January LaVoy has narrated several Star Wars audiobooks including Phasma and Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire. She was also the voice of Jor Aerith in the audio drama Dooku: Jedi Lost. Over the years LaVoy has appeared in dozens of acting roles on television, film, and the stage.
January answered a few questions via email for this interview with 365 Star Wars.
Over the years you’ve narrated many Star Wars books including Bloodline, Last Shot, The Legends of Luke Skywalker, and Phasma. I’m curious what some of your favorite characters to voice were in those books and which ones you found the most difficult to capture.
As far as what is difficult about narrating Star Wars in general…the more beloved the character, the more nerve-wracking it is to voice. At least for me! I always feel such a responsibility to “get it right”, but at the same time, the listener knows that I’m me — I’m not the actual actor who created the character. So, I try and do as respectful a job as I can to inhabit the character, as opposed to imitating them, or doing an “impression”.
It’s really tricky sometimes — Carrie Fisher spoke about Leia’s occasional accent (in Episode IV) that is sort of/semi/pseudo-British for a while, and sometimes not, and it’s because of something she was doing as the actress, not necessarily because Leia had that accent. But lots of fans expect to hear that, at least sometimes, because that’s the Leia they know. And so, it’s not an exact science, right? My director and I will often chat about it in the session and decide what’s appropriate in the moment. That being said, I feel no greater honor than when I’m asked to voice Leia, especially since Carrie Fisher’s passing. She was a heroine of mine throughout my childhood.
My favorite voice to play with, though, is definitely Phasma. I recorded that book right in the midst of watching Game of Thrones, so I had Gwendolyn Christie’s incredible voice in my head already, and she’s such a bad-ass. I’m told that I can sound a lot like her, so that’s really a blast.
You also worked on the audio drama Dooku: Jedi Lost. Can you explain the difference between working on an audio drama and an audiobook? Were you able to record at the same time as any of the other actors? How would you describe your character Jor Aerith to fans who haven’t listed to Jedi Lost yet?
Audio dramas are very different, in that they are always multi-cast, and very often not performed at the same time. I was incredibly busy working on a show Off-Broadway at the time when Dooku was being produced, and so I ran from a rehearsal on a dinner break, spent about 8 minutes total in the booth reading my lines while the director fed me the cues, and ran back to the theater for my show that evening. I saw the other actors briefly, in passing, only to say hello in the studio green room. Also, the script was embargoed, so I only saw my pages. Suffice to say, Jor Aerith is mysterious to us all!
In your most recent project, Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire, you got to revisit two characters you voiced in Phasma: Vi and Cardinal. Both are a bit changed from the events in Phasma and what happened in between that book and the beginning of Black Spire (especially in the case of Cardinal). How did you approach these characters the second time around?
Because a fair bit of time had elapsed between the recordings of Phasma and Black Spire, I had asked the producer, Nick Martorelli, at Penguin Random House, to provide me with samples from Phasma, which he kindly did.
The stories are fairly continuous — only a few months have elapsed from the end of one to the beginning of the other, I think — so there wasn’t much modification to do in terms of aging. However, the character of Cardinal has been through some pretty impactful (and even traumatic) life events, so I’d say there’s a definite shift in his bearing and his attitude that I tried to capture from the get-go in Black Spire. And Vi’s vibe is somewhat different, too. She’s changed, and she’s wrestling with serious questions about her place in the Resistance and her ambitions as a spy and a Rebel. I’d like to think that’s all in there, in what the listener hears.
You created a voice for several new characters from Batuu that appear in Galaxy’s Edge in the Disney Parks including Oga and Savi. I’m curious what information you were given about them (if any) from the Imagineering team and if you’ve had a chance to explore Galaxy’s Edge for yourself.
I believe that when we were recording in the late spring of 2019, Galaxy’s Edge had not yet opened in California, or was perhaps just in previews, and of course, the details were closely guarded secrets. So, no, we had no information to go on except what Delilah Dawson gave us — but luckily, she’s an exceptional writer. Her descriptions went a long way in telling me what sort of characters voices to create. When an author uses words like “she slurped”…that’s so helpful. Oga is so much fun — an absolutely classic Star Wars villain. Funny, conniving, violent — all business. Savi is also a sort of classic Star Wars archetype, in the mode of Ben Kenobi. Perhaps a harmless, wise, old man…perhaps something more…with a sort of preternatural calm that has interesting effects on those around him.
Sadly, I have not been to Galaxy’s Edge yet! But I live in Atlanta, and the park in Orlando is opening imminently…
Are there any Star Wars characters you haven’t had a chance to voice yet that you hope you have the opportunity to at some point?
I’d voice just about anyone they offered me with joy, as long as I can do it without damage. (Too much Huttese and Shyriiwook can be rough on my vocal cords!) Mostly, I’m excited that, as a woman of color, I can now envision an Expanded Universe that is filled with more humans who look like me — which was not something I saw back during the days of the original release of Episode IV. So, I’d say the thing I look forward to most is what is yet to come!
You can learn more about January LaVoy’s career on her website.
You can see all of the 365 Days of Star Wars Women posts here.