THE WOMAN BEHIND PRINCE PLANET AND JOHNNY SOKKO! Actress Catherine Byers Recalls Her Early Dubbing Career!

Photo © Catherine Byers.

Prior to her career as a successful Broadway actress, Catherine Byers worked as a voice actress who performed several starring roles in Japanese television programs at the Miami-based Copri Films International during the 1960s. Under the name Bobbie Byers, she played Prince Planet in the popular anime series Prince Planet (1965-66), Bonnie in the Osamu Tezuka-created cartoon show The Amazing 3 (1965-66), and Johnny Sokko in the live-action tokusatsu classic Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (1967-68). In this January 2021 interview with Brett Homenick, Ms. Byers recounts her memories of working on some of the popular TV imports from Japan of the 1960s.

Brett Homenick: Please tell me a little bit about growing up, your childhood, what your hobbies were, and give me some of your background.

Catherine Byers: I was born in Sioux City, Iowa. For the first nine years of my life, I lived in a very small town called Mapleton, Iowa. This I find interesting, just my past. My grandfather Byers was a mortician. (laughs) And my grandfather Rudbeck, who is Danish — one side of my family is all Danish — was a blacksmith. It was very interesting, growing up as a child. At the time I was a child, one of my great-uncles didn’t have electricity.

Then we moved to Omaha; my father moved to Omaha. In Omaha, he died when I was 13. I had a sister, seven, and a brother, two, at the time, and my mother was a very young widow of 36. We became a very, very tight-knit little family. I have lovely memories, but that’s something that shapes your life forever, the death of a father. It was related to World War II, his death was.

BH: Could you talk a little bit about your father? What did he do in World War II?

CB: He was in flight training. I was three years old when he enlisted. He was in flight training, and something to do with the training caused [his death] — I don’t really know what it was. So his death was not in World War II, but it was related to World War II. He never saw action, partly because he had me and my mother, and they didn’t send young men like that overseas, especially because he enlisted.

I was born just a couple of months before Pearl Harbor. So I don’t know much about his career. I have his stuff, his Army hat and things like that, and my brother has a few things. My sister is deceased, my young sister. We were stationed in Miami, and that’s as much as I know. The hard thing is, nobody is alive that can tell me. (laughs)

BH: Well, that really is a shame. For the record, what was your father’s name, and what was your mother’s name?

CB: My father’s name was Robert Earl Byers, and my mother’s name was Pauline Catherine Rudbeck. That’s the Americanized version of Rudbæk in Danish. Both sides [of the family] are kind of interesting.

BH: In what way are they interesting?

CB: Well, my grandmother Byers was born in 1900, and she lost her parents in the pandemic of 1918; she lost both parents. In that time period, between 1917 and 1918, my father was born. We’re not sure about my father’s paternity — who his father was. Byers is the name. It’s all kind of mysterious. I wish I were famous so that the chap that does the ancestry for Harvard University could find out for me who my father’s father really was. My grandma Byers would never, ever own up to anything, especially in the ‘50s. That was certainly frowned upon.

I know that Grandpa Byers was a male nurse in World War I, which is kind of fascinating, and he was in France. There was a name where you signed up if you served. So that’s kind of interesting.

My grandfather Rudbeck — his name was Paul Mikkelsen Rudbeck — his way was paid over. He came through Ellis Island at the age of 17, but his way was paid by a woman in New York. He stopped in New York but didn’t stay. So I don’t know whether he had known her before she paid his way over. (laughs) But he went on to Iowa where a group of Danes settled close to South Dakota.

BH: Around when you were in your teens, did you have any idea about what you might do in your future for work?

CB: Oh, yes, I wanted to be an actress since I was six years old.

BH: What made you want to be an actress?

CB: Elizabeth Taylor. The little girl who lived across the street from me, there were magazines in those days called Photoplay and — I forget [the names of the others]. Photoplay is the one I remember. It was like People magazine, only it didn’t have anything other than movie stars. We kept a scrapbook, each of us, and Elizabeth Taylor was my girl. She was more than 10 years older than me, but, I remember at six, well, I just thought she was absolutely wonderful. And I’ve had this voice ever since I was a child — a voice that didn’t match my age or my size. So I just always felt I was going to be an actor. And so here I am. I’ve been an actor all my life.

