Two days in and I’m already behind in the #AtoZChallenge!
I should be wrapping up a work thing, but I’ll take a few minutes to post this because our guest today deserves the time. Bonnie Marie Williams is a voiceover superhero. She even has a tagline.
How many of us have a tagline?
A 20-year veteran of theater, stage, TV and film, she delivers voicing for everything from children’s voices to narration, commercials, audiobooks, animation and more. She brings a charming, quirky voice to so many cool projects.
She’s the latest interview in the #GirlsRock series – and satisfies this whole B thing that the #AtoZChallenge presents.
Please give her a warm CD welcome! Oh, I almost forgot! Her tagline is Where there’s a Williams, there’s a way. Cool, huh? Hear her demo and see her in her superhero costume at her website.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Bonnie: Oh man — I changed my mind a few times on this one! I first wanted to be an astronaut. I was raised on a combination of NASA, comic books and musical theatre. Wild right? So that was my dream and then I realized it wasn’t actually MY dream, and it seemed a bit scary more than exciting. So then I wanted to work for the FBI and realized it wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to do something that would be of service for others. I thought about teaching high school drama but realized I wasn’t going to be happy and there were people that would be much better at it and more passionate than I was.
I was 15 or 16 when I decided I was going to be an actor and pursue it wholeheartedly.
Eli: What’s your earliest memory of acting?
Bonnie: Oh man! My earliest memory has got to be around 8 years old or so and writing a musical adaptation of a very popular animated series, trying to turn it into a stage show at my daycare. One of the teachers there was so supportive and probably thought I was a little nutty, but she said she would help direct it if I got it together. Naturally, I was all of the leads because I didn’t know how to delegate things back then and wanted it to be PERFECT! Hahaha.
My mom actually has earlier memories of me practicing my faces and expressions in the mirror while standing on our bathroom countertop at around 3 years old. Said it was similar to Jim Carrey’s method of wall-to-ceiling mirrors to see what he looked like at every angle, but I’m sure it was waaaay less dramatic than that (and a lot fewer mirrors).
Eli: I wish your mom had recorded that for us! Do you do something similar to that still?
Bonnie: Haha, this was the early days of VHS, but that would’ve been cool!
Not as much, no – but I don’t hold myself back when I’m in the booth either. The crazier the face, sometimes the better the read!
Eli: Tell me more about what goes into a read that you feel stoked about.
Bonnie: Ooh, that’s a good one. I like the enthusiasm from the client, if they’re really jazzed about the project and are excited, I can feel that energy and it helps to amp me up when I go to read as well. You can tell when someone is passionate about what they do, and it’s hard to not feel that being on the receiving end of it!
I love having some creativity to play around with characters and scripts when the client is open to hearing different types of reads. Because sometimes you don’t know what you want until you hear it!
Eli: How many different types of reads can you do?
Bonnie: Hmmm. That’s a tough question! I don’t like to limit myself — if something comes in my inbox that I’m unsure about, I give it a go and do my best. If I don’t feel as confident in one type of read, I will work with one of my coaches specifically on that type of read until I feel more confident in it. Do you mean what type of characters, or genres?
Eli: Yes, let’s talk about characters and genres, some of the adjustments you must make when voicing for different clients.
Bonnie: I look for what the client is asking for, what they want them to sound like, and if it’s an animation project or something with a visual, I take cues from what the character looks like and find how they might sound.
Eli: Voices mean so much, Bonnie. If Three’s Company is playing in another room, my mind envisions Clifford the Big Red Dog when I hear Jack Ritter. What are your thoughts on the power of the voice in our perceptions?
Bonnie: Ooh, that is interesting! I totally forgot he did his voice. He was so talented too.
Perceptions of voices can be very defining and can lead to typecasting — but actors can use that to their advantage and benefit, too. Lots of people make a career being “that guy” or “that person who did that thing in those movies.” But I know what you mean, we were just at a restaurant and they were playing a Buffalo Springfield song and my first associations with it were from the original Muppet Show. It’s tied to our memories.
Eli: What memories do you hope your voice can evoke?
Bonnie: Oh boy! I hope my voice can evoke love and laughter. It’s super cliche, but I love making people laugh, and if something I do can inspire someone or make them feel good or laugh, then I consider my job done. So I guess the answer should be, I hope my voice can evoke feelings of inspiration and hope for someone.
Eli: What inspires you?
Bonnie: I’m inspired by extraordinary people like my fictional and real-life heroes — those who have gone before and blazed the trail for the rest of us. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t listen to the Hamilton soundtrack while working – it’s very motivating! All of the things that he accomplished at such a young age – it’s mindboggling for sure, and really inspirational.
Eli: This has been awesome, Bonnie. Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you feel is important to know?
Bonnie: Oh man… I think it’s important that people find a support system for encouragement, but also know that they have to rely on themselves to get the work done. Being an entrepreneur is hard, and at the end of the day, if you’re not doing the work, it’s not getting done. We need people who believe in us and who can lend support, but we can’t leave it to them to actually do the work for us. Doing anything big is scary, and having people who believe in us can really help. But at the end of the day, it comes down to you.
I’ve been in relationships where the person said they believed in me, but it was on their terms – only being supportive when they wanted to, and telling me that their belief in me was rooted in realism, and not out of fear. Their fear of losing me was what kept them from being fully supportive. But what changed was when I got right with myself – and stopped accepting less from everyone else and me. The women in the voiceover community are exceptionally supportive, far more than in any other field I’ve worked in, and are some of my biggest cheerleaders and inspiration.