by Lorie Lewis Ham
Since theatre on stage is on hold right now (check out our recent article that checked in with many local theatre companies on what they are doing during this time), it seemed like a good time to feature some local actors who have also been acting on our podcast, Mysteryrat’s Maze. This week we chatted with local actor Sean Hopper who has been the voice of several of our episodes. Mysteryrat’s Maze features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors.
KRL: Are you from the Valley? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here?
Sean: I’m a Navy brat and we were stationed in the Valley when I was 2 or 3. My parents were from the L.A. area, but by the time my dad got back from the ship, my mom had fallen in love with the place, so we stayed.
KRL: Current day job and other jobs you have had?
Sean: I work security for the Adventist Health Central Valley Network. I have Assistant Managed two movie theaters, worked in a silk-screening shop and as an overnight stocker for a department store chain.
KRL: Schools attended?
Sean: Lemoore High class of ’05, COS, and recently received my Business Management Certification from West Hills.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?
Sean: I’ve been acting since I was little, but it wasn’t really something I thought of as a serious vocation. I didn’t realize then that it could be, rather than just something fun to do. I loved playing pretend so why not do so with a group that also enjoyed it? I quit the acting scene when I got to high school because before then it was more of a class for people who didn’t seem to care about it. A friend of mine brought me back into it during Freshman year. I didn’t realize it was extra-curricular, so the only people to show up to audition would be those that actually wanted to be there. A life-saver!
KRL: What was your first part?
Sean: As a kid, I played a lot of shepherds in Bible stories at our church. They were more filler than anything. My first “play” wasn’t until Junior High. I can’t remember which came first, but I want to say Robbin Baskins? Someone wanted to steal the recipe to the best ice cream. I played an obese person who frequented the ice cream shop with his wife. A friend of the family made me a t-shirt with a special pocket on the inside where we could fit a pillow to help me look fat.
KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, the parts you have played & with what companies?
Sean: In backwards order: At the Selma Arts Center: Be More Chill – The SQUIP. At the Visalia Icehouse Theater: The Buddy Holly Story – Buddy, The Rocky Horror Show – Frank-N-Furter and Little Shop of Horrors – Seymour, to name a few.
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show to perform in?
Sean: I prefer musicals, but anything I can use to stretch my abilities is welcome. I love it all!
KRL: What do you like best about acting/singing?
Sean: I wasn’t much into sports, but again, I loved playing pretend. Aside from my few months’ hiatus after middle school, I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of acting. It’s terrifying to get up in front of people in a funny costume, behave like an idiot and hope they laugh because of you instead of at you. I’ve had pretty decent luck with my foray into “professional pretending.” Working through that fear has helped me be more confident in myself.
Sometimes I’ll get the feeling that I’m inadequate for a role or maybe I’m not that good overall. Then, depending on the situation, I’ll think about shows I’ve done and remember I had been through this feeling before, that I got through it then, and that once I step out on that stage all the nervousness will become the fuel I need to put on a good show.
KRL: What is the hardest?
Sean: Constantly coercing the stars to align so I can afford the time, money and energy to be able to continue to do shows.
KRL: Future goals and dreams?
Sean: Of course, to turn this passion into a financial success. At least enough to keep the bills paid and be able to continue doing more projects.
Sean: So many for their different abilities, but mostly those that have stayed sane and classy throughout this admittedly insane career choice.
KRL: Family including pets?
Sean: Thus far I’ve been lucky to have my wonderful wife Cymone and our pretty pittie fur-baby Maddie in my life.
KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most to grow as an actor?
Sean: The best I could manage with my circumstances: experience. I’ve learned so much from just the doing and seeing everyone’s different styles of directing, preparation and performance. Also, my wife is a great director/critic. She gives it to me straight and keeps me at my best.
KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?
Sean: With everything else in life, learn all you can, stay humble, stay classy, work your @$$ off and do the best job you can for whatever part you get.
KRL: What is your dream role?
Sean: Dad! I need my sense of humor to become official.
KRL: Is it hard balancing a job and acting?
Sean: I’m glad to be down to balancing just the one job, but yes. So hard sometimes.
KRL: I understand you are also involved with a group who does sign language for local theatre, can you tell us more about that and why and how you got involved?
Sean: I started seeing the Vizual Voices crew in shows my wife and I would go see about two years ago, and I found it difficult to focus on the show because I was so enthralled by them. Apparently, we caught them right about the time they started performing in the area.
I debuted at the Selma Arts center with Be More Chill last year and didn’t realize we had them performing with us until one night during our after-show meet-and-greet. I immediately went up to one of the crew and asked who I should talk to about joining. They pointed me to Heather Lemon, who I asked how I could get involved and if I needed to know any ASL (since I did not), or if there was a class I needed to take.
She automatically said, “Nope,” handed me her card, and set an audition date on the spot, during which she hooked me into Beauty and the Beast (which was the next show). This group is amazing! They were immediately inviting, super helpful whenever I was trying to learn something new, and are such a joy to hang out with. Heather is a great teacher, too; she makes it very easy to learn.
KRL: Was your first Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast the first time you ever did any voice acting?
Sean: To that extent yes. Though before that, I did a voice over for a show at the Icehouse called 39 Steps. All I needed to do was record myself saying a couple lines, but it just didn’t sound right. I ended up escaping to the kitchen (big heavy door away from extra noise) and looking up YouTube videos for tips on how to do the proper accent, techniques for voice over acting, etc. The director and I thought it would take about 10 minutes. I spent about 3 hours…!
KRL: Why did you want to audition for the podcast?
Sean: It was something new in the entertainment field for me and I like adding to my skill set. It’s weird how each medium of performance has a different feel to how you perform it. So, when you – Lorie – approached me about trying it out I jumped at the chance. I’m not very confident in my skills just yet, but that’s what learning and experience is for.
KRL: How has voice acting been different from acting on stage?
Sean: It feels like there is a disconnect for me. I could get on stage and put a whole character out, but I think attempting to do that with just my voice throws me off a bit. I’ve been acting for so long with movement, that not being able to move more than just my arms throws me off. Especially since I feel like I shouldn’t be moving my arms. Practice, practice, practice, though! I’m getting there!
KRL: What have you liked best about it and what has been the hardest?
Sean: I enjoy learning new things and growing my abilities. I’ve done a lot of research since the first recording and played with my voice more. The hardest part is attempting to come up with different voices that sound natural and that don’t dip into my lower register. That’s been a universal direction for me in this field to not speak with too much bass and it’s so difficult for me! It’s like I’m already putting on a voice to go into my higher register, then have to change it per character on top of that. I can’t wait to get better at it.
Sean: Guitar, learning more ASL, petting puppies…you know, the usual stuff! I do enjoy building things. I’ve been slowly amassing a set of tools over the years and the projects I can do now are a lot of fun! So far, I’m most proud of my Rain Bow. A usable PVC archery bow that acts as a rain stick when you turn it over. Useful, maybe not, but I enjoyed all the work for the punchline.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Sean: The entertainment business is a lot of fun to be a part of and there is literally something for everyone, so get involved. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we will get back to it soon. Thank you so much!
Sean was very modest about his work on the podcast, but as its producer and director I feel he has done an amazing job! You can check out all of his episodes below or find all of them at mysteryratsmaze.podbean.com and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and most places where you can listen to podcasts.