BH: What kind of steps did you take to become an actress?

CB: Well, in high school, it’s funny; I wasn’t in plays originally. I went to Omaha Central High School, which was in the vanguard of its time. It was integrated before Little Rock Central, for example. My graduating class was like 506 people. So I didn’t do anything theatrically, not even take a speech class until my senior year.

I was Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. Because my father had died when I was 13, when I was about to graduate, I got what they called, from the government, Public Law [85-857] that gave financial aid to sons and daughters of deceased war veterans. But, to qualify for that, I had to take a test. We were in Omaha, and I had to go to Lincoln and take a test and see what I was most suited to doing as a grown-up going off to college. It said the arts were, so they allowed me to do that.

I was accepted to some pricey school or two, but, because of the financial restrictions, I went to the University of Iowa. The government — or my father with his death — paid for my education, but the government paid for me to go to school. Being from Nebraska, I was an out-of-state student, so my tuition was paid directly to the school from public money, and my heroic mother somehow managed to make up the rest.  

Then, at the university, I just went all-out. I became a blond girl, and I wore ballet eye makeup. I was an artist, so I totally missed [the pop culture of the time]. (laughs) My son, for example, introduced me to The Beatles when he was, like, 10 years old because I was an artist, so I couldn’t be bothered with all the claptrap of what normal teenage [girls were interested in]. (laughs)

BH: I’m sure you graduated, so what kind of degree did you get from the University of Iowa?

CB: I got a B.A. at the University of Iowa. Then I did some graduate work, but I wanted to be an actor. I still have three scrapbooks somewhere of only pictures of Elizabeth Taylor.

From the time I started — still as a child — my goal was to be on Broadway. Now I didn’t realize Broadway was a street. I thought Broadway was a place; it never occurred to me that it was a street with a whole bunch of theaters. So my goal had always been to be on Broadway. It still was. I hadn’t been to New York when I went to the University of Iowa, so my goal was still to be on Broadway.

So I started taking all these acting classes. Then, after I graduated, I had gotten married in 1962 to a man [Ray Preston] who was 13 years older, and he was an avant-garde New Yorker. He did the first Ubu Roi [an absurdist French play] in New York, and he was a fabulous actor. He was an acting teacher, and I thought he was going to help me become an actor. Well, he just wanted someone to cook for him and wash his clothes.

I married him because I thought, if someone asked you, you had to do that. He was from Miami, so we went to Miami, and I became very active in the theater down there. It was a fairly active community. That’s where I did my film dubbing. It was because we went to Miami. But what propelled me out of Miami was Susan Sontag. I read that she said no man can hand you your identity on a silver platter.

By this time, I was on to husband number two [David Fagundes], who was a lovely man, a Brazilian. I had subjugated all of my ambition for what my two husbands had wanted. So I read that, and suddenly I thought, “My gosh, this lovely man could be walking down the street, a tree limb could fall on his head, and my life is over because his life is my life.”

So I started exploring. I wanted to go to England. I had seen what Broadway was by this time and found out that it was not a place but a street. I applied to acting schools in England. I went to England; I just dropped everything. I was accepted [to] a school. I dropped everything, and I went to England. On the way, I dubbed a film in New York. I don’t remember the name of it, but Paul Sorvino was working with me in this dubbing job and Len Cariou, who is a Broadway actor. We worked together, and I thought, “Hm, maybe I could deal with New York.” But first I went to London.

In London, I was with this acting school. I was just about to get British Equity. I had gotten a part in Charles Marowitz’ Open Space Theatre in London. It was very famous at the time. I was in one of his small productions. Someone came to see it who had connections in New York with two agents. He contacted me and said, “If you ever need help getting an agent in New York, I think you’re very talented, and I would write you a recommendation.” I said, “Well, I’m not planning on doing that, but I’d love to have the recommendation.” So he wrote me a recommendation to two New York agents. I didn’t know it at the time — they were personal friends of his — but they were probably the top two New York agents at the time.

