Magic has always played a major role in the acting career of Romi Dames.
Seems it helped in her early years landing parts in Community Theater, and later when she auditioned for “Hannah Montana” and won the role of Traci Van Horn. Now the Burbank resident’s new project is all about magic as she provides the voice for Musa, Fairy of Music, in Nickelodeon’s new animated series, “Winx Club.” The first of four one-hour specials premieres at 8 p.m. Monday.
The show is about six fairies learning to use their magical powers at fairy school.
“They call themselves the Winx, and they fight evil villains. It’s really fun,” Dames said. “I really like the girl power aspect. It’s a team of girls and they are very strong but very girly. When they aren’t fighting villains, they are shopping, hanging out and talking about boys.”
Dames’ depiction of Musa is unique, said Jeannine Hodson, associate producer of “Winx Club.”
“Romi delivers a vocal performance that is unexpected but perfectly embodies the character,” Hodson said. “Even if we tried to direct her to give us what we think we want, her natural instincts always surprise us by delivering more than we expected.”
Moving from live-action TV to voice-over has offered her a new perspective on acting, Dames said.
“In some ways, it’s not different than live-action TV; you are still acting,” she said. “It gives me more guidelines. But it’s not me performing the action. It’s really fun because the nature of the show, there are a lot of fight sequences, and the characters are fairies, so they fly. I wouldn’t be able to do that in live action. It’s free. I get to do everything my character does.”
Dames has wanted to act since she was 9, she said.
“I previously thought I was going to be a ballerina,” she said. But then she saw an audition notice on a bulletin board for a community theater production of “Annie.” It was the first audition her parents took her to.
“I got cast as the bratty orphan “Molly” and since then, that’s all I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “It’s just so much fun! I was not a brat in real life, but it was fun to play one.”
Dames moved with her family to Seattle from Japan when she was 13. The first thing she did was flip the yellow pages to community theaters, she said. She was cast in a couple of shows. One of them was a Christmas dinner theater production, “The Day Boy and the Night Girl,” produced by the Taproot Theatre Company.
After she moved to California, she did a lot of sketch comedy at theaters in Hollywood.
Then her agent got her a small role — two scenes — in “Hannah Montana.”
“They needed a really obnoxiously bratty socialite,” she said. “I brought my “Traci” voice — it’s very nasal, very snotty — and I booked the role and I was so excited!”
She went into the table read the following Monday and did the voice for the writers and Disney network representatives.
“And it went really well, and the next day I had another scene and next day another scene. I think they had to explain why I had this snotty voice. And then by the end of the week, I had this really big guest star role which became a recurring one,” she said. “It was really fantastic! It was a dream role for me.”
But off the show’s set, she’s a champion for many charities. Her favorite is Covenant House in Los Angeles.
“They take in kids 18 or over who don’t have a place to go,” Dames said. “Some are brought up in foster homes or kicked out of their house and have no job. Covenant House gives them a place to stay and there is a job center, and they receive three meals a day and a wardrobe for job interviews.”
Dames helps at fundraisers and spends time getting to know the youths there, said Sister Margaret Farrell, spiritual ministry coordinator.
“She is enthusiastic, energetic, loving, encouraging —she’s all those very positive things and she can really relate to the wholeness of Covenant House. She’s just wonderful. We love her!”