"I play parts in voice acting that I would never get to play on stage."
Actor, narrator, and Earphones Award winner Sullivan Jones was not particularly interested in performing as a kid. “I grew up playing sports--baseball and basketball. I played basketball in college. At Brown, I took an acting class and then kind of got the bug.” And he never recovered. He studied acting at the American Conservatory in San Francisco and attended the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA. When we spoke, Jones was appearing as Phillip in the New York Theatre Workshop’s production of Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris. To play Phillip, Sullivan had to learn to play the violin. “It was outrageous. People who know how to play multiple instruments tell me it’s one of the hardest instruments to learn. Yeah. It was brutal.” For the record, the play garnered a New York Times Pick, and its run was extended.
Jones loves recording audiobooks, but he had no idea how difficult it would be. “When I first moved to New York, I got the narration of the Joe Ide book IQ. It sort of happened out of the blue, and I was so green, to use another color, that when I went in to record, I hadn’t read the book. I didn’t know how it was done. With voiceover work, you just show up, read the copy, and go home. There’s no preparation.” He learned his lesson after that excruciating first experience and tells a story about an actor friend who went in to read an audiobook. He had no idea how long it would take or how hard it would be. About an hour into it, he stopped and said he was going to step outside for a minute--and never came back! “To me that’s sort of how everyone feels when doing their first audiobook. Like, ‘Get me out of here!’ It’s just so much work, and it’s so demanding, but what’s great about voice acting is, if you sound like it, you can do it. I feel the least limited in the voice-acting realm. That’s why I love it. I play parts in voice acting that I would never get to play on stage.”
Jones says he tries to offer a sketch or a rendering that incites the listener’s imagination rather than presenting something absolute or definitive. “In theater, you have time to focus on one person. With an audiobook, you’re playing maybe 20 or 30 characters, and you’re doing it next Tuesday. You just don’t have time to fully develop a character. You’ve got to let some of that control go and let the author’s words work through you and then trust your voice and instincts.”
WRECKED is Jones’s third Joe Ide Earphones winner. He praises Ide’s facility at differentiating between the classes in L.A.’s black South Central neighborhood. The Japanese- American author grew up in “the hood.” “He has access to all these black-voiced characters who, to me, as a black man coming from a neighborhood with a lot of black people, ring very authentic and true. He creates a mosaic of interesting people from neighborhoods that we don’t get to hear a lot from.” And we hope to hear a lot more from Sullivan Jones.--S.J. Henschel
©AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
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