So I came to the [point] where I knew I was going home. I also was married at home, and I had left to pursue my career. Suddenly, I thought, “I’m going to go home.” On my way home, I stopped in New York. I had a girlfriend in New York. I thought I’d spend a weekend in New York. But I had these two letters of introduction. While staying with this friend, the first day I got there, I called the one [agent]. I’m a Christian. One of these agents was Christian; one was Jewish. I could tell [that he was] Jewish by his name. So I thought, “Well, I’ll call the Christian guy first.” (laughs) He said, “I’d like to meet you. Come on over.” Immediately — none of the usual New York stuff. I went that afternoon and met him, and, as I was having the interview, he said, “Well, there’s this play that’s coming over from England, and they’ve been seeing all these women for this part, and they haven’t settled on anyone yet. I think you’d be right for the part.”

He told me the play, and the play was The Philanthropist. The part’s name was Araminta. I had seen the play in London one week before, and I’ve never coveted parts on Broadway. But, when I saw this play, I said, “Wow, that would be a part that would be really nice for me!” Well, it turned out that was the part. His name was Stephen Draper, [and he] called the David Merrick office, who was producing the play in New York. The head of casting at David Merrick said, “Send her over.” Now this was on Friday evening. I know it was February 12, 1971. The casting director said, “Send her over. How soon can she be here?” I got to the David Merrick office. He was a very, very famous, very powerful New York producer with not having the reputation for being a very nice man.    

They said, “Send her over,” and I got there. They handed me a script, and I read the script. She said, “We’ll be in touch.” I got a phone call two days later to come in and read again. I was only going to be in New York a week, but I got a call, saying, “We need to see you again.” I actually had five auditions for this part. One was for the director who flew in from London again to see me, and the last one was for David Merrick, who I didn’t meet. He just watched from the back of the theater. I got the news that I had gotten the part.

The reason they were casting it was because the actor that came from England — her name is Penelope Wilton — was only allowed to come or two weeks unless she had gotten a Tony nomination. She didn’t get the Tony nomination, so they had to replace her with an American actor, and it turned out that American actor was me. So I never left. You never heard my name, but I’ve never had to take a job outside the theater. I supported myself as a theater actor — and commercials and dubbing and all that — all my life. I’m still doing it. That’s the other thing, and I’m, like I said, a very older girl.

The most talented people I’ve met in my career are not the famous people. (laughs) The famous people have a different gene. You have to want to be famous to be famous. But I never wanted to be famous; I wanted to work, and I always did. Isn’t that funny? You can’t make yourself want to be famous. That’s the trouble. I wish I could have wanted myself to be famous, but all I wanted to do was be on Broadway! (laughs)

BH: You said that you did a little bit of graduate work. Could you talk about that? Where was the school, and what did you study?

CB: It was still at the University of Iowa. It was theater. When I graduated [as an] undergraduate, I was a double major — art history and theater. I became very involved with pottery, hand-thrown pottery. But there came a time to make a decision. When I was in graduate school, I was working in pottery. Lugging around 150-pound garbage cans of clay, you leave the pot shop with clouds of dust in your hair, and your face [was] white from the clay. (laughs) That was when I made the decision that I was going to be an actor.

Academia wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I stopped. That’s when my husband at the time got his master’s degree, and that’s when we went to Miami. I just abandoned it.

BH: So what was your first professional acting job?

CB: It was at The Upstage in Miami [with] Lawrence Tobin. It was a theater on the second floor. I believe that was my first paying job. I also had a couple of early film jobs, which you may have seen. (laughs) One was called Wild Rebels (1967), and that was with a guy named Steve Alaimo, who was an American dance phenom and who was a guitarist and singer. I was very successful in Miami.

