Mary Kay Bergman (June 5, 1961 – November 11, 1999), credited on the first three seasons of South Park as Shannen Cassidy, was an American voice actress and voice-over teacher. Born in Los Angeles, California, US, she had an interest in fantasy and animation early in her life. She acted in plays in high school and also studied theater at University of California, Los Angeles. After unsuccessful acting jobs, she was considering a career in the Air Force, when "going wild" on karaoke at a housewarming party changed her life. In 1989, she began voicing the Disney character Snow White. Bergman is widely known for her voice work in the earliest seasons of South Park and The Fairly OddParents. She did voice work for over 400 television commercials.
Bergman was married to actor, director, producer and screenwriter Dino Andrade. Bergman committed suicide in November 1999. Shortly after her death, Andrade established the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund.
Mary Kay Bergman was born on June 5, 1961, in Los Angeles, California. She was the only child of musicians David "Dave" Bergman and Patricia Paris "Pat" McGowan. She grew up around the corner from the home of Adriana Caselotti, the original voice of Snow White. Her parents performed as a singing duo at lounges and clubs in Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada and in Los Angeles. They settled in Los Angeles after her mother became pregnant. Characterizing her mother's previous work inking and painting cels for Fleischer, Bergman said it was a mechanical task, but it piqued her mother's interest in animation that was shared with Bergman years later by watching Saturday morning cartoon series with her. Among Bergman's favorite series were Jonny Quest, The Flintstones, and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which she considered a "precursor to The Simpsons."
Bergman attended Le Conte Jr. High and Hollywood High School, graduating in June 1978 with top academic honors. Following in the steps of one of her idols, Carol Burnett, Bergman attended University of California, Los Angeles and studied theater arts from 1978 until 1981. She was a classmate and friend of future The Simpsons voice actress Nancy Cartwright.
She and Dino Andrade were married on April 7, 1990.
After getting cast in an equity-waiver play outside of school, Bergman decided to leave UCLA. Having started acting in high school plays, she got an agent for on-camera commercials, film, and television and studied privately with acting coach Harry Mastrogeorge for several years. And at age 16, Bergman received her first professional acting job in the TV movie Return Engagement, which starred Elizabeth Taylor. After leaving school, Bergman joined a small agency that had started six months earlier. She had an audition for an exercise program that was going to be on TV and got the role. She was hired because she had a "nice figure" but could also be a dancer, comedian, singer, or impressionist. However, not a week after she got the job, the agency closed. Bergman said, "Everything fell apart. I thought, 'I'm really not getting anywhere. Maybe I should give up this silly dream of mine about becoming this great star and actually get a real job.'"
Bergman's next post was as a receptionist for the Boy Scouts of America. She enjoyed the job and was pleased to work with the people of the organization. Bergman commented, "All the time I kept hearing, 'Gosh, you have a lovely speaking voice. You should do something with that.'" She worked as a receptionist for an insurance company and from there she moved up the ranks to become an assistant underwriter, which she found extremely boring. To break the monotony, Bergman thought about becoming a disc jockey but could not find information about where to take classes and considered a career in the Air Force.
Bergman's origins of her voice acting can be traced to when she attended a housewarming party at one of her co-workers' houses. Someone brought a karaoke machine to the party and Mary Kay started "going wild." One of the guests at the party was studying with voice-over coach Kat Lehman and suggested she take a class with his teacher, which she did.
Bergman took many voice-over classes to do many different styles and voices. Some specialized in animation, some in ADR/looping, and others in commercial and improvisation. Bergman studied the voice of a character if she was matching a voice. Bergman stated that accents came very easily to her. She stated that she enjoyed doing accents such as Chinese, Japanese, Australian, English, American, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
In 1994, Bergman started teaching the technique of doing voice-overs for animation at the Kalmenson and Kalmenson Studios in Burbank, California. After voicing as the villain, Dr. Blight, on the series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, replacing Meg Ryan, she acquired a reputation for voice matching and began doing these matches for other actors such as Jodie Foster, Gillian Anderson, Helen Hunt, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Tilly, Emma Thompson, and Alfre Woodard
When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Bergman seemed depressed and had job-related stress. Andrade said that he found herbal mood medications that Bergman had hidden in their home.
Bergman had privately confessed to her husband that she was afraid of losing her talent, as sessions were not going well; she was concerned that people would feel that her talent had gone, and that her career would come to an end. Andrade later regretted Bergman told nobody about her distress. As time went by, Bergman's fears seemed to lessen as her mother was doing better. Bergman and her husband were also making plans to buy a new house within a year, but she still suffered physically. Because of this, Bergman and her husband decided to have an elaborate vacation in Las Vegas, which they had planned a week before her death.
On the morning of November 11, 1999, Bergman contributed to a radio show celebrating Disneyland's 45th anniversary. She was last seen alive at 9 p.m., while she was talking to a friend on the phone. An hour and 20 minutes later, her husband returned home with a friend to find that Bergman had shot herself.
Memorials and legacy
Dino Andrade established the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, which contributes to operation of the Suicide Prevention Center at the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center. To benefit the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, a Memorial Celebration and Concert was held in March 2000. Many industry voice actors came to the event including Jane Jacobs, Mona Marshall (who would be one of her South Park successors), Barbara Goodson and Diane Michelle, all of whom sang in the choir. The service was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the Blossom Room, where the first Academy Awards was presented in 1929. Also contributing to the memorial fund was March 28, 2000's Los Angeles edition of the Daily Variety magazine, which ran a full-page Oscar version of the Open Letter to All by Andrade.
Bob's Video, made by Mary Kay & Dino's production company, Klaxon Filmworks, had been completed before Bergman died but was posthumously shown at the HBO Urban World Film Festival, at the Blue Sky Festival, and at a Mary Kay Bergman memorial screening. This included her only live action role, a few voice roles, still photography, and work as executive producer for the film.