Australian Actor Kate McLennan Talks Animation

Interview with Australian actor, Kate McLennan

I recently chatted with Kate McLennan, Melbourne actor, comedy writer and stand-up comedian about her role in ABC3 Australia’s latest smash hit animation series, ‘The Flamin Thongs’.

It’s produced by Media World Pictures, prolific producers of animation in Australia.

Now, for all my international readers – in Australia a ‘thong’ is a rubber sandal!

We call other things thongs as well, but just to be clear, ‘The Flamin’ Thongs’ is family entertainment about a very quirky Australian family living in a remote seaside location. 

Ahhh, only in Australia! 

Kate plays Narelle – a teenager with a larger than life yearning to get out of Whale Bay.

I was lucky enough to be part of this production as one of the small team of guest voices. 

We were called in to voice smaller roles and semi-regular characters – as well as our share of great guest roles.

When we were playing a significant guest role, we worked with the other cast members.

But generally we were booked for a session, working with the director and engineer only, covering off small roles from a range of episodes.

Kate shares her experience of working in animation.

Here’s the interview…

How did you get started?

My first animation job was in Media World Productions ‘Dogstar’ in 2006/07 – it was a case of “right place, right time”.

The producers were casting the character of Simone, a slightly bossy pre-tween. During that week, Doug McLeod, one of the ‘Dogstar’ writers just happened to see me on TV in a sketch-comedy show playing a “stroppy teenager”.


Tell us about the first time you worked in the Studio on Dogstar? 

I remember being so nervous and I’m pretty sure I memorised the entire episode script. 

I’d never used cans (headphones) before and was used to stage performance, so it was quite big.

We used to record that show with the whole cast in the studio, like a radio play.

I quickly discovered that Brandon Burns and Emma Leonard (who played my siblings) were from the same regional town (Geelong, Victoria) as I was – so we became mates straight off.

I learned so much during that job, things like:

  • it’s okay to take your shoes off,
  • you can ask to have your cans turned down and
  • to always do a vocal warm-up before arriving.


What other animation series have you worked on?

I worked on a series for Channel 9 called ‘Wakkaville’ in 2011 and 2012.

And I was lucky enough to perform in the Cartoon Networks’ feature length animation, ‘Exchange Student Zero’ with Rove McManus.

The voices were directed by an America voice over artist called Charlie Adler who via Skype from a studio in LA would shout crazy directions at us down the line.

He was amazing and has this incredible ability to grasp the mood, pace and tone of a scene at a glance.


What’s the best thing about working in animation?

That’s easy – it doesn’t feel like a job!

It’s just like slipping back into being a kid and having heaps of fun.


How did you get cast in ‘Flamin’ Thongs’?

Even though I’d worked with the Producers, Media World, before on ‘Dogstar’, they “put me through the wringer for this one”.

Basically I auditioned twice and then we recorded a couple of episodes.

It took a few weeks to get the green light, which I was obviously delighted by, because Narelle is a corker of a character.


What other kinds of voice performance work do you do?

I’ve been working in comedy for over a decade now – doing characters and stand-up.

I’m always putting on voices and impersonating people in my stand-up sets, so it’s all connected.

I do quite a lot of writing too, so I guess there’s a part of my brain that likes flipping into different characters and having different perspectives.


What process do you use to find the right voice for a character?

It’s funny you know – I spend so much time in my performance work putting on voices but when I get into animation recording, the directors just want me to use my own voice.

I take what’s written in the script to find the tone of the character, but it’s pretty instinctive really.

I like to think of it as a process of regression – I just snap back to ‘me’ at whatever age the role requires.


What skills, talents and abilities do you have that sets you apart?

I suppose I do have that ability to sound young.  And I like listening to people and finding out where their voices sit.

I also think that being a writer has helped as well, particularly as I’ve become more experienced at animation.

Now I have more of a sense of how energetic and emotive I need to be at different points in the script, like when I need to lift the performance and when I need to be more intimate.

I also suppose that if there’s a joke in the script, I’ll find it!

Here’s a link to a web series that Kate’s written and is performing in too.  

For a peek at “The Flamin’ Thongs” have a look at this promo clip here.