While I’ve spent the majority of my life dedicated to the art of acting, I seem to learn something new every day. Must like life, acting is an ever evolving and changing organism, and in order to be a true student of acting, you must be a true student of life. One of the most interesting topics I’m currently studying is the concept of giving your voice to a person.
Using your own voice to vocalize a character while maintaining character individuality is an advanced-level acting theory where an actor must learn that his voice is used, but not to communicate his own thoughts.
Utilizing your voice is inescapable as an actor; however, learning how to use your voice in an unique way to give a character individuality is a process that can take years to cultivate and develop.
Knowing Your Voice
Much about being an actor is knowing yourself. For example, if you do not know how you move then it will be difficult to alter your movements for a character. The same is true when it comes to speaking on behalf of a character.
Your voice is the most powerful tool you have as an actor, and it can either strengthen your performance or deter from the false-reality you wish to create. For example, your character calls for a southern accent, but as you speak this accent is a weird mixture of southern and Irish (happens all the time).
Because you were unable to successfully cultivate your own voice, the believability of the character is lost. Need a better example, watch “Ever After” starring Drew Barrymore. While she is a good actor, her English accent is marred and she was unable to give her voice to help make her character unique – you heard too much of Drew and not enough of her character.
Altering Your Voice for the Character
When you speak, it’s you that is speaking. This is a truth you cannot get around; however, you may manipulate your voice to help create a unique character. Using the example above: your character is southern, but you cannot naturally deliver a southern accent, and by not doing so the character (and your performance) is flawed.
As an actor you must take steps to ensure that your own voice is used for the purpose of enhancing the character. In this example, you must train your vocal chords to speak southern. This may be done by visiting a vocal coach, or performing hours of self-study. While it will not happen over time, you can train your voice to accurately depict any accent.
The biggest tip of this article: go through your script line-by-line and perfect how you will speak the line. Remember: it’s not how YOU would say it, but rather how your CHARACTER would speak.