On this special episode of Heart of the Matter Radio podcast, we are joined by the talented Katie Leigh, known for her iconic role as Connie Kendall in Adventures in Odyssey, and her dear friend Peggy Sue Wells. In a heartwarming conversation, Katie and Peggy Sue share stories from their journey, ranging from how Katie landed her role in Adventures in Odyssey to Peggy Sue’s personal connection to the series. They discuss the impact of their work, the importance of ministry, and the significance of cultivating friendships and connections. Join us as we delve into their inspiring experiences and the invaluable lessons they have to share.

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Cynthia:

We have a special guest today. Her name is Katie Lee, and you probably have heard her. Katie Lee has been Connie Kendall on Adventures in Odyssey for many years. And her friend is also here, Peggy Sue Wells. She’s going to talk about her ministry, too, as she also helps encourage families and encourage people. Welcome, Katie.

 

Katie:

Hi, Cynthia. Thank you for having me. It’s such a blessing to be on your show.

 

Cynthia:

Thank you for being here with us. Peggy Sue, you’re the one that introduced me to Katie, so I wanted to make sure that you’re in here, too. So thank you for that.

 

Peggy Sue:

It’s a pleasure to introduce friends to friends.

 

Cynthia:

Yeah. Katie, tell us a little bit about how you got to be on Odyssey and how did they end up hiring you?

 

Katie:

Well, I kind of forced myself into the situation, if you want to know the truth. It’s something that God answered my prayer because I wanted to work professionally on faith-based projects.

I was driving one day and heard the family portraits on the radio, on the Focus on the Family program. I recognized one of the voice actors, one or two of them, as people I’d worked with before. And I thought, wow, they’re using professionals for this.

I drove over to their office and I gave them my demo reel. I said, ”I would really like to work with you guys.”

They started using me for a few different things. And they told me they created this part when they were ready to do adventures in Odyssey, and they wanted me. I was fortunate enough to have it sort of handed to me.

 

Katie:

And I’ve been playing Connie for the last 36 years, which is remarkable in my book.

 

Cynthia:

So you have played Connie Kendall for 36 years. Wow.

 

Katie:

Isn’t that nuts? Yeah.

 

Cynthia:

And she sounds like a teenager. And you know how to sound exactly like a teenager. That’s wonderful.

 

Katie:

Well, I just know how to sound exactly like me. And luckily, they have Connie sound like me, so that helps a lot. Makes my job a lot easier, because there’s a lot of other work I do where I change my voice.

 

Cynthia:

When you were given this job, did you know what Connie was going to be like?

 

Katie:

I didn’t know anything at all. As a matter of fact, they just said, “We’re writing the show. We have this part for you.”

And when they finally got around to doing it, I had had my son, they called me when he was six days old and said, “Can you come into work?”

And I said, “No, I’m sorry, I’m kind of busy at the moment, and you’re going to have to get somebody else.”

And they said, “Okay.” And I thought that was it. I thought I had given it up, frankly. And then they called me six weeks later to ask.

 

Katie:

They said, “Can you come in now?”

“Well, can I bring my baby?”

“They said, well, we are focused on the family, I guess so.”

My first session, I dragged my kid with me.

And it was so wonderful because they had hired almost the entire cast of a show called Dumbo Circus that I had done for the Disney Channel. And all the actors on Odyssey had worked with me three days a week on Dumbo Circus. We all knew each other well.

And then as the scripts unfolded, the character that I wrote kind of paralleled my own life. I could relate to her. And we sort of developed who she was as we went, but I didn’t know anything about it until I showed up, which is kind of normal for voice actors.

 

Katie:

You usually don’t know what you’re doing exactly until you get the script. And back in those days, we’re talking, what, 1987? We didn’t have computers, so you didn’t see the script until you showed up. Now they can email you a script. Back then, you just show up and see what you’re doing.

 

Cynthia:

So that means that you had a few minutes to read it and then you were doing it, is that what you’re saying?

 

Katie:

Pretty near that.

 

Cynthia:

Oh, my goodness.

 

Katie:

Since we’re kind of talking about voiceover too, people think, “Oh, she can do really funny voices and stuff.”

But there’s so much more. You’ve got to be a good, cold reader. You’ve got to be able to act and get into character right away and read. And there’s a lot of other skills that are required to be able to do that sort of thing. And some people are just born able to do it and some people work at it. Yeah, that’s a big part of it.

 

When you get a script, they might tell you,” Okay, you’re going to be playing this main character. Then other ancillary characters will come along, and they cast them on the spot. Okay, why don’t you do this one? You do that one and make sure it doesn’t sound like the other character you’re playing.

