Suzanne Cotsakos, on Voice-Over Acting, Work with Duchess Riot, the Kroll Show, & Mutasia.
February 2, 2016
Hi! I’m Suzanne Cotsakos. I have a long, ‘Where are you from’ story (I’m what they call a Third Culture Kid). But I’ll give you the short version. I’m American, but I grew up in Belgium.
I lived in Belgium for most of my childhood and it’s a huge part of who I am.
I got the acting bug when I was really young. I LOVED drama class. I was an imaginative and sporty, yet slightly weird kid. But I got serious about acting when I took classes at ACT’S Young Conservatory in San Francisco (when I moved back to the USA).
I’m not sure if that helped me get the audition or not, but I think it’s cool she came to our show. It was funny because I was SO sick when I got the audition. But it was such a great opportunity that I had to go.
So, I took some Dayquil and made sure not to touch anyone or anything. The funny thing was that I didn’t realize that Dayquil makes me loopy.
I was terrified because it hit me as I was waiting in the room.
I kept telling myself, “C’mon! You can get it together for 5 minutes!” Dorian was so amazing in the audition. She’s such a giving and kind casting director.
The auditions I have gone in for (with her) are always so much fun.
Anything and everything can inspire me, it just depends on my mood.
Being outdoors inspires me because it allows me to reflect and feel present. I love nature. It’s so peaceful.
I think when I am relaxed I am at my most creative because my mind is clear and free.
Watching films and going to the theatre also inspire me. Watching great performances and beautiful cinematography always wake up the film/theatre nerd in me.
I have so many friends that are so talented so I’m constantly inspired by their work.
I was attracted to acting, as a kid, because it was fun.
Most kids are acting when they play, they just don’t know it. For kids, imagination and play come so naturally.
And then sometimes you get older and kind of lose that side of you.
But I think at the core of my being the kid that loves to play is always there. Specifically, I love the idea of exploring different sides of your personality. Or finding similarities with a character you might not think you have anything in common with.
Plus, it’s been interesting seeing how my process evolves.
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve trained. There’s always more to learn. And I love that wonderful combination of training and instinct.
What inspires you to continue acting?
I had a teacher at A.C.T that said, “If you can do anything else besides acting, you should do it” because acting is a tough career path.
Well, I veered off for a few years and did other things. And I was good at them, and I made a good living. But I was never fully happy or satisfied.
So, I can now say without question that acting is my passion. That’s what inspires me to keep going.
I’ve been doing character voices and accents since I was a kid with my best friend (an amazing actor) Hugo Harold Harrison.
We were so silly together. We still are. I love it.
But I didn’t realize that could be a career path until I took a voice-over class years ago.
It was so much fun. I mean voice‐over IS acting. You just don’t have to be in a costume, have makeup touch ups or worry about blocking.
I started getting into Voice‐Over professionally when I moved to LA.
Preparing for a Voice-Over Session
Well, before I even enter the studio the work has to be done on the development of the character and the script.
In the studio, I make sure I’m wearing comfortable clothing so I can physically feel free.
I use my whole body when I’m doing a voice‐over.
I do some vocal warm‐ups and I always have lots of water on hand. And sometimes when I’m singing I carry a vocal spray with me.
I think technology has had a positive impact overall to acting. You can speak to a wider audience with the numerous video platforms at your fingertips.
It’s easier to share your work with casting directors, agents, managers, directors etc.
Also, good cameras, sound equipment and editing software have become so much more accessible to the consumer.
So you can produce your own projects with a very professional look and feel without breaking the bank.
And clearly, there are SO many social media platforms you can interact with your fans on. I mean, there’s so many of them, sometimes I can’t keep up.
You have to train! Learn your craft.
I grew up playing sports and you would never jump into a softball game without knowing what you are doing or practicing.
I come from a theatre background. I love the theatre. And I’m very big on training. I feel so fortunate to have had it.
I think that over time you develop your own process. But you need a starting off point. I’ve learned that you really need a foundation. And you need a safe place to perform and to not be afraid of failing.
I mean, I’m still learning. I’m still in class. I never feel like, “Oh yes. I’m there. I’m good.”
My coach, Don Bloomfield is amazing.
