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Jeff Bergman is one of the most prolific voice actors of our time, having voiced a myriad of characters over his nearly 40-year career. From Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear to Fred Flintstone and the Joker, he’s pretty much done it all. However, the voice-over veteran has been doing something a bit different over the past few years, as he’s voiced a number of politicians on Showtime’s Our Cartoon President. And his two biggest roles at the moment are President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Voicing two such well-known people would seem difficult, but Bergman has figured out the key to bringing both to life.
When I recently spoke with Jeff Bergman about his approach to voicing President Trump and Vice President Biden, he told me that he never aims to judge the characters. Otherwise, it can affect the validity of his portrayal:
I try not to judge who they are. Because if you do that, then I don’t know that you can really give an accurate portrayal of the character… I try not to judge it and not play so hard to the comedy. Sometimes you just gotta deliver it straight.
Bergman makes a fair point, as many actors (in both the animated and live-action mediums) try to remain neutral when it comes to their characters. Upon hearing this, some may think this would be difficult but, as Bergman says, you just have to deliver the performance straight.
Another unique challenge that Jeff Bergman faces is that Trump and Biden have different personalities. Despite this, the seasoned voice actor is able to differentiate the two. In the case of the President, he refers to him as somewhat “intense,” but he notes that Our Cartoon President balances that out with a bit of humor and optimism:
As far as distinguishing between the two of them, they really are very different. Trump he’s just alpha. He's very intense and very aggressive, but we play him sillier. We make him more fun, nd we make him a little more optimistic. And there's a little bit of an honor to his character, like, he learned something.
Having been voicing President Trump for so long, it took Bergman a little bit of time to find the right way to approach Biden. But eventually, he and the show’s creators we able to find a “jolly” interpretation of the former vice president that worked for the show:
Biden is very big and very intense, but we play him really jolly. We try to play him really jolly and exuberant. But yeah, he's a really different personality. It took me a little time, because I was so accustomed to just doing Trump that once Biden got the nomination, that I had auditioned for the role, I had to really watch a lot of footage and just find that, that space. It took me a little time to try to find that. But now, it's actually pretty easy to distinguish between the two.
If you’ve seen Our Cartoon President, you’ll know that Bergman does a masterful job of keeping his interpretations of Trump and Biden distinct, and he manages to add a layer of lightheartedness to both of them. Keep in mind, these takes are a lot more over-the-top, but they’re thoroughly enjoyable, nonetheless.
New episodes of Our Cartoon President air Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.