The truly outrageous animated 80's series Jem: The Complete Series is now out on DVD and we were lucky enough to chat with the voice of Jem, Samantha Newark. Personal note here. I am, like most of the rest of the girls my age, a huge Jem fan, and I was thrilled to be included on the DVD extras as a superfan. Newark is also a contributor for the upcoming comics anthology, Womanthology (along with myself and Newsarama comic super star Jill Pantozzi). Her song, “Blue Sea” has been adapted into comic form. Newark talked about the DVD, what it means to have fans still loving the series, why she didn't sing for Jem and the weirdest thing a fan has asked her to do.
Newsarama: Well, I know what a big deal this is for me because I'm a huge Jem fan, but how amazing is this for you, Samantha?
Samantha Newark: It is surreal. It is totally surreal. I mean, I did not expect I would be here all of these years later talking about Jem. I mean, I knew it was a wonderful show, but I didn’t realize the impact, when I was doing the show, I had no idea how huge it was. At the time. There’s no clue. And now I’m, now I see the impact, all these years later, and it’s pretty mind-blowing.
Nrama: Totally. So what sort of special features are you on?Newark: I’m on the, oh gosh. I don’t remember what the title of it is. You know what, I don’t remember which titles. But I’m in it quite a lot, I’m in it quite a bit, so—and I think I’m through part of your section as well, you know, the fans, with the fan interviews. And then also the scenes with the voice actors, that’s the other one, so, those two little sections, yeah. They did such an amazing job.
Nrama: So, you said you didn’t know this was going to be a hit, but it was a really sort of ground-breaking thing, with the music videos and everything. Did you ever get a chance to record with the rest of the cast, or was this sort of a traditional, you’re alone in the booth kind of a thing?
Newark: Well, we were so fortunate in that we recorded it ensemble, which, they really don’t do a whole lot of that and not—we recorded as a cast, and the microphones were lined up in a room and there was like, sometimes as many as, you know, twenty of us in there at a time, sharing microphones. So that was such an awesome way to do a show, because you’re playing it off of other people, and it’s not just you reading copy. You know, and then they’re going to dub the other person in later, which is mostly how they do voiceovers, but yeah.Nrama: Well you know, it’s funny, because you’re such a great singer and I’m curious why they didn’t have you sing?
Newark: Well that was done in, all the singing and the casting of the singers, the cast of Britta Philips and all the other singers and the songwriters and musicians and all of that, that seemed to all be done in New York, and was already cast before I even read for Jem and I lived on the west coast in California. So none of us in the cast that sang got to do any of the singing. And none of the singers who also were actors got to do any of the voiceover stuff. It was completely separate, and none of us even met each other until very recently.
Nrama: Of course I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but I have to ask too. Do you have a favorite episode?Newark: There’s so many good episodes. I was just talking to someone a little while ago and like I like some of the episodes for different reasons. Like I loved the out of the past episode because I got to play a little girl, I got to play little Jerrica, and it was a very moving kind of meaty episode, which was lovely to be able to do. And then there was another one where there’s a girl on drugs and it was very dramatic and, you know, that was great.
Nrama: I remember that one.
Newark: I don’t remember the name of the episode. And I just watched another one the other day that was, we were all skiing somewhere, all the holograms were skiing, and Patricia (Alice Albrecht) was particularly—Patricia, the voice of Pizzazz—was so funny in the episode that I was like this has got to be one of my favorite episodes because she’s so funny.Nrama: Well you know, a lot of people have been talking about the possibility of a live-action film. If they did do that, who would you want to see cast?
Newark: Gosh, that’s a good question. I mean selfishly I would love them to do an animated film so I could play Jem; that would be really nice. But I think it would be really cool if they did a search for an unknown, because you know, the business is so celebrity driven almost ad nauseum, and I think it would be really wonderful to give somebody a career, you know. It’s a really tough business. And I was an unknown and they took a chance on me, and um, I think that would be a lovely thing to do if they did some sort of, if they hired somebody that nobody knew that was really talented.
Nrama: Well, tell me a little bit about the new album you have coming out.
Newark: It’s a really fun, up-tempo, fun record. I kind of didn’t know I had that in me. I mean, I’ve written a lot of sad songs and I’ve, just this music started coming through and it’s all, it’s a very positive record. In fact the title track is called Something Good, and it’s a feel-good record, and I’m excited about that because the world has gone crazy and I think we kind of need to have stuff that helps us lighten up. So it’s very like synth pop and it’s got dance influences and, it’s quite good I think, I’m excited about it.Nrama: What is the weirdest thing a fan has ever given you?
Newark: The weirdest thing a fan has ever given me, huh. Um, I don’t really think I’ve been given or gifted anything weird, but the craziest thing that I ever was asked to do for Jem was sign this girl’s wedding dress.
Nrama: Oh my gosh.
Newark: It was crazy. I was in a restaurant and it was an anniversary dinner and somehow she found out I was Jem and she ran over to me and asked me to sign her wedding dress, and I was just like oh, I can’t sign your dress, that’s your wedding dress, that’s crazy, I can’t put ink on it. She said no, you have to sign my dress, I’m freaking out, and that was very cool. So it’s somewhere in a closet with my autograph under the hem.