memories from the opera episode, the Christmas episode, "Helga on the Couch," and the R+J episode (particularly because I got to work with Tim Curry). The movie was also lots of fun, and I remember being really excited to meet Christopher Lloyd.

Dan, Tress, and Maurice are all truly fantastic people, in addition to being remarkable talent. Grandpa and I didn't have many scenes together, so I didn't work with Dan as much as I would've liked, but whenever I saw him I was always impressed. I remember asking him to do the Homer voice once or twice, and he would always modestly comply (such good humor; I'm sure he was asked an insane number of times)...I was always stunned to hear THAT voice come out of Dan, because it doesn't sound anything like how he looks. Tress was a real character; she and I worked together on several projects. Maurice was probably the closest to me, because we did the most together on the show; aside from having a seemingly endless supply of wit, professionalism, and truly amazing voices (all very different, fully fleshed out, entertaining...), Maurice is probably one of the friendliest people I ever worked with. No matter where I saw him, or how long it had been, he always wanted to know how I was, what was going on, and so on. I want to also throw a shout-out to the inimitable Kath Soucie, who played my mom on HA! (and I think at least one other show...we worked together a decent amount). Similarly, unbelievably talented, but also so truly nice. I was really lucky to be surrounded by such an inspiring, but also kind and supportive, cast.

rampantdissonance63 karma

Can we get a voice clip of you saying, "Move it, Football Head!"

francesca_smith108 karma

Streaming on Netflix and all over YouTube... ;) Does the world REALLY need more? </rhetorical question...no need to answer...really...>

PandaBearShenyu123 karma

Hey Arnold is on NETFLIX?!

I... I'll be back.

francesca_smith243 karma

The great thing is that my Netflix account used to tell me I was less likely to enjoy HA! than the average Netflix user.

ProbablyHittingOnYou39 karma

Follow up: do you get tired of people asking you to do Helga impressions?

[deleted]49 karma


francesca_smith61 karma

Hahaha. You know, it was a little rough for a while there (my favorite version of this question: "Can you talk Helga?"), but I've actually managed to avoid "talking Helga" for several years now. ;)

RageComicConnoisseur328 karma

Helga motherfucker,

Do you speak it?

francesca_smith52 karma

Congratulations. Screenshot of this is now my Facebook profile picture.

francesca_smith44 karma

This is STILL making me LOL. Well played, good person.

francesca_smith62 karma

As a heads up, Reddit appears to have nommed several of my replies! :(

bowltron500062 karma

Was the voice actor of Gerald as cool as I always imagined him/her to be?

francesca_smith100 karma

Exactly as cool.

meatballsack43 karma

people my age are incredibly nostalgic about nicktoons, and curse current cartoons as nonsensical, over-sensory, immature fart-joke fests.

Having worked with writers and being involved in nicktoons first-hand, do you think we are wearing nostalgia glasses, or have cartoons lost a fundamental surreal goodness?

francesca_smith62 karma

Another reply from Craig, paraphrased:

In some ways, we were in a golden age of animation, and we're in another one now, in large part facilitated by all the new technological possibilities. That said, though, there was something particularly organic, subtle, nuanced about the kinds of storytelling we were able to do...it almost felt like an indie film or a single-camera labor of love from some youngster. That sort of storytelling seems to be much less en vogue today; that's not to say that there aren't really fantastic things being done now, but the storytelling is a bit different, and at this point, we probably couldn't get away with what we were trying to do then.

jazzguitarboy43 karma

I absolutely love the "Simple Things" song that Randy Travis did in the episode where Mr. Hyunh became a country singer. Any interesting backstory behind the song?

francesca_smith29 karma

Not that I recall...but I really love it, too. :)

[deleted]42 karma

Hiya. Huge fan of the show.

