Multiracial hand circleFor those who were at the Diversity Panel moderated by Big Llou Johnson at VOICE 2010, it was hard to leave unmoved spiritually or emotionally.

The panel explored issues that some people in this industry prefer not to acknowledge resulting in a new understanding of the struggles and prejudices that minorities, specifically people of colour, face when on the job.
Herb Merriweather was also in attendance at this breakthrough panel and has some thoughts to share with us in today’s VOX Daily.

Diversity… and Parity?

By Herb Merriweather
One of the most powerful segments of VOICE 2010 for me was the open forum panel discussion on Diversity In Voice Over. Hosted by Big Llou Johnson (on-screen and voice talent, producer and talent agent) and paneled by such industry giants as Dave Fennoy, Vanessa Lanier (Grossman & Jack Talent Agency), John Garry, Zurek Speaks and Saro Solis (Esp./Eng Voice Over)–it was a discussion at times poignant and at times passionate when dealing with issues that are evident… even in the voice over world.

There were stories of poor vocal direction (‘…could you sound a little more–insert ethnicity here–please…’), jobs lost and rejection suffered once people actually saw the voice.
They also dealt (albeit briefly) with the lack of female voice actors who do such fare as movie trailers and sporting events. It was truly evident that there is much work still to be done in the area of achieving parity in the midst of diversity.
But there were also stories of groundbreaking achievements and moments of victory that were birthed by hard work, focus and a sincere desire to succeed by being the best ‘you’ you can be.

While listening to the people on this panel it became evident that there is a future for a stronger bond among voice actors and people who are sensitive to the issues we all face. Some of the most instantly familiar and recognizable voices in the world flowed from that stage–and they were ALL so-called minorities–but in the words of Ringo Starr ‘…it don’t come easy…’!

The most interesting aspect of voice over is that very few of us actually look the way we sound–and as actors, we are constantly changing the way we sound to fit whatever character we are portraying.
Once we all learn to stop seeing so much and begin to perceive what’s important, then parity can be reached.
“Don’t judge (decide) according to appearance but judge (decide) with righteous judgment (Fair decision).” John 7:24
Herb Merriweather

Any Comments?

If you’d like to share your thoughts with Herb or on the topic of diversity, you can add a comment here on this posting to join the conversation.
Best wishes,


  1. Herb,
    Thanks for the article, buddy. Couldn’t agree more.
    I’m particularly struck by casting notices. I can understand asking for a particular accent, or even ethnic “sound”, but for me they cross the line when the demand native born [insert ethnicity here]. How can they tell if you’re “native born” anything?
    In today’s world, many are a mix of different ethnicities.
    Take me, for instance. When people see me they may think “white guy” or “40’s”. I’ve played a slew of other races, and a span of ages from teens to ancient.
    Even my name “Joe”…
    What if it was “Jose” or “Yusef” – would I sound different then?
    I’m proud of my ethnic heritage, but I’m also proud of my abilities as an actor.
    In the end, the only question should be “Can I perform the role?”.
    “Judge me by my size?” as Yoda says.

  2. Thanks Herb.
    Indeed this was an excellent session… interesting though that someone told me they weren’t planning to attend as, “Diversity doesn’t affect me”.
    Truth is though it affects us all… as was demonstated during the discussion it isn’t just about ethnicity, but could also be about any other facet of our being – physical attributes being one. Although there wasn’t time to cover every possible permutation of what makes us individually diverse, that in a sense is the whole point, for me. We need to be aware of our unique attributes, and be proud of them.
    Delighted to have met Herb at VOICE 2010, too… got a surprise to discover he’s even more handsome than the golden guy on his profile 😉

  3. >>>for me they cross the line when the demand native born [insert ethnicity here]. How can they tell if you’re “native born” anything?
    Actually Joe, anthropological linguists can distinguish speech differences down to the town/region a person grew up in; it’s a forensic science. Allowing for some extraordinarily rare exceptions, certain speech characteristics identifying region and/or ethnicity can not be removed.
    People with ears good enough to hear the difference between microphones and preamps can hear differences in speech.
    I, like you, am skeptical the producer is able to hear the difference between a native-born anything and a person skilled in the requested dialect, but if the client requested it, the producer is just playing the CYA game and has the right to ask for it.
    We don’t have to like it, but if someone asked me to produce an English language program with native Chinese speaker from Guilin you can bet that’s exactly what I would give them.


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