NerdLush Asks~ Interview With a Voice Actress… (part 1!)

20 Jul

Back in the summer of 2008, when I first joined the world of twitter, I somehow became connected to a lovely woman in the UK- Amelia Tyler. Turned out the Amelia was an actress and a bit of a geek. We hit it off swimmingly. For the life of me, I cannot remember what started it but I’m glad it did. In my continuing adventures interviewing interesting people, I thought it’d be fun to touch base with Amelia and learn a thing or two about voice acting. As you’ll read, I opted to focus on that area because I feel like the public has a decent understanding more general acting but perhaps doesn’t know a lot about the more focused area of voice acting. Personally, I have a learned a lot in just the last year as I’ve gotten to know more and more actors and seen some BTS exploring the creation of characters. Definitely a more… demanding(?) style then I had thought. Which makes sense considering that everything the actor has to convey has to be done using just the words you are saying and how you say them. So let’s get some insight into Amelia and this world~

NerdLush~ How’d you get your first job?

Amelia~ I’d love to say that it was through good ol’ fashioned hard work and perseverance but, in fact, it was actually down to a) luck, b) my mother’s inability to find a babysitter, and c) the fact that kids with lisps are cute. My mum was an actress and voiceover too and back in the days before ISDN, artists would have to actually travel to radio stations in order to record ads for them. One day, when I’d just turned five, Mum couldn’t find a sitter for me so she took me along for the ride. As luck would have it, the producers at that station had an ad to record that needed a cute little kid in it, so I was well and truly plunged in at the deep end! I loved it, though. To me it wasn’t work – it was fun. Work was boring things like cleaning my room and learning my times tables. Bleagh!

NerdLush~ Was voice acting a main goal or just a niche you fell into?

Amelia~ I don’t think I really had a ‘plan’ when I first started out, partly because I was so crazy young and partly because I’ve always been notoriously crap at planning. I was always good at reading aloud and had experience of acting, so I could sound ‘real’ and that was pretty much all that was expected of me in those early days but when I hit the age of about twelve everything changed. Suddenly I was getting cast in serious, corporate commercials – they didn’t want a cute kiddie to charm the listeners, they wanted the script read perfectly as fast as possible and in a style to fit the music. It was technical rather than emotional work, and that was terrifyingly unfamiliar territory to me. I remember bursting into floods of tears after my first corporate session because I found it so intimidating, but I quickly dusted myself off and realized that I had a choice: I could abandon ship because I was scared or face the fear and try to make a career for myself. As is always the way with me, I got a little bit obsessed and started practicing scripts every day after school. I worked my teeny butt off! The skills I learned way back then are still invaluable to me – companies come back to me time and time again because they know I can shave a specific number of seconds off a read without the aid of a stopwatch, and there’s no way to do that without a hell of a lot of practice. Thanks, Teeny Me! 

NerdLush~ Do you think that voice acting is comparable to “normal” acting is TV and films? Your thoughts?

Amelia~ I think it’s comparable, yes, though not in the way most people think of ‘acting’. Meeting your fellow voiceovers? Rarely. Rehearsals? Forget about it! With voicing, especially commercials, there’s little to no prep time (I sight-read most of my scripts) and very little in the way of character given to you on the page – often you’re just ‘Strong FVO’ or ‘Chatty Woman’ – so you have to create everything else in your head in order to bring the script to life. However, I don’t see that as being any different to acting on film or TV. A truly great actor will make you believe they ARE the person they’re playing, that every word they say is coming directly from their own mind at that precise moment, not from a script. It’s the same with good voiceover work – whether you’re playing a zany cartoon character or selling a beauty product, you have to really believe what you’re saying and the voice you’re producing, otherwise it just sounds cheap and scripted.

NerdLush~ Is voice acting a good move for someone who wants to do film and/or tv? Or is being a voice actor like being in adult films- once you are one, you’re labeled and unlikely to be able to move into different arenas?