  1. Do you pronounce your name Fran-CHES-ka or Fran-CESS-ka?
  2. How'd you wind up getting the role of Helga?
  3. What was working as a voice actress at such a young age like?
  4. What was a typical day at the studio like?
  5. What's your favorite episode? Second favorite? Do you have a favorite scene?
  6. Which episode did you enjoy working on the most?
  7. Who's your favorite character other than Helga?
  8. Which of Jim Lang's compositions did you enjoy listening to the most?
  9. Is there a particular piece of Hey Arnold! fanart that you like most?
  10. Did Helga's personality/outlook on life, to some extent, rub off on you?
  11. Was Helga's life/personality at all reflective of your own?
  12. Did you play a role in shaping Helga's life/personality, or was this left entirely up to Craig and the other writers?
  13. How did you feel about the possibility of Helga receiving her own spin-off?
  14. Do you still work as a(n) actress/voice actress? Have you worked on anything recently?
  15. Were you behind the plot of any of the episodes (or perhaps certain scenes within an episode)? Which ones?
  16. Which writer is responsible for coming up with all of Helga's poetic soliloquies?
  17. How frequently are you recognized by fans of the show?
  18. Have you ever felt unrequited love for another?

Edit: Feel free to skip the ones you've already answered.

francesca_smith78 karma

  1. Fran-CHES-ka, the traditional Italian way. Thanks for asking! :)
  2. Answered!
  3. I thought it was fantastic.
  4. Depends on the show, but for HA!, I'd usually have a script messengered to me the day before I was to record. Then on the day, I'd come in in the early afternoon, and we'd go through the scenes one by one. Usually we'd do a whole scene at a time, with all the actors in the scene recording together (we had moveable walls up between the microphones to dampen noise, although sometimes we could reconfigure the room to see each other, or two actors might share one microphone). Based on schedules, sometimes we couldn't record together, in which case we could have a crew member read the lines of the missing actor, or record individual lines. Craig would note which takes he liked for the editors to do their thing later; sometimes we'd go back and pick up individual lines or sections, often getting three in a row. When it wasn't my scene, I would either sit in the booth with Craig and everyone else working that day, or hang out in the green room with my mom (or dad), the other actors, and the on-set teacher. Because of my homeschooling, I didn't usually have to do schoolwork while I was working, although sometimes I'd have to, supervised by the teacher (the one we had for most of HA! was super cool).
  5. Answered!
  6. Answered!
  7. Ooo, tough choice. They all have their strong points. I do have a special affinity for all the Patakis, though; I think they all have a lot going on, and the actors really fleshed out those nuances nicely.
  8. The Christmas music was amazing, as was the theme song, but of course I tend to remember the songs we sang a little bit more...the opera stuff, the Randy Travis song, the Davey Jones song...I also got to watch him record the orchestra for the movie score, which was phenomenal.
  9. Not THAT much comes my way. Feel fere to share!
  10. I'd say the influence was mutual...
  11. Answered to some degree elsewhere; she's definitely a part of me.
  12. Answered!
  13. Would've been fantastic! Shame it never happened. Although, in some ways, I'm okay with the show being wrapped up as it was.
  14. Not really. I've been pretty busy with academic projects (see elsewhere). I'll still come in and audition now and again if people request me, but nothing's really fit. I may start doing more behind-the-scenes stuff, though; I actually just started talking to Jorge Cham from PhD comics about working with him on his upcoming live-action film.
  15. Hmmmmm. I know there were some inside jokes in there, but I really don't remember about plots... :/
  16. I think it was a collaborative effort. ;)
  17. Pretty much never. Sometimes people find out (or "out" me), but almost never just recognize me by my voice or face.
  18. Of course...but haven't we all?

[deleted]27 karma

Awesome! Thanks a bunch for taking the time to host this AMA. Also, as far as fanart goes, there's a pretty passionate Helga Pataki fan on deviantart known as bloochikin. I'm sure you'll love her stuff. http://bloochikin.deviantart.com/gallery/25184593

francesca_smith17 karma

Checking it out now, thanks! :) Craig and I used to share some of it early on, but I haven't come across too much of it lately.

francesca_smith28 karma

I should also note that I'm super interested in fan practices (that's one of the big things my USC advisor, Henry Jenkins, studies...he did a lot of work with Star Trek fandoms, and now focuses on Harry Potter). So, really, things like fanart and even this IAmA are fascinating research projects for me! :) Along those lines, I welcome any insight into your experiences with fandom...

doctorlamp31 karma

What have you been up to since HA! ended in '04?

