Voice Acting

6 Ways for Voice Actors to Get Into Character

Tara Parachuk | May 28, 2021

6 ways to get into character

As a voice actor, you will often be required to get into character before you perform a voice over read.

This can involve immersing yourself in the mindset of a fictional character with no real-world equivalent, or perhaps an individual with characteristics or experiences that are entirely different from your own.

In this article

  1. How to Get Into Character
  2. 1. Do a Close Reading of the Script
  3. 2. Analyze Your Character’s Motivations
  4. 3. Pay Attention to Action Words in the Script
  5. 4. Envision Your Character’s Physicality
  6. 5. Leave Yourself at the Door
  7. 6. Find a Source of Inspiration
  8. Getting Inside the Mind of Your Character Is the Key to a Perfect Read

You may even be the first person to ever voice such a character, which means that your ability to interpret what the producers are looking for will be key toward nailing the job.

When you get the opportunity to voice a new character, begin by learning as much as you can about them through their dialogue in the script and their relationships with other characters. Try to understand your character’s motivation in a given scene. Which details in the script can you use to bring this character to life? Once you can answer these questions, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the mind of your character.

How to Get Into Character

1.Do a close reading of the script
2.Analyze your character’s motivations
3.Pay attention to action words in the script
4.Envision your character’s physicality
5.Leave yourself at the door
6.Find a source of inspiration

Let’s dig deeper into these six techniques that will help prepare you to take on the voice and persona of a new character.

1. Do a Close Reading of the Script

Doing a close-read is an important first step toward understanding your character and the world that they exist within.

Before you even begin trying to figure out how your character will sound and how you will uniquely interpret who they are, you will want to read the voice over script you’ve been given several times.

First, read through the script as if you’re a casual reader. Then, read it through with a bit more thought, taking notes on key points in the dialogue. You may then want to read the script while looking at an image of the character’s visual appearance, in order to gain a complete picture.

You should note the lines your character says to other characters, and perhaps how other characters speak about your character. Paying close attention to dialogue like this will help you acquire an accurate depiction of the outward and internal characteristics of your character.

2. Analyze Your Character’s Motivations

Once you have a good grasp of the script and the timeline of events that your character experiences, you can now begin to build a life for your character. This essentially means being critical of your character and their actions.

What was your character doing before the current line you are reading? What will they be doing after? A few other important questions to keep in mind are: How? Why? Is this true?

These questions can help you dig down deep into the specifics of what drives your character forward.

Hear actress Gillian Anderson talk about how she gets into character:

A noteworthy takeaway is that sometimes actors will conduct a great deal of research in order to better understand the character they are setting out to play and give a convincing portrayal and read.

If you also feel the need to stand or dress like your character would, then you should definitely give it a go before stepping up to your mic.

3. Pay Attention to Action Words in the Script

You can learn a lot about your character by examining the usage of action words in the script. For example, if your character is uttering a line such as “Why are you going that way?” you’ll want to figure out the action behind this line. Is your character accusing someone, demanding an answer, or simply inquiring? Keep your character’s underlying motivations in mind with each line you deliver.

If action words aren’t included as part of the direction given, you may want to either check with the director or delve into the script yourself and craft your own interpretation of the character and script. As long as you are consistent with your character’s arc, you will be able to perform a meaningful read that audiences can identify and connect with.

4. Envision Your Character’s Physicality

Next, you should envision the way your character looks and acts in order to give them an appropriate-sounding voice.

Sometimes it helps to stand and walk around as your character would while performing your script read. Doing this can help you get into character in an entirely new way. Make the same facial expressions that yourr character would make while reading certain lines. In essence, become the character. Even in instances where you are performing a voice over script for an end product wherein the audience will only hear your voice, you still need to make your voice reflect the actions and physicality of the character as closely as possible.

Watch how the cast of Raya and the Last Dragon move around as they lend their voice to the animated fantasy film.

5. Leave Yourself at the Door

You have to set your own personality traits aside to get into the role of the character.

As a voice actor, this can be extremely important when you are recording in your own home studio, separate from fellow actors or directors. However, the great thing about technology is that you can take part in live-directed sessions and be provided with on-the-spot feedback.

Part of leaving yourself at the door of your vocal booth is ridding yourself of the ways that you might interpret a certain emotion. For example, your personal response to frustration may be to cry, but your character’s idea of expressing frustration may be to express that in another way. You want to make sure that you are being true not to yourself, but to your character.

6. Find a Source of Inspiration

Sometimes the artistic direction that you will be provided with will include references to characters who are similar to the character you’ll be voicing. Consider using these popular vocal archetypes to discern how your character will sound and what their goals are. Pay attention to how similar characters use inflection and tone, and try to replicate those sounds throughout your read.  

Voice actor Anatal Silotch often plays music to help him get into a character’s mood and mindset. If he is playing a character who has experienced some sort of tragedy or loss, Silotch will play sad, soft melodies. He says his main tip is to “picture yourself in that [character’s] shoes—how they would feel and how their voice would sound. Would it be shaky? Would it be strong?” Silotch also says to “try to understand the script as best as you can.”

Becoming a successful voice actor, especially in the realm of animation and cartoon voice acting, takes work and dedication—just ask the pros!

Getting Inside the Mind of Your Character Is the Key to a Perfect Read

Ultimately, getting inside the mind of your character is the biggest part of the process toward creating a voice that will bring a character to life and land well with your intended audience.

Once you’ve analyzed your character’s motivations and decided how they will sound, you can then provide the perfect read for your client. Be open to receiving feedback from the client and make necessary changes in order to create a great character that will be well-received and make your performance unforgettable.

If you need more inspiration on getting into character, read voice coach and actor Rachel Alena on getting into the mindset of the Three Little Pigs for an interactive children’s app.

To develop your voice acting career by interpreting and creating a character of your own, sign up for a Voices account to audition for voice acting jobs in a range of industries.

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