TV Article

A Voice Silenced

Before her suicide, Mary Kay Bergman talked with EW Online about her career

Even ''South Park,'' the fictional town where Kenny cheats death on a weekly basis, can't escape tragedy. Mary Kay Bergman, the voice-over artist who breathed life into such disparate characters as Wendy Testaburger, Mrs. Cartman, and Sheila Broflovski, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her Venice, Calif., home on Nov. 11. Since then there has been an outpouring of emotion from fans and friends, much of it over the Internet. Though production will continue on ''South Park,'' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been too distraught to issue a statement, and a flurry of hastily established websites, including a memorial page and a Mary Kay Bergman message board, have received countless hits.

There has been no explanation as to why Bergman committed suicide, and attorney Robert Harrison says that she had shown no signs of depression. Ironically, her career was at a peak at the time of her death because of her roles in ''The Family Guy,'' ''The Iron Giant,'' and ''The Phantom Menace'' as well as ''Park.'' In an interview with EW Online several months before her death, the 38-year-old performer credited ''South Park'' for pulling her out of a typecasting rut. ''I'm known for these sweet, cute little characters,'' she said, noting her roles in ''The Lion King'' and ''Beauty and the Beast.'' ''So I've been doing them forever. My agents were trying to submit me on shows that are edgy, and they're laughing, 'Mary Kay, are you kidding? No way!'''

Initially Bergman used the alias Shannen Cassidy (taken from stars Shannen Doherty and David Cassidy) on ''South Park'' as a way to distance herself from her cute reputation, but she later abandoned the moniker. ''It was a conscious decision to be anonymous at first, because none of us knew the show would be a hit, and if anyone tells you they did, they're lying,'' she said. ''Then it did hit, and Shannen Cassidy was getting mail like Santa Claus, so we transitioned out of it.''

Not only had Bergman's career blossomed of late, but so had her voice-over skills. ''I have more of a range as I've gotten older, not less,'' she said. ''I also think it has to do with my lack of timidity now. I did the voice of a 13-year-old adolescent yesterday, and I don't think I would have found the guts to do it years ago.''

Still, she said that one role was never easy to play. ''A lot of times I do commercials where they say, just be you, just be yourself. It's very hard. Very hard.''

In an EW Online exclusive, hear Bergman sing -- as ''South Park'''s Ms. Crabtree, or hear her ''Jay Jay the Jet Plane'' characters.

Originally posted Nov 22, 1999