francesca_smith173 karma

Well, that year I became heavily involved in speech and debate, then transferred to Stanford. I got an honors degree in linguistics with a minor in drama (concentration in dance), and furthered my experiences as a social/ballroom dancer, teaching more and more. While at Stanford, I lived abroad in Italy for a brief time, did a very cool conference and gender and language in England, and wrote my thesis on morality in entertainment, focusing particularly on Cosmopolitan magazine. After that, I was offered a scholarship to get my master's in communication at Pepperdine while helping to coach their speech and debate team. I was also selected to represent the U.S. on an international debate tour, so was flown with my partner to the UK for a month and had some very cool experiences there, debating in front of some total rock stars in some amazing places (Oxford, Cambridge, U.S. Embassy, etc.), but also teaching workshops and competing a bit. I finished up at Pepperdine and applied for the Rhodes Scholarship; made it to the final round, too. :) Became an adjunct professor at Pepperdine during that year, teaching the required public speaking and rhetorical criticism course. Now, I'm a Provost's Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, getting my PhD, which means I teach, research, and take courses for a few years so that everyone can call me "Doctor." :D I also still dance actively, and teach social dance whenever I can.

thedoge53 karma

Ever bust out the Helga voice during a debate?

francesca_smith21 karma

I'm SURE I must have...but only on accident; dangerous side effect of getting too worked up. :)

vivalavi20 karma


francesca_smith21 karma

Thanks for saying so! And I'm glad to know that we contributed to your collegiate experience in some way...sounds like a positive one. :)

Dream_Of_Unity31 karma

What's Arnold's last name?

What does the G stand for in Helga G. Pataki? I kinda felt like it was on homage to Sanford and Son where he would always just say G was his middle initial but never say what it stood for.

MoreBobblePlease28 karma

Helga's middle name is Geraldine, I think... of which I was always jealous

francesca_smith99 karma

Geraldine indeed, an homage to Gerry Laybourne, then a major exec for Nick, before she went off to found Oxygen.

giai30 karma

First of all, thank you so much for being apart of my kick-ass childhood. Second of all, what was your favorite show, besides HA!, that was on Nick during the 90's? Did you get to meet the producers/voice actors of those shows, what are they like?

francesca_smith67 karma

You're quite welcome!

I remember meeting Billy West who did, like, everything on "Doug," both Ren and Stimpy, and Fry on "Futurama"...he's just generally a rock star. I also met Carlos Alazraqui (Rocko) fairly early on, and I knew most of the Rugrats. I knew the Wild Thornberrys as well, I believe. We were all a pretty close-knit group in the V/O industry, and I met a lot of other Nick people through work or Nick parties (I was on "The Amanda Show" a couple of times, as well as "The Secret World of Alex Mack," which my brother was on). I'm not sure I could pick favorites (and it was actually kind of hard for me to watch shows, especially cartoons, where I knew people involved...the whole "suspension of disbelief thing"), but I watched "Doug," and some of the earlier shows too, like "David the Gnome" and "Maya the Bee" (particularly when I was sick!). As for what everyone's like...well, you know, it's just like any other group of people: Everyone's different. :) I will say, though, that V/O folks are a particularly interesting group, because they're usually extremely talented and versatile; you have to pour a lot more nuance and theatricality into a V/O performance, since you can't control facial expressions, body language, and other elements, and even the animated facial expressions tend to not be as nuanced as a person's face would be. So, we're a somewhat crazy bunch as a result (less limited in range of possible characters, plus the characters we play are often particularly zany, and very different from our normal selves), but we also fly a little bit under the radar (it's not a normal sense of "fame" because we rarely get recognized).

SnakeCarnifex7 karma

David the Gnome....man...that brings me back big time. What a fantastical show. I still remember the three trolls.

francesca_smith10 karma

WOO I DIDN'T IMAGINE IT! Nobody else seems to remember this show...

VonnegutAsterisk25 karma

Did you keep an idol made of gum of the person who did Arnold's voice in your closet? You know, for character acting techniques.

K_Loggins52 karma

you asshole.

edit: referring to the username... to non-Vonnegut fans, I sound like the asshole.

francesca_smith62 karma

I was wondering why you felt so strongly about gum idols, yet was nevertheless appreciative of your defending my honor.

