Next week, every single Jem cartoon is coming out in one monster box set. That's right, people — all 165 Jem songs and 65 episodes will be yours.
In honor of this momentous occasion, we spoke with Jem's voice actor Samantha Newark, and got the skinny on all things Jem. Where would Jem be today? What about the Misfits, and The Stingers?
How does one qualify something to be truly outrageous?
Samantha Newark: I think someone who is truly genuine unafraid, unapologetically creative, and someone who is willing to go for their dreams. To me, that is truly outrageous.
What music personalities was Jem based on in the 80s?
Christy Marx (Jem's creator) has spoken on that a bit. I think it's a collection of many artists at that time. But I think Jem's kind of unique. But I'm sure it's got a Madonna influence and Debbie Gibson, a myriad of pop stars.
One of my favorite parts of Jem is the explanation of Synergy, do you think you could explain it to our readers? What it is, what it does, and where it came from?
Oooh, let's see if I can do that. Synergy is this holographic, well, she's a computer created by Jerrica father as sort of a gift to Jerrica (Jem's real life identity), because Jerrica lost her mother in a plane crash. Synergy is her comrade and protector, and very interactive with Jerrica. Synergy can also create holograms and the image of Jem, which Jerrica can access through her computerized earrings. Synergy project holograms through those earrings [i.e. this is how Jerrica becomes Jem, and no one recognizes her, because of the hologram disguise]. But Synergy has a soul and looks out for the girls and Jerrica and Kimber.
I was always wondering what happened to Synergy, because she's clearly an artificial intelligence.
I don't know, I don't think that's been answered…. It was pretty progressive, right? We didn't use magic, we used science. But then again there was this magical chemistry between all the girls.
What is the most bizarre Jem storyline you dealt with?
One of the real fun storylines i just got to revisit was, was when there's an impostor pretending to be Jem and she's just completely out of control and is knocking over tables in a restaurant. She's completely entitled and horrible. I'd forgot that I actually got to go there as an actor and play that, because Jem is such a kind and conscientious character and personality. It was just really awesome to be so off the rails like that.
And then one of the cooler things that has ever happened to me being the voice of Jem was a bride asked me to sign her wedding dress. That was pretty unexpected and cool.
Do people ask you to call other people and be Jem on the phone all the time?
Yes they do! They absolutely do! One time, it was really special, she came up to my table at a fan convention and said, "Can you call my brother because he loves Jem so much and he's just about to get deployed to Iraq?" It was so unexpected and very special.
What is your favorite Jem moment over the 65 episodes?
I think a lot of the fun stuff for me, that I've always sung as a little girl, so I was living vicariously though Jem because she was performing for thousands or people. She was the superstar that I always dreamed of being as a little girl. I was getting to live all that out through a cartoon, so that was pretty cool.
Who's the better band, The Misfits or The Stingers? And why?
Hmm, I like The Misfits. I think they're pretty bad ass. They just don't care what anybody thinks, which comes through their music. They channel their [feelings]. That's when it's not destructive — when they're out of control and really awful and just out for trouble, they create chaos. But when they channel it into their music, they're actually really good and it propels them forward.
Pizzazz [lead singer of the Misfits] and Jem never really get into fist fights (that I can remember) was that a conscious effort to make sure Jem never really fist fights with anyone.
Almost, man. Pizzazz, she's a tricky one. She's so mean. And they've done some pretty crazy things. I've been pretty surprised re-watching the cartoon. They try and drive the Holograms off of a cliff and set off bombs in their house. That's pretty insane. It's pretty aggressive behavior. They're always throwing them off of ski lifts, they are definitely trying to get them out of the picture.
There was one episode where there was a battle of the bands for an orphanage and Jem wins a movie contract. I read online that the character that awards Jem the contract was based off of John Waters. Any other celebrities hiding in Jem?
I think, I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that James Earl Jones guest starred on Jem. He's obviously the voice of Darth Vader and a million other different things. I seem to remember that but I could be wrong. I talked to Patricia about it and she seems to remember it as well.
How many songs are there in the Jem Collective?
I know that they had at least 3 maybe 4 per episode and there were 65 episodes, so that's a large catalogue of songs. [Answer: 165!]
Why isn't there a Jem movie or a Jem cartoon around today?
Apparently there was a bunch of legal shenanigans, it was tied up in red tape for a long time. The rights to the show had been bought and sold and they couldn't seem to unwrangle that for a long time so it just kind of sat there in limbo. Hasbro finally, I'm not sure how they did it, but they finally got all the rights to the show back. And now it's back on the air. The original is doing so well on the Hub — I think that they're wondering why would they spend money on a new series when the original is doing so well.
How do you update Jem to fit in with a modern day TV series (if that ever happened)?
I would hope that they would keep the tone of the show, there's a bit of harshness today with reality TV. There's such gross behavior, people think it's funny. And then people get hurt and it's not funny. If we could find a way to keep the genuine sweetness of the show, I think it would do really, really well. I think we'd have to have the same writers and people on board, the people who championed what and who Jem really is. But I think it would go over well, plus 80s fashion is back. And the make-up and the music.
If Jem was alive today what would she be like? Would she have to be Miley Cyrus, or a bit more Lady Gaga?
Well I think Lady Gaga has so much heart, and is such a sweet human being. I know she's got this edgy side, and people can't look past that and they get scared of her costumes and her crazy persona. But every time I've seen an interview with her, I've thought that is a sweet, sweet human being. She really does personify the Jem, that sweetness and genuine kindness. Miley Cyrus is adorable, but a little harsh. I don't know I never really saw her perform, but she's not as soft as Jem.
Jem is totally a champion of the people (she started the Starlight kids etc) if she was around today what societal issues do you think she would support? What causes would Jem tackle today?
I hope she would stay out of politics. That's such a contentious area. There are so many human issues, the bullying, that goes on in so many different ways still. Unfortunately there's still a lot we could cover.
Do you think Jem would make an "It Gets Better Video"?
Oh yeah. She would absolutely be involved with that. There need to be more mentors for kids who don't have anyone looking out for them. We need to look out for each other so yes, that is definitely something that Jem would be involved in.
What about if Jem were STILL alive today, but instead of rebooting her she's just grown older? Where would she be now?
She's probably still be singing, performing and writing music. And maybe not taking care of the Starlight Kids, 'cause they would be gone. Maybe she would be a mother and married, and have kids of their own.
What about the Misfits? They felt a bit like they were headed for a VH1's Behind the Music disaster special
Totally, or on Doctor Drew's Rehab. Or Pizzazz [could be] on an episode of Cops. I hope that they've grown up and realized that you get more flies with honey than you do with Vinegar. Hopefully they learned that, along the way.