Julie Dolan is an actress whose career has been quite expansive, spanning film, television, commercials, theater, voice-overs, music, and more. Ms. Dolan is the official voice for General/Princess Leia and has appeared in several Disney properties such as Disney Infinity 3.0 – The Force Awakens, Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, and Star Wars Rebels to name a few. She also portrayed a keytar playing hamster, more on that later.
I reached out to Ms. Dolan to chat with her about her career. Here is Temple of Geek’s 10 Questions with Julie Dolan.
(Danniel Slade) Ms. Dolan, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. I would like to start off by asking you how you got your start in the business?
(Julie Dolan) I was born in Hollywood and my dad was in the industry and my mother started me in dance classes at 3 years old and acting and piano lessons at 9 years old. I got an agent when I was 9 or 10 and started going on interviews for TV, film and commercials. I didn’t get into the voiceover business till later on. Once in a while when I was acting in a project, I would be asked to do a character voice that was needed and I started booking voices without having a VO demo or VO agent. One day my sister said, “You might want to put a little effort into some voiceover classes and get a voiceover demo and see where this could go”. I never thought it would end up going as far as playing “Princess Leia Organa”. I went to classes (I still continue to take classes) I recorded a voiceover demo, got a voiceover agent and started booking voiceover jobs.
(DS) You’re also a musician and have played with multiple bands. Can you tell me a little about your music career?
(JD) I started piano lessons at 9 years old playing classical music. A nun in a convent taught me. Later on in life . . .I somehow got myself involved playing keyboards in All Girl 80s Cover band and then proceeded to play with a lot of other cover bands and finally started working in the tribute band world. I have been in tributes to Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin and more. I’m currently in Tribute Bands to INXS (INXSIVE) & Bon Jovi (BORN JOVI) I also work with a David Bowie tribute off and on and my baby is “The UnderCoverGirls”. An all female Classic Rock Show. We now do an 80’s Tribute called “Radical Candy”.
(DS) You are the official voice actress for General/Princess Leia, how did you land such a gig?
(JD) Sometime in 2010 I got a call from my agent and she asked me if I could sound like Princess Leia. I said “Hmmmm, I don’t think so” and she said “I have an audition for you – I don’t know what it is for, but here is the Obi-Wan Kenobi speech from A New Hope and an audio sample of what Princess Leia sounds like . . . try to match her voice”. So I worked on the copy and the voice and when I felt I was ready I recorded it and submitted it to my agent and then she submitted it to Disney/Lucas Films. At that time, we still didn’t know what the project was. Apparently, they had listened to auditions from about 200 girls and couldn’t find the voice they wanted. Then they brought in Carrie Fisher and they didn’t feel that she was the right fit for sounding like she did in A New Hope. . So they auditioned around 200 more girls and narrowed it down to 3 girls and I was one of the 3. They brought us into Disney Imagineering Studios where we recorded a speech that was similar to the Obi-Wan Kenobi speech but they altered some of the words to fit what the project was for.
I realized (by the dialogue) that it was for the new Star Tours – The Adventures Continue ride at Disneyland. After about two weeks I didn’t hear anything so I didn’t think I got the job and then my agent called me and told me that I booked it. They heard something in my regular speaking voice that is very similar to Carrie Fisher. I don’t ‘put on’ the voice. You either have the timber, the pitch the essence of a voice or not. In May of 2011, they opened the new ride at Disneyland and my agent and I were invited to go see it. We sat there . . . anxiously awaiting Princess Leia’s hologram to appear and were so surprised when we heard the voice. We thought it sounded exactly like me. I was almost embarrassed. But the reviews from people were – that it sounded just like Princess Leia. I was so relieved! It was a couple of years before I heard from them again. I got a call to meet with Dave Filoni (writer / director for Star Wars Rebels) He had heard my voice on the Star Tours ride. Here is an interview with him where he talks about it. (Rebels Recon #2.11: Inside “A Princess on Lothal” | Star Wars Rebels) Starts around the 2:30 mark.
