Voice Acting

Want To Be More Authentic in a Role? Here’s How!

Tara Parachuk | November 5, 2020

A woman very happy listening to music

Are the roles you audition for ones that you relate to? Can you draw upon something within yourself to create a truly authentic and believable performance? In today’s Vox Daily, we take a look at three ways an actor can approach a role inspired by the musings of distinguished actor, Johnny Depp.

How To Be an An Authentic Actor

In this article

  1. How To Be an An Authentic Actor
  2. 1 – Being Selective With Your Roles
  3. 2 – Connecting With A Character
  4. 3 – Exploring Challenging Roles
  5. Popular Roles for a Voice Actor
  6. 1. Instructor
  7. 2. Real Person
  8. 3. Spokesperson
  9. 4. Narrator
  10. 5. Announcer

What’s Acting, Anyway?

“With any part you play, there’s a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying.” -Johnny Depp

As Johnny Depp states in this fascinating quote, acting is more than just playing pretend. Acting is temporarily stepping into the shoes of someone else while not losing yourself. It’s important that actors make unique contributions to their roles. That’s what makes a performance memorable. You live in the tension of maintaining both the character’s integrity and your own.

Wonder how it’s done?

Here are three things you can do to make your performances more believable, more authentic, for real.

1 – Being Selective With Your Roles

Get more intentional with the roles you audition for. Being a “Jack” or “Jill of All Trades” doesn’t pan out for most actors on a voicing level let alone on a personal level. Knowing what you excel at will make your job as an actor easier. You’ll be able to quickly determine which jobs you’ll be considering and which ones you’ll leave unanswered. When you go after the work you really want to do (because you identify with the copy, style or character), you’ll sound more authentic given your existing comfort level with the work. One could argue that no matter what mask an actor wears, their authenticity (or lack thereof) will seep through in an actor’s performance.

2 – Connecting With A Character

Finding common ground with your character and their story is helpful for creating a more genuine performance that builds upon your past experiences, beliefs and values. Similar to our last point, you’ll find that some characters or voice-over projects will be a better fit simply because you’re already in alignment with the particulars of the role or script. Popping in pieces of yourself may come naturally, especially if you are similar to your character or enjoy the material you’re reading. When you connect with the character, you may feel that connection on an emotional level and a psychological level. Many actors also adopt the same physicality or posture of their characters which makes their performances that much more compelling.

3 – Exploring Challenging Roles

What happens though if a character is the polar opposite of you? Maybe an audition has crossed your path where you’d need to portray a character, tell a story or sell a product you don’t personally connect with. Should you walk away? This scenario could either present a unique growing opportunity as an actor or its pursuit could lead to lamentation! If you find difficulty in this, it will be harder to execute on an authentic performance here than with other roles you might try. You may need to dig deep within yourself to relate to the copy. It might feel like pulling teeth to feel connected to the script! How does this translate? The copy or character could come across as disjointed; your audience could get the impression that you’re trying too hard or may sense that your heart just isn’t in it.

While there are many ways to communicate a message, the art of voice over is tops for delivering the human touch.

Which role suits your voice? Learn more about five different styles of voice over used for commercial and industrial use and leave a comment about the style you work with the most.

Over the centuries, the art of communicating with other people about a given purpose and the transmission of the spoken word, the most powerful, persuasive, and distinctly human tool in any marketers arsenal, has evolved to the degree that you don’t have to be in the same room to get a message across, even the same country for that matter. Geographic locations and time zones afford little to no obstacle for communicating with others in a meaningful and cohesive way.

With all of the advantages this new world and new media bestows, it is very important that a message received is a message that is understood, believed and acted upon. Much of this depends on the copy writing and voice over skills of the messengers, which brings us to five different character roles you can perform as a voice talent to get the message of your client across in a direct and effective way.

1. Instructor (formal, didactic voice over)
2. Real Person (informal voice over)
3. Spokesperson (advocate, authoritative voice over)
4. Narrator (omniscient storyteller)
5. Announcer (sets the stage and calls for action)
Let’s explore these types of character roles in detail.

1. Instructor

When teaching someone on what to do, for example, a corporate training video or children’s game, the voice over best suited for this kind of project is a straightforward, didactic and educated voice. The role of this particular voice talent is to instruct or provide information to fulfill a specific goal or purpose.

2. Real Person

Projects requiring a more casual approach often benefit from relatable, genuine voice overs. These voice overs are referred to as “Real Person” voice overs, commonly known as the “regular guy” or the “girl next door”. The character is homegrown, sensible, and friendly with a touch of familiarity and provides a more intimate interpretation that instills trust.

3. Spokesperson

A Spokesperson can be on camera or off camera depending on the medium you are using. The role of a spokesperson is generally played by a confident, charismatic person able to promote a cause, product, or service with ease and authority. A voice over of this nature needs to be driven, optimistic and assured.

4. Narrator

Storytelling is where the Narrator is most at home. Omniscient, courteous and honest, a Narrator’s job is to provide an audio landscape for a listener, briefing them on background information, posing questions, and providing solutions as they guide their audience through a program or documentary. Narrators can be male or female, and the most important factors are that they can communicate clearly and engagingly.

5. Announcer

The Announcer, often heard live at events, on commercials, promos or introducing segments for podcasts, is a product of the broadcast age, most celebrated at its height in the Golden Age of Radio and early television broadcasts. Announcers can introduce an idea and assertively make a call for action at the conclusion of a commercial advertisement or short video. One common misconception is that an announcer has to sound like an announcer from decades ago, however modern announcers act more like Narrators, and in many cases, adopt the Real Person approach.

What If You’re Already Committed?

If you are cast in a role that is demanding so far as connection goes (as in you’re really struggling with inspiration — not with whether you want to do it or not), draw upon memories, personal experiences or anything that can bring you closer to the character or their situation. Not everything you do will be a party or bring you immense joy. Sometimes work is work. Find ways to empathize with your character. Look to props, images or other tools that can help you connect better with the audience and the story you are trying to tell. If you find a way to add a bit of yourself into your read (while honoring the author’s intent), the project will go more smoothly and the end result will be that much more believable.

Time To Talk!

Is Johnny Depp’s quote resonating with you, or do you disagree with what he has said? Is it lying to not put a part of yourself into a role? How do you navigate these waters?
Looking forward to your reply!

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  • Avatar for Ed Gilliland
    Ed Gilliland
    April 29, 2016, 3:14 pm

    One cannot totally divorcé one’s self from any role – way to much
    inner conflict – a distraction – once I stopped trying to be
    someone else my auditions and work increased –

  • Avatar for Eliza Merrifield
    Eliza Merrifield
    December 17, 2020, 6:50 pm

    This was very, very helpful! It helps an actor/actress learn a lot about what he or she is doing and trying to accomplish. All of this is a wonderful way of not only expressing yourself, but being yourself. This is all a fun learning experience.