Is There Ageism in Voiceover?

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Photo Source: Anna Vander Stel/Unsplash

When it comes to voiceover, how important is it for them to see what you look like? There’s some debate as to whether you should (or shouldn’t) include your headshot on your voiceover demos and website. Personally, I prefer to listen with my ears, not my eyes, and imagine what you look like. There’s a great deal of power in keeping your listeners’ imagination engaged in this way.

Besides, as in every business, how we’re perceived often comes down to you being either too young or too old. Certainly every aspect of the entertainment industry is riddled with subjectivity and preconceived notions, and age is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the key defining elements with which we cast. Yet, age may even surpasses gender and race as either a selling point or utter exclusion. The fact is, your gender and race won’t likely change over the course of your career.

Age will inevitably alter your type and, as luck would have it, your ability to land work (especially if the casting assistant is 22 years old and considers you “grandpa-material” based on the fact that you’re 42 and look it from your headshot). Whether you’re honestly appropriate for the voiceover or not is relative, but unlikely and, ultimately contingent on the assistant’s perception.

The difference is that you have the opportunity to control whether you’re seen or not as a voice talent, and therefore bypass the inevitable age stigma. You either sound appropriate for the production…or you don’t. This is, in part, why we have voiceover demos: to demonstrate what we do best.

Nevertheless nothing remains the same. The question is: Are you evolving further into your most bookable age range, or out of it? Clinging to former glory rather than embracing the next chapter is where so many talent fall down. Actors aren’t alone in this. This is a common misstep of the average small business owner as well: When to reassess, transition, and thrive with a revised self-awareness of who you are and how you’re perceived is necessary if you expect to go the distance in this or any industry.

Voice actors in their 40s tend to sound 10–15 years younger than they actually are. The same is typically true for those in their 50s and 60s, for that matter. It becomes an issue when the talent aren’t up to date on current industry demands and protocol. Most of the people hiring you are often 20–30 years younger. And while those in their mid-20s to early-30s might be on trend and progressive in managing their careers, they may find themselves playing teenagers at one audition and young moms chasing after toddlers in the next, with which they can’t easily come to grips. Those eager 20–30-year-old guys with deep, resonant voices—who sound far more mature than their worldly experience can support—may discover they’ll have to grow into their most employable type. Time will tell. Time and tenacity.

The single thing you can count on is change. You may as well embrace it. After all, you become the effect of that which you resist. And if you resist, you may miss out on some remarkable opportunities time and training has been grooming you for all along…regardless of how old, or young, you may be.

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s voiceover audition listings!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Kate McClanaghan
Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business.
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