Bring yourself to the role.
This piece of advice is a recurring one as I’ve been learning more about acting—particularly voiceover acting— over the past several months. It’s one of those sentiments that I nod along with whenever I hear it, jot it down on my notepad, and…then promptly forget about it. I’m a slow cooker, slow burn kind of guy, so sometimes it takes me hearing something multiple times before I realize I need to take the time to dwell on it and really consider what it has to offer.
So, after hearing this advice yet again just last night, it finally occurred to me to think about what “bringing myself to a role” might mean. I’ll admit, at first pass I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense. Bring myself to the role? Me? I thought the whole point of acting was that I’m putting on a different persona, that I’m not myself. What good does it do letting introverted, newbie Tyler influence an audition or a gig?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that at the end of the day, it’s still me, Tyler Robbert, behind the mic, producing the voice, creating the character, etc. That’s not the vibe I’m getting from this advice, though. What does it really mean for Tyler to be present within the role?
As I was pondering this subject earlier today, my six-year-old daughter approached me, as she so often does, and asked if I would put on some music so she could dance. She’s VERY into Disney soundtracks right now, so I pulled up my playlist of Moana, Frozen, and Encanto songs, hit play, and let her do her thing. While she danced around in her Minnie Mouse dress, singing her version of the song lyrics, I watched joyfully as she brought to life her interpretation of the movie scenes that the songs accompany. I could see the films’ and characters’ impacts on her play, but I noticed something else as well. She wasn’t just pretending to be Moana or Elsa or Luisa/Isabella/Dolores/Mirabel/Camillo/etc. (she can’t get enough of the full cast singing We Don’t Talk About Bruno). I watched her act out familiar scenes from her favorite movies with a unique Maseeiso Ruby Jane spin. I saw all those characters in her, but I also saw her. There was so much authenticity to the “roles” she was playing. And I realized, that’s what “bringing yourself to the role” looks like, at least in part.
I always expected to learn a lot from my child, but I certainly didn’t expect her to help me get a firmer grasp on the voiceover advice I’d been contemplating—without even trying, to boot! While there are certainly lots of ways children can be inhibited, it never ceases to amaze me how free they can be with themselves. They don’t tend to overthink things as much as we grown-up types do. My daughter wasn’t worried about acting out her best impression of Moana; she was living into what it meant for her to be Moana. Did you hear that? That was the sound of my mind blowing a little bit.
I’m excited to practice bringing myself to future auditions and gigs. I can’t wait to see what kinds of creative roles I’m able to produce when I stop substituting myself with the role and allow myself to be the role instead. I look forward to acting more like a child. It’s fitting really, since I’m actually just a big kid at heart.
I’ll have to think of a good way to thank my daughter for helping me learn something new. I guess it’s only fair that she gets a cut of my income from here on out…or maybe I’ll just dance with her next time she asks. Yeah, she likes that better anyway.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller