Harriet Kershaw is absolutely smashing it in the voiceover world at the minute, so we had to ask her the all important questions to find out what makes her such a success!
How did you get started as a VO actor?
I have always done voices. As a small child at school I would come into class and try out a character I had heard in a cartoon. Some of my first impressions were Snarf from Thundercats and the characters from The Racoons. I could always mimic accents and I could do a very good impression of my Grandad’s second wife. She had a voice that cut through Lino.
My background is in Stage and comedy and I was performing in the political satire show, Newsrevue back in 2005. I played all of the glamorous characters like Ann Widdecombe and David Blunkett. One of the other actors suggested I contact their agent. I spoke to him and was told to get a demo together. As I didn’t have much money at the time I went to a contact of mine who had a studio in his attic down in Brighton and recorded some stuff that I had found in the back of the Times colour supplement. Ads for Old Ladies slippers and car insurance. The feedback from the agent was,”Why do you sound like Alan Partridge in all of your ads? You’ve got a nice voice, use it!’. After a while, I went back to him with a proper showreel and was taken on. The whole process took nearly 3 years.
What was your first gig?
My first gig was for an English Language recording. I had to go to someones back garden in Kingston. I remember they had a hot tub in the garden and the directors wife had made some kick ass Egg sandwiches for lunch. I was living the dream. An actor never turns down a free lunch.
What other memorable gigs come to mind?
I think the most memorable was when I got my first animation. I was hiking in Shetland when I found out I had got main cast in Fireman Sam. I couldn’t believe I got it but I also couldn’t believe there was phone reception where we were! We were in the middle of nowhere in a place called Clousta Twatt. (I’ll never forget that name).
I was so nervous for my first recording session but the team were so lovely and it was a special highlight in my career to be part of such an iconic cartoon.
What do you love about your job?
I love every aspect of it. I love the whole process of recording, I love coming up with voices for cartoon characters and doing accents for ELT. I love shouting for 3 hours as a soldier in a computer game or doing a Ray Winstone growl for 2 hours as a repulsive hag or Troll. The best bit though, are the people. I have met some of my best friends through my work and I get to work with them on a regular basis. We work with clients from all over the world which can be so exciting. The directors, engineers and runners working in the studios are brilliant and highly talented. I rarely get up in the morning and dread going to work.
What are you up to presently?
Well, I’m lucky that a couple of my animations have gone to second or in some cases 26th series, so I am recording those at the moment. I have also just recorded my first Christmas ad so I’m very much looking forward to that coming out. I do a lot of ELT so thats ongoing. A couple of computer games that I have voiced are ongoing projects too which is great. But I’m just casting for some new computer games at the moment and hoping at some point I get one.
Any Voiceover idols or mentors? What are some of the biggest lessons you may have learnt from them?
I am in awe of Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson). I think she is inspirational. I am also influenced by comedians and actors. Robin Williams was phenomenal and I used to love watching the opening to Mrs.Doubtfire. My heroine is Julie Walters. I have nicked her waitress (“Soup, Sir?”) voice for so many projects! Other idols for me are Terry Scott, David Jason and Sue Sheridan (voice of Jimbo). Nancy Cartwright gave a great bit of advice which is basically to pinch and poach any voice or character and make it your own. (Sorry Julie!)
If you weren’t doing voice over what else would you be doing for a career?
I love tennis. Don’t contact me for the next two weeks as Wimbledon’s on. I shall be Out of Office! I would have loved to be a tennis player and still play every week. But if not that, then I’d like to be in a Rock Band. I have the right hair for it. I have often been likened to Slash, Brian May or even Michael Bolton.
Has technology/ home studios changed the way you work?
The pandemic has made me get a home studio together. It was one of the most stressful times of my working life as I had to find a space in our two bedroom flat to work. I ended up in the toilet of our garden room. It has been named “The Loodio”. I can now work from home on occasion and as a working mum this has been a bit of a game changer. However, I would much rather go into a professional studio where there are highly trained and highly experienced engineers who really know what they are doing.
You have an impressive list of credits , specifically in animation. Any advice on how to be successful in the animation industry?
It took me years to get into animation. I was extremely lucky. My advice is spend time on any castings you have and really do your research. I have had much more success since being a Mum. I now watch a lot of cartoons with my daughter but I also read her stories which has been a great way of developing characters. Watch previous episodes and get a feel for the animation. Does your voice fit in? Do they want strong “Cartoony” voices or something more natural? What other shows have that production company produced? Do your homework and give them plenty of options.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
- Work on your voices and do your homework.
- Be a friendly and likeable person to work with.
And now onto the more serious questions…
If you had a choice between two superpowers, what would you choose and why?
Well, I obviously want the abs, long legs and glossy hair of Wonder Woman but if I had to choose two superpowers they would be:
The power to fly: It would make the school run much easier when belting home from the studio to get up to school in time
Super eyesight: At the age of 43 the eyes are going (along with everything else) and it would make reading small text on scripts much easier.
If you got to choose a song that would play every time you entered a room, what song would you pick?
I am a huge Foo Fighters fan so maybe ‘No Way Back” but I’ve always quite fancied having SL2 ‘On a Ragga Tip’ played at my funeral so maybe that…
And finally, If you were a brand what would your slogan be?
I mean, if it’s good enough for John Lewis it’s good enough for me: “Harriet Kershaw- Never knowingly under voiced….”