 

Cynthia:

Wow. And you do that on the spot.

 

Katie:

Yeah, it’s fun.

 

Cynthia:

That would be crazy. Wow. Okay, well, tell me how it worked out with your baby.

 

Katie:

They’ve been putting up with me for 36 years because it was a little weird. But I kept bringing my son because they were an hour away. I was nursing him, and I didn’t want to be that far away. It worked out. We managed. People in the office probably held onto him for me, and his daddy came along. And then when he was in junior high. He ended up playing a role for a few years on Odyssey.

 

Cynthia:

Oh, my goodness.

 

Katie:

What did he play in the Novacom series? He played a character named Cal who was Alex’s cousin, and he got in a lot of trouble. But, yeah, I had fun working with him after a while.

 

Cynthia:

That’s neat.

 

Katie:

You figure that must have been what, like twelve years after we started.

 

Cynthia:

Wow, how neat.

 

Katie:

Yeah.

 

Cynthia:

Well, tell me, what drew your heart to doing voiceovers for Christians? What made you want to do that?

 

Katie:

Well, I’m a Christian. That’s a big part of it. I started as a voice actor. Soon after I started my career, I became born again and wanted to give glory to God. I worked on cartoons, I worked in radio, but I just thought, there’s got to be projects that are aimed at the Christian community, and I want to be a part of it.

 

Cynthia:

Are you aware of how many people you’ve impacted?

 

Katie:

I am only slightly aware, which is completely overwhelming. We do a YouTube show, called Tell You Later, and you can see some of it on YouTube. And we have a series called Adventures in Popcorn. We went to a popcorn store yesterday just to shoot, and it turned out the owners were Odyssey listeners.

They said, “We were just talking about the show yesterday.”

But we get letters. I have developed friendships with a lot of the listeners, close friendships, and supportive friendships. I get letters from kids who are missionary families who’ve taken Odyssey all around the world with them. Some people learned English by just listening to Odyssey. It’s kind of crazy.

 

Katie:

And that’s important to me because I do know that I’m kind of a role model. It does influence other jobs that I take besides that because I feel a responsibility, to my audience and my fans, when I call them that, I don’t want to disappoint them, misdirect them, or confuse them in any way.

 

Cynthia:

Well, I want to talk to Peggy Sue for a minute and talk about how you and Katie met each other.

 

Peggy Sue:

That was a fun story. My family and I listened from the very first of Focus on the Family. Then that rolled into adventures in Odyssey. My kids grew up on it. We time our trips with Odyssey tapes. “Get in the car, guys. It’s going to take us two and a half odysseys to get there.”

So it was a very strong part of our family. And then my second oldest wanted to be a screenwriter. When she was in college, she had to get a practicum. You had to go work in the industry somewhere.

 

Peggy Sue:

She got a hold of Marshall Younger out in one of the Odyssey writers and said, “I’d like to come do a practicum.”

“And he said, can you come out for the summer?”

And so she spent the summer there working as a team. They wrote a lot of adventures then, and then she wrote one all by herself that Marshall oversaw, as she did it, called the last I do about Valentine’s Day. Came back to Indiana and was going back to college.

Then Marshall called her and said, “We’re going out to California. We’re going to go record yours. Do you want to come direct it?”

And she said, “I would love to.”

She looked at me and said, “Do you want to come?”

So, I flew out there with her. We showed up at the studio, and I met all these voices that I’ve listened to for ten years.

 

Cynthia:

That’s so neat. Yeah, I’ve listened to them, too. We had vacation with adventures and odyssey every time we got in the car.

 

Katie:

Yep.

 

Peggy Sue:

And then Katie. Katie walked in.

 

Katie:

Yeah, when we went in the car, we played them all. I don’t want to interrupt Peggy Sue’s story. I don’t know how she did it with seven. My first one, he listened to them all right. He listened in bed. The second one listened to the third one.

 

Katie:

I want to know how Peggy Sue did seven.

 

Cynthia:

We only had five. My youngest son still listens to them. He’s disabled, and he gets them as they come out.

 

Katie:

That’s awesome.

 

Peggy Sue:

I met Katie and we connected right away. That was grace because then we became friends. Leilani has gone on to continue being a screenwriter, and she’s writing now for a TV show called Lily’s Lab. Lily’s Lab is a children’s animation.

When that all got passed and ready to go to production, she said, “Let’s have Katie audition for it.”

And the people she was working with said, “Oh, no. Somebody of Katie’s caliber. She would never want to audition for something like this.”

