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Interview

How to Get Cast as a Zombie Prom Princess by Using Backstage

How to Get Cast as a Zombie Prom Princess by Using Backstage
Photo Source: Backstage

Backstage is all about actors’ success stories, but New York-based talent Marlain Angelides’ latest gig is particularly special. When Backstage needed a voiceover actor to lend their skills to our new promotional video, we turned to the best resource we knew: our well of talented subscribers and daily users! And within them, we found this singularly talented London native.

Below, we get to know Equity actor Angelides, about her experience acting in the U.K., and why she turns to Backstage “for practically all aspects of my performing arts career” to keep her busy (and paid!) doing what she loves.

Tell us about your character for this video.
I got to [narrate] the new Backstage video describing what you guys do for the performing arts industry and casting. Within that video, I had the chance to voice a dancing zombie.

What was the audition like?
Well, due to my V.O. reels that were submitted during the breakdown process and my overall Backstage profile, I had the opportunity to land this job.

What was working on the project like?
It was actually one of my favorite ways of working. I got to offer my own versions of the copy to create the character, and then with careful instruction from you guys [at Backstage], we nudged the overall sound to where it ended up. It was a process involving both my British and American accents, some character voices, and many different takes on pacing and tone within that. It was tremendously creative. I also got to work in the comfort of my own home and in my own time within a given deadline. Sometimes it’s great to just be a zombie in pajamas at midnight.

How often do you use Backstage?
Backstage and I have an amazingly committed relationship. I use it for practically all aspects of my performing arts career as an actor, V.O. actor, and singer. I love the profile layout and submission process that lets you pick and choose what casting sees with an unlimited media upload availability. That is especially important to me because of the diversity of types of work that I do. I have landed both conservative, high-end roles as well as my default rocker ones because I don't have to let casting see all my sides in one go! Once people cast you the way they see you, then it’s OK to let them see the other side. At least that has been my experience. Other platforms don’t have this option across the board. I also use it to check when the Equity Principal Auditions and Equity Chorus Calls are.

How long have you been using Backstage?
Basically since I moved to NYC about 3 years ago.

What makes you keep coming back to us for audition notices?
The sheer volume and diversity of types of auditions. And the fact that I have regularly booked work through you.

What types of roles do you typically look for?
I use your filters to be honest. I look at the description to understand if it feels like the type of project I would be interested in. I look across the board at theater, musicals and plays, voiceover, films, student films, and exclusively singer roles for band gigs.

Tell us a bit about your career as a working actor in both the U.K. and the U.S. What advice do you have for actors looking to make the transition between the two regions?
I trained at the Royal Academy of Music [in] London [with a] postgraduate musical theater course. I worked in the West End within a few months of graduating and experienced musical theater at its fullest with the eight-show-a-week repetitive schedule and the glory of tour life straight off the bat. I believe that type of work is an amazing experience, but felt I wanted to experience other aspects of the industry. I got involved in fronting a U.K. jazz tour, joining a signed platinum-selling girl pop band in Greece (I am also half Greek), touring as a session vocalist around the world, and fronting rock and metal original bands. Sustaining consistent work as we all know is a challenge, but the journey has been amazing. Each country or region has its challenges. Many thought I was crazy to leap into a territory where I had no roots, but here I am trying to make the best of it. I am now represented by [talent agent] Meg Pantera, and I freelance for commercial and V.O. [work] with some tremendously supportive managers and agents. I have a Green Card [and I] joined Equity.

The biggest challenge was acquiring the right to work. I believe it is the same challenge the other way around, too. Get a good immigration lawyer. Learning the differences in the system was also a bit of a climb. But I found American actors were wonderful and generous with sharing their knowledge. I learned something new at every EPA. Find an American actor friend and use trusted advice from publications like Backstage to help you navigate the winding roads of auditions, unions, casting practices, how to present yourself, headshot advice, finding your type, coaches, classes, etc. These things are similar but [are sometimes] executed very differently, so finding your way is vital. I learned the hard way sometimes, but I got through it.

