A few weeks ago, I had a commercial voice-over audition, a rare event, as I mostly do animation. This audition was for a national clothing chain which may or may not have mannequins as their spokespeople. I was reading for an Asian grandfather mannequin, and the audition consisted of one word: "Cable-knits!" (hee hee, that cracks me up right there.) At the recording studio, they informed me that there was to be no accent. I guess the mannequin was born and raised in America. I don't question why an Asian guy has to read for an Asian mannequin that has no accent, because, really, why bite the (synthetic) hand that feeds you? So I go into the booth and give them about 12 different "Cable-knits!" ranging from the mildly surprised to the near-orgasmic. Some "Cable-knits!" gets a little chuckle sprinkled over the word, some get a warm frown-smile baked right in. Try saying "Cable-knits" 12 times. I'll wait.
Do you really know what you're saying anymore?
Ah, it was a good day at the office.
This week I get several calls from my agent, checking my availability and semi-putting me on hold for the spot. Excellent! My familiarity with sweater styles has paid off! Yes! Then, yesterday I got another call. The agent tells me, "The client just wants to make sure that it'll be okay to have no accent. They didn't hear any, but they just want to make sure."
Now, this is transportive in so many levels. Okay, so they didn't hear any accent in the audition, but... they want to be sure I don't have one? One that they didn't hear? Hmmm... Perhaps they're afraid it will suddenly spring out at them, a form of dialect Tourettes. Coiled inside every Asian-American is an inner Mr. Miyagi, just waiting to bust out...
And then, there's my agent (a friendly fellow) who is impelled (compelled?) to call just to make sure that I'm comfortable not speaking in an accent that I don't have. I love Los Angeles. I tell him that, while a little New Jersey sometimes slips out from time to time, I think I'll be okay speaking dialect-free.
Unfortunately, this giddy ride ends here. Later that afternoon, I get released for the spot. Apparently, they decided to go with another guy with less of an accent than the one I don't have. Or maybe the Asian mannequin didn't test well, and they couldn't use me to voice a mannequin who wasn't Asian. Who would believe that mannequin! It would be absurd!
Ah well. I guess my North American Mannequin dialect needs a little work. I'm off to the mall, then, where I can learn to speak as the locals do...