With two long-running series up for discussion, the off-beat comedy original “Angie Tribeca” and the animated “Dragons: Race to the Edge,” Andrée Vermeulen is feeling fulfilled, but even if she wasn’t making a living doing what she loves, she’d still love doing it for a living. It’s part of who she is, and if that feeling of creative contentment no longer came from acting, she’d find something else to fill the void. It’s an outlook worth embracing, both in careers and in life. After all, sometimes the most elusive ingredient in the quest for personal fulfillment is happiness.
We recently sat down with Vermeulen to discuss how her career has defied the disbelievers, the “Yes, And” approach, and what we can expect from Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca,” premiering later this year on TBS.
TrunkSpace: You have been juggling two series these past few years, “Angie Tribeca” and “Dragons: Race to the Edge.” Is that a relatively new experience as far as the industry is concerned, performers having the freedom to work on multiple television/streaming projects at the same time?
Vermeulen: Thankfully, voice acting provides a sort of loophole where an actor can be a regular on two series at the same time because they are seen as completely different types of work. Because Dragons is animated, no one would even know I’m on the series unless they made a point to look up who voices Ruffnut, so it’s not a conflict. It’s funny, even in hearing “you’ve been juggling two series these past few years,” my initial reaction was, “I have?” I guess the rule is, as long as we can’t see your face, its not a conflict.
TrunkSpace: When you’re able to juggle two projects, especially when they’re both coming at performance from a different perspective, does that help to keep the work aspect of what you do exciting? Is variety the spice of life when it comes to acting/performing?
Vermeulen: I’ve been very lucky to play two characters who are so completely different from myself. Scholls is like a human robot. She’s deadpan, monotone, void of human emotion. Ruffnut is the complete opposite: loud, wild, aggressive, boisterous, and not the brightest. Scholls is a logical person. Ruffnut acts on emotion and goes with her gut. The contrast between these two definitely keeps things exciting, as well as the contrast in the work day. For “Angie Tribeca,” we shoot for 10 weeks, five days a week, and I have to get all done up in hair and makeup each day. I often wake up at 4 a.m. and get home at 8 p.m. For Dragons, I go in maybe once a month, in a window of time that I choose, and do three episodes in two hours and no one cares what I look like.
TrunkSpace: What is it about your current place in life… your career as it is today… that most excites you? What would 10-year-old Andrée be high-fiving you about?
Vermeulen: I guess the fact that I make a living doing what I love. That I don’t have to work in a restaurant anymore. That I figured it out. A lot of people didn’t believe in me, including most of my family. My mom and dad never doubted me, but the rest of the family thought I should be a business major.
TrunkSpace: Your background is in making people laugh. Is performing comedy something that always came natural to you or was it a love that you had to grow comfortable in performance-wise?
Vermeulen: Comedy has always been easiest for me. I’ve always been the “funny friend.” Growing up, I dreamed of being on SNL, I just didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I ended up going to college in NYC (Marymount Manhattan College) for theatre performance with a minor in musical theatre. My training, aside from the musical theatre classes, was all drama. At that point, I had forgotten the dream of doing comedy and was super intent on being a starving Shakespearean actor. But when my senior year rolled around, I finally got to do a comedic scene. It was in a “Dance for Actors” class, and I’ll never forget Professor Haila Strauss pulling me aside after my scene and saying, “You need to go do comedy.” I was so confused and annoyed at the time. I had plunged myself into massive college debt (no one paid for my college, and despite getting the Presidential Scholarship I still owed an astronomical amount of money when I graduated because a private college just can’t get the same funding that big schools get) for a degree in DRAMA and she was telling me to go do comedy?
Prof. Strauss told me to go to UCB, and thank God I listened. I started taking classes and performing with my indie improv team (No U Ki’in and As the Diamond Burns, an improvised Soap Opera) all around the city. Eventually I auditioned to be on a Maude Team (a UCB house sketch team) and immediately made the cut. It was interesting how much easier comedy felt to me. It felt like the amount of work I put into it was equal to the results I would get. And I hadn’t had that experience with drama. I was putting a lot of work into it and not being cast in any roles. I do think my dramatic training helped my comedy though. Nothing is a mistake. It helped to make my characters more grounded. So even if I was playing the most bizarre person ever written, I could play that person believably. So, I guess to answer that original question, I think comedy came natural to me but I had a round about way of realizing it.
TrunkSpace: You are a house performer with The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. Does working in that environment prepare you for an “anything can happen” mindset as it relates to other aspects of your career? Are you better equipped on the set of “Angie Tribeca” for example because of your time with UCB?
Vermeulen: Absolutely. The overall mindset that is taught at UCB is “Yes, And.” Someone presents something, you say YES to it, AND you add to it, validating what they have brought to the table. Not only is that agreement so helpful in comedy, but it’s extremely helpful in life. When our gut instinct is to say “no” to everything, we limit our relationships with people, we limit our perspective, we limit our joy and our experiences in life, and ultimately we limit our ability for growth as a person.
