In 2015, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal disclosed that she was considered too old to play the love interest of an actor who happened to be 18 years her senior. Naturally, this became the subject of a controversy in Hollywood.
Like Gyllenhaal, many on-camera actors, especially women, suffer the stigma attached with respect to age. Fortunately, voice actors don’t suffer the same stigma. In the recording studio, it is the voiceover talent’s vocal ability that determines everything. A voiceover artist only needs to ensure that his/her voice matches the character in the production.
However, that is not to say that the voiceover industry does not experience age-based discrimination at all. There is, of course, very little room for discrimination in an arena where looks do not impact talent at all. However, it cannot be denied that there is some amount of discrimination that does go on.
Why voiceover artists shouldn’t worry too much about age-based discrimination
To begin with, the voiceover is about sound and not visuals. The audience doesn’t get to see the talent and therefore is not affected by the talent’s appearance/age. In fact, even casting directors have very little room to discriminate because of how modern technology has paved the way for voiceover talents to work from home. This has created a greater focus on the voice itself.
Secondly, voiceover talents have the unique ability to alter their voices based on need. They can sound old or young if casting directors need them too. In fact, voiceover artists can manipulate their vocal characteristics to mimic the opposite gender or even children.
But, do watch out
As stated earlier, there still is a mild amount of age-based discrimination in the industry. It is necessary that voiceover talents protect themselves from this kind of discrimination. For instance, they should learn to keep their personal information protected, especially when auditioning.
Acknowledging the existence of such a bias can help voiceover artists navigate the industry with greater ease. After all, the industry isn’t always fair. When the industry is not fair, you always have to tread carefully.
As for on-camera actors, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The State of California has implemented a new law that makes it illegal for entertainment databases such as IMDb to publish the ages of acting professionals against their will.
The law goes into effect on the 1st of January, 2017.