My, was I happy to be able to say yes… and actually be telling the truth! Years ago I might have been in that situation and not have been able to answer so confidently. I might have mumbled yes and really had no idea what they were talking about (as my mind raced for images). Or, I would have honestly said no and felt like a bit of a schmuck as I wasted their time trying to explain it to me. But luckily that didn’t happen. You see, these days I do my homework. I voice commercials. So I watch commercials. I listen to them on the radio. I notice things. I educate myself. And when I book a gig, or even before I audition, if possible, I make it my business to know how the client represents themselves. Knowledge is power.
I think it’s important to become interested in the work you want to do. I shudder when I remember (what I now see as) the arrogance I had as an on-camera actor years ago… I never watched tv! I refused – labeling it mostly “lame” or “bad” – and claimed I didn’t have time. And yet I wanted to be on it! How can you claim to want to be a part of something you take no interest in or notice of? True, I was waitressing and juggling about 3 other random gigs at any given time plus doing theatre, but still – I see now that part of my job as an actor was to make time.
About a year ago I started pursuing video games. I have taken a bunch of classes and now I’m clear about what the next step in my education is. It’s the simple thing that’s missing: I need to PLAY some video games! Thankfully, this should be a fun assignment (if I can just learn how to use the darn controller)!
I don’t fast–forward through commercials anymore. I study them. All the time, even when there’s no gig or audition. Because that’s not only my competition, but my barometer; my connection to the pulse of what’s happening in my field. And it’s my business to know what’s out there.
So when the director asked me in a hopeful voice, with producers and clients in tow: “Are you familiar with our campaign?” I was able to say emphatically,
Yes, I know it well. It’s voiced by ____ (fill in name of big star).
“That’s right!” he exclaimed happily. “We don’t want you to imitate her… but we’d like that same flavor, if you can try doing that.”
Oh, sure I can. No problem.
And it wasn’t.