Why Voice and Body Work Are the Keys to Booking More Roles

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You may think the only actors who have to worry about voice and body work are those in theater, but during a recent master class hosted at our studio, it became apparent this wasn’t the case. As we watched several talented actors struggle through scenes, it became clear that their lack vocal and physical work was impeding their success with the material.

The characters performed by the students required accents that were essential to the realization of the material: a Boston Southie accent (like Mark Wahlberg in “The Fighter”) or an Italian New York accent (like James Gandolfini in ‘The Sopranos’). A problem arose when the actor’s natural dialect—albeit small—created a rhythm and subtle accentuation that undermined their believability. The cadence of their dialect directly conflicted with their authenticity and hindered their capability to present a standard American accent, much less a more complicated one like Southie or Italian New York.

Yes, reducing a personal dialect can be a difficult and onerous task but having (or not having) an accent can make or break a character, especially when the film or television show specifically calls for it. An obtrusive accent can even distract to the point that the “accent” is actually another character in the story!

The same issue applies to the physical life of a character in film and or television.

READ: 6 Tips For Auditioning With a Dialect

For example, in films like ”Taxi Driver” and “Heat,” a volatile, impulsive, highly sexual character (which may not be in an actor’s normal comfort zone of physical expressiveness) is required. Performances like these require not only a New York accent but also a very specific physical life beyond the creation of an acting performance comprised of the behavior and emotional life.

Another example in a diametrically opposite role is the one played by Tim Robbins in “Mystic River.” In this film, he is required to have loose arms, a lack of authority in movement, and possess the rounded shoulders of someone who has led a life of shame. And he must maintain this physical life while also mastering a Boston Southie accent.

Work in film and television is about far more than just being able to recite words and have good posture. If you play a character, you’re not just using your personal habits. You must also open yourself up to the specific vocal patterns, rhythm, accent, and the physical like the character and material asks for.

Acting requires extensive voice and physical work such as reducing dialects, creating accents and developing specific movement for every character. This might mean putting in more work—and a different kind of work—than what many actors may consider when they think of performing in these mediums. A deep emotional life and vivid, clear behavior alone will not capture most roles, so fall in love with every aspect of this awesome craft and start your homework on your voice and physical life.

Ready to get physical? Check out our TV 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.

Joanne Baron
Joanne Baron is an actor, producer, and the artistic director of the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
D.W. Brown
D.W. Brown is an actor, writer, director, and studio co-owner and head teacher of the Baron Brown Studio in Santa Monica, California. Brown is also the author of the acclaimed acting guide “You Can Act” and a second book, “2500 Years of Wisdom: Sayings of the Great Masters.”