top of page

Representation in Casting Panel

with Kesha Monk, Jean-François Donaldson and Tre Mosley

Get ready for an in-depth, candid conversation about representation. Voiceover artists Jean-François Donaldson and Tre Mosley join Anne and her guest co-host Kesha Monk for an enlightening panel discussion! The panelists talk about what representation means, the importance of authenticity, and why the “default American” sound cannot/should not be limited. Not only will this episode help shed light on an important issue, but it also provides examples to help listeners appreciate the impact of microaggressions. Listen if you want to learn more about how you can be a true ally.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. We have to change what we think of as “default” in voiceover

  2. Black actors tend to get pigeonholed and only considered for Black roles

  3. It’s going to take people on the inside speaking up to change the industry

  4. People of color are getting overlooked in casting

  5. Too often BIPOC talent have to be significantly “better” than white talent to get the same role

  6. Casting directors will go for what they assume is “safe” or “default”, which traditionally has been a “white voice”

  7. Casting directors tend to think white women are “relatable” and those who buy most consumer products

  8. BIPOC people are also consumers, so it’s time that advertising voices reflect this

  9. When a casting call goes out with general specs, casting directors should include people of color 

  10. Casting often neglects to include diverse talent because white has been “the norm” for so long

  11. It’s a sign of privilege to say you don’t see color

  12. It is WRONG to pretend to be African American even in a character role. Black is not a character trait or a voice. It is a race

  13. To be an ally means as a white person, you don’t audition for BIPOC roles

  14. White people must hold other white people accountable in order to move forward

  15. Black actors are available to play Black characters, it’s time they get hired

  16. A majority of characters are written by white people, so the “default” character is white

  17. We need to get to a point where Black people can be seen as “people” and not just “Black people”

  18. Black people MUST be hired to do Black characters because these characters are dealing with struggles that are unique to the Black community

  19. When you hire a BIPOC person, they can tell you if your script accurately represents the life of a BIPOC person

  20. A White person will never be able to accurately tell the story of a BIPOC person

  21. Black is not an accent. You can change your accent, you cannot change your race. They are not the same

  22. Telling a Black person they speak “well” is offensive and racist. Just because someone speaks differently, does not mean they are not intelligent

  23. Oftentimes Black actors will be asked be “be more Black” or more “urban”

  24. It’s offensive to ask a Black person to be “more Black”. Let the Black actor show you what they sound like. Let them be authentic

  25. Let Black people play the girl or guy next door

  26. Representation matters, true allyship matters

  27. White folks need to listen and take action, instead of sitting idly

  28. White people need to be responsible for their own education instead of always asking their Black friends

  29. If you like Black culture, but don’t like Black people, you are racist and part of the problem

Tweet This

Share ideas with your own network ++

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Full Episode Transcript

It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, and today I have a very special panel of guests here to talk about representation in voiceover. I’d like to first welcome back my amazing guest co-host for the past 13 weeks, and it has just —

Kesha: Jesus.

Anne: — flown by. I know, right? The lovely and super talented Kesha Monk.

Kesha: How the heck are you?

Anne: Kesha.

Kesha: What’s goin’ on? [laughs]

Anne: I’m doin’ good. The time has flown by, and I’m gonna, I’m just gonna say, I’m gonna miss you already.

Kesha: It’s all good. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I’m right here.

Anne: Thank you so much for this amazing time that we’ve had together for the past few weeks.

Kesha: Yes, ma’am.

Anne: I’d also like — yeah — I’d also like to welcome Jean-François Donaldson, AKA The Deep Voice Guy. He has been in the business for over a decade and is the voice of companies such as Zataran’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cerave, Church’s Chicken, and many others. And I’d love to hear him expand on those others as well. And of course another guest panelist, Mr. Tre Mosley who has been a voice actor since 2009. You can hear him in promos for ABC, Comedy Central, NASCAR, the MLB Network, CNN, Smithsonian, HBO, ESPN, and the list goes on. And he’s also the voice of DJ Tre Mo in the Superstar KO Mode for Madden 2021, and I hear there’s some congratulations in order for 2022.

