What It Takes to Be a Professional Voice Actor
Saturday morning cartoons are a defining piece of everyone’s childhood. The people who have made our favorite cartoons have worked day and night for decades to create incredible shows. Even the voices behind your favorite characters require a dedicated amount of time and a keen ear, one that Andrea Romano (no, the other one) has honed for more than three decades.
Cartoon fans who aspire to work on these shows as actors often struggle navigating the mysterious voice-over industry. At New York Comic Con, the eight-time Emmy award-winning voice director sat down at a panel to talk to fans about voice acting and directing.
Romano, famously known for directing shows such as Duck Tales, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, and more recently, Teen Titans, was happy to share her advice.
1. There’s no specific class or school for voice-over.
The best thing for a voice-over artist to learn is to act, then specifically voice acting. “If you can’t act, you’re probably a lot of fun at a party, but I can’t actually pay you money,” Romano said.
2. Sometimes being a rookie is okay.
As long as you’re the best person for the job, a short resume isn’t a big deal. Greg Cipes, who voices Beast Boy on Teen Titans, said at the panel, “the first audition I ever went out on was Teen Titans and they were like, ‘this guy’s green’…and Andrea fought for me. I got the role.”
3. Be open to direction.
The best thing for a voice actor, or a voice director, is to be open to collaboration. According to Romano, one of the things she looks for in an actor is someone she can direct — but also someone who can bring something of their own to the project.
4. Being comfortable with your director is key.
Romano is playfully referred to in the industry as “The Velvet Hammer”, for her soft but stern directing style. “She knows how to communicate with the actor clearly to get the best takes that the producers are looking for,” Cipes said, adding playfully, “She’s also beautiful to look at.”
5. Trust your instincts.
The best way to work sometimes is to work with whatever comes naturally, and a symbiotic relationship with the director helps that. “It’s specific to each actor who’s going to respond to what kind of direction,” said Romano.
6. You need to work with your voice constantly.
Competition in voice-over is high, so artists have to be working all the time — even if it means just sending out audition tapes. “If you are trying to work out in your little booth for an hour a day and you’re competing against someone who for 12 hours has been creating voices, it’s kind of kind jogging a block a day and then trying to run a marathon,” said Romano.
7. If you can find a niche for your unique voice — work it.
For instance, there is a significant gap in the industry of women who do “creature” voices and sounds. Women who do have this skill are unique and can land a lot of interesting jobs. “There are no female actors who are doing that kind of work — we need women who do those kinds of sounds,” said Romano.
8. Don’t be discouraged by physical disabilities.
Even some actors with hearing loss can still work and find success as voice-over artists. André Sogliuzzo, who worked with Romano on shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, uses hearing aid devices in the sound booth.
9. Always be creating new voices.
When you want to stand out, keep coming up with ideas for characters — and always have a second idea for that character, too.
10. Give them plenty of options.
According to Romano, you get hired for a cartoon to perform three separate character voices. “You may be playing Michelangelo in the Turtles, and I need you to be the newscaster, and I need you to be the guy on the TV in the cartoon doing a commercial,” she said.