I suppose some will call it bitterness, or jealousy, but it’s always struck me as strange that those considered our greatest actors are the ones who can deliver Shakespeare standing centre stage with the most convincing expression of constipated discomfort. A bad workman blames his tools, they say, but is it not equally misleading for a ‘good’ workman to be judged on his? The question I’m trying to ask here, before the point escapes me, is has Daniel Day-Lewis ever been asked to get excited about mortgage refinancing?
Sitting in grey carpeted studios, craning over temperamental, antiquated equipment, I have seen colleagues reach vein-throbbing apoplexy over flat-screen television sales. Shed deep, copious tears for animal shelter charities. Whatever the script requires. The scripts, I might add, are pap. These writers wouldn’t know a narrative thrust if it aimed itself at their overpaid and underworked rear ends. A couple of seconds’ hurriedly scribbled dialogue to catch a deadline, they hand it over with no consideration for us, the voices who must drag this limp and fetid manuscript into life. To engage, to cajole. To irritate, if that’s what it takes.
Surely the measure of the actor is their ability to work with the materiel provided? Our dedication is all we have — certainly not our pride, or acclaim. The money is pathetic, it goes without saying.
Just last week Max and I sat opposite sides of our desk, open collared and sweating, unable to raise sufficient excitement for a breathless exchange about O’ Malleys Carpet Outlet in Dungarvin. We took to slapping each other about the head, open handed but hard, until we had reached the level of hysteria required by the segment. There are many such small tricks learned throughout the years. We assist one another with roleplay, memory association games. Cocaine has always helped, of course. I do feel bad about that time I burned those photos of Jeremy’s estranged daughter, but we both agree that the resulting Amnesty Appeal was some of his very best work.
Radio advertising — the last great vestige of the once-lauded voice actor. The last straight sell. Derided and ignored. And yet we too show signs of change, of resorting to the self-satisfied and pseudo-profound stylings so prevalent in the selling game today. In our simplicity there is an honesty, of sorts. You will miss us when we’re gone.