MTV announced last week that it plans to bring back “Daria,” an animated show with a titular outcast who became an icon of snark for a generation. As I thought back to the episodes I’d watched devotedly as a teen, specifics of what happened over the five seasons eluded me, save for something I still know to be true: Trent Lane was totally hot.
Let’s review the facts: Trent, the older brother of Daria’s BFF, had perfectly mussed hair, a cool gravelly voice and multiple piercings. He hated authority and loved music. He was uncomplicated. He had a tattoo (that he copied from a tattoo magazine)! He was Daria’s ultimate crush, which made him my crush, too.
Adding to the fixation was the fact that, aside from not being real, he also wasn’t perfect. He was completely oblivious, flaky — “I’m always late. That’s why I don’t wear a watch. They depress me,” he said in one episode — and lacked any of the chutzpah required to actually get something going with Daria. When I was a teen, Trent was the beacon of all the frustratingly delicious obsessions to come; now that I’m an adult, he’s the memory of veiled flirtations that never went anywhere, someone to look back on with both nostalgia and relief.
If only I could relay all these feelings to Trent Lane himself. But he’s, as I mentioned, not real. Only Alvaro J. Gonzalez, the man who voiced the animated character, is. And he’s a biomagnetist whose natural voice sounds nothing like Trent’s, as I learned after finding Gonzalez on LinkedIn, calling him and convincing him to talk to me about my Mystik Spiral frontman crush.
When Gonzalez hopped on the call to talk about his time on the series, I was shocked he didn’t greet me with Trent’s characteristic low growl. Gonzalez can still easily slip into his old character’s voice when provoked, but his actual tone is light, amiable and unrecognizable.
“I’m a professional voice actor,” he reminded me gently. (“I’m not Trent, Jill,” he might as well have proclaimed.)
To this day, Gonzalez continues to work in voice acting, but he’s had a series of other unrelated jobs too, which is decidedly un-Trent-like. “It was sort of like doing the yin and yang thing, where I tapped into what I felt was the opposite of me,” he said of what it was like to embody the character in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Throughout our chat, Gonzalez was kind, informative and expressly eager to be involved in the “Daria” reboot. Check out our conversation below to hear more about his time on “Daria,” what he’s been up to since then and how I should reconcile my crush on an unattainable man.
(Listen to Gonzalez become Trent and revert to Gonzalez again in the soundbite above.)
The thing that most surprised me about getting on the phone with you is how different your voice sounds from Trent’s.
[Puts on Trent voice] Well, my voice can sound like Trent if I want it to. [Laughs] No, I’m a trained professional voice actor, so I can do a lot of voices.
I was in my early teens when the show was on and I had such a crush on Trent. I don’t think I was the only one who felt that way.
Oh, no! They would tell me of the fan mail that they would get and I would laugh, like, “It’s a cartoon. It’s a voice. Oh, my goodness.” There was a lot of that, and to this day, if I ever meet someone that — roughly in their 30s is the age demographic now. If they knew the show and I say I was Trent, they usually ― [Gasps] Ooooh! It’s an older show and people remember it, so it’s cool.
What do you think about Trent was so attractive, even if he was just a drawing?
Well, I think one of the main draws of Trent was that he was just so grounded. Even though he would be classified [by] society as a drifter, a loser, he really was centered, probably the most centered of the series, because he never really diverted. He was about his music and about taking naps, pretty much. It was refreshing to get a character that was honest and didn’t have an angle to get something over you. He was very sweet in that way.
The whole dynamic between Trent and Daria and this crush that she had on him ― his whole lackadaisical “I love music and naps!” ― is great. But then it’s also frustrating if you’re someone who has a crush on him and you’re like, “Why don’t you like me [back]?!”
The main reason I think Daria fell for him was because he was an outsider. He didn’t fall into [society], and that was, I think, the real draw ― was between the two characters, was because Trent himself was refusing to do what society was telling him to do: Get a job, be responsible, be a good [guy]. And I think what happened eventually in the series after Daria decided that they couldn’t be a couple because he was so far off on the fringes ... that was beyond her limit. That was beyond her threshold of tolerance for that kind of person, even though she was extremely attracted to that.
Do you think Trent was an obvious cartoon crush because he was kind of this mysterious, older guy in Daria’s eyes?
Yes, I do. He was mysterious and in a way very philosophical. Trent’s personality was very calm and Zen, something Daria greatly lacked in her own family life. This calmness and laid-backness was a draw to many fans of the show, plus he was a musician, a nonconformist and in a band!