Jean-François: How we doin’?

[Anne and Kesha laugh]

Anne: First of all, thank you so, so very much for all of you for joining me today. I am truly grateful for all of you willing to be here — I know you guys are busy — to talk about what I consider to be a very important and timely topic, which has certainly been affecting our industry. There’s been a lot of talk, and it’s affected the world too. My hope here is to have an honest discussion so that we might help shed some light on issues that are surrounding representation in this industry.

Kesha: Listen, listen, if you’re looking for honesty, you couldn’t get more honest than Tre and Jean-François, trust me when I tell you.

Anne: [laughs]

Kesha: Believe me!

Anne: And I’m hoping to help, you know, hoping to help inspire our listeners and everyone to create positive change. I guess the first question that I have for you guys is what is it that you see as the biggest issue concerning representation in voiceover today?

Jean-François: [laughs] I guess I could start a little bit on the aspect of changing the mindset of what is the normal or default person or America or sound, and realizing that there are many different facets to that, and letting those other people again just be involved at the, at the start, the middle and the end, and not just thinking of them as a group to pander to. So when we have, you know, situations where we don’t hear ourselves or see ourselves until they want something from us.

Kesha: My problem is that it has been somewhat limited. I will admit though that, I mean I have seen, felt, and smelt a little bit of change. And I guess, you know, I think that that, there is some progress. I’m not necessarily sure if I’ll be alive to see this entire problem be solved all together. I just think that [laughs] that’s just basically how the world is built. But equal playing ground is very, very important to me, always has been, always will be. And I just, you know, I just happen to be, in my opinion, a voice actor who just happened to be Black. I’m not necessarily a Black voice actor, which seems to be somewhat of a, you know, a limited sort of kind of thing. And so just like Jean-François was saying, it’s just, I think, limited playing ground has always been a problem to me. I’ve been pigeon-holed a lot. You know, I’ve been typecast a lot. And there’s just so much more, not only to necessarily me, but just as, you know, Black voice actors as a whole, you know? Tre, help me. Come on, come on in there.

Tre: I feel that we oftentimes, because we are a certain ethnicity or a certain nationality, that they feel we are limited to certain types of roles. Or just the opposite, that we probably can’t handle other types of roles, so we will get overlooked and passed by, and sometimes even considered less than another talent. And I don’t think that is, it’s, it’s right. I think it’s, you know, for lack of a better term, it’s like that. And I say that because you — I [laughs] I’m gonna be diplomatic as I can.

Kesha: I was hoping you wouldn’t be, but. Ok.

Jean-François: Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare.

Kesha: There’s no room for diplomacy here. Come on, man.

Anne: That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we’re here for.

Tre: Let me put it like this. Everyone is on a different level when it comes to voiceover. I have heard on commercials and video games, and practically every genre, talent that really is not all that good. And in my head, I’m thinking of at least 10 voice actors of color that would have done an impeccable job, and I’m saying to myself, why didn’t that person or myself get that opportunity? There has to be someone on the inside that is educating these folks. That’s, that’s if they want to be educated. Just because we’re saying “hey, that’s not right, and you should, you know,  open it to diversity so and so and so,” that’s cool to say. But are there people that actually are cool with that?

You know, you could — it’s just like, they had a casting, and there’re four Black women in there and there are three white women. They call up Katie May Pherson. Katie does her read. It’s pretty good. It’s great. You know, it’s alright, it’s passable. And then they call, you know, Amber. Amber does her read, and it’s not really that great, but they love her energy. She’s just gung-ho about it. You can see the people writing down notes and doing the proverbial “mm-hmm, mm-hmm,” that kind of thing. And then you know, the sisters come in back to back to back and kill it.

