This might not be something you can answer, but I have been seeking input from an actor that’s been in the industry for a while. Like everyone who seeks help from you, I want to be a voice actor. The thing is, I’m not sure if I would be able to. I’m a trans guy, which means my odds of “making it” as a voice actor seem to go down by a long shot. I never see or hear of any trans voice actors, and we don’t even seem to be cast for our own roles. I’m not sure why, I know there are very talented trans actors out there, so why aren’t we heard? Are our voices not masculine or feminine enough? Or is there internalized transphobia in the industry? Acting is something that I love… I’m part of my high school’s production department and do other outside activities. The thing is, should I even try? This is something I want to do, but how can I be sure I can make a living off of it if I’m not sure I could even land a single job? You’re a very open-minded person, so I hope you are able to offer me some kind of advice. This has been haunting me ever since I came out.
The thing about working in a creative field is you can’t wait until you’ve received a personalized invitation to join the fold. You never will. No one does. As an artist it is your responsibility to show up, be the most honest version of yourself, and accept the challenge when someone asks “What makes you special?”
When you are an artist, it is your compulsion to show up and be heard. Eventually, someone will listen. Where there previously was no room for you, you will have made room for yourself, simply by consistently having shown up.
From the top down and cosmetically, there will always be the problem of a lack of variety of acting roles for as long as the writers’ room lacks a diverse group of people. However, talent will often reshape the makeup of a cast. With on camera roles, it is not uncommon for roles to be open to “whomever best fits the part,” regardless of race or gender. Sometimes roles are changed completely because someone phenomenal auditioned, and the character will be rewritten to fit what the actor brings.
In voice over, we have more options all around. No one is bound by race or gender whatsoever. For example, the principle cast of Bob’s Burgers has two men performing female characters. The actors’ biological gender does not prevent them from giving compelling and memorable performances. Voice actors have the opportunity to play any number of genders, accents, races, and ages. The actor’s own physical composite will not prevent them from auditioning, unless a client has specifically stated they want a voice actor who is of a particular nationality or has a genuine accent, for example. In voice over it’s more about sounding like, than being. For example if a gender is specified, the hope is that those auditioning will sound like the requested gender, which is not determined by pitch (see: Carol Channing and Leslie Jordan). You will often see a desired age range. However that refers to the age range the actor can play, not the actual age of the actor. Age is not determined by pitch, but by attitude. Again, Dan Mintz as Tina on Bob’s Burgers is a perfect example of an actor fulfilling the age and attitude of the character, despite the actor not having a high pitched or stereotypically “young” voice.
When it comes to trans actors, recently television shows have been doing a hell of a job casting tremendous trans actors to play trans characters, setting the example that will inevitably give way to more on camera trans roles as time goes on. Off the top of my head I can think of Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Billings, and Hari Nef on Transparent, Jamie Clayton on Sense8 (who will also be performing in Mass Effect: Andromeda), and Ian Alexander on The OA. Of course, I can probably quickly reference these actors as they’ve all been obliged to do large amounts of press to explain their transness and how it affects their performances. Though in truth, they are not pursued by media for being trans. They are focused on because their performances are just so very good, the press is compelled to interview them. These actors are so good, they can’t be ignored. Being trans and a representative of the trans community is something these trailblazers are accepting as a personal challenge, likely in the hope that they are carving space for future trans roles and actors.
Being an artist is not about playing the odds. Being an artist is baring your soul and doing it so beautifully until someone listens. The rest is entirely up to you. In short, to become a voice actor you must be an actor first. Becoming an actor is not limited to any one kind of person, though you must be the kind of person who is willing to work hard to get what you want.
* * *
Thank you so much for replying, I feel better about (hopefully) my future career in acting. I had no idea Jamie is going to be in Andromeda! It makes me very happy to hear that my favorite video game company is hiring a trans actress.
Fryda you have no idea how much your response means to me, I’m so glad I got the chance to know about you. You are more than welcome to post the question and response to your website, I’m sure lots of other trans actors had the same kind of questions in mind.
Once again, thank you so much, it means the world to me.
Contributions from Twitter: