With “Questions for the Pros”, I’ve asked some noted professionals about their experience in the voice over business. First up is Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominee Julia Murney, who has been working in the voice over world for more than two decades. A union performer, Ms. Murney staunchly believes that union performers should have allegiance to union work and practices.
As I am often asked if union members should consider working in the non-union world, I think Julia’s point of view is important to understand, particularly if you are a union performer considering non-union jobs.
How did you first get into the voice over business?
I actually sort of cheated – my dad was a big voiceover actor and his agents started to send me out. Luckily, they stuck with me.
How long did it take before you started booking regularly?
I booked the first thing I ever auditioned for (which is probably why those aforementioned agents stuck with me) but then didn’t book anything for quite some time. My first big job probably came a year or so after college, but I’ve definitely had years that were far more flush than others, in terms of work. It really has ebbed back and forth.
Did you have any coaching or training in voice over?
Just going with my dad to jobs when I was younger. The thing I remember the most was his ability to take direction and sound the way they were asking him to sound, even if it was totally different from the take before.
Do you think that voice overs are more about how you interpret the copy as opposed to just having a “great voice”?
I think it depends. You can have a great voice but someone else can book the job because of the way they interpret the copy, or you can interpret the copy like a crazy pro and not book it because they want a voice that’s deep or raspy or whatever. I don’t think having a ‘great voice’ solely equals a voiceover career, but it can’t hurt.
Has it been tougher for you being a woman in the VO industry?
I don’t have a real perception of that. I see a lot of the same women all the time, but I don’t go out on men’s calls so I have no way of comparing and contrasting.
How has the voice over business changed since you started in it?
I’ve been through a number of the strikes, and the amount of non union work that has become prevalent from the last one has not only hurt our business but has been financially devastating to a lot of people who easily used to make a living at it. I won’t work non union. You are unprotected and shortchanged, but far more, it weakens the union we have. There are people trying to make things better for union members and it’s become an insanely uphill climb when they are thwarted at certain corners by people who are union taking non union jobs.
Do you still enjoy doing VO?
I love it. I like the people, I like that auditions don’t take anything out of me the way legit auditions can, and I love that I can be in sweatpants and a baseball hat and nobody cares.
What were some of your best and/or favorite bookings?
My first national network was for Chiquita Banana, so that meant a lot. Apparently, I was the first person to say “period” in feminine care commercial on TV, so there’s that. I did promos for a porn channel for a few weeks, and that was very naughty and raunchy but I had just bought an apartment and had no furniture, so I’m not apologizing for a thing.
Julia Murney last appeared on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked after playing the role on the national tour for which she received an Acclaim Award. Other New York credits include Lennon, Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party (Drama Desk nomination), Falling (Drama Desk nomination), The Landing, The Vagina Monologues, A Class Act, Saved, Crimes of the Heart, Queen of the Mist, Closer Than Ever, and Time and Again (Lucille Lortel nomination). Among her TV credits are “30 Rock”, “Sex and the City”, “Brothers and Sisters”, “Ed”, “NYPD Blue”, all three “Law and Orders” and about a gazillion voiceovers. A Syracuse University graduate, her recordings include the original cast albums of The Wild Party and A Class Act, the Grammy nominated Actor’s Fund Benefit of Hair and her first solo album, I’m Not Waiting which is available on Sh-K-Boom records and at juliamurney.com.