Two or three days go by, and you go, “wonder who they picked for that spot?” These are the Black women talking amongst themselves or even by themselves. “I wonder who?” Then that commercial comes on, and you hear this very flat voice that’s like “yeah, just for $2.99 at participating fill-in-the-blank restaurant.” I’m like, that’s what they went with? You have to question it. Why are the individuals, who are displaying that they have the talent and the acumen to pull these roles off, not getting that opportunity? What was it or what is it about them, myself included as all, you know voice actors of color, and it doesn’t necessarily pigeon-hole Black folk, women, Latinos, you know, Israeli, whatever. People of color period are getting overlooked, and that shit is not cool.

Anne: Can I ask, do you think that that’s casting, or is it that the client that makes, you know what I mean? When you’re, when you’re up against, you know, a bunch of other voice actors, is it the casting director’s making that decision, or is it the final say of the client, and where do you think it really stems from, or is it both?

Tre: There has to be discussion between them both. The casting director is hired based off of their expertise.

Anne: Right.

Tre: If you’re an architect, and I tell you “build me this palatial, you know, edifice of just beauty and every” — you know what I’m saying? If I tell you what I want, I’m leaving it in your capable hands that when I come back in two or three, six months that, you know, I have the palace of palaces on, you know, on my street. If I feel that I don’t have that, I’m gonna ask “well, this isn’t what I want.” And then you explain to me, “well, because there’s a fault line underneath where your house is, so we have to structure it this way, and that’ll, you know, keep your house from falling into the ocean. So we had to put these support beams here and this here.” If you explain to me why you’re making a choice, now’s it’s up to me to accept that, because I’m trusting you’re making the right decision.

So as a client, if your casting director tells you, “well, we went with her because we think she’s a more safer choice, or she has a voice that would be” — what’s the word, not the safer choice, umm… but basically what they’re trying to mask with their words is, “we feel that her, her voice, as compared to a woman of color, is something that’s relatable,” because if you think about — strangely enough, and I’m using women specifically for a reason. The majority of consumers are women. If you look at the majority of commercials, they are targeted to women, because women traditionally, and I know times have changed, but traditionally they are the shoppers. They go and buy the products to clean the house. They go and buy the products to make sure that there are no germs in the kitchen. They buy the Bounty’s of the world when they wash the clothes. They buy the little crystal pocket thingy, whatever you call it, dissolve in the water and stuff. So these folks know who to target. And you would think by now in 2021 they’d realize that there’s a lot of diverse folks that are buying clothes and fruit and Go-gurts.

Anne: Cleaning products. [laughs]

Tre: Yeah, and cleaning products and Go-gurt for their kids. So why not have voices that reflect that? I saw something, well heard something a few months ago. And it was, it was crazy to me because it was the same commercial on TV, but they changed the VO depending based on the network. There was this animation of this little girl, and uhh I think she was skating or something, and her grandmother fell, or something like that. And on one of the more what I call the primary networks, anything that’s not Black, it was like “aw Grandma, you fell and hurt yourself.” And you could tell that the young girl that was being portrayed was a white girl and her grandmother was a white woman. And then I was watching either OWN or BET, same commercial, and instead of you know, you know “aw Grandma,” it was like “aw Grandma”— I say, that’s a Black girl! I say, I just saw this commercial! And that’s when it dawned on me, you know, I wonder how many other commercials are being recorded based solely on demographics. Ok?

Anne: Yeah, no, and I get that. I would see, I mean, isn’t it, it just seems to me, networks, they have a demographic for the most part, right? Maybe that needs to be, you know what I mean,  relooked at. Maybe that needs to be changed, and that most advertising is catering to that demographic. So it would, I’m just thinking from a client perspective, if they are the ones that are putting out the specs, right, maybe the clients, you know, and that’s pretty much anybody, right, that owns a business or you know, sells a product, they need to also really, I guess, have that, have that understanding that, you know, representation, and it should be inclusive of all, right? And that everybody should have that opportunity, because they might be selling that product to everybody. But I think that, you know, the way that it’s just broken up marketing, advertising in general, there’s always a demographic, you know what I mean? And that’s hard. I think that’s what’s kept it so separated in the first place, or maybe that’s why, I don’t know, I’m just kind of shooting in the dark, but maybe that’s why there wasn’t representation in the beginning.