He constantly challenges me. He forces me to face my fears and to learn to trust myself. I’m always striving to break through personal barriers and to do that you need practice.
Like my coach says, “If you’re not out working on a project, then you should be in class.”
And lastly, don’t have a timeline.
Be prepared to be in it a long time before you see some traction. Just focus on growing and moving one step forward every year.
Remember, even if it’s a tiny one; it’s still a step.
Mutasian Entertainment is a children’s entertainment company where we make books and animation about Mutasia, an island where everyone is a mix of two or more different animals.
We are a very eclectic group of different creative types coming together to make these amazing characters come to life.
It’s colorful, full of catchy music and really, really funny!
The company came about because we wanted to create a fun and unique brand that celebrated individuality in a silly way.
Everyone on our team is a kid at heart, so this project really allows us all to have a lot of fun! And kids have been LOVING it!
It’s so encouraging to get feedback from parents about how their kids demand to re‐read our books over and over again, or won’t go to bed without our album playing.
And the parents are ecstatic because they are enjoying it too.
We work very hard to make something that adults can enjoy just as much as their kids.
What character do you voice in Mutasia?
I voice the character, Figley.
I actually didn’t choose that character. I’ve always done so many projects where I’ve worn multiple hats. And for Mutasia, I convinced myself that I would only focus on helping run the company, writing & producing.
We were having a really hard time casting our main character Figley, who just so happens to be a boy, in our film, The Mish Mash Bash.
My friend and colleague, Ryan McCulloch, who is our Chief Artist and Designer, asked me to audition for Figley.
He and I were in a voice‐over class together at university and he tried to convince me that I’d be perfect for it.
I actually turned him down a few times, but he’s very persuasive. So I put together my audition.
But it is definitely very character driven and very “us.”
We perform every month at the ACME Theatre in NOHO (for our residency shows).
I’m the Director of Business Affairs, but I also help run the production department. So, it’s been such a blast creating video sketches with the group.
We have such a fun time doing them!
Also, two of our gals are writing a script for the group about an all female cast trying to get a TV show made in the 1950’s.
We run Duchess Riot like a small business. But most importantly, we are a little family that has a blast together.
Impact of Improv/Sketch on your career.
It’s crazy because I never set out to be an improviser. I was always a dramatic actor. But, I did some improv in college and then when I moved to LA I took some classes to help me out commercially.
But improv has changed the way I think.
There are so many improv rules that you can apply to your life.
My friend (and fellow Duchess), Erin Muroski, and I teach an improv workshop to non‐actors and its’ been amazing to see how much the students grow in one class.
I always tell people I meet that they should take a couple improv classes (whether you are an actor or not).
Improv has also made me a better dramatic actor.
It’s made me looser, more alert and more trusting of my impulses. And I think in those same ways improv has helped me in sketch too. Improv can make you less self conscious and less scared. And I love that.
Personally, I don’t always want to use social media. But, as an actor, it is expected that you have a Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram, and website etc.
It’s a lot to have to keep up, but I have found ways to make it fun.
I use most of those platforms to share information about the projects I’m working on and the shows I’m performing in.
I’m also a huge foodie and obsessed with my dogs so they get a lot of spotlight on Instagram and Twitter.
But there is also this pressure to have a lot of followers. It can make or break whether you get a part sometimes.
So, that’s the stressful part of social media. But I take it in stride.
2.) Performing with Duchess Riot to a packed house at our first show on the Comedy Central Stage.
3.) Getting to hang out every week after acting class with my #BloomfieldBunch pals.
4.) Filming the sketch (with my other amazing group, Side Effects Improv) based on the wackiness of our real‐ life Christmas parties. It’s appropriately named The Christmas Party and it was shot and edited by the talented Andy Schlachtenhaufen.
5.) Getting to record my first voice‐over as Figley.
6.) Seeing my headshot hang outside the old Avery Schreiber Theatre for my first show in LA.
I am so lucky to have two very special mentors.
Donovan Scott is my friend and comedy mentor. I’m so lucky to be in his comedy troupe, Side Effects. He’s has taught me so much by sharing the lessons he’s learned from his massively long career.
And I talked about Don Bloomfield before already. I wish I could write down all the awesome gems he’s said over the many years I’ve studied with him.