But, before we went to Miami, we went to Chicago, and that was where I got my first [paying job] in radio. I got a job as a secretary, even though I couldn’t type very well. But I got a job as a secretary on Rush Street in Chicago for a company that was a radio production company. I was there about a week, and it was so awful because I wasn’t a very good typist. I was just constantly in a sweat because I was typing stuff.

One day, someone didn’t show up for a job, a radio acting job. I said, “I think I could do it.” I was still in school at the time. I did it, and, from that point on, I never had to type another letter. I [was] put on staff; that was just for the summer. Anyway, we went back to Iowa, and then we went to Miami. So I guess my first professional job was radio in Chicago on Rush Street.

BH: How did you get involved with the voice-acting in Miami?

CB: There was a place called Copri [Films] International. It was a dubbing studio primarily. [My] first husband was looking for jobs, and he found one, writing dubbing scripts, and it was for this place called Copri [Films] International. He got a job writing a script, and I realized that there were all these people that were dubbing actors. I asked if I could audition. It’s one of those things that either you can do it, or you can’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with how good you are as an actor, but either you can pick up someone’s rhythm [or you can’t], and because I had already done radio and knew how to do things to time, like cut two seconds off a spot. So I auditioned for something, and I really was a dubbing natural. It was just so easy for me, and they hired me on the spot.

In those days, they paid a dollar a loop. Dubbing was looped. That’s how we did Johnny Sokko, that’s how we did The Amazing 3, that’s how we did Prince Planet. They were all looped. I also directed some of them.

BH: Do you remember which one was your first job at the dubbing studio?

CB: It was a Japanese film, and I don’t remember the name of it because we never really saw the name in English. Then I did a couple of straight parts. One was a German film. But I think we primarily did Japanese. I’m sorry I can’t tell you what the name of it was.

BH: Do you remember any of the details about the Japanese movies at all?

CB: No. I’ll tell you why: The reason is, it was looped. So I never actually saw the whole movie. I just saw the little bits, I was in, and just the bits that had dialogue or something like heavy breathing or screaming or something like that. It seems to me it was very, very dramatic.

BH: But probably not science fiction or anything like that.

CB: No. It might have been historic. It wasn’t something famous like [Akira] Kurosawa, but it was pretty decent. But I have no idea.

When you do them every day, just go from one movie to the next, you may not even know the name of the character.

BH: Of the three TV shows that you worked on, which one was the first that you did?

CB: Prince Planet.

BH: Could you talk about the genesis of that and how that came about? Do you know anything about the start of that?

CB: [At] Copri [Films] International, most of the staff were Cuban. But we must have had an in with Japanese stuff because it was almost all Japanese dubbing. I don’t know anything about how the work came about.

BH: Let’s talk about Prince Planet and your work on it. In general terms, please describe what you did.

CB: I loved Prince Planet. I was the voice of Prince Planet. He was, like, a 12-year-old, and he was like a Superman. I made a lot of money in those days; I made what you’d call a lot of money off of Prince Planet. Maybe as many as 40 to 50 loops a day, [and] each loop was a dollar. We were paid a dollar a loop. So a $50 day was good back in the early ‘60s.

One of the sweetest things is, we were like a little group. There was a little core group of people who did the work who were good. I became a lifelong friend of one of the women who played Diana in Prince Planet.

I can’t really tell you much about it, except in each episode Prince Planet saved the world.

BH: Did you direct any Prince Planet episodes?

CB: I directed many of the Prince Planets, which was interesting because, back in those days, women didn’t direct, and I had no trouble with men taking my direction. It was mainly, “Do it again.” (laughs) Or, “Do it faster,” or you’re telling someone where the labials were. The labials — when you’ve got a B, or a P, or an M, your word has to hit the mouth closure.

So I often directed. Gee, I wonder if I got extra money for directing; I can’t remember. It was nice work, though. I was doing well, and it was constant. I wasn’t a staff person, but I was used every day because I was good.

BH: When you dubbed the character, what approach did you take? Did you find inspiration in terms of finding the character? How did you decide that?

