Voice acting: art or science?

22 August 2016

Interview with

Dr Mayim Bialik, Actor, The Big Bang Theory

Most animations don't just rely on their images, - they are often brought to life by the actors who lend their voices to the characters. One of them is neuroscientist Dr Mayim Bialik, who did voice overs for cartoons like Johnny Bravo. She is also well known for playing Amy Farah Fowler in the television series The Big Bang Theory. Lucka Bibic spoke to her about her voice acting career...

Mayim - I did a lot more voice over work when I was younger - I actually used to play a boy's voice a lot, even though I may not sound like a boy right now. When I was younger I was definitely able to sound more a young boy, a ten or eleven year old boy's voice. That was definitely something I was matched for. And when I would play girls, I would often be cast to play a bully because I have kind of rough voice; I have a scratchy voice and I would often do New York accents. My parents are New Yorkers so that accent comes very easily to me and that's kind of a funny character to have a kid's villain who's got a heavy New York accent; it's kind of funny.

Lucka - And do you think your body movement while you're doing voice overs can help you with the voice that you want to achieve?

Mayim - Absolutely!  You know it depends on what the character is doing but a lot of times I do kind of get physical when I'm doing voice over work. And you can absolutely tell when you're listening to a voice over if someone has movement where appropriate. Even though you can't see a smile, for example, your voice definitely sounds different when you're smiling while saying something than when you're not!

Lucka - How is it possible for you to mimic different voices?

Mayim - I'm not a perfect mimic; there's definitely kind of an innate ability that some people have. The actor on the big Bank Theory, Simon Helberg who plays Wolowitz; he has a remarkable ability to do identical mimicry of people's voices; he does an amazing Nicolas Cage impression and it literally sounds like that person. So I don't have that kind of talent like Simon does, for example, but for people who can do that there's definitely some magic to it.

Lucka - As a neuroscientist, do you also think that the voice-overing is more science or an art?

Mayim - Well I think that everything is science so even art is science to me.

Lucka - Awesome - I'm the same.

Mayim - You know I think when you see people who are really, really talented. You know voice over actors who can do a lot of different kinds of voices, there's something in that person's brain that is so special, and for people who do mimicry really well and can imitate someone else's voice, you really get a feeling for that. That there's something in that person's brain that is much different than any other actor trying to do it. So, I guess, it's a healthy amount of both.

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