Gary Boas was a former child actor who provided some of the voice overs for some of the Hasbro GI Joe toy commercials we all were transfixed by as children. I had the opportunity to hit Mr. Boas with a few questions about his unique Joe experience...
Q: First, thanks for talking to YoJoe! The staff and readers appreciate you taking the time out to share your time with us.
I guess we can start with, how did you get the job?
I usually try to keep this a secret, so don't tell anyone...But I was a "child actor" for a brief period in the early eighties. I began with a community theatre sort of thing in suburban New Jersey, where I grew up. One day, the woman who ran the theatre suggested I audition for a television show [that was] to be produced by the New Jersey Network, which I guess was the state's public television affiliate. I ended up getting the lead role in the show - called "It Figures" - about an ambitious yet slightly naive kid who breeds rabbits, runs a vegetable coop and so on, and in the process learns all about math. I'm told the show still airs occasionally, believe it or not. If you see it, you'll recognize me as the kid with the bowl cut and the pronounced lisp (I could barely get through the line about the rabbits needing "thirty-six salt spools"). The lisp also plays a role in my G.I. Joe story.
In any event, having done the community theater and the show on public television - and being a bit of a ham - I tried my hand at the New York scene, with an agent and head shots and all of that foolishness. I was never very successful. My big moments were probably a Kool Aid commercial, for which i ended up on the cutting room floor, and auditioning for another commercial opposite the woman who played Mrs. Howell on Gilligan's Island (a big moment for me, anyway). And, of course, the G.I. Joe ads.
Now, I should mention that I wasn't actually one of the kids playing with the toys in the ads. For money reasons, they mostly used different kids to play with the toys and to read the lines. [It had] Something to do with residuals, I believe. If you appear on screen and speak they have to pay you residuals every time the commercial airs. If you do only one or the other, they don't. So, I was one of the kids reading the lines.
Q: The residuals loophole is pretty interesting. How did the interview for the Joe commercials go?
I don't remember the G.I. Joe interviews, specifically. But they probably followed the same sequence of events as for other commercials, shows, etc. Basically, an agent would call and say, "Be at such and such place at such and such time." The place was typically somewhere in midtown Manhattan, if I recall correctly. And the interviews were generally held in an office-type setting. We would arrive and there would be a bunch of kids sitting in the waiting area. One by one, the kids would be called in to talk to and/or read for a casting director, sitting behind a desk or maybe at a table. At some point, a head shot and resume would exchange hands. It was all sort of mundane, now that I think of it.
I remember that I'd occasionally see some of the same kids at these things. I recall one kid in particular - he lived in Cherry Hill, near where I grew up, so I felt some affinity with him. In any event, he had been in commercials and even a TV show or two, and so was relatively well-known. I remember looking on him with a sort of reverence, and being greeted somewhat cooly in return. After all, he'd been on You Can't Do That On Television or something like it. Such is the social stratification among child actors, I suppose.
Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed the time I spent going to auditions and occasionally even doing a job. It was a bit of an adventure, especially for a 10- or 11-year old kid.
Q: Do you remember what commercial you provided voices for, for what figures or vehicles, or maybe some of the dialogue? Were you a GI Joe fan at all while you were doing this?
I was a huge fan of the original Star Wars action figures - I was one of the devoted legions who received cardboard promises of the original four for Christmas in 1977 - and my interest in collecting eventually extended to other lines, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Battlestar Galactica to the Dukes of Hazzard. I never really liked 12" action figures, though. I was always a 3 3/4" kid (not literally, of course; you know what I mean).
That having been said, when my mother told me sometime in 1982 that Hasbro was planning to release a 3 3/4" line of G.I. Joe action figures - and this knowledge most likely came with the original call about the audition - I was quite excited. Now that I think of it, I probably bought my first G.I. Joe figures with my bounty from the G.I. Joe commercials.
I very happily collected G.I. Joe for the next couple of years. Thanks to YoJoe.com I've been able to determine that my interest ebbed in 1984. I had all of the carded action figures from that year but none of the vehicles. A few years ago I picked up the G.I. Joe Command Center Headquarters. It was my holy grail from 20 years before, and a handful of the classic vehicles, just to satisfy a bit of nostalgia. Then Hasbro started releasing the comic 3-packs with the original characters...
I remember the recording session for the commercials (I was only a voice actor in the ads). I was ushered into a small sound booth with a couple of other boys and each of us read a number of lines into a microphone. The directors or whoever was in charge asked us to repeat each of the lines several times, to be sure they got a good take. I clearly recall having difficulty with one of them because of my lisp: "Ready the mobile missile system!" Everyone in the control room thought that was outrageously funny.
I haven't seen or heard that particular commercial since it originally aired, though I'm told it's out there. Otherwise, lines from that session were probably used in the first few ads after Introducing G.I. Joe, which doesn't feature any kids playing with the toys. I'm pretty sure I recognize my 11-year-old voice in the G.I. Joe Vs. Cobra commercial: "Not so fast, Joe!"
Editor's Note- "Not so fast Joe" appears in the G.I.Joe vs Cobra (with RAM, VAMP) commercial located in the Commercials Archive.
Also, as it turns out, I did 3 GI Joe voice-overs (who knew?), from May to July 1982.
Q: It sounds like a pretty memorable experience for an eleven year old, being on TV, having that level of involvement with the toys you enjoyed, it must have been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for taking the time out to share with YoJoe.com and our readers. Are there any final reflections or comments you would like to add to your recollection?
I've had all kinds of fun recollecting my time as a "child actor." I couldn't have imagined way back in 1982 that anyone would still want to hear about those recording sessions 20 or 25 years down the road (much less that there would be something called "The Internet" that would serve as a repository of the commercials and of so much else). And yet here we are. Thanks for encouraging me to dig into the past. Keep up the good work with the Web site.