CB: I just used a voice sort of like this [uses her Prince Planet voice] — slightly higher and very full of energy — partly because the Japanese was very energetic and kind of clipped. So that’s kind of the voice I think I used. But I just did it on the spot because I auditioned for it without much thought — just thinking, “How would I sound if I were a 12-year-old?” As you know, the Japanese rhythm is more staccato than the American rhythm, so that was what really formed the character more than anything.

I can remember, “Krag, you fiend!” (laughs) I think Krag was one of the villains in Prince Planet. I remember saying that a great deal. So what determined the characterization was really just my imagining what a 12-year-old boy sounded like, but really with the restriction of the staccato delivery.

In that, I remember it used to be thought very funny, blowing nose bubbles. We’d have nose bubbles. Someone would be sleeping or drunk, and a bubble would come out of their nose. We all thought that was so hysterical because it’s so antithetical to our American sensibilities of what’s funny. (laughs)     

BH: So how long would it take to dub or loop a whole episode?

CB: I think we did an episode a day. I’m sure we did an episode a day.

BH: Do you remember how many hours that would be? If you would do an episode of this, would you also do another job the same day?

CB: No. If I were booked for that, that would be all I’d do. Well, actually, it probably did take a full day to do an episode. Generally, the nice thing about looping is that, if you’re lucky, it’s just you and the loop. It’s more difficult if there’s more than one person in the loop because you’re dealing with their degree of expertise, as well as trying to hit [your] own labials. But, when I directed, I also did a part, too.

BH: From start to finish, for the whole series, do you remember how long that took?

CB: Yeah, I think that must have been six months. I don’t know how many episodes there were. That’s a long time ago; I’ve forgotten. We didn’t have to get there too early, though, because we were actors. (laughs)

BH: You mentioned working with the actress who played Diana. What can you tell me about working with her?

CB: Her name is Sandy Warshaw. She is still in Miami. She is the mother of four grown, successful children. One of the funny things was, she was pregnant with her last child when we were working, and we used to laugh about Sandy rooting around, trying to get to the microphone because she had this almost-to-deliver stomach, and she couldn’t get on mike because she was her stomach was so prominent. (laughs)

She was just a really good chum. We went to the same church, for one thing, but she had a lovely home with a pool. She didn’t have to work. She had been a New York dancer. We made grapefruit jam from grapefruits in her backyard. We had a lot of fun together. We would have spent time together last summer, except nobody was able to do anything because of COVID.

BH: Who else did you work with on Prince Planet and other TV shows?

CB: Well, the main guy was Mark Harris, and he died a terrible death. I don’t remember what it was because I put it out of my mind. I think he was murdered. He was very talented. If there was a lead, big-voiced male part, Mark Harris was the guy. Another was Paul Brown, who had been a New York actor. He played the duck [Zero] in The Amazing 3. Another was Kurt Nagel. I think Kurt was in Johnny Sokko. Kurt’s in California, last I knew. The only person I’ve kept up with was Sandy. It’s too bad, but a number of the people died relatively young. Paul Brown was an exception, but most of them have been gone for some time.

BH: Which one was the next one? Was it The Amazing 3, or was it Johnny Sokko?

CB: The Amazing 3 was the next. In that one, I played Bonnie the bunny. And I think she had a voice like [uses her Bonnie voice]. It sort of was a little bit electric-sounding, and she was the commander of The Amazing 3. Then there was a duck and a horse. I think Ronnie was the [name of] the horse. Neil Patrick played Ronnie, and Paul Brown played [Zero the duck]. Neil might still be alive. I don’t know; I totally lost contact. But we were The Amazing 3, and that was another great fun.

Dubbing animation is easier than dubbing live action, but Johnny Sokko didn’t have that much dialogue. They were short episodes, weren’t they? They were, like, half-hour episodes. I guess all of them are short, but it’s especially short if it’s live action.

BH: So, about The Amazing 3, did you direct any of the episodes, as well?

CB: Oh, yes. Sure did. Probably directed a lot more of those. Mark Harris directed many of the Prince Planet ones. But I directed a lot of The Amazing 3 because Mark was usually a villain in The Amazing 3, but of The Amazing 3, I was the only one that directed. It was either Mark Harris or me [who] directed. So I directed a lot of The Amazing 3.