Oh well. ;)

francesca_smith40 karma

Sadly, not quite that committed to method (acting)...

[deleted]23 karma


francesca_smith98 karma

That's the best proposal you've got?

irishwhiterussian22 karma

... I want to marry you, maybe.

francesca_smith60 karma

Thank you, potentially?

jimjimmijmij22 karma

Did you have any input as to the direction of an episode? Or did you just read what you were told?

francesca_smith55 karma

Well, this was something like a decade ago, so my interpretation may be wildly skewed...but in my version of the story, one of my favorite parts of the HA! experience was how involved the creative team made me feel. Now, I'm not too comfortable asserting with any confidence how much that feeling of involvement actually played out in the booth (i.e., how much my ideas really mattered...I realize that I may well be hanging onto some wildly inaccurate, ego-fueled fantasy of the past), but I always felt like it was a conversation in which I contributed opinions/ad-libbed lines as necessary, and my contributions were respected. That meant a lot to me.

francesca_smith29 karma

Got a great take on this from Craig:

Since we didn't have a chance to rehearse, the recording sessions really wound up like workshops. We had a couple hundred shots at making stories about these kids, so we would experiment and learn as we went. Particularly with Helga, we used this opportunity to figure out what worked...in particular, according to Craig, they'd use the sessions/scripts to figure out what I could do, and what really worked for me. Perfect example: the gum shrine. That was sort of a risk...we tried it out in Episode 3A, and it was not exactly in line with what kids' shows normally did...but it really worked. People really resonated with it.

So, our show was really a collaboration across writers, actors, artists, and everyone else, to a degree that's really pretty spectacular and not often seen...almost felt like a really tightly knit acting troupe.

[deleted]21 karma

Just wanted to say that you're awesome and I loved reading this!

francesca_smith27 karma

Thanks for saying so! :) It's been fun.

K_Loggins21 karma

If helga were an actual person, what would she be doing today?

francesca_smith75 karma

There's a pretty good summary floating around the interwebs somewhere of how we saw Helga's future in the never-produced spinoff ("The Patakis"). By now, she'd probably be in college...she was very smart, but also edgy and moody by nature. I would imagine that her torment over Arnold would probably be little more than a bittersweet twinge every now and again, but that passion has probably been channeled elsewhere; I imagine art and social justice. I wouldn't be surprised if she were also a ferocious forensics competitor. ;)

23g18 karma

Were/are you friends with the voice actor of Phoebe?

francesca_smith26 karma

I think Anndi and I worked on more projects together than we didn't, if that makes sense. ;) I'm not sure I went more than a week without seeing her during that period of my life!

thefatguy18 karma

What is your favorite type of cookie?

francesca_smith56 karma

Toffee with chocolate chips. Obsessed with the Heath baking bits. Use the regular Tollhouse cookie recipe, but just use a mix of toffee bits and chocolate chips instead of only chocolate chips. Amaaaaazing.

helloterence18 karma

Have you ever worn a large pink bow in your hair like Helga does in the show?

francesca_smith51 karma

Oh definitely. I was totally that girl, especially in Montessori. Big, flouncy bows with ribbons, and lots of neon. I also didn't cut my hair until I was about 14, so I had this crazy mane of ringlets.

P.S. I initially typoed that as "crazy man of ringlets." You're welcome for the visual.

bmwracer013 karma

Thank you for working on an amazing show from my childhood.

What would you like to do in the future?

francesca_smith26 karma

Well, building off the post currently above yours, I'm getting my PhD right now in communication. I love teaching (have been teaching in one way or another for over ten years, actually), so I can't imagine I'll ever give that up; my guess would be I'll be teaching some combination of dance, communication, and forensics for the rest of my life. I love performing, so I'll have to see how that part of my personality gets fulfilled; my guess would be I'll keep dancing, and maybe competing in ballroom/social dance, and acting here and there when particularly tempting opportunities come up. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to make the world a better place, though...in a lot of ways, HA! was a special opportunity in which to do so, and I do miss that. It's pretty common for folks in my department to teach primarily, but also consult, and I would imagine that this applied work will end up being very important to me as another way to improve the world around me, perhaps at an even larger scale than I'm allowed as a professor. To this end, I could imagine consulting for the entertainment industry, or a company like Google, or governmental agencies; right now, I'm primarily writing about (dis)ability, and am toying with the idea of trying to work with Glee (specifically focusing on the Artie character and the intersection of dance and ability).

