How Voice Acting Chose Me
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
I’ve always been interested in voice over work. From my teen years I would listen to animated voiceover and think to myself, I can sound like that. Growing up I always had a good ear, for listening and mimicking the performances of my favorite TV and film characters. I made it a point to get up early on Saturday morning and watch cartoons until the Wide World of Sports came on.
I was eager to watch the next installment of my favorite animated programs. I remember listening to the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo and thinking to myself, “what a crazy sound the character had.” After I heard Casey Kasem on the radio and began impersonating his DJ voice it occurred to me that I might be able to alter the frequency to duplicate the wonderful voice of Shaggy too. And it wasn’t long before I was mimicking the voice of Shaggy for my friends. During the 1990’s one of my favorite cartoons was the Animaniacs presented by Steven Spielberg. The cast is made up of some of the most talented character voice actors ever assembled. Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, Jess Harnell, and Maurice LaMarche make up the leads for the wonderful cast of characters on the show. After watching one episode I was hooked and I soon made it my mission to duplicate the voice of Wakko Warner, played by Jess Harnell. The strong inflections of a Liverpool accent from Jess came easily to me as I had already been imitating the Beatles for a decade or so.
Foreign Accents and Celebrity Impressions
Accents had always come quite easily to me. I suppose being from England and then moving to Scotland as a boy played a role in how I spoke and interacted in my youth. Moving with my family to the United States at the tender age of eleven allowed me to develop an American accent while finishing up high school. Around my friends I was able to deliver a muddled American accent, while at home I maintained an English accent. I quickly learned how to transition between several English and Scottish accents before including a growing number of foreign accents from around the globe. Being able to hear and mimic foreign accents has always been a sort of hobby of mine, so it became easy to switch from one accent to another or keep an accent going while I spoke, sometime all day long. By the time I was seventeen, I had a full complement of accents and celebrity voices at my command. Oh, there were some voices that I dare not try to impersonate, but other came very naturally to me. I remember voicing an impression of Sean Connery and following it up with a Jimmy Stewart impression. I was an avid viewer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in my youth and I always imagined myself performing skits as I mirrored the voices of John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle. I was a teenager in the 1980’s and found that in addition to making my voice sound like President Ronald Reagan, I could also capture the inflection of John Wayne. As time passed I added a number of other actors’ voices to my list of celebrity impersonations. The unmistakable voice of Christopher Walken, the slow southern drawl of Matthew McConaughey , and the distinct baritone of J.K. Simmons resonated in my mind and began coming out of my mouth whenever I felt the need to impress an audience.
Finding a Creative Outlet
I discovered that speaking with an accent was a great ice-breaker and found that I was more comfortable around strangers if they were listening to me speaking with a foreign accent. Throughout my twenties I would bring out my talent for voicing different accents and celebrities if I wanted to impress a certain someone, or to make myself more at ease in an awkward situation. Back then I wanted to find a way to break into voice over work, but before the Internet it was much harder to find an audience. When I was a younger man, I wanted to make an impact with my voice I just did not know how to make a living with something as random as being able to change my voice to sound like I was from different countries. I honestly had no idea how to break into the fascinating world of voice over. In fact, I set my ambition for developing character voices aside to focus on a career in marketing. Five years ago, in 2015 I decided it was time to finally put all my years of making up silly voices, impersonating male celebrity voices, and mimicking my favorite cartoon character voices to work. It has been an interesting and sometimes difficult journey, but I can say that I have been successful as a voice over artist.
Support on My Pathway to Success
I owe my success to my wife who has supported my vision and allowed me to pursue a dream I have had since I was 17. I was blessed with a good ear to hear and pick up the subtle nuances of language that most people do not listen for or perhaps it was all the travelling I did with my parents when I was a kid that allowed me to pick up on the different sounds that certain accents have. Whatever it was that allowed me to copy different accents and celebrity voices, I am grateful that I have found an outlet that lets me voice different characters and fulfill my life-long ambition to stand behind a microphone and give my unique voice to different production recordings. I do not know if I will ever be famous for having a distinct sound or for voicing an icon animated character, but it would be really cool if perhaps someday down the road, someone might listen to my voice and say, “I can make my voice sound like Paul Cuthbert.”