Voiceover accents – cultural appropriation?

by Sarah Lockett on August 7, 2020

The elder daughter is up in arms because I have sent in a demo of a “Middle Eastern” accent for a v/o job, and I am not Middle Eastern. “It’s cultural appropriation! There are loads of Middle Eastern people who’d LOVE that work!”

Well yes, and they are welcome to apply for it. But if I get the job, then I get the job 🙂

Microphone, Sarah Lockett
Microphone, Sarah Lockett

I am also not American (but I have done American dialogue in an upcoming Hollywood film), I am not Cockney (but I have done dialogue as an outraged Londoner), and I am not sultry, but I have done dialogue in the style of the old M&S food-porn ads (“oozing with rich chocolate sauce, smothered in whipped cream” etc).

I am happy to be proved wrong. I looked on YouTube for tutorials on how to do Arab accents, and everyone doing them was Arab. Soo, maybe I am out of line. I know some actors (Miriam Margoyles in particular) specialise in accents and dialects – and they put in hours of special training before each role. But the rest of us are just bluffing it. Hey, if they think I am rubbish, they won’t give me the job, and I am fine with that.

Equally, I have recently gone for a role as an opera singer (I have been having opera singing lessons from an actual opera singer for 4 months now – my #LockdownActivity). It’s only for a TV ad, so I don’t have to sing a whole aria/Wagner’s The Ring (17 hours!) – I will just have to do a burst for under a minute, I reckon. Is this swindling an actual opera singer out of the work? Well, you can go down a rabbit hole thinking like this. If I get it, I was obviously considered to be the best person for the job, on balance (and cost comes into the balance – an actual opera singer will be £££).

Anyway I would be interested to hear your views. In this “new normal” I am not over-burdened with work, so I might as well go for jobs that interest me, and that I can record from home (in my home studio, for the v/o work). And “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” – I might just be the most suitable person on the day, and get the gig.

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