Voice Over Education Blog


Working Through Your Accent

These days, voice over work can be found virtually anywhere and performed anywhere.

But what if you’re from anywhere -- what about your accent?

Everybody has an accent. Even if you’re from the American Midwest, a wide swath of territory where people speak what’s called “standard American English,” you have an accent in the ears of a Southerner, Brooklynite or Bostonian.

In that case, fortunately for you -- and unfortunately for talent in those other parts of the country (and the rest of the world, for that matter) -- American clients tend to favor the standard American sound. If you don’t naturally have it, do you need to acquire it? And if so, how?

Yes and no.

Note that we haven’t said “lose your accent.” While “losing” your accent is what people usually say (and for simplicity’s sake we will say it here), don’t ever really lose your native accent -- sometimes it can be an added competitive advantage. For example, in telephony for locally-focused companies, in local commercials or spots for certain products (e.g., hot sauce), and in “real people” roles, many clients want VO talent to have a local sound. That Deep Southern, Boston or foreign accent can actually be an advantage.

But if you have a distinctly regional accent, or if English was not your first language, you’ll expand your marketing options by learning to “lose” it when necessary.

Here are some tips for losing, or at least softening, a regional accent.

1. Don’t be discouraged by the situation. Besides locally-focused job opportunities as we’ve mentioned, there are character roles, product spokesperson roles, audiobooks, training videos, and many other genres where a specific accent is sometimes sought. For that need, few other VO performers can sound as authentic as you.

Some Classic “Fake” Accents in Film and Television

Do you agree? Disagree?

1. Hugh Laurie plays Gregory House on “House,” an American doctor. Though he was born in Oxford, England, he was able to fool everyone during his audition and ultimately landed the role.

2. Who can forget the beautiful film “Shakespeare in Love?” American Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed the character Viola de Lesseps and ended up winning an Academy Award for her British accent in the film.

3. In the movie musical “Chicago,” Catherine Zeta-Jones played Velma Kelly, an American woman who is in prison for the murder of her husband and sister. When you hear her thick Welsh accent in real life, it is hard to believe how she pulled off an American so successfully.

4. Sacha Baron Cohen is known for his crazy accents, most recently seen in “Les Miserables” as Monsieur Thenardier. In my opinion though, his most beloved role was Borat, as he was able to maintain a consistent ‘Kazakstani’ accent in the film.

5. Remember the remake of “The Parent Trap” with Lindsay Lohan? Not only did she have a pretty believable British accent for a child, but she was able to switch back and forth seamlessly.

6. Though Daniel Dae Kim plays a Korean man with barely any knowledge of English on “Lost,” in real life he has a normal American accent. While he was born in Korea, he moved to Pennsylvania at the age of two.

7. Did you know that Health Ledger was actually Australian? You would never know from any of his films, as he immersed himself completely in his roles. Some say his most impressive film accent was in “Brokeback Mountain,” when he effectively played a cowboy.

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