The main thing I love about my job here at Somewhatnerdy is sharing my passion for comics and film with you, my fellow inhabitants of the NERDiverse. Well, this interview is very close to me and I just had to share. Those of you who know me in person, know I am a huge Zartan fan. My love for Zartan started the first time I saw him on the G.I. Joe cartoons of old. I loved his look and most importantly his voice. Fast forward more than 20 years later and I am reading the Facebook posts from the Cobra 1st Legion and I see a post about Zack Hoffman. For those of you who do not recognize that name, Zack is a great actor, but most importantly to me, he is the voice of Zartan. When I saw this post, I thought to myself,”I need to interview this man!” I got in touch with Zack and he agreed to do this interview. Needless to say the inner child in me was absolutely thrilled. I am honored that he took the time to do this interview with me and I can scratch one more item off my Bucket List. So, Nerds and Nerdettes, here is my interview with the great Zack Hoffman.
SWN: First of all, let me just say I am a huge fan of your voice as Zartan from the G.I. Joe cartoons of old. You are the reason why I love the character so much. When I was a child reading the Marvel comics and even while I read the IDW comics to this day, it is your voice that I hear when I am reading anything Zartan. How were you discovered for the series?
ZH: I knew Wally Burr from hanging out at Miceli’s Restaurant in Universal City. I was working with the LA Connection at the time and was telling a story about how I was doing Improvision (dubbing in bad movies with a comedy soundtrack live) at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles. At the time I was dubbing “Bride of the Monster” and we decided to make it a Bond Film so I was doing the Sean Connery/Bond voice. Wally heard it and he said to me that they were looking for a voice for a cartoon would I be interested in auditioning. He explained to me who Zartan was and of course the rest is history.
SWN: Before voicing Zartan, what were you doing? Were you in the showbiz in some fashion or was Zartan your first role?
ZH: In 1972 I did stand-up comedy. Mostly impressions. I worked out of the Bla Bla Café in North Hollywood. In ’75 I got serious about acting and started doing plays and taking classes. I found my way into the voice business looping Spanish Soap Operas into English. I never looked back after that. I started studying with Estelle Harman at the Actor’s Workshop and after seeing the Committee at the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Blvd I knew that improvisational theater was for me, and found my way to the LA Connection. By 1983 I was working all the time in one form of show business or another.
SWN: Since your role as Zartan, I know you have also acted in several feature films including Untraceable as well as the series Homeland. How different is it to act in front of the camera than behind besides the obvious. In your opinion, which form of acting has more pressure?
ZH: Acting is using your instrument to connect to other people through emotion.
In voice acting the words are usually right in front of you. You still have to hit the right pitch, the right emotion for the scene. You still need to listen to the other actors in the scene. React to what is going on.
In film you have to memorize the lines, learn blocking and physical action and then make it look spontaneous, like you are doing it for the first time. Not so easy. Your whole body must be committed.
Then there is theatre. The lights go up and you don’t stop until the curtain comes down. That’s commitment.
SWN: What are you currently working on?
ZH: I have a one man show that I wrote and star in called “Tuxedo Man”. It’s the story of a nightclub singer who is given another chance to sing and we watch his story unfold as he changes into his tux in the alley behind the restaurant. The show has been well received and I am happy to perform it.
I continue to write and am supported by a wonderful group of people where we do writing practice at Louisa’s Café in Seattle. The practice is spearheaded by authors Robert Ray and Jack Remick. I still do voice work…anyone need a voice?
SWN: If I was to run into you on the street, I would ask you to record my voicemail message as Zartan. Has this ever happened before?
ZH: With the invention of the smart phone it happens more than you’d think. When I was at a comicon in Philadelphia I did a few for fans who came to my table for autographs. They are able to record me and turn it into an MP3 and from there I am the voice of their voicemail.
SWN: Do you have anything you would like to promote at this time?
ZH: I will be at the GI Joe Convention in Springfield Illinois April 9th through the 12th.
Please visit my website zackhoffman.com. I am working on it all the time. Making changes and updating things. It’s also how people can get a hold of me.
SWN: When you are not acting, what do you do to pass the time?
ZH: About 7 years ago when Racquetball became too fast and too much bending too low to the ground , I discovered tennis. I refer to it as “old man tennis”. I play with a group of guys in my demographic. There’s a lot more laughing and comradery than there is intense competition. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to win, but what happens is that I will make a brilliant tennis move catching the line on a cross court shot, followed 10 minutes later by a Jerry Lewis-esque spaz move to the net. “Hey Lady”.
SWN: Do you have advice for up and coming actors and/or voice actors?
ZH: If this is your passion keep at it. Keep learning, keep risking, keep developing your instrument. I have been fortunate to have had a number of mentors who helped me along the way. They are out there, go find them. Not every teacher is going to ring true for you but there is something to learn from everyone. One thing that struck me was the first night of The Master Class at Estelle Harman’s Actor’s Studio. After a long silence she walked to the front of the stage and said, “If you are here because you want to get a job doing a sitcom…get out now. To survive in this business you are going to have to learn how to do everything.” I look back on the last 35 years and I may not be a household name but I was given the gift of being able to work. From plays to recording studios, to on camera work. I’ve had the opportunity to risk everything and I am grateful for it.
SWN: Do you have a funny or memorable story from one of your times at a convention or maybe a behind the scenes memory from your Zartan days?
ZH: My first convention was the GI Joe Con in Toronto about 4 years ago. I was raised in Toronto by my Grandmother so I was thrilled to go back to a city I called home. I had an absolute blast. Meeting the fans of the show and hearing how they were affected by the show. “When I played with the toys…I used your voice!” a fan said gleefully. Characters in costume and a panel where the fans had to help me get the lines of the show right. When I was leaving the convention there was a father who in one hand had a bag full of toys and in the other he held the hand of his smiling five year old son. “Thanks for coming” I said to the Dad. “No” he said, “thank you for all those years of being there for me when I got home from school. And now I get to share this with my son.” I obviously was very touched by that and I get it. We were there. With action and adventure, humor and laughter, cliffhanger episodes and miniseries. We were there when the kids came home from school and they were happy to see us. Yo Joe!!! and Cobraaaa!!! Proud and grateful to be part of the talented team that put GI Joe the Real American Hero together.
Just a little Zartan greatness.