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Wait, that's YOU?

In another post, I talked about some of the weirder aspects of being a voice actor (especially one who works primarily from home). Well, this is going to be another rather silly post about one of the oddities of this job. Specifically, I'm talking about people not recognizing my voice. And no, I don't mean that in a conceited “Hey, do you know who I am?” kind of way, but in a helpless “No, I promise, that's really me” way.

First of all, it's important to note that voice acting is a varied field, and some actors build their entire careers on having a very distinctive voice, while others are known for their versatility, and yet others are known for their uncanny impressions. Some people are really, really good at spotting a specific voice actor, even if they change their voice from one job to the next, but the casual observer may never realize it's the same person.

We've talked before in these blogs about how even when a narration is “natural and conversational,” it's still something that the voice actor has trained to perform a certain way. It's very possible that the voice actor doesn't actually sound like that in real life when they're having a natural conversation. And, well, I suppose I'm an example of that. Because something that happens over and over again is that friends and family won't believe at first that it's me voicing something. Even when I try to choose a commercial or promotional video where I personally think it's pretty close to my normal voice. The shock on their faces and their exclaimed “I'd never think that was you” always confuse me.

“It's so weird,” one friend said after I played a video I'd narrated. “It's amazing how voice actors can sound like completely different people.” Meanwhile I sat there staring blankly because I had genuinely thought it was obviously me. It hadn't been a job where I was really trying to put on a voice or anything. But it was something where I was meant to be “natural and conversational,” and my training kicked in so I spoke clearly and calmly, but with a friendly and engaging tone. Which I suppose just goes to show how I'm not really much of that in real life (well, I mean, I'm friendly...but maybe not so clear and calm all the time. I admittedly can get very excited and flaily when I talk.).

A lot of people will change their voice and manner of speaking in their daily lives, too, depending on the situation. If you work retail, you've probably developed your own “customer service voice,” which isn't exactly how you may normally talk. Sometimes we change how we sound whenever we need to come across as more professional for something like a job interview. Or, if we revisit a region where we used to live, we may revert back into the dialect and accent found there, even if we've mostly dropped it after having lived elsewhere for a while. It's a human thing to change and adapt to the situation, and our speech is part of that.

The thing is, all voice actors are just human (for now...unless the AIs replace us), and we're never quite the same in real life as we present ourselves in our performances. And unless we're someone with a distinctly unique voice like Tim Curry or H. Jon Benjamin, you may very well hear us in something without even realizing at first that it's us. Which is fine, even if it sometimes leaves me sitting there questioning my reality when you tell me I don't sound like myself. Though maybe it's weirder that my mom keeps insisting she hears my voice in a commercial I've never done...

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