They invited me to do in-house project for Disney. I did a couple scenes (as Leia) and was hooked up to motion capture helmet. . Still not sure what that was for. A few weeks later I was booked on “Star Wars Rebels”. Following that came several video games and eventually “Lego Star Wars – The Freemaker Adventures” which premiered this past July (2016)
I was then asked if I could do “current” Carrie Fisher voice (General Leia) So I put on my hard hat and went back to work to see if I could match her current voice.
General Leia was a bit of a challenge for me at first but they were happy with it.
(DS) Were you a fan of Star Wars before landing the part?
(JD) I am now! Of course I had seen the three trilogy movies back in the day but I was not an avid fan like the ones I have met since I’ve been invited into the Disney/Lucas Film family.
(DS) What is it like voicing such an iconic character?
(JD) Well, you better damn well nail the voice or you’ll hear about it from the fans! When I booked Rebels, I did a lot of research. I watched all six movies several times.
I read everything I could about Princess Leia: her goals, her aspirations, what she believed in, what she wanted. I watched her movements, her mannerisms, her emotions, so I could really get inside of Princess Leia’s head and try to become her as best as I could. I’m so grateful and how quickly I was welcomed into the family by Disney/Lucas Films and the fans.
(DS) How does voice acting differ from live acting and do you prefer one over the other?
(JD) The process is the same. You map out the who, what, where, why, when of your character.
The approach is different for on camera, voice acting or theatre. For voice acting you are much more animated (no pun intended). For on camera, you bring it way down. One slight eye movement can say so much.
Theatre is so rewarding because you play the role from start to finish and have the live audience there for an immediate response which feeds your soul right then and there. I love working in TV/Film as well whether it’s “on camera” or “voice acting” because once you nail it, it’s captured and will live forever.
(DS) I read online that you like theme parks and that you worked at Universal as a costumed character dancer for many years. What is it like knowing that you voice a character (Leia) for Star Tours that is playing at Disney Theme Parks around the world?
(JD) I worked at Universal Theme Park for 11 years dancing in shows such as “American Tail”, “Fievel Goes West”, “Land Before Time”, “The Flintstones”, “Rocky & Bullwinkle”, “The RugRats” – all live action shows. Great experience and that’s where I met my husband. (He is a stunt man and was in the “Wild Wild Wild West Show”)
With Star Tours now at Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Tokyo Disney and will open at Disneyland Paris in March of 2017. . It’s an interesting feeling knowing that my voice as “Princess Leia” will probably live longer than me!
(DS) You were in a KIA SOUL commercial that aired during the Olympics in 2016. I have to ask, what is it like playing a human sized hamster that plays keytar?
(JD) Yes, I am the Keytar playing Hamster in the Kia Soul Commercial featuring Nathaniel Rateliff, which is still airing! Since I had done so much work as a costume character at Universal Studios, I was right at home in the costume and was able to move, dance and play the keytar. However, on THESE particular costumes, you don’t wear anything over your face so it’s a lot easier to breathe. You wear an open helmet so the CGI artists can see your face and then they draw exactly what facial movements you do. The only problem is, once you are in that costume, you need help to get out of it and it takes a while so ya don’t drink a lot of water ha ha.
(DS) With the geek genre becoming so prevalent in today’s culture, is there a particular character that you would love to do either on film or as a voice?
(JD) I would love to continue to voice “Princess Leia”. She has become sort of a sister to me and I want to keep Carrie’s voice alive. My goal is to do voice work AND book an “On camera” role in the next Star Wars movie. Wish me luck. 🙂 I would also love to play a character on the ABC Series “Once Upon A Time”.
I was heart-broken and devastated with Carrie and her mother’s death. I never got to meet Carrie but I had done a few shows with Debbie Reynolds (as a dancer) and Carrie was in the audience.
(DS) Are there any future projects that we should be watching out for?
(JD) I have a few short films coming out that will be submitted to Festivals. One is called “Tell Me I Love You” and the other is called “Motor Mesa” and I am continuing to voice “Princess/General Leia” in different projects. I will be at Colossus Con in Pleasanton, CA on Saturday, April 8th and am hoping to go to the Star Wars Convention in Florida also in April.
(DS) Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Please let our audience know how to find out more about you.
(JD) Thank you for having me! I have an autograph store where people can choose photos and I will personally autograph them. We also just got in my Action Figures.