- - Friday, October 23, 2015

In the 1980s “Jem” was a cartoon series about an all-female New Wave band called The Holograms trying to make it to the top. Beloved by scores of girls, young women and gay men alike, the show ran for three years, generating a ton of fond neon-colored memories.

A live-action version of the campy cartoon titled “Jem and the Holograms” hits the big screen Friday, staring Juliette Lewis, Molly Ringwald and Aubrey Peeples as Jem. To mark its rocking return, Samantha Newark, who voiced Jem in the original animated series (she also has a cameo in the film) discussed the cartoon’s history and what she thinks of the big-screen remake.

Question: How did you end up landing the original role of Jem in 1985?

Answer: Just a million auditions for on-camera stuff and for voiceover. I walked in one day and auditioned for Jem. I was 18 years old. The next day I went to Colorado with my folks for a week. I had booked the job, and my agent was frantically trying to reach me. This was before cellphones. He was yelling, “You’ve got to come back! You’ve got to start working!”

Q: How many episodes did you do?

A: We did 65 episodes. It ran for three years, and then it was in syndication land forever.

Q: Did you ever image something you did when you were 18 would still resonate with people decades later?

A: I had no idea. I didn’t even have a concept at the time that it was going out to millions of kids. I didn’t get the levity of it. There was no social media. You didn’t have that instant ability to take the temperature of the show and see how successful it really was.

Q: What was it about the show so many people loved?

A: It’s got heart. I really think that’s what it is. It’s got a lovely moral compass. And a whole lot of heart. When we were doing the show, the producers wanted a very real read. So I think that kids kind of felt like we were their friends. They looked up to us. They connected in that way.

Q: Jem was a singer, and you’re a singer, but you didn’t sing on the show?

A: I didn’t do the singing. I have been a singer since I was a small child. I was singing professionally since I was 7, made a record when I was eight. But the singing for Jem was all cast in New York before I auditioned for the speaking role. They matched my speaking voice to the singing voice.

Q: When you do an comic convention, what is the most common thing people say to you?

A: They say, “I’m having a moment. This is my childhood coming back to me.” Often they cry, and it’s very powerful. Nostalgia is really powerful and lovely. I don’t take it lightly. It’s really precious.

Q: What is the strangest thing you have been asked to sign?

A: I signed a wedding dress once. Somebody asked me to sign her wedding dress, and I said, “No, I can’t sign your dress, it’s too beautiful.” She said, “You don’t understand. You have to sign my dress.” So I did, and made a bride very happy.

Q: How do you feel about the fact that they are releasing a live-action, big-screen version of “Jem and the Holograms”?

A: I love it. And I actually got to see the movie. I went to a private screening of it a couple weeks ago, and it has all the elements I was so hoping it would. It made me cry in a good way. It’s got a lovely heart. It’s all heart. And I cared about the characters. They did a great job.

Q: Away from “Jem,” how do you spend your days?

A: I spent the last two years touring with an epic Pink Floyd tribute band called “Bricks in the Wall” out of Dallas. And I just relocated to Nashville and am working on writing and recording my third album. I also just did a voiceover for an animated short film called “HG Chicken in Chronological Order” with Bobcat Goldthwait. And the narration for an animated LGBT-themed children story coming out soon.

For more on Samantha Check out SamanthaNewark.com.


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