Vincent Martella discussed voicing Phineas Flynn on the hit Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb, as well as his wider career to date.
We chatted to Vincent Martella about his roles on Phineas and Ferb and Everybody Hates Chris. This article has been edited for length and clarity. Feel free to listen to the full conversation on the Courageous Nerd YouTube channel, linked below!
Welcome Vincent and thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Vincent Martella (VM): Absolutely, thanks for having me, this is going to be fun. I’m glad we get to talk.
You’ve been acting from an early age and are perhaps best known for voicing Phineas Flynn on Phineas and Ferb, as well as playing Greg Wuliger on Everybody Hates Chris. What made you want to pursue acting as a career?
VM: Yeah, those are definitely two of my more well-known roles. They were both a lot of fun. What initially made me pursue it was… I used to do a lot of impressions as a kid., especially Jim Carrey, he was one of my favourite ones. I remember a teacher when I was young suggested I did acting classes or local theatre. At that point, because I was a kid, I didn’t realise it was something you could actually do. Things like that don’t really seem attainable.
I got lucky in doing an acting class and local stuff that someone saw me and thought I was good. They gave me the opportunity to audition for television shows. Eventually, that became voiceover in animation. It was a stepping stone sort of thing. Once I had worked in television, it was easier to audition for other things like voiceover.
Your big break came in 2005 with Everybody Hates Chris. Looking back more than 10 years after it ended, how influential was that show on your growth as an actor?
VM: It wasn’t even just huge on me in terms of acting, which it was. I was working with a bunch of very talented people who taught me a lot about comedy, how the industry works. I was working on it for four years, that’s a long time to be doing anything. Obviously, it helped me career-wise. Those were my formative years of being a person; I was a teenager. I was 13 through 17, that’s a pretty important time in anybody’s life.
The experience of working with the talented people I worked with and meeting crew members who I was super close with too… those things really started shaping me. It let me decide it was really something I wanted to pursue. Not just something where I was like, “Oh, this was fun for a little bit and now I’m done.” Working with those people let me know that this was something I wanted to continue to do, honestly.
Greg and some other characters you have played – Patrick on The Walking Dead, for instance – have a geeky or nerdy quality about them. In real life, was your personality at the time anything like the characters you were portraying?
VM: I think the closest thing I shared was the awkwardness. As a teenager, I think I was very awkward in that sense. A lot of people are when they’re teenagers. That was the closest thing versus… I wouldn’t call myself especially smart. I was very into school when I was doing school, definitely a good student, that was probably the biggest similarity between someone like Greg and someone like Patrick.
Phineas is just super, super creative and super confident in who he is. Though he is very smart, that’s where the similarities end between the other characters. Whereas, Greg and Patrick were more awkward and found it hard to talk to people. I think there was probably a comedic quality they were looking for on The Walking Dead with that character. It was similar to what I was doing on Everybody Hates Chris.
I definitely consider it to be not just the favourite job I’ve had, but probably the most important.Vincent Martella on Phineas and Ferb (Courageous Nerd, 2021)
Another big role is providing the voice of Phineas Flynn on Phineas and Ferb. Although you’ve spoken in the past about landing on that specific voice, were you drawing on any particular inspiration sound-wise?
VM: I thought it was important because Phineas is described as being so creative, hyper-positive. [He’s] very excited about adventure and imagination. I wanted to do a voice that would make you smile. It would sound weird if you heard it sad. You’d be pretty bummed out if you heard Phineas sad. When figuring out a voice, I wanted to do something that sounded good always being very energetic and very excited. That’s what I wanted to make sure I captured in the voice.
You were already a recognisable television actor before Phineas and Ferb. How often were you recognised by fans for your voice while Everybody Hates Chris was also still airing? Are you surprised that people still just find out you voiced Phineas?