In terms of “Angie Tribeca,” this “Yes, And” mindset is extremely helpful. We have such silly, nonsensical things happen on the show. We just have to say “Yes, And” to them. I think our show can be challenging because in order to play this type of comedy, we approach it like it’s a drama. We play the most ridiculous scenes like they are dead serious, high stakes scenes and that’s what makes them even more funny. But sometimes that can be tricky because if we analyze the scene like a drama and ask, “Why is my character doing this? What is the motivation?” It gets confusing. The character is doing that certain thing because IT’S FUNNY. The motivation is what’s FUNNY, and sometimes what’s funny is illogical. That’s where we have to let logic go and just say, “Yes, And.”
TrunkSpace: We mentioned “Dragons: Race to the Edge,” which is currently pushing almost 70 episodes. When you first decided to pursue a career in the arts, was voice acting ever in the plan or, as Dr. Ian Malcolm from “Jurassic Park” is prone to saying, has life found a way? Did your career zig when you expected it to zag?
Vermeulen: The series actually started on Cartoon Network, and was called “Dragons: Riders of Berk” so there are well over 100 episodes. Pretty crazy. I originally did not have voice acting in the plan, but as my career went on, it definitely became a wish. It became a “that would be cool” thought in the back of my head. I just didn’t know how to achieve it. I have had a lot of vocal training – I sing, but I had not had any voiceover training. I got extremely lucky, and when the role of Ruffnut was open for auditions, I was with ICM who had a partnership with DPN, a voiceover agency. I got the audition because they were specifically looking for someone with an improv background who could do a sort of voice match to the Ruffnut that Kristen Wiig had established in the movie. I was also very lucky to do the audition at DPN because they are the real deal when it comes to voice-over. The technicians who run the booths are very experienced in the industry, so recording with them means you’re working with a great director. So, I went into the booth with Juliet at DPN and I did my first take, and she leaned into the mic on the other side of the glass in the booth and said, “Well, that was boring. I’m falling asleep over here.” And THANK GOD she said that! I’m forever grateful that she wouldn’t let me get away with a mediocre take. She had me do several more takes until it was up to par. That was my first ever voiceover audition. I didn’t know what I was doing. And I booked the job. It’s pretty insane. Then I had this job and I had to sort of learn on my feet. Walking into DreamWorks pretending like I’ve done this a million times. “Right, right, I know where to stand. Yes. Oh, me? I actually like the headphones ON. Thankyousomuch.”
TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, do you approach voice acting differently than you do onscreen work, either consciously or subconsciously?
Vermeulen: I had to learn to be more animated (pun intended). I was so used to commercial acting where the delivery is sort of thrown away. I started in live theatre, where the performance is bigger, and then I had to learn how to tone it down for on-camera. But then came voiceover where I had to bring it back up again. Maybe not all the way up, but I had to find a happy medium. Thanks to my training and my experience, I had all the tools in my tool belt, I just needed to learn which ones to pull out when. And that’s why I think it’s so important to have training and to practice your craft constantly, whether it’s writing, vocal warm ups, improv classes, sketch, character pieces, etc. You just never know when something will come along and you have to be like, “Why yes, I DO tap dance.”
TrunkSpace: Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca” will premiere later this year. Is there anything about Scholls’ Season 4 journey that you can share with us this early in the game? What can fans expect?
Vermeulen: Season 4 is set 20 years in the future, but we of course have not aged. Everyone has left the police force and are now doing Special Ops. This season Scholls is a part of the team, whereas in the past she would stay in the lab, and occasionally show up at a crime scene. Being a part of the team means a lot more screen time for Scholls and a whole new arsenal of special skills up her sleeve.
TrunkSpace: Do you still love performing as much today as you did the first time you stepped foot on a stage or set and began your career?
Vermeulen: No, I hate it. Kidding, kidding. I love it! I think if you don’t love something, you shouldn’t do it. Performing should make you feel like you’re flying. It should make you feel fulfilled. And that fulfillment should be great enough that you would wait a million years for any sort of success, no matter how small it was. Actually, that fulfillment should be so great that even if you had zero monetary success, and zero recognition from it, you would still perform, because it makes you happy. I haven’t been performing live as much lately, and I definitely feel like there’s a little hole in my heart because of it. I need to fix that.
TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Vermeulen: I don’t know. I think I would be very curious to take the peek, although I’m not sure I should. I try really hard to trust in myself and God, or the Universe, or whatever you’d like to call it. I work really hard to let go of outcomes and to create from a place of joy. Also, real talk: the few times I’ve talked to a psychic or spiritual medium, etc. and they tell me some sort of future prediction that is exciting and then it doesn’t come true, I’m so disappointed. So, that being said, no I would not take a peek. Final answer.
Season 6 of “Dragons: Race to the Edge” available now on Netflix.
Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca” premieres on TBS later this year.