Voice Acting Is Tough, But Nice Work If You Can Get It

By Luaine Lee
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Several working voice actors share their experiences behind the microphone of some of the biggest hits in Hollywood.

LOS ANGELES

Many beginning young actors think they can worm their way into show business through voice-over work.

But lending your voice to a cartoon or a goofy commercial can be more difficult than landing a speaking part on a TV series.

“It seems like a quarter of the people do the majority of the work,” says Tom Kenny, the hyperventilating SpongeBob of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” “It’s like being a Navy SEAL. I’m really proud to be a member of this select group of people.

“It’s really hard to bust into. I’ve done on-camera stuff and made a living as a standup comedian for years, but voice-over was what I really wanted to do. I can only speak for myself, but I know that voice-over was much harder for me to break into than standup comedy or on-camera work … It was the hardest. I guess it’s like everything in show business, it’s gaining experience, making connections, relationships, like any freelancer’s lot in life. And it was just dumb right-place, right-time luck.”

Among voice-over talent, there are certain performers considered the top of their class. Worker beavers include Frank Welker, Billy West, Cree Summer and Peter Cullen, who toil mostly behind the cameras, manipulating their voices like gymnasts in free form.

Welker, for instance, has made a career by approximating animal sounds. It’s Welker you hear when Curious George babbles or when Puss in Boots meows.

But more and more well-known actors are confiscating the mic.

Ray Romano played Manny in the “Ice Age” films. “It takes getting used to,” he says of voice-over. “The best thing is the fantasy of it all, and here you can relate to everybody, adults and kids. It’s timeless. It’ll last.

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