Thunderbirds versus the Hood is a brand new full-cast audio drama release coming soon on CD and download, featuring adaptations of two classic Thunderbirds comic stories; the Lady Penelope adventure The Vanishing Ray (from issues 44 to 51 of TV Century 21) and the Thunderbirds epic Brains is Dead (from issues 162 to 169 of TV21). The same creative cast and crew that have brought to life the classic Thunderbirds novels on audio also worked to bring these strip stories to audio, and we asked the cast to share their insight on breathing new life into these old stories…
Who are you, and who are you playing in Thunderbirds versus the Hood?
Jon: Hello there, I am Jon Culshaw, I am playing Parker, who I am very fond of. Everybody’s fond of Parker, and Jeff Tracy – the hero who keeps everything in line and on track!
Wayne: I’m Wayne Forester, I play Virgil Tracy, and Brains, who’s a lot different. His voice is in a much different place.
Genevieve: My name is Genevieve Gaunt, and I am Lady Penelope and Grandma Tracy.
Joe: I’m Joe Jameson, and I play Gordon and Alan Tracy, and I also play Steel in The Vanishing Ray. Steel is a kind of hapless largely ineffective MI.5 agent – James Bond he is not!
Justin: I’m Justin T. Lee, and I play Scott, John, Kyrano, the Hood, and the Hood in various disguises – and I think that’s it!
Which are your favourite Thunderbirds characters to play on audio, and what challenges do you find in recreating their voices?
Jon: What a lovable character Parker is! So brilliantly created by David Graham. He’s funny, he’s resourceful, he’s inventive, he’s just so lovable, and you say Parker and you know exactly who he is. And it makes you smile.
Genevieve: I watched and listened to the original Thunderbirds and identified the idiosyncrasies in her voice and adopted them. Her voice, as originated and performed so beautifully by Sylvia Anderson, I feel like it comes from and suits the physicality of Lady Penelope in Supermarionation. Her cool poise, her perfect hair, her killer outfits, and of course her unflappable demeanour. Those are all physical traits that come into her voice. She is cool as a cucumber!
Wayne: So to replicate the voice of Brains I of course revisited the series, which was good fun to do. Brains’ voice is one of the most recognisable in the show, and I tried as best as I could to recreate David Graham’s marvellous character from the original series. Brains has a slight faltering speech, almost like a stammer, and it gives him a very sweet endearing quality.
Joe: Obviously Alan was originally performed by Matt Zimmerman, and Gordon by David Graham, and they’re both iconic in those roles. It was quite daunting to replicate them in this, so I tried to capture the essence of what they did with the voices and then layer my own interpretation on top of that.
Justin: I did try my darnedest to get it as close as I could, which usually meant studying footage of the actors if I could find it. So I found footage of Shane Rimmer in things from the Sixties and Seventies, and you stare at the way he’s talking. Part of it is just the voice, but the real part of it is the way their mouth was mouthing, how they would sound things in the Sixties. So I watched Shane, and Ray Barrett, and while I can’t profess that I matched it exactly hopefully when you hear the stories you felt like you were with those characters.
How does it feel to be back in the studio again, and what were some of your favourite moments from these stories?
Jon: This was rather like a grand classic radio play! We recorded from beginning to end, in order. It felt almost like doing a live twenty-five minute episode, as if it was being broadcast in real time, which was a lovely way of doing it. There’s a moment when it just clicks in and you think “there they are, that’s the team!” And it’s so fun to play those.
Wayne: Bit of an alarming title for me, Brains is Dead! The action sequences in this are really quite intricate, there’s a real direct head-on attack at Tracy Island. I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like that in other episodes! I think we all feel the same way, it’s just lovely to be in the same studio together after so long, catching each other’s eye during some funny moments, and it’s just lovely to have that connection again.
Genevieve: I love all the technical innovations that come up in these scripts, like a secret storage compartment in the floor or a button in an armchair that opens something. I also love hearing these iconic voices come to life, and being in the same room as these brilliant people doing them. Some of them are playing two or three different parts, and it does feel like we’ve got eight people in this recording booth, and then you look up and of course it’s the same person doing two different things, so that’s an absolute joy for me.
Joe: My favourite scene to do was probably the scene where I played Steel pretending to be the book salesman, mainly because it’s just a lot of fun being in a scene with Lady Penelope and Parker. It does feel like doing a radio play, there could almost be an audience listening as you’re doing it. It’s a really nice way of working.
Justin: The Hood has so many car crashes, so someone riffed on him having to apply for car insurance – which would be a total disaster! Historically he does a lot of monologing, where he just talks to himself and affirms in the mirror every morning, reads the newspaper to himself, so any time I was in a scene with Jon and Genevieve or anybody was fantastic.
Jon: It’s also lovely to be continuing the series. I’ve known about Thunderbirds for as long as I can remember, and so many wonderful Anderson shows. Saturday-ness is the thing about Anderson shows; the sense of Saturday, the sense of fun, the sense of great ideas and big excitement. I’ve known them for as long as I can remember!