Julia Kato Finds
Her Voice Over
The Actress And Voiceover Talent Talks Rugrats And The Character That Provided A Positive Asian-American Persona On Television
By David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Reel to Real Special for Modern Times Magazine
April 25, 2016 — Julia Kato was born in New York City but moved to Los Angeles at age 12. By the time she arrived in Tinseltown, she had already gained an appreciation of the arts from her “non-stage parents” who exposed her to film, theater and dance. It’s through that exposure that she harbored ambitions to one day enter show business. It’s an ambition held by a lot of Angelenos who wait tables in the hopes of one day catching that big break.
With a solid sense of perspective and understanding of the long odds of show business success, Kato attended UC-Irvine focusing her studies on social ecology and human behavior, while taking elective classes in the arts. As an Asian-American, she also was grounded in reality of the scarcity of roles that would fit her “type.”
Kato caught that break when she went on a round of auditions and booked a small voiceover part playing a teenager in the Disney show Bonkers that enjoyed a short run in 1993-94. She immediately realized that she had found her niche.
A voiceover career is not only viable; Kato said it holds other advantages. “You work with creative and nice people and for the most part you’re not on a set for 12 to 14 hours, under hot lights or worrying about your make-up and what you’re wearing.”
When the animated series Rugrats debuted on the cable network Nickelodeon in 1991, it quickly became a ratings and critical hit by featuring the perspective of a group of babies, notably lead characters, including Tommy Pickles and Chuckie Finster. It was an animated series that had cross-generational appeal and it talked to audiences at different levels.
Kato’s big break came when her character, Kira, Chuckie’s step-mother, was introduced in the 2001 movie, Rugrats in Paris. Kira then joined the TV series and stayed with it until it ended its run in 2004 after three movies and 174 episodes.
As an Asian-American, Kato said Rugrats projected a positive image. “The character had so much integrity. Race was never an issue as the show was color-blind. I hope the part will continue to inspire more diversity in the casting of parts. ”
“Rugrats” reruns currently air on Nickelodeon's “The Splat” a programming block dedicated exclusively to original Nickelodeon shows from two decades ago.
Kato says social media that didn’t thrive during the first-run of Rugrats, has connected her to a new audience for the show. With her Twitter handle @juliakato, she enjoys actively engaging with old and new fans of the show.
Like other shows that live to see a second act (think the various Star Trek franchises) Kato feels a revival of the show, or perhaps another movie, is a possibility. While she continues to pursue other roles, she’s introspective about her years on Rugrats.
“I’ve been blessed to be part of such an endearing series,” she said. “I’ve played a positive Asian-American character and those episodes live on forever.”
David Fantle & Tom Johnson have interviewed more than 250 celebrities, mostly from “Hollywood’s Golden Age.” They are co-authors of the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 Years Of Celebrity Profiles From Vaudeville To Movies To TV and are currently writing a biography of songwriter and legendary MGM musical producer Arthur Freed. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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