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Does Your Client Want You As
Voice Actor ... Or Voice Model?

By Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst
Voice Actor

There has for a long time been a misunderstanding within the voice over industry.
Sometimes clients want actors, and sometimes they want models.
As voice talents, we have to determine if we are being asked to be a voice actor or a voice model.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with either, but it helps to understand the difference.
What's the difference? Well, normally we think of a model wearing articles of clothing and showing them off with the attitude the client wants.
The model's specialty is to show off the fashion.
The voice model is really no different. He or she simply takes the words and shows them off.
Don LaFontaine was a classic voice model.
He didn't create characters. He just made words come alive. He was a genius at that.
Sam Elliot is a voice model. He doesn't create a character. He is his own character - using his voice to make the words something special.
The voice actor, on the other hand, takes the words and creates a character. He or she breathes life into the words to make them more than words.
With a great voice actor, the words become emotion, color, and texture.
The examples of voice actors are innumerable.
Personally, I think Tom Kane and Roberta Solomon are ultimate examples.
Each can do the voice modeling thing, but when called on to create character with the copy, motion, and a sense of attachment, they are the best.
Now please understand that I could have listed pages and pages of voice talents that excel as actors and models.
I simply don't have the time and space to do that here.
My point is that sometimes the client wants a voice model, and sometimes the client wants a voice actor.
As a voice talent, it's my job to figure what my client wants.
However, there is that little limitation of "the writing."
It is the very thing that allows great stage and screen actors to excel - or bomb.
On a much smaller scale, the same principle is true in the VO industry.
I'm always somewhat amused and frustrated when clients say something like, "It's really dry copy, so you need to bring it to life."
Really? Isn't that sort of like trying to inflate a popped balloon?
I mean, I'll give you my best shot, and color the key words and phrases, but dry copy is, well, dry copy. It is what it is.
Aside from that, it's my responsibility as a voice talent to figure out if my client is looking to show off the words or to take the words and create a character that evokes emotion.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.
Generally, car commercials are voice modeling.
I have a number of car dealer clients that just want me to show off their words.
And that's what works for them! Why try to make it anything other than what it is?
On the other hand, hospitals generally want me to create some emotion with their words and thoughts. That's voice acting.
So, is your client looking for a voice model or a voice actor? As a voice talent, can you differentiate between the two?
Each has its strengths. It's just a matter of determining what works best.


Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Sprint, Hallmark, Walmart, Ford, T39 Telemundo and the Kansas City Royals.  


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Comments (7)
Terre Kannon Tulsiak
9/25/2021 at 1:18 PM
I wonder why some companies hire a person whose voice is clearly annoying- even for a help desk or customer service. I have to think there is a method to it unless they simply don't care.
I realize different people find certain voices more appealing or even soothing but in general it isn't a squeaky or shrill or even too low pitched where you have to strain to understand them.
Del Crawford
3/2/2019 at 2:44 PM
I have been in radio for some time. Just asking for a opportunity for a interview
Dave Davis
5/4/2016 at 5:17 AM
Hi... I'm just researching this 'voice modelling industry' generally out of curiosity.

I guess as I've aged, my voice has matured quite nicely. I never actually used to particularly like my own sound. But now, and as people tell me.. 'It has quite a rich soothing tone.' Well. As I say. I'm simply doing a little research here. I quite like the idea, it might lead to something.

Anyway. I picked you out from Google. And here I am. Hope to receive a comment or two. Maybe advisory. Many thanks for your time.

Kind regards.
Dave Davis. (In the UK)
James Alburger
11/21/2011 at 12:16 PM
Excellent differentiation of the two primary types of voice talent put in a way that we can all understand. I love the "model" analogy. In my book, "The Art of Voice Acting," I spin this idea in a slightly different way. I refer to Dan's Voice Model as a "Celebrity Actor," and Dan's Voice Actor as a "Character Actor." The basic concept is the same. As a Celebrity Actor you would base your performance on how YOU interpret the script (or how your client wants you to frame the words), and you speak from a common voice placement for most of your work. As a Character Actor, you would strive to discover the personality, physical movement, attitude, and voice placement of the character who lives within the words, and step aside to allow that character to come to life.
Jen k.
11/21/2011 at 9:32 AM
I love this. Not that it changes my practice really, but a great way to think about it. In fact, this framework helps me to not over think it. Which I'm prone to do. :) Thank you!
BP Smyth
11/21/2011 at 8:47 AM
Nice article Dan, and great food for thought.

Wouldn't it be good if clients would hire us all as voice models, leaving our own creative instincts alone, and merely accepting them? Just like they do with Morgan Freeman and Sam Elliot.

I don't appreciate it when clients want me to sound more like Morgan Freeman. WHAT??? Morgan Freeman? Hey, if they want Morgan Freeman, they need to save up and hire Morgan Freeman. I'm no more somebody else than anyone else is. We each possess a unique voice and delivery style.

We all go to the trouble of producing demos, that appear on our websites, to show to prospective clients our voices and delivery methods. That should be enough in my mind. But no, some want a completely different "personality" in the end. What a wacky profession we work in!!!


Jay Lloyd
11/21/2011 at 2:25 AM
Wow! Does this nail a separation of delivery methodology or what? We all probably do this anyway, but it would certainly be helpful to think about this...not to mention describing it to clients!

I'm reminded of an old actor joke: Guy is supposed to enter stage and say, "Hark! Yonder comes that Greek God!" The actor who is the object of the line has a cold, feels like crap and asks the other actor to skip the "Greek God" reference. The minor actor says, "Are you crazy? Me...fool with the playwright's words? Do you know how long it took me to get this part? But, I'll do what I can." On cue, he utters the exact script but with a twist: "Hark! Yonder comes that Greek! (pause) GAWD!"

The voice is a wonderful thing, but DELIVERY is even more! Thanks for reminding us, Dan!
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