K_Loggins13 karma

What are your favorite subreddits? Are you a lurker or do you comment etc?

francesca_smith42 karma

I lurk. This is my only account, although I may make another one so I can comment; just haven't had anything pressing to say as of yet. I primarily read the first couple of pages; my closest friends were linking me to material they'd gotten from here so often that I figured I might as well go straight to the source. I'm a fan of the funny things (I definitely spent my birthday gleefully doing the fork in the garbage disposal dance in front of everyone who would watch), but I also get a lot of valuable news material here, including some great stuff for the class I'm TAing right now at USC. I'd also love to see more IAmAs!

Shagmire10 karma

How do you tune your voice to the character? I mean do you get a character synopsis first or do you find the voice after actually seeing what the character looks like? Thanks

francesca_smith18 karma

I've noticed that it's more common now for casting directors to include sketches of the character with the audition materials, but that wasn't always the case. It also depends on whether you're auditioning with your agent or some other technician who sends the recording on, or whether you're working with the creative team. In the latter cases, it's easier for them to nudge you in one direction or another so you can best match the vision they have in their head.

FLEABttn9 karma

Top 3 favorite movies?

What about top 3 career influences?

francesca_smith26 karma

You know, these are really tough questions for me! I suppose as a performer I should be prepared to answer them, but I'm really not...it's generally impossible for me to pick favorites. The other thing is that I'm really affected by movies, such that the ones that hit me hardest are actually almost painful for me to watch again. So, I'd say "Gattaca" was one of my favorite movies, but I haven't watched it in years...same with "AI" (don't laugh!) and the Batman movies (I'm a huge Batman fan). I'm a sucker for classic Disney ("Lady and the Tramp," "The Sword in the Stone"), and your usual stock of '80s favorites ("The Neverending Story," etc.). I've really been enjoying more science fiction lately, though (adored "9"), really loved "The Prestige"...and I've always been big on musicals, both the more modern ones ("Moulin Rouge") and the Bing Crosby or Fred Astaire classics, which I was only introduced to recently, but have really been inspiring me (particularly as a dancer).

It's hard to pick career influences because I was so young when I started; honestly, my brother was my biggest influence. I didn't really have a rich theatrical background to draw from when I first started out. So, y'know...just insert your own list of appropriately respectable and oft-cited cinematic influences here. ;) At this point, though, I'll admit that my career is more influenced by my advisors, who are doing fantastic things merging academia with industry...Henry Jenkins, in particular, is completely amazing (and recently named one of the "top ten thinkers in technology"!), as are Tom Hollihan, Larry Gross, and everybody else I'm working with at USC, not to mention my master's advisor (Gary Selby at Pepperdine). One of my Stanford professors also went to great lengths to inspire me, for which I'll always be grateful (Isabelle Buchstaller), and my forensics coaches were also unbelievably influential. And, of course, my folks and Craig...but now this just sounds like an acceptance speech, and I'm SURE I've forgotten someone...

searine8 karma

How did you first get into voice acting? Did working on the show interfere with "normal life"? The show has a "New York" vibe, were you able to relate to that big east coast city mindset?

francesca_smith20 karma

You know, I actually felt like the city was a fairly nice mashup of NYC, Seattle, and Portland (especially given Craig's history in the Pacific Northwest, I'd lean a little more heavily to the latter two). I was actually born in Oregon and spent my early years in Portland, so it felt very comfortable for me...honestly, I never really thought about needing to adjust much to the city of the show, because I felt it was much more about the characters and their relationships. Interesting to think about, though!

tyrghast5 karma

I'm just glad you grew up to look more like Helga's older sister.

francesca_smith34 karma

I'm...just gonna take that as a compliment, because it's easier. I think. Wait, do I feel objectified now?