Can you tell me how you got the role?
My girlfriend at the time was attending [New York University] and in one of the hallways there was this nondescript flyer saying, “Hey, we’re looking for voices of high school kids.” It was a recorded voice audition, I think that’s what everyone did. They said, “OK, at the tone, give us the voices.”
So I called up and I did an entire classroom full. I did the most voices. They said, “Yeah, we’re really impressed. You did the principal, the teacher, 10 kids in the class.” I didn’t just wing it. I wrote out a little script for myself — that’s all I was doing then. Basically voice-over work and off-Broadway stuff then.
Did they tell you anything after that?
They then called [me] in for a second round, and they had me actually go into the booth and gave me some parameters of what they wanted me to do, and one of those was Trent. It felt natural. It was a really cool character, very laid-back, sort of very Zen, in his own way. And I just gravitated toward that one. Then the head writer [Susie Lewis] said, “That’s the voice I had in my head. That’s it.”
Did you have a favorite episode or storyline?
My favorite episode was “Road Worriers.” That was one of the few where a lot of the technicians came up to me and said, “That work was stellar. I think that one really was a standout.” They really thought I captured, without getting too mushy, making Trent sensitive enough to connect with Daria on a meaningful level without getting too, you know, sappy.
Do you wish that Trent and Daria made it work?
I don’t know if you know this — and it got pretty far — I had pitched a sequel called “Mystik Spiral” which was following Trent and his band, Mystik Spiral. Glenn [Eichler] was on board, and I think it got to the point of first-stage animation, and then MTV pulled the plug on their animation.
Would that have just been following the adventures of the band?
Yeah, and of course Daria would have been in and out, like she was in college and she would come back. We had planned episodes like that. There was a whole pitch where the whole season, 18, 19 episodes [were] outlined. Daria would not have appeared in the first season. But, we had hoped to have her meet up with Trent later on and realize something was still there — but still unattainable; great cartoon drama!
Did you have any role in writing Mystik Spiral’s songs?
Did you have any other favorite characters on the show that weren’t Trent?
[Puts on Upchuck voice] Well, you know, I was up for Upchuck, you know, once.
Oh my goodness!
Ladieeees. I think I did one episode, but then one of the producers said I sounded too much like Urkel. But I did that. ... In the episode “Esteemsters,” I did several voices, lines here and there. At that point, the show was new, so they gave actors several lines. I didn’t just do Trent. I did the security guard, I did the guy who was in the laundry room. I think I did a couple more in that episode. Periodically, they’d say, “Oh we’ve got this one-liner. Do you want to try it?”
Why do you think the show has had such a lasting legacy?
I think because it had to do with a strong female character expressing herself and not being told what to do and how to do it, but doing it in a way that she felt was right for herself. Very strong, independent woman. Back in the ’90s, when this was happening, not to say that there wasn’t a women’s rights movement going on, but it hadn’t really been prevalent, especially in a cartoon world, especially on a station like MTV.
Once Daria ended, you did some voice acting, but I see you have a different profession now.
I started off in recruitment advertising as an account executive. I went from there to a mortgage broker. I went from there to director of sales for a toy company. I went from there to a customized vitamin company. ... I then started studying alternative medicines and then from there I became what I do now, which is a biomagnetist. I still do voice-over work when I get called, but my main gig now is biomagnetism, which is basically acupuncture without the needles. I use magnets.
What do you think Trent would think of your long résumé of recent careers? Would he think, like, “Hey, man, you’re working too much”?
[Puts on Trent voice] Way too complicated. [Laughs] I think Trent would be like: [puts on Trent voice again] You’re trying too hard, man.
So if the writers of the reboot called you to pick up Trent again ...
Oh, yeah. I’d be there in a heartbeat. In a second. No question.
Was there anything about your time as Trent that you wanted to mention that I didn’t cover?
It was great. It was sort of, like, my closest brush with fame. When we would have the wrap parties, there would be people like “paparazzi” who would be taking pictures of us and I always thought that was the coolest thing. In hindsight, I’m glad it stopped there, because I see how real famous people can’t even step out their door and I think, “You know, that’s nothing that I want.” Trent would say: [puts on Trent voice one final time] You’ve gone mad, man.
That’s practically the antithesis of Trent, is becoming super famous.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Audio clip edited by Sara Patterson.