I have an idea why Hollywood actors tend to be sometimes crazy. They have strange voices in their heads.
Backstory — I recently finished narration on an audiobook set in Florida just before, during, and after the US Civil War. It’s a touching piece about a one of Florida’s 19th-century heroes — Thomas Swearingen — told from the perspective of his adopted son, Henry.
The Smallest Tadpole’s War in the Land of Mysterious Waters was written by a relative of Thomas Swearingen and the audition asked narrators to use a “southern accent.” I recorded the audition and sent it along, with a note explaining that I was “not a native Southerner” but had spent considerable time in Nashville and Atlanta. Needless to say, the author (and her family) liked my accent and I was offered the project.
I wanted to make sure the accent wasn’t a caricature; honorable and dignified. Before heading into the studio, I practiced speaking “in Henry’s voice” during my normal activities — at the grocery, visiting a friend, ordering food in a restaurant. While recording the actual book, I stopped regularly to listen back to make sure the accent was the same throughout.
For three to four hours every day over the span of one week, I played the part of a dignified southern gentleman. Let me rephrase: over the course of one week my mind and soul were invaded by the spirit of a dignified southern gentleman.
And here’s where I gained some insight into the actor’s dilemma. The intense focus on staying true to the accent and character did something to my brain and for days after finishing the narration, I was thinking in Southern. Henry’s voice would not go away. They were my thoughts but they were happening in his accent. What had started as intentionally practicing for an audiobook role, became a tiny bit strange and helped me imagine what a film actor must deal with when playing a role that lasts for 2-3 months on a movie project.
The book should be available near the end of March. There’s a sample clip on the home page of my web site if you care to taken a listen.