She was teased as a child for having a baby voice, but now Cheryl Chase is the one who’s laughing’all the way to the bank’as the voice of Angelica Pickles on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and, now, All Grown Up– the spin-off series that has the Rugrats gang tackling adolescent challenges. This Saturday, Aug. 28, at 8 p.m., Chase will see her character take that very important step into teendom in a Nickelodeon special titled All Grown Up: Lucky 13.
In the new special, Angelica plans the biggest 13th birthday bash ever, deliberately excluding her cousin, Tommy, and his preteen pals. Trouble looms, however, when arch-rival Savannah decides to throw a spring bash on the same day. Despite being snubbed, Tommy and the rest of the crew rally to make sure Angelica’s party is the event of the season.
Chase says her own entry into the teenage club wasn’t all that memorable because her birthday falls on Christmas and was often overshadowed by Yuletide excitement and her family’s big celebrations. But with no holiday hoopla to get in the way, Chase says she can really enjoy Angelica’s rite of passage.
"I’m excited to watch it because I’m going to be back East with my family and I suddenly remembered ‘Hey, wait a minute, Saturday night is when we’re having this big family party!’ So I’m going to have a big cake done and have a party for her at my house in Pennsylvania," Chase comments.
All Grown Up has given Chase an opportunity that is unique among voice actors. While Nancy Cartwright will probably be doing a 10-year-old Bart Simpson until retirement, Chase gets to play Angelica with a little more sophistication in the new series. And although her normal speaking voice could be mistaken for that of a 13-year-old on the phone, she says she still has to work at being a kid in the studio. "Sometimes when I’m doing a show the director will say, ‘Okay, you have to young it up a little bit. You sound 40,’" she notes. "So it’s a little bit younger version of my voice with an attitude–a lot of attitude."
Chase’s introduction to the Nickelodeon family came in 1989 when she landed a part in a pilot titled Big House Blues, which later became John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy. Before that, she made her living doing dubbing for Japanese animation. One such gig had her working alongside another up-and-comer, Christine Cavanaugh, who would later originate the role of Chuckie on Rugrats and reprise the part on All Grown Up. "That was back in the ’80s when we both just got into town," Chase recalls. "Kath Soucie [(voice of Phil DeVille and other Rugrats characters)] and I had our first voiceover class together. Then in the late ’80s, I was doing this Japanese Christmas special called The Pillow People with Cree Summer [(voice of Rugrats’ Suzie' Carmicheal)]. It’s so funny that here we all are coming together on this big, big show."
While most aspiring actors dream of seeing their faces on billboards, Chase says behind the microphone is where it’s at. "It is a dream job," she insists. "Basically, it takes you a little over an hour, depending on how big your part is in the episode, and that’s one hour a week. Plus, you don’t have to worry about what you look like. Way back when, I was stuck in an office working 9-6 and going to acting school at night. In those days, I don’t even remember eating dinner at the table, it was always in the car."
When Chase isn’t tormenting the other tykes as Angelica, she’s busy brewing up side projects of her own. "I’m developing an adult animated show that I’m going to be pitching around to studios," she reveals. "I don’t want to talk about it yet but it’s going to be really exciting. I want to make the adults laugh this time." She’s also working to launch an online dating service, of all things.
In the meantime, Chase says Nickelodeon plans to keep her busy for a while, noting, "I heard we just got an order for 10 more shows, so I’m real happy about that." Also in production are two Rugrats DVDs, which will play off the classic Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk tales.
When asked if we’ll see Angelica and the other Rugrats age even more over the years, Chase quips, "I’ll do any version. I’ll do Angelica Goes to College or Rugrats in the Nursing Home, whatever they want me to do. Angelica will probably go to some big business school, run for president and take over the world."
Saturday’s premiere of All Grown Up: Lucky 13 will cap off a six-hour marathon of Rugrats and All Grown Up episodes highlighting Angelica’s exploits. It all kicks off at 2 p.m. ET/PT.