Voiceover: The Demand for Authenticity

July 7, 2022 by Kathy Grable

What is the current trend in the voiceover world? The demand for authenticity.

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  It’s a theme that I’ve had a bit of insight on recently, as I’m out there not only doing the craft as an actor, but also working with the talent as a director.  

We all want to know what the current trend is, and the answer we’re hearing isn’t exactly new… or is it? We’re being told that everyone wants “real.” “Be real.” “Be conversational.” They say they don’t want actors—but real people! 

But let’s take a deeper dive for a minute. Real is a relative term. For instance, there’s nothing real about reality T.V. So what does real mean? It’s confusing. Sometimes actors are trying to “be real,” and it’s the farthest thing from sounding real or natural. We hear diversity is the “in” thing, but honestly, the voiceover stereotypes can frankly be insulting at times. Not everyone who falls into that category sounds or looks the same, let alone deals with emotions, etc., the same ways.

So what do directors want no matter what category you’re in?

Be authentic! Being authentic to the piece of copy or to any role—on camera or behind the mic—means making a choice and being committed. Committing to your choice and your character’s choice 110 percent. That’s what “real” is. In animation, if your character’s direction is that you can zap a rock with your superpowers, believe 110 percent that the rock will get zapped. If you are “stressed” or “tired” in a spot—commit to that in the way your character would be in the given situation. Or the way you would be. We have to be real in unreal circumstances. Find the nugget of truth you can relate to and cling to it. And go for it!

Put yourself out there, be unique and distinct, but don’t “push” or “pretend” to be any place. Be creative. Don’t be different just to be different, but bring you and your take on things. Trust your instincts, but take instruction well and be pliable and easy to work with. In a session, realize there is someone there to help you who knows more about the situation and is trying to help you be better. I don’t think we’re in a world right now where you have to play it so safe. Be a voice that has lived, and bring that to your read.

Last nugget of advice: be conversational. Try to put yourself into the situation or take direction and let go of the selling of the product. “Tell,” don’t “Sell.” Let go of that overly enthusiastic tone of voice where every word sounds like it’s a superlative. Stop yelling, and start telling. Sometimes when talent starts doing this in response to the direction to “be real,” they try to talk like a regular person, but it starts sounding like a bunch of inarticulate mumbling and stumbling, because they either sound like they are trying or they are overly articulating.

The craft and art of acting is like ballet. You don’t see the work. You are caught up in it.

Kathy Grable

Kathy Grable is an L.A. voice-over prototype with a warmth and sincerity that reminds listeners of a close friend. You’ve heard her in animated shows like Tom & Jerry, Rocket Power, and Futurama and commercials for Pepsi, Disney, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and as the Baskin-Robbins “Talking Spoon.” Kathy was also the voice double for Nicole Kidman in the hit film Batman Forever. On-camera, she’s been seen in Mike & Molly, Harry’s Law, Last Man Standing, and The Wedding Band on TBS. She’s a sought-after V/O coach, director, and demo producer. When not performing, Kathy co-owns and operates a company that distributes e-books, comics, audio dramas, and her own podcast, In My Voice, with guests from all aspects of the voiceover world. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or go to https://anchor.fm/kathy-grable0 for all the episodes.

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