As a kid you most likely, at one point or another dreamed of being one of the characters in your favorite cartoon. Adam McArthur is living that dream. He not only voices Marco Diaz on Disney XD’s hit animated series Star vs. the Forces of Evil, but also serves as the overall voice of the channel. And to top it all off he is a successful entrepreneur who is really good in Kung Fu. It really doesn’t get any cooler than that. Adam went OnRCRD to tell us about his journey and what he’s looking forward to in the future.
Where are you from, Adam?
Adam : I am originally from Northern California, a little city called Pinole, it’s about 15 miles east of San Francisco.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Adam: Acting. It’s the dream. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an actor. My parents used to say as a five and six year old, I would ask them for an agent. I don’t know how I knew what the heck that was.I wanted to move down to L. A. and pursue a career but didn’t want to just leave school and all that stuff. I wanted to finish up college. In 2003, I transferred from a junior college in Northern California to Pepperdine University and finished up my schooling there while I started pursuing acting down here in L.A.
What inspired you?
Adam: Every 80’s cartoon. Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, GI Joe. I’m a big cartoon guy. That’s what I knew and wanted to do. I started taking some improv classes when I was 16 and doing more on-camera stuff and realized that I loved all of it. There wasn’t necessarily just a one thing, it was more of just an imaginative childhood and encouraging parents.
If you could share the screen with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
Adam: It’s such an easy question, it’s absolutely Jackie Chan. If I can be on anything, even if it’s a voice-over project and meet Jackie Chan, that would be game over. I’d be like, “All right, I’ve peaked.”
How did you get into martial arts?
Adam: I’ve always known I wanted to do two things, having agents and do Kung Fu. I begged my parents, literally forever. Finally, I got beat up in sixth grade, my mom was like, “Maybe we should put him in some martial arts.” Coincidentally, my dad who was a police officer had trained with a teacher, John Yi, who opened up a school right down the street from my house. When I was 11, my parents put me in Kung Fu and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teacher also taught judo, so I do judo as well. I still teach and train and all that good stuff.
Do you compete?
Adam: I used to compete, I don’t compete anymore. It’s hard to go on auditions having a black eye or not being able to walk because your knee is swollen. I don’t compete anymore. The last competition I did was in 2008 or 2009. Now, it’s just about the fun of it, not the pressure of competition. It’s an escape. It’s that one thing that’s always been there for me. If I’m stressed or if I’m tired, even or I’m feeling bummed because I didn’t get a role, I always have that, I can go back. It’s my safe meditative place.
Have any of your skills that you acquired through martial arts helped in your acting career?
Adam: Definitely, the skills translate, not necessarily the physical movements but the work ethic, knowing what’s it like to do something really difficult and not necessarily see why you’re doing it right away. Until you do it for a long time and you’re like, “Oh.” You can reflect and look back and see the importance of it. People ask me all the time, “How do you succeed in entertainment?” or “If I want to be an actor, what do I do?” The one thing you’ve got to do is get ready to just persevere, you’ve got to be here for a long time, you got to be able to not get jobs and you got to be able to just be here when the time comes for you to get a job. That’s how the skills are translated.
Awesome. What did it feel like the first time you stepped in front of a camera or behind the mic on a professional level?
Adam: Incredible, there’s no feeling like it. It’s why I’ve been doing it for 15-16 years. When you book a job, it’s like all the annoyances and pain and traffic that you’ve sat through to get to all the other auditions you didn’t get, you forget all about it, you’re living that high. The work for actors are the auditions. The fun is the job because once you’ve got it, it’s like they picked you for a reason so you’re there and now you get to just have fun. When I first moved to L.A., I had a commercial agent within a couple of weeks and the second week after I was with them, I booked a commercial a week for three weeks in a row. I was like, “This is awesome. I’ve made it.” Obviously, the industry ebbs and flows, it’s not like I’ve been booking commercials every week since then. That first commercial, being on the set, it’s what you’ve always dreamed of.
What was the first one?
Adam: A Six Flags commercial. They had this series of commercials with a dancing old man. I wasn’t the old man. I played a golf caddie. I think I was 23 or 24 at that time and the role was for a 15-year-old golf caddie.
Tell us about Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
Adam: In 2013, I auditioned for a show. Like any other audition for any other show, only except for the fact that it turned out to not be just any other show, it turned out to be Star vs. the Forces of Evil. We’re currently in our third season on Disney XD. Fourth season’s already been greenlit. It was a standard audition. Next thing you know, I’m getting a callback, and another callback, and I’m reading across from Eden Sher who voices the other lead on the show, having the best time ever.
The show’s about a magical princess from another dimension who befriends a boy from earth and they go on these inter-dimensional adventures. The show has turned into a life-changing experience for me, which is really cool. It has taken me to conventions and I’ve met people whose lives have been affected by the characters and the storylines. Traditional cartoons, they’re all one-off episodes. You get a simple plot each episode, and you could literally throw any episode on TV and understand.
The cool thing about what’s happening nowadays, is you’re getting a through-line plot and character development in cartoons. In three seasons, we’ve seen them go from Earth to Mewni, which is the main girl character’s dimension, and go on all these crazy adventures. There’s love triangles, and there’s drama, all in this animated world. The show has a lot of heart and it’s really sweet.
The character that I voice is so eerily similar to me, in that he thinks he’s a bad boy but really, he’s just this nice kid who likes to play by the rules. It’s been a lot of fun reliving my junior high and high school years, vicariously through this character named Marco Diaz.
How is your life different as someone who is a voice actor? Can you show up at work in your pajamas and no one cares as long as your voice is ready to go?
Adam: I get that question all the time, “Can you just wear your pajamas to work?” I’m like, “Yes, maybe, but why would anyone wear their pajamas to work?” It’s a professional industry, just like any others. It’s actually, arguably, incredibly more competitive than on-camera work just because there is so much more on-camera work. It’s a very small pool for the people who get the roles for voice-over stuff.
It comes down to the work ethic. Just, how I represent myself when I’m behind the mike, and all that stuff, is very important to me. In addition to the Star vs. the Forces of Evil, I am the voice of Disney XD. I do all their like, “Coming up next on Disney XD.” A week for me is never the same. It’s always different. Maybe one day has five sessions, the next day has none, just has auditions.
I am always driving in L.A. I’m always in some random studio somewhere across the city, recording some random line that might be a chicken that burps really loud. There’s just the most random thing, you’re a towel who’s angry, you’re a dog who’s really excited to get food, you’re a character who is 14, he’s a safe kid. It’s always different, so it’s a lot of fun. I’m getting paid to do what I used to get in trouble and sent to the principal for in junior high, can’t complain.
Is there anything else you’d like to go OnRCRD?
Adam: I would love everybody to check out Star vs the Forces of Evil. Season one and two are available for streaming on Hulu, the show airs on Disney XD and I’m pretty sure season three should be available at any moment in its entirety. You can just binge season one, two, and three on Hulu, you can follow me on Instagram @ninjamac and you can follow me on Twitter @_AdamM
Photographer: Mario Barberio
Grooming: Kimberly Johnson