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Meet Tajja!

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Meet Tajja Isen—she’s the voice of Cartoon Network’s superhero “Atomic Betty,” and definitely a superhero in real life! Find out how she began her acting career at the age of nine, and how she balances acting, playing music, and school!

How did you break into acting?

My first acting opportunity came as a dancer on 'Judy and David's Boombox,’ an interstitial [commercial-length] television series. My first big break into the industry actually happened as a series of events that started on this set. The choreographer of the show (who happened to also be working for a casting company for Disney) approached me saying, "You would make a great Young Nala for Disney's 'The Lion King' (Toronto's stage production). I was nine years old at the time.

I went for a series of auditions and made it to the final rounds, where I even had the opportunity to perform in front of the New York 'Lion King' crew. I was told at this final audition however, that I was still too young/small, but that I would make a great Young Nala 'down the line.' Even though I didn't get in that first time, I had experienced a bit of 'the biz' and was really inspired to try more. Interestingly, that same choreographer recommended an agent whom we eventually met and signed with. I started going out for auditions, and landed my first role a few months later. I won the part of 'Sister Bear' on 'The Berenstain Bears'. 'The Lion King' called me back to audition a few months later, and this time around, I landed this huge role!

Was your first role in-person or a voiceover? Which do you prefer?

My very first professional acting role was voicing the character of 'Sister Bear' in the animated series 'The Berenstain Bears.' In my career, I have had the opportunity to perform both onstage/on camera and voiceovers, and I enjoy all of the experiences so much that I can't even begin to think about which I prefer! In terms of in-person or live theatre, I love the thrill and spontaneity that comes with performing in front of a live audience. In regards to voiceovers, I like the relaxed studio environment. They each have different aspects about them that I am passionate about.

How are you and your character "Atomic Betty" similar? How are you different?

Surprisingly, there are several parallels between Betty and me (minus the physical side of things, of course!!) We are both extremely independent, have a positive take-charge attitude, and we're both a little quirky. As well, we're both constantly disappearing - Betty to save the galaxy, and me to act! Apart from the fact that I'm not the defender of the cosmos, Betty and I are different because of the ways that we choose to resolve conflicts and attack different situations. Betty will carefully formulate a plan and execute it with the utmost care ... whereas I will dive in and attempt a solution with spontaneity and enthusiasm!

What are your days like when you're acting as "Atomic Betty"? What's the cartoon-making process like?

When I'm acting as "Atomic Betty", I will usually miss half a day to one full day of school, per episode. The actors record the script in a studio, based on the directions from the voice director. Sometimes I will record alone, or, if I have a lot of scenes with different characters, I will record with other actors. Several different takes of each line will be recorded and the best-performed lines will be selected for the final 'mix' to be put into the show. The animation is done after the initial script is recorded. If there is a last-minute change of script after the animation is complete, the actor will be called back in to match the spoken line to the animation ('ADR').


How are your career goals different from your educational goals?

I see my career goals and my educational goals as being of equal importance, since my career is what I'll be doing for my entire life, and my education is what's going to get me there. In terms of my career goals, I would like to tackle the music industry and have a successful album of my own to follow the wonderful 'Atomic Betty' CD which was just released. I love to write music and I have been playing piano for ten years, so allowing my music to be heard by the world is one of my major aspirations. I would also like to continue acting, both onstage and onscreen. And of course, my educational goals - I just started high school this year and I am very focused on keeping my marks up. Eventually, I would like to attend university, majoring in Music, English or Drama ... I'm not sure yet, but I've got time to decide!

You have a lot going on in your life right now! How do you balance work pressures and school?

I balance work and school pressures with responsibility, good time management and some extra planning. I will always get the work I'm going to miss before I leave school, so I don't have any stressful catching up to do later. The day before, I will figure out which classes I'll be missing, speak to my teachers, and obtain the homework. With that extra little effort, everything really seems to just fall into place!

What advice can you give to girls working toward careers in the performing arts?

A good way to begin a potential career in the performing arts is to start small. You could try some community theater or even a school play, and practice keeping up with your studies while balancing the production. Once you begin in the industry, you have to learn to not be easily discouraged. A lot of constructive criticism is going to come your way, and you have to learn to follow directions, but at the same time take nothing personally.

The process of working in entertainment involves many auditions, so you have to learn to always be well prepared, and to remember that you're not going to get every audition that you attempt. My parents' best advice has been that "Everything happens for a reason and that there are no coincidences for the things that happen" - if you don't get the part, then it wasn't meant to be. Another nugget of advice would be to be yourself - customize your own identity and style. If you look at the music industry today for example, there are a lot of performers that are carbon copies of one another. Everyone, whether it be casting directors, talent scouts, music producers and fans alike, are always looking for something unique and different. Try to break the mold a little bit and see what you can come up with. Whether it's a rare vocal style or a never-before-attempted acting technique, give it a whirl. It'll make you stand out and get noticed!

The Girls Inc. mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. How are you strong, smart, and bold in your life?

Those are three wonderful things to aspire to be! I try to embody these qualities by always speaking my mind and voicing my honest opinion, putting lots of effort into my schoolwork, and topping it all off with a common sense. I also think that it is important to stand up for yourself and put up a bit of a fight when you believe your cause is true while always being considerate of the way others think and feel. Try something new - you don't always have to do what everyone else does! Originality is about being strong, smart and bold.

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