This month I caught up with busy video game and voiceover actor Darin De Paul. Darin and I met in May 2015, when I cast him as a voice in the Amazon pilot “The Numberlys,” and since then his voiceover career has exploded. Here are some tips for how he climbed the ladder to success.
How did you get started in voiceover?
I started while I was doing a play at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I was working opposite Bruce Winant, who was part of a loop group working on the first “Ice Age” film. Bruce had me audition and I booked the job and spent two glorious days making creature sounds and doing voices for assorted dinosaurs and dodos. I was hooked.
When you moved into the voiceover world, what kind of demo did you make?
I recorded a demo that showed lots of range and characters (the framework of which I use to this day), but for several years I could not get a New York voiceover agent interested. The VO market in New York is mostly commercials, and there isn’t the call for the kind of characters you find in video games. So I continued to do theater—Broadway, Off-Broadway, national tours, regional—and really built up my résumé. A strong theater background is invaluable in voice acting. You bring all the skills, focus, and sheer joy of performing on stage into the booth. And doing eight shows a week helps build up your vocal stamina for long recording sessions. Finally, an agent did take a chance on me and I luckily booked the first audition they sent me on: the voice of a troll in an airline spot. I now have commercial, animation, and interactive demos that all feature jobs I have actually done. And I’ll be updating them all in a month—got to keep them current!
What is a typical recording session like?
For most animation and video games you record alone, working with a director and the creative team. A typical session lasts four hours. You rarely see the script before a game session. If it’s a character you auditioned for, you will have that to reference before you start. But there are many sessions where the first time you are seeing the line is as you are saying it. You make strong choices and you make them quickly. A lot of the time you don’t see the lines for the other characters. You can ask for context, and you will typically do a couple takes per line, so make an interesting choice. Find the musicality of the line and totally commit to your character. You find the voice at the start of the session with the director and writers; use that voice Rolodex in your head and go through what you think it might sound like until everyone is in agreement. So file away voices and characters, you will use them! You may do more than one voice per session and they have to be different. I always picture the character and then “drop that mask” over me while performing. I see them saying the lines. Stand like them. Just do the whole transformation thing. I’m trying to make each one have a singular sound so you may not know it’s me, but you totally buy into the character. I have also done a lot of work with Faceware, which is a helmet with facial tracking software.
With animation I have worked alone and with a group (which is very much like a staged reading). Each has its own energy. I love watching other performers make choices. There is a quick pace and rhythm to animation sessions. And you will be called upon to do side characters in addition to your main character. Got to be versatile!
Do you have any booth rituals before you begin recording?
Not really. I come prepared for anything. I pride myself on being professional. I may have two sessions in a day, so I have be vocally ready to do a nasty villain and then run across town a do a cute little character like the one we worked on in “The Numberlys.” I do play a lot of baddies and badasses, roles I would never be seen for in theatre because I look like a big comic book-loving dweeb—which I am. But I was always drawn to villains and now I get to play in that world. I am a huge “Star Wars” fan and I am currently in three “Star Wars” video games. I didn’t know till the trailer for “Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens” that I had been doing scenes with Harrison Ford as Han Solo. I get excited by every project. The writing is a joy to perform. And I love doing creature sounds. They can be throat rippers, but I think all the years playing to big houses helped my stamina. There is something that is a big, big help if you are doing vocally stressful sessions: Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. It’s a Chinese loquat syrup that you can add to hot water or just spoon out and it will protect your throat. It has saved me on many an occasion!
Any advice for actors wanting to get into games and animation?
Be an actor first. Everyone will have their own path, but for me, it is all about the acting. It is not about just doing funny voices. It is about creating characters. It’s about knowing timing. Making interesting, honest, strong choices. Develop your own characters. Remember, a really bad impression may lead to a new voice. One of my most popular current characters is my father’s voice heightened several levels. Most importantly, love everything you do and approach your work with passion.
Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Backstage recently named Jen one of the top 25 CDs to follow on Twitter. Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen.
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