Leilani called her, and Katie auditioned and got the part.

 

Peggy Sue:

And so now the two of them not only are working together but it’s been nominated as a finalist for children’s best animation television show for this year.

 

Cynthia:

That’s great.

 

Katie:

That’s wonderful.

 

Peggy Sue:

Another fun story about Katie, too. She can go from voice to character too. Her brain rapidly fires that way. It’s like she’s created to do exactly this job. And when you go back and look at her report cards, they always said, “Great student, but talks too much.”

Whatever your kid’s getting in trouble for in school, they’re probably going to get paid for as an adult.

 

Katie:

Peggy Sue has helped me. When we met, we were both single parents. I cherished her experience and wisdom and the way she raised her kids. She has helped me write. I just came out with a book called The Itty-Bitty Book of Codependency. We sort of brainstormed it initially at her house when I was visiting. I owe a lot to her.

 

Cynthia:

Peggy Sue has counseled me as we’ve talked about family. She’s amazing. I want to thank you both for the ministry that you have given to the church because both of you have done that. I think that every Christian needs to have a ministry based on what their gifts are.

 

Katie:

Well, I do think everybody needs to have ministry based on what their gifts are. But when people say, I wonder what God wants me to do? The bottom line is he wants us to love and serve each other and love him. Where do we have the opportunity to minister every minute, every day? That’s our mission field in a way. You may be called to be a missionary per se. But we are called to be ministers and to serve each other wherever we are.

 

Cynthia:

That’s right. What about you, Peggy Sue?

 

Peggy Sue:

What does God put in my hand to do in this moment? How do I love in this situation? What does love require in this moment? Stay tuned into what is God telling me. That connection is so vitally important as I’m making decisions. Because a lot of times what I think is the right thing to do is completely not what God has in mind. Because God knows everybody’s story, and he knows what they need.

 

Katie:

Yeah, if I can add to that, Cynthia. Having a good friend, a couple of good friends who are also believers whom you can share ideas with is important. Because having friends who you trust, who have your best interest at heart, and who love God too. They can help you navigate what are some of the right things to think.

The other thing you were asking about, playing Connie Kendall. A lot of people think that I’m Connie. Right. Just like they’re having these issues now with Jonathan Rumi thinking he’s Jesus. He has to keep saying, I’m not. This is a role. I meet a lot of people who want me to be Connie to them.

 

Katie:

And I must be clear.  We’re similar, but I’m an actress who plays that role. Nevertheless, I’m here to listen and share what I have with you. But I’m not going to pretend like I have all the answers. You can’t call up Katie and get the wisdom of the ages. I know it’s important for me to encourage people to talk to their parents. Talk to God and pray about things. Don’t just ring me up and think I’m going to be able to tell them what to do.

 

Cynthia:

That’s great. Well, I just want to thank you both for what you’ve done and for what you continue to do. You are ministering to the church and the people and the families. That’s an important job. Any final statements?

 

Peggy Sue:

One of the things that I’ve learned from Katie that I’ve watched is she doesn’t hold grudges. She just doesn’t remember offensive things. That’s kind of a grace. But then also, she’s very eager to introduce people to one another that could benefit one another.

“You guys are both thinking of the same idea. Let me put you together.”

And then something even bigger than what you’re thinking can happen.

 

Peggy Sue:

That kind of generosity is just abundance. She lives in abundance. That has been something that I have loved. I’ve benefited from it, but I want to be able to do the same thing. And a little piece of trivia about adventures in Odyssey, I think, and Katie can verify this, but I think there was an astronaut that took adventures in Odyssey to outer space.

 

Katie:

Yes, that’s true. Mike Pence said he and his wife used to go on car trips listening to Odyssey. I’ve become friends with a guy who joined the Coast Guard and snuck his iPod in. He was so used to listening to Odyssey at night. During basic training he had Odyssey there listening to it.

I just feel like we have a purpose. And I just hate to see those opportunities missed. I don’t know, I can forget a whole lot of stuff, but I do have sort of a rolodex in my head of people I meet who are doing interesting things.

 

Katie:

And I just feel like God has allowed me to maybe connect people, to help them accomplish the things that they want to accomplish. They say that when you’re little, kids think everybody they meet is a new friend. And when they get older, they think everyone’s a stranger, but I still think everybody’s a new friend.

 

Cynthia:

Oh, that’s sweet. Well, I want to thank you for being with us and appreciate y’all. And blessings to both of you.

 

Peggy Sue and Katie:

Thank you, Cynthia.

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