ABtL: From Audition to Assignment, Pt. 1


No one was more surprised than me when I became a voice actor. It’s not something I’d ever considered doing, though people have told me all my adult life that I had a good “radio voice” whatever that means.

What strange set of circumstances could lead a retired 64-year-old to become a voice actor?  A mix of curiosity, Joss Whedon, and the Internet. Plus my heroes: the young women and men who are using the Internet in creative, zestful, imaginative ways that could never have been foreseen when I was their age. It’s their story, really, but first I’ll trace how I found them.The tale begins with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My son’s girlfriend, K, mentioned how good Buffy was, and how great Joss Whedon is as a writer, director, and general creative talent. “Joss who?” I asked. She looked at me dumbfounded. “You don’t know Joss Whedon?” She then rattled off a bunch of his works that I’d likewise never heard of.

What can I say? I quit watching TV years ago, except for the occasional BBC mystery, and I’m not a movie buff. Still, I’m curious about things and thought that since I knew next to nothing about the pop culture of the past thirty years, perhaps I could try watching some of it, to see if I could relate.

The thing about K — she’s really smart. And she loves Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels as much as I do. She insisted that if I liked Terry Pratchett, I’d probably like Joss Whedon. That was the perfect sales pitch. I checked out Buffy Season One from the local library system (I didn’t want to pay for disappointment), and my wife and I watched the first couple of discs.

We were totally smitten. Totally grabbed by the concepts, relationships, snappy writing, excellent acting, and unfolding journey of growth and meaning. I returned Season One to the library and ordered the seven season box set from Amazon.

We tried to pace our viewing, but became so addicted we finished the entire seven seasons within a month.  Well, if Buffy was that good, perhaps we should check out Angel as well. Angel was a spin-off from the Buffy show and was also produced by Joss and his excellent core of writers and directors.

I purchased the box set of five seasons of Angel and we watched that too, in addition to watching all the way through Buffy a couple more times. At this point we had become entrenched in what fans refer to as the “Buffyverse” and, more broadly, the “Jossverse.”

Next, I heard a podcast — did I mention I love podcasts? — in which one of my favourite podcasters, Dr. Ginger Campbell (Brain Science Podcast, Books and Ideas Podcast), posted an interview with Tabatha Grace Smith. Tabatha Grace Smith (Tabz), along with Kim Butler, had created and founded an audio drama series called Buffy Between the Lines.

BBtL episodes are fan fiction (fanfic) dramas based on incidents that “might have happened” in the summers between the regular seasons of Buffy. Tabz, writer/producer, wrote the initial scripts for the series while Kim, co-producer, sought out the voice talent. Together they enlisted other writers, artists, actors, musicians, sound engineers, and directors who volunteered their time to create the episodes.

As Spike said on Halloween Night, “That’s just … neat!” so I immediately subscribed to the BBtL podcasts. I was amazed that a group of volunteers from around the world could use the Internet to create such good, imaginative, high-quality productions. I became a big fan of the podcast.

Another thing about the interview that stuck with me is that Dr. Campbell, a podcaster of very serious material, talked about the fun she’d had with a small role she’d acted in one of the episodes. I had an Oz “Huh!” moment. It never occurred to me that people without an acting background might voice some of the narrative.

Some time after that — last autumn in this universe — a BBtL season two podcast announced auditions for the next drama series: Angel Between the Lines. The announcement was friendly and encouraging and I wondered if I might be able to help out and participate in a bit-player kind of way.

After some reflection, I thought “Naw,” but when the deadline neared I changed my mind and thought “What the heck? Even auditioning would be kinda fun.” So I used a cheap headset mike to record the audition lines, trying out for “General Cast” which means crowd scenes, the odd dying demon, and such. I never expected to be selected.

Then the email arrived. I’d been selected as a member of the General Cast, and was given access to the schedule and the files. I was gobsmacked.

[Continue to Pt. 2]

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