A few years ago, Kerrigan Mahan discovered a unique way to get out of a speeding ticket.
As the police officer was writing up the citation, Mahan walked up and said, “Hey — you got kids?”
“Why?” the officer asked.
“Well,” Mahan replied. “I’m Goldar.”
The cop stopped writing. “What? You’re Goldar?”
The officer set aside his citation book, approached Mahan and looked him in the eye. And after a pause, he said: “Do it.”
Then, in the middle of a Hollywood Hills neighborhood, Mahan unleashed his gravelly, throaty, Cookie Monster-esque Goldar voice — the one that millions of “Power Rangers”-loving kids knew by heart.
After signing five autographs, Mahan was off the hook and a lesson was learned: Never hesitate to pull the Goldar card.
“I could tell you a full ‘Power Ranger’ story every week,” said Mahan, a voice actor who lives in Morro Bay.
It started with ‘Robotech’
While Goldar is probably his best-known role, Mahan can be heard in numerous films and TV shows, lending his voice to cartoons, movie trailers, actors who need dubbing, and commercials.
“Most voice-over actors wind up coming out of radio or coming out of acting,” Mahan said.
In his case, it was acting.
The son of two novelists from Encino, he was working a theater gig in the 1980s when his girlfriend at the time told him she was approached at the restaurant where she worked and asked to audition for a part in a cartoon.
“She comes home and says, ‘This guy came and said I have a great voice’ — which she did, she was a blues singer — ‘and that they’re recording some stuff just down the street and he wants me to come in and see what they’re doing and maybe get some work.’ ”
It being late, Mahan was suspicious.
“I said, Wanda — 11 o’clock at night and this guy’s recording a cartoon down the street? Are you serious? Come on.”
Turned out, it was true — they were recording a Japanese-to-English translation for the cartoon “Robotech.” Once Mahan and his girlfriend arrived at the studio, they were both asked to audition.
“I watched and saw what they were doing and how it was being done, and I’m going, ‘There’s no way in the world I can do this,” he said. “Trying to read the script and match the mouth and perform all at the same time?”
But the 28-year-old struggling actor tried out and got the part — and a new career was launched.
Stand-in to the stars
More gigs arrived, and he eventually found himself doing voice looping, replacing words or sentences actors uttered in movies. Voice matches are needed when the original recording is drowned out by other noise, when cuss words are replaced for TV airings or when lines just weren’t read well, and the actors aren’t available to fill in their own parts.
“I have to step in and make it a better performance,” said Mahan, who has replaced lines for actors such as Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones. “But I’m stuck with his lips.”
Translations are more difficult because Mahan has to make his English words match the character’s mouth, which is saying something else. That often requires changing the script.
“You’ve got to do the best you can to make the sentence flow,” he said, noting that a good writer/actor might get one minute of dialogue in an hour.
Mahan speaks with a dramatic actor’s cadence, often doing different voices that accompany a myriad of expressions. His natural voice sounds a bit like Michael Douglas, and at times he looks like an older Marlon Brando or Anthony Hopkins.
Mahan has done so much voice work, he never knows when a segment he’s worked on might pop up.
“One day I’m watching TV, and ‘Scooby-Doo’ is on,” said his wife, Melanie. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my god — that’s Kerrigan.’ ”
Mahan’s cartoon credits include guest spots on “What’s New, Scooby-Doo?” “Batman Beyond” and “Family Guy.” Other film and TV voice credits include “Doctor Dolittle,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Santa Clause.”
He has also found work voicing movie trailers, TV show promos and commercials, including a Taco Bell ad originally given to actor Charlie Sheen.
“Charlie Sheen was replaced because of a lewd sex act,” Mahan said, referring to claims that Sheen had paid for prostitutes. “I’m plugged in, and I’m the late-night Taco Bell shift. Nice gig.”
Along the way, there were frustrations and setbacks — including several gigs that didn’t pan out. He was the voice of a radio show host in the Craig T. Nelson show “The District,” but that role didn’t last. Meanwhile, the shows “Robotech” and “Team Knight Rider,” a spinoff from the popular “Knight Rider” series, didn’t make the cut.
In “Team Knight Rider,” Mahan supplied the voice of a Ford truck named The Attack Beast. While success could have led to a big payoff, Mahan knew that wasn’t likely from the first episode.
“I watched episode one and went, ‘Oh God, oh God — this is really bad,” he said.
‘A big voice’
He had similar expectations for “Power Rangers.” The casting, he recalled, was pretty simple.
“The guy who ran the show was like, ‘Dave, why don’t you take the guy in blue — his name is Baboo. George, take that little squat guy. His name is Squatt. Kerrigan, I want you to do the gold-winged guy — his name is Goldar.’ ”
The show featured silly-looking costumed heroes battling equally silly-looking monsters. The Goldar character looked like a monkey dressed in armor.
“What do you want me to do with him?” Kerrigan asked.
“I want a big voice on him.”
After the initial taping, Mahan and the other actors didn’t hold out hope for return work.
“We went out and had a beer and said, ‘What a joke — that’s not going anywhere.’ ”
But “Power Rangers” became a huge success — and a merchandising empire. Still, the voice actors were paid modestly, about $600 per episode — which was the same money they were offered to do a movie with a $40 million budget. When the actors declined, they were replaced.
“And we hear down the pike that they did a little test screening,” Mahan said. “And it didn’t go so well.”
The original actors were rehired and offered more — $8,000.
“Could we have gotten more?” Mahan said. “I don’t see how we couldn’t have.”
Still — eight grand was eight grand, and the offer was accepted.
The off-screen advantage
While voice acting can be tough work — without the glory and fame of onscreen actors — there are advantages, Mahan said.
“No makeup, no sitting around, no waiting in between takes,” said Mahan, whose first onscreen role was as a guest on the TV show “S.W.A.T.” “With (voice over), you’re just working.”
Mahan isn’t just a voice actor, though. A decade ago, he directed “Matty, An Evening With Christy Mathewson,” a play about the famous Major League pitcher that played to good reviews in Los Angeles and New York. And he and a partner are currently adapting “Paint It Black,” a best-selling novel by “White Oleander” author Janet Fitch.
He still does voice work, often recording in his home. But if the Fitch screenplay is a hit, you can expect less voice work.
“I’ve segued to writing,” he said.