We hear you were discovered by Lez Zeppelin—can you give our readers a little background about the band and tell us about that experience?
Yes! The whole experience was rather surreal. Lez Zeppelin was founded by Steph Paynes, lead guitarist, about 13 years ago. She came up with the brilliant idea of making an all-girls all-Zeppelin group. They have had a tremendous story of success touring in multiple countries, being endorsed by Jimmy Page himself and sporting the touted respect of being ‘as close to the original thing’ as possible. An incredible reputation! So imagine my surprise when I get a message through the Backstage messaging system, asking if I would be interested in auditioning for the group, as they were looking for a new singer! I couldn’t imagine a better regular singing gig for me.

As a vocalist I had been struggling to find my place in the NYC music scene, having worked with all kinds of bands but not finding ‘the one.’ This was ‘the one,’ [and] there was no way I was letting this opportunity slip by me. I had sung Zeppelin before with bands so I had an initial platform, but Steph guided me more to feel out the Robert Plant vibe. I auditioned three times and met my new family. As a rock singer, I finally had a place to let it all go and be challenged at the same time with an overwhelming body of work which I am still learning. These women are super talented, supportive, warm, and extremely hard working. Thank you, Backstage, for providing the platform for Steph to find me.

What advice do you have for other voice over actors looking to break into the field?
I can only relay what helped me break into the field here in the U.S., [but] every region is different. My main prior experience was in dubbing for Disney/Dreamworks/Mattel Creations in Greek where I got to be Reba’s voice in “Fox and the Hound 2,” Mulan herself in “Mulan II,” the classical choir in “Alice In Wonderland,” and Barbie amongst other wild and funny furry animals. This, of course, helped with confidence behind the mic. I took some classes [and] got an excellent reel in my (at the time) native British accent. When I would read for casting directors or agents, my reel was then supplemental in engaging them. I know others don’t necessarily agree with needing a reel, but this was my experience.

I then started working with various agents and was sent to various auditions. I found having my own studio was also key. I was lucky because I am also a songwriter who fronts original projects and the only way to send vocal ideas, especially when traveling, was by having a small home studio set up. The transition for me was pretty easy. I learned enhanced sound tricks from some sound expert friends, again through being involved in music, and was broadcast ready pretty quickly.

The progression to American accent was inevitable as my ear was picking it up naturally and general auditioning for theater and film was forcing me to do it on the fly. Imagine learning to make your Shakespeare monologues transition into an American accent! An American reel was logically the next step.

I also firmly believe that as performers we all have aspects of the work which we naturally find ourselves more drawn to because those types are more within our comfort zone. I find V.O. to be one of those for me. It is making the text as real as possible whilst following sometimes very specific direction or no direction at all. You don’t have to be off-book and you only have your voice to convey the message. If those things make you jump for joy, it is the medium for you! I have never been driven by the size of compensation, but that can be good, too. Bear in mind it is just as competitive (if not more) than on-camera or theater, so do it because you love it, not because of how lucrative it could be.

As a voiceover actor and singer, how do you take care of your voice? Do you have any rituals or routines?
Yes, I absolutely have to now! Given the intensity of Lez Zeppelin gigs and V.O. work being more frequent, my voice has had moments of saying, ‘No more!’ I learned that after gigs, I must say very little, take full days of vocal rest when I can after a bout of gigs, gargle salt water, steam, have ginger lozenges or singers throat spray (alcohol free) on hand. [I also] warm up before gigs as gently as possible. I got in ear monitors so I could hear myself over the band and not scream to be heard. And most importantly, which isn’t always easy when on the road, sleep after extreme vocal use. I think no alcohol and smoke goes without saying but I am mentioning it just in case, because I know how us rockers are sometimes typecast.

What was it like working on this video with Backstage?
Hey, I took one look at my avatar and fell in love! It showed me that having professional reels and believing in not putting yourself in a box pays off. You guys were open to casting me without knowing me at all, and I got the chance to use my own personality to voice a new project. All I can say is thank you so much, I am truly grateful.

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