BH: So, when it came to Bonnie, how did you approach that character?

CB: I had to audition for it, actually, because the other person who auditioned was Sherry Saks [currently known as Sharon Adair]. She’s in Hawaii. I had to audition for it. I watched her, and it was a cute character. I just tried to match my voice. For one thing, you’ll hear it first in Japanese. She had a higher voice than I did, but I did raise my voice for it. I just chose what I thought fit her physicality. (laughs)

Obviously, you listen to the first person doing it, and I guess that’s probably what forms [the voice of the character], as well as the physicality of the drawing of the [cartoon] cels.

BH: Was it a similar in terms to Prince Planet in terms of how long it took to dub the series?

CB: Yes, because I think they were both 26-episode series. I think it was the same. Actually, The Amazing 3 might have been more difficult because of three star[ring] characters. It seems like the horse mostly did [neighing sounds] — sort of Eeyore stuff — but the guy that played the duck was really good. He had a really fun characterization, and that was Paul Brown.

BH: So this actually might have been a little bit more difficult than Prince Planet because of the three leads.

CB: That’s right. It was — also because the three of us were often in the same loop.

BH: Typically, how often were retakes? How often did that happen?

CB: Never. (laughs) Whatever we put in the can, that’s what they got that day.

Here’s the thing with looping. You know that they used to punch a hole in the tape? So the tape was spliced together, and there was a punch. I think it was five seconds before the loop actually started. So you’d see the white on the screen; you’d see that circle on the screen. Then you knew you had a count of five, and then the loop would start. So, if you started right at the beginning of the loop, you’d be ready. But, with looping, I think they recorded every time, but they would record over it until you’d say, “That’s a take.” So some loops, golly, I can remember working with people that weren’t so good; you could do 10 or 12 takes. Usually, it was two or three for each loop.

BH: You could do retakes if there was a mistake or something like that.

CB: Oh, for sure. As a matter of fact, you just kept doing it until you would say, “That’s it.”

BH: During the making of The Amazing 3, or even going back to Prince Planet, you mentioned the story with your friend Sandy. Do you have any other anecdotes from either The Amazing 3 or Prince Planet in terms of working with the voice actors?

CB: No, I’m sorry. I don’t know whether you’ve seen pictures, but I was pretty good-looking, and a couple of the men hit on me pretty hard. But I don’t think I have any real anecdotes. Most them happened afterwards, and they’re not necessarily pleasant. One of the actors contacted me about 20 years ago and was calling me daily from California. I mean, almost stalking me; it was really strange. I think he was drunk most of the time when he was doing it. But, finally, I had to say, “Please never, ever call me again.” I hated to do that, but it was so aggressive. One of the other people came to New York and thought we were going to have a relationship, and that was very odd. So most of my anecdotes are ones that I’ve slid to the side. (laughs)

We didn’t socialize, for one thing. One of the people, though, was very good. His name was Dick Sterling. He was a comedian, and he worked at the Playboy Club. His daughter, Mindy Sterling, I taught her acting lessons. She played one of the villains in the Mike Myers send-ups of 007 [the Austin Powers movies]. So Dick also worked on all of these [TV programs]. But he was a regular comedian that worked at the Miami Playboy Club.

That was the main dubbing studio. Gosh, there was another one [with producer K. Gordon Murray]. It was good. He did some regular dubbing. I also dubbed in New York — a number of French films.

BH: Was that with Titra?

CB: I think I did a couple of things for Titra, but there was another one.

BH: Speaking about Titra, I’ll name some names, and if you have any memories of these people, please let me know: Peter Fernandez, Corinne Orr…

CB: Oh, yeah. I didn’t work with Corinne much. I don’t think I ever worked with her because if she had the job, I didn’t. (laughs) But Peter Fernandez — I don’t have any recollection of him.

BH: Do you know how many jobs you did for Titra or how long you worked there?