VM: Plenty of people, I feel, still don’t know that. Animation takes so long. Everybody Hates Chris premiered in Fall 2005. Then, in February 2006, that’s when I booked Phineas and Ferb and recorded the pilot. It was about two years until Phineas and Ferb was actually on TV regularly. I definitely don’t think people put that together as well because I feel Everybody Hates Chris got more popular when we were done. It ended up on Nick at Nite, which shows popular 80s and 90s sitcoms. Ours was not a show created in the 80s or 90s but took place at that time.
It didn’t really make sense to be on Nick at Nite at all. I want to say it was far more popular on Nick and Nite [than the original network it was shown on]. Even after I was done with Everybody Hates Chris, people were like, “Oh, you must still be shooting it.” I was like, “No, we actually finished that a year ago.” So, the timeline of that was odd and once again, I definitely don’t think people would associate me with Phineas and Ferb. They were happening on such different trajectories, you know what I mean?
It was around 2009-2010 that more people would recognise me walking around from Everybody Hates Chris, even after we were done shooting. I was 18-19 by this point.
Right when Phineas and Ferb was coming out, certain cast members did promos explaining who they were playing. I don’t recall one for either yourself or Thomas Brodie-Sangster, it was still a surprise you two were doing the voices.
VM: Yeah, neither one of us ever really did any promotional material really early on. If you watch later on, I did some advertisement stuff for Disney. Early on, it was definitely not us. I think it was also because those other actors were known for Disney Channel movies and different Disney Channel TV shows. That was probably an easier marketing thing on Disney Channel. They were like, “Oh, you remember Ashley Tisdale from High School Musical?”
I don’t think anybody watching Disney Channel at the time would have made the connection with Everybody Hates Chris. Or, in Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s case, with Love Actually or Nanny McPhee, at the time.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster recorded his lines in London. Despite playing step-brothers for so many years, were you essentially strangers to each other? Have you gotten to know new Ferb voice actor David Errigo Jr?
VM: We only met in-person twice during the entire 10-year shooting of just the show. We met once in London in 2008 or 2009. I went there for a promotional day and did interviews all day when I was about 15. He was there and I met him then. I met him once more in Los Angeles, he was there shooting something. I went to lunch with him, probably about 19 or 20.
And that was it. Those were the only times I ever met him. I spoke to him a couple of times through a telephone feed at the studio. We were definitely strangers, but playing brothers the entire time.
I know David much better than I ever knew Thomas, for sure. When David started voicing Ferb, I was able to meet him shortly afterwards. We met again quite a few times before we did our film [Candace Against The Universe] for Disney+. We were doing a bunch of promotional stuff together over Zoom and just kept in touch generally on social media and texting each other.
He’s a very talented actor and works in a lot of different projects. Animation, live-action. It’s cool that I’ve gotten to have the opportunity to know him, especially after so long of not being to know the actor who played Ferb. It’s been fun having David join the cast.
Phineas is just super, super creative and super confident in who he is. Though he is very smart, that’s where the similarities end between the other characters.Vincent Martella, discussing Phineas, Greg and Patrick (Courageous Nerd, 2021)
The co-creators, Dan Povenmire and Jeff ‘Swampy’ Marsh (who also voice Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Major Monogram, respectively) had been working in animation years before Phineas and Ferb – including trying to sell this concept for over a decade. How would you say your working relationship has evolved during the long time you have collaborated with them?
VM: They wrote Phineas and Ferb thirteen years before Disney greenlit it. That’s certainly a lesson in perseverance and believing in your idea. It ended up becoming very successful for Disney. My relationship with Dan and Swampy has been awesome. I’ve worked with them since I was 13. We’ve all got to see each other’s creative side change in different ways – take on different performers and writers. Also, they’ve been around for huge things going on in my life. They were there for me becoming a young adult and now an adult.
If you’re lucky to work with people that you enjoy and become friends with… Doing so for more than 10 years is a long time. I worked with them on Phineas and Ferb and on another show, Milo Murphy’s Law. So, we have an awesome working and personal relationship. We hang out plenty whenever we can and keep in touch. I certainly feel lucky that I have been able to know them beyond just working with them. Getting the chance to work with them has been great.
