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In Conversation with Narrator Ell Potter

In 2019, Ell Potter was at drama school in London when the call came to audition as an audiobook narrator. “It was magic,” Potter says. “I fell in love with it straight away because I love reading.”

Emily Wilde's Map of the OtherlandsPotter set up a home studio when lockdown largely closed the world. “It meant I could carry on working, so it was very serendipitous. And I love it!” According to Potter, “There’s something really beautiful” about working from home because it is so much like reading a book in the traditional way. “I can go for a nice long walk in the middle of the day and then come back and work some more.”

While working from home is a delight, Potter emphasizes the importance of directors, too. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible directors who are outside ears looking out for you. They are the unsung heroes. I think there should be an Audies category for outstanding directors. They’re invaluable.”

Mary and the Birth of FrankensteinThe world of books is just one facet of Potter’s artistic life. Born into a family of musicians, Potter has long been active in choral groups, as well as big-band-style ensembles. “That experience is really helpful in the audio world,” Potter says. “I do think that some writing reads like music, and part of the thrill of bringing it to life is feeling the cadence of it. Some things just want to be spoken aloud.”

In addition to music, Potter is active in the theater, writing and performing comedy. “I make shows with my best friend. We have a theater company called Hotter Project, and it’s going really well. It’s like my audiobook life is my daytime persona, and then I have this theater/cabaret persona that comes out at night. They’re different sides of me.”

HamnetWhen it comes to preparing for an audiobook performance, Potter is at a place of transition. While reading in advance and taking notes on pronunciation and characterization are always vital, Potter increasingly allows for spontaneity in the process. Rather than overprepare, it’s important to “let it breathe a little,” too, making the process exciting and authentic. “Challenge is really important to this job. I really like to have to work it out sometimes.”

To Potter, the most important part of narration is listening. “Before you do all the talking, you have to hear what the book wants. There is no set way to do this, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Enjoying the book for what it is is crucial.”

Last year, Potter narrated Virginia Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE and considers it a career highlight. “It was a huge challenge for me, and I relished it. I see it as an honor to do something like that. They’re classics for a reason.”

Magic. Serendipity. Artistry. Challenge. Ell Potter dwells at the place where these ideas meet hard work and boundless positive energy.


Leslie Fine is a longtime reviewer for AudioFile.

Ell Potter photo by Robert Shiret.

AudioFile is your #1 source for audiobook reviews. 

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