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Can you Sound More Black?

Today I had an audition for a voiceover commercial. Voiceovers are great because you don’t have to worry about how you look. You can be droopy eyed and ugly jean’d and the microphone will still love you. This particular gig was easy because it was only one line. But I have learned- there are no small parts, only small actors. I walked into the studio determined not to be a small actor.

I slipped the headphones on, adjusted the microphone for my height and we got down to business. I delivered the line a few different ways, varying my pitch and tone to show them my range. The director stopped me after take three.

“Can you sound more black?” He asked.

Now that is ironic.  I just finished shooting a documentary film about race and identity and this seemed like a scene from the film.  “What does black sound like?” I wondered. I decided to play along. I did the line two more times and apparently I got it wrong because the director said, “Try grabbing your balls as you say it.”

I burst out laughing and said, “No one has ever given me a note like that.”

“Yeah!” he said, “That sounds black. Do it like that. We’re rolling.”

I was baffled. I didn’t know whether to be amused at this poor guy’s ignorance, or offended at his idea of black culture. We did it a few more times and then he said what directors say when you don’t get the part:

“OK we got lots here. Thank you.”

I left with a smile on my face. Why oh why did I not have a camera with me today?

I’m still baffled… should I be amused or offended?