Phineas and Ferb is a tricky concept to explain out loud – you have to see the show to fully understand. Before the show was out, do you remember what your initial thoughts were about the concept? Back when you only had the scripts.
VM: Dan and Swampy did something really amazing when they gave me the information about the pilot. When I was very close to getting the pilot, I was going to go in and record the entire pilot. They had already booked someone to play Phineas’ role, an adult. A very talented voiceover actor who works in plenty of things. They had re-listened to my audition and were like, “We actually think this would be better for the show.” Before I recorded it, they sent me a VHS tape – because, once again, this was 2005-2006.
Basically, it was their pitch explaining the entire show. What the show was going to be and the animatic of the show. It was them doing different voices and reading the tone of the show. That was incredibly helpful to understand what they wanted and what their idea was. “This is the angle of the show, the type of comedy we want, the kind of mood. Bring your own thing to it, but this is what we’re going for.” I watched it many, many times before I went in to record the pilot.
It was incredibly smart of them to go, “We know this concept is a little hard to wrap your mind around at first. We’re going to give it to you the way we pitch to a studio executive, so you know what you’re doing.”
Even in the earliest interviews, you seem to have a lot of affection for Phineas and the show itself. What has the experience meant to you, over the past 13-14 years of your life?
VM: I definitely consider it to be not just the favourite job I’ve had, but probably the most important. I’ve known this for a while now. It’s hard to describe the good feeling of seeing kids dress up as these characters for Halloween. They carve Phineas and Ferb into pumpkins, we just had Halloween a couple of months ago. I’ve seen people with Phineas and Ferb tattoos. There are Phineas and Ferb walkaround characters at Disney World.
To work on something that has that type of impact, especially for something like Disney… something so important in people’s lives. You see people walking around the theme parks with Phineas and Ferb t-shirts on. That’s really, really amazing and moving. It’s what you want to do when you do anything artistic or anything creative, I would say. You want it to mean something to people. So, the fact that this role and this show that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of has meant that much to so many people. It’s amazing and very hard to describe to people what that means to me.
As someone who has worked professionally as an actor for most of their life, what advice would you give to those entering the industry? Or, aspiring to be an actor?
VM: It’s easy, I feel like, when you’re not working or booking things to think that you’re alone in that. So many actors are constantly… we all want to work, all the time. I’ve been very lucky to work on a couple of shows that gave you consistent work for long periods of time. In between that, there are huge lulls when you’re auditioning for things, getting very close and being rejected. It’s a huge industry of rejection, very difficult with that.
If you care about it enough and want to perform, do it anyways. Whether that’s taking acting classes, doing something locally or shooting your own stuff. There’s the ability to post your own content on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. With some of the video and editing quality I see, I think we’re going to get a crop of people who actually enter the film industry. They now have this basis of understanding not even basic editing, they’re doing a lot of work to edit these videos. I think we’ll have a lot of people who end up pursuing that because they have an app that allows them to.
I would just say pursue acting any way you can and keep at it if you care about it. That’s all you can do, the best work you can. People will respond to it at some point.
Looking ahead to the coming months, what do you hope to accomplish in 2022?
VM: I would love to be able to keep working in animation. Work on an animated project where I’m doing something vocally that I really haven’t done. Whether that’s a particularly evil character or something villainous. Something vocally that I haven’t had a lot of experience doing. I like the challenge of doing different types of characters. That’s probably career-wise.
Life-wise though, as many people, I hope that I get to keep seeing friends I haven’t seen in a very long time. We’ve all been so distant. Hopefully, in 2022, everyone can stay healthy. We can travel again, see people we haven’t seen and really make up for some of the lost time.
Thanks again for taking the time, Vincent. Take care and stay safe!
VM: I appreciate it very much Conor and to you as well. Thanks for wanting to have this discussion, I always love talking to people about the work. It’s been my pleasure doing it. When people respond to it, it means a lot to me.