CB: Not much, I don’t think. I’m sorry, I just don’t remember. Back when we were dubbing, there was just a lot of work. Was Titra in New York, or was it in Miami?

BH: It was in New York.

CB: There was a wonderful guy with a French name; I did a bunch of French movies for him. For dubbing, I was almost always alone. I remember my last dubbing jobs were when my child was an infant. So we’re talking almost 40 years ago, and it stopped for me. It used to be there were a couple of studios. But there was another studio, and that’s what I don’t remember. I must have worked for Titra, but there was another studio that I think I worked more for.

[As] I was doing all this voice stuff, I was active on Broadway. So I can remember really running around. I’m sorry I can’t give you better info about the dubbing scene in New York.  

BH: Let’s talk about Johnny Sokko. Did you also have to audition for this role? How did it come about?

CB: That was just presented to me on the basis of the other things I had done.

BH: Did you direct the episodes?

CB: Yes, I did, some of them. But Mark Harris directed most of them.

BH: Also, another actor who’s credited with a lot of voice-acting is Ted Rusoff.

CB: I don’t know him.  

BH: Maybe he didn’t work on this, but I’ve seen his name credited with Johnny Sokko.

CB: I know Corinne was credited with something that I did. I don’t know that name, so maybe he did, or maybe it was the wrong credit given to the wrong person.

BH: How did you approach the character of Johnny Sokko?

CB: He was just my live-action Prince Planet. He really was just like Prince Planet, I thought, only live-action. So it was my imagination of what a 12-year-old’s voice was.

BH: You were often credited as Bobbie Byers.

CB: That is correct. That is me.

BH: Where did that name come from?

CB: My name is Roberta Catherine Byers. When I was in this elegant agent’s office [for The Philanthropist], he said, “Bobbie Byers — I’m sorry, that just doesn’t sound very Broadway. Too many Bs.” So, then, when I got the part, he said, “Have you been thinking about a name?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You have to change your name. It can’t be Bobbie Byers.”

My sister’s name is Ramona, and I would have loved to have been named Ramona instead of Roberta, but I wasn’t. My sister, I think, gave me permission to use her name, but I ended up using my middle name. I had been named after my father. So, when I got my first Broadway show, I became Catherine. So anything attributed to Bobbie Byers was me. I always know, if someone write[s] to “Bobbie,” that it’s someone from before 1971.

BH: I have a list of other voice actors [who are credited online as having worked on Johnny Sokko]. Jerry Berke?

CB: No.

BH: And Reuben Guberman.

CB: Oh, yeah! Ruby was the writer for everything. We didn’t see much of him because he was at home, writing these scripts. He was really good. He did the German scripts that I told you about, and he would just knock these Japanese things [out] really well, really easily. But I hardly knew him. I knew he had two young children, I think. And I think he died — someone notified me when he did. But it was a while ago. I don’t have any stories about him, except he was really good.

BH: To the best of your knowledge, did he ever do any voice-acting, or did he just write the scripts?

CB: Never, never acted. He just was a writer.

BH: For any of the three series that we talked about, did you ever do any writing yourself, or were you strictly a voice actor?

CB: Strictly voice.

BH: How did your association with this dubbing studio end?

CB: I left Miami; I went to New York.

BH: Of the three series, which was your favorite to work on?

CB: Prince Planet.

BH: Going back to Johnny Sokko, do you remember if the timeline was similar to the others in terms of how long it took?

CB: It was shorter because there was less dialogue. I think there were fewer episodes, too. Johnny Sokko was easier.

BH: Would that mean that it took less than a day to dub an episode?

CB: That I don’t know, but we probably dubbed an episode in a day.

BH: Do you have any other comments or memories about any of the series that we discussed?

CB: No, I don’t. it was just a wonderful, fun time. It was a great way to make a living, and I did make a living doing it.

After the interview, Ms. Byers added these comments about Johnny Sokko:

Manny San Fernando was the head of the studio. He didn’t direct any of the episodes. Mark Harris and I directed all episodes. Paul Brown was Jerry Mano. Mark played a villain in each episode.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s