Amelia~ In many ways, yes, that kind of labeling still goes on, but that’s the same in most areas of the industry. If you do TV it’s harder to get seen for films, if you do films it’s difficult to get seen for stage work… You can’t blame casting directors for thinking like that – polymaths are relatively thin on the ground so if someone’s done a lot of voiceover work then it’s fair enough to assume that that’s what they’re best at and anything else is just a sideline. The thing most people don’t realize is that all these different areas of performance require totally different skillsets so just because you’re good at one that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to master them all. I’ve known amazing stage actors who were dreadful on film and several accomplished film actors who couldn’t voice a commercial to save their lives! When it comes to removing these labels, unfair as they often are, I believe that it’s the artist’s job to train hard and prove themselves worthy of an audition slot. It’s a hard slog, though.

NerdLush~ When I think about voice acting, it seems like a much more difficult endeavor than “normal” acting- because you can only use your voice to convey everything- can’t rely on facial expression or other body movement. Agree/disagree? Your thoughts?

Amelia~ You’re totally right, but that’s part of the reason why I love it. On film I’d never be cast as a little old lady or a dribbling toddler. Or a cat. Or a car. With most types of acting you’re eternally being judged on your looks – Are you too old? Is your hair the right colour? Are your boobs too big? – so it’s incredibly freeing to cast off all that stuff and just be whatever you want to be. I find it’s also really great training for other types of acting work because you’re forced to really scrutinize one aspect of yourself – your voice – and focus on how just tweaking it slightly can give your character a totally different feel. A lot of actors find themselves getting pigeon-holed into a certain type of role and assume that it’s because of their face and, while that’s often true, the voice is usually another major culprit.

NerdLush~ What is your favorite role? What is your most challenging role?

Amelia~ My favourite role is actually one that I’m currently filming – I’m playing an extremely strange, borderline psychopathic rock chick called Harmony in a comedy webseries about tabletop gamers called ‘Nights at the Round Table’. She’s the kind of girl who’d kill her questing partners and loot their bodies without even blinking, all the while slugging tequila, so it’s great fun to play someone so badass. We’ve filmed four episodes so far and I’m already far, far too excited about getting back to set to finish off the series, which should be airing later this year.

As for my most challenging role, that’s another upcoming one (for the same company that’s producing ‘Nights’): I’m going to be appearing as geeky blogger Beth in the webseries ‘I Am Tim’ (www.iamtimhelsing.com). It’s a brilliantly funny documentary-style comedy which follows one normal bloke who discovers that he’s the last remaining descendent of Van Helsing and has to spend his spare time fighting the forces of darkness (which often leaves him with demon guts in his hair and a lot of explaining to do to his girlfriend).

Beth starts out as a very small role but she soon begins popping up more and… well… I honestly can’t say much more for fear of spoiling the fun. Let’s just say that in many ways she’s just like me and in many ways she’s not. More than anything, I just don’t want to do my fellow geeks a disservice by making her the common ‘nerd’ stereotype. Getting the Codex-factor right is going to be a tough job but I like a challenge!

Stay tuned for part 2! 

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2 Responses to “NerdLush Asks~ Interview With a Voice Actress… (part 1!)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Random Questions with Amelia! « NerdLush - July 28, 2012

    […] you’ve been paying attention than you know we’re right in the middle of posting an interview with  that saucy minx, Amelia Tyler! I’m being mean and holding off a wee bit before posting the concluding piece- […]

  2. NerdLush Asks~ Interview with a Voice Actress… (part 2!) « NerdLush - August 3, 2012

    […] Previously on NerdLush~ we spoke to Amelia Tyler about her work as a voice actress. Here’s part 2 of that interview! In this episode were going to learn a bit about Amelia’s favorite films and what draws her to watch something, as well as discuss the sexual power revolution that has and is still happening on-screen (and Off). […]

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