If you grew up in the ’80s, you probably remember hearing Samantha Paris’ voice as Roxanne, a member of the animated, all-female rock group “Jem and the Holograms,” or as Meg, part of the cyborg family of TV superheroes known as the “Bionic Six.”
“I grew up in Los Angeles as Bobbi Block,” says Paris, “and started doing voiceovers for cartoons and commercials when I was 15 years old.”
Since then, her voice has been heard in more than 1,000 regional and national commercials, plus more than 200 animated half-hour TV shows. Growing tired of the L.A. lifestyle, she eventually moved to the Bay Area, where she discovered the gift of teaching her skills to others. She founded her Voicetrax School for Voiceover Training in Sausalito, got married, legally changed her name to Samantha Paris, and soon after settled in Petaluma.
“Moving to Petaluma was a fluke,” she says. “My husband Andre and I were living in chi-chi Mill Valley at the time, and I wanted something a little earthier. When I came up to Petaluma, I just loved how authentic everybody was, and it felt like home.”
The Parises saw there was an open house for a Julia Morgan-inspired property, and having visited Hearst Castle several times, they visited, but were disappointed.
“I was expecting something castle-like, which it was not,” she admits. “But directly across the street was a grand, Mediterranean-style home that looked like one of the Beverly Hills mansions I dreamed about living in when I was little. We put in an offer, sold our house in three days, and the home was ours.”
Since the Voicetrax school first opened its doors, an estimated 10,000 people have taken classes with Samantha Paris. One of the things she teaches is how to love the challenge of performing in commercials.
“They are little 30- or 60-second plays,” she says. “But let’s face it, I am performing for an audience that hates me … doesn’t want to watch me or listen to me, and has high-tech inventions at their fingertips that can cut me out. So when I can grab my audience, and connect with a group of people who don’t want to connect with me, I find that to be such a super sexy creative challenge.”
Now married to retired Petaluma chef/restauranteur Graziano Perozzi, Paris’s latest challenge was to write her memoir, the recently released “Finding the Bunny.” The book, with a proward by actor Peter Coyote, includes vignettes focusing on her difficult upbringing as a child of alcoholics. When asked if it was hard to include such incidents, Paris says no.
“Funny enough, nothing was difficult to put into the book,” she reports. “The thing that’s difficult is that it’s taken me so long. With their disdain and their negativity and lack of support, (my mother and stepfather) actually made me feel guilty about being successful. It’s only recently that I’ve come to believe that it’s OK for me to be a success, it’s OK to be prosperous, it’s OK to have a great life and be happy. But it’s taken me a long time.”
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Where can I hear (and watch) Samantha Paris?
Samantha’s first ever book signing will be at Petaluma’s Copperfield’s Books on Saturday afternoon, March 31. On Sunday, April 15, Voicetrax actors will combine their talents with music and sound effects for a live version of the “Finding the Bunny” audiobook at Book Passage in Corte Madera.