Jean-François: There’s absolutely a demographic, absolutely. And so like it makes sense when you do, in America, you do an English version and a Spanish version. There are people here who speak Spanish, who only speak Spanish, so if you want to get to that demographic, you got to do a Spanish version. But Black people speak English.

Anne: Excellent point, yeah.

Jean-François: So we don’t need a separate commercial. But also you can, they — companies need to understand that when they, when they advertise to their American demographic, English-speaking demographic, that they can use us to advertise to white people. And it’s still ok. Like they don’t need to do a white version and a Black version just to kind of, you know, make us seem like, we’re, this is, this is for us. And it’s like, no. I can, I can eat Cheerio’s umm just as, just the same from getting a hunger from Cheerio’s, watch the commercial just as a white man —

Anne: And you brush your teeth the same way. [laughs] Right?

Jean-François: They advertise —

Anne: Yeah.

Jean-François: Exactly. You know? You know, we have Home Depot where they are now catering, a lot of stuff — for one, these home renovation shows, where they usually have a couple doing it. It’s, a lot of the women are making a decision what’s going in the house. So you see a lot of Home Depot commercials catering to, again, women and wives. Understandable, but we don’t need a Black version of that either. We just need a version where we are also just included.

Kesha: And on top of that, when you are — not to cut you off. I’m old and I will forget what I’m saying, so if you don’t mind, let me dip in here for just for a second. The thing is, when the casting call goes out for that generic or that mainstream commercial, hey, include me! At least give me an opportunity and don’t just call on me when you are preparing just to do quote unquote the Black version.

Jean-François: That is absolutely correct.

Kesha: Am I right, guys, or?

Jean-François: Yeah, absolutely right, because again, we’re — if you can Google or go to YouTube, Home Depot — I’m stuck on Home Depot because I just got back from there — Home Depot commercials. It will take you probably around the seventh or eighth video for you to even see a person of color. I live at Home Depot. I mean, there’s a lot of Hispanic people who I see at Home Depot, who, because we’re there so much, we know each other by name or face. “Hey, what’s goin’ on?” Like, “what are you working on?”

Kesha: Me too, me too.

Jean-François: So this whole aspect of like again forgetting or almost trying to — it’s almost a, it, a purposeful erasion of what America actually is because that is what’s been the norm for so long that we don’t have to include people of color. And now people are scrambling to try to comp — overcompensate for what they have been not doing what they’re supposed to have been doing forever.

Anne: I hear that, I hear that. Is scrambling good and bad, or how are you feeling about that? I, does it upset you when you feel that, you know what I mean? People are scrambling to make it right, or is that what you mean by that, or are they?

Jean-François: Let’s — I apologize for anybody who may be triggered in the aspect of violence, but let’s say I smack somebody, and I just smack them every day. Every time I saw them just smacked them in the face, walked on with my day. And then one day I was like, you know what, I’m sorry. At that point, would that person go, “I really don’t care if you’re sorry, like you’re a horrible person,” or that “you’ve been mean to me this whole time. Why — I don’t, I don’t accept your apology. You should have been nice. You should have been good from the start. Why weren’t you, why is it now that you’re changed? What generic reason made you want to change, other than the fact that you shouldn’t have been hitting me in the first place?”

So when you have these people and, let’s say like agents who are scrambling to add Black people to their rosters, or production companies who are now asking for, you know, African-American, Black voices, and finally adding, you know, a Black character in a cartoon, or changing or adding an actor who’s Black into a cast, like are you truthful? Is this real? Is this just a fad to try to appease us for the moment so you can say, “look, I did something. You should be happy, you should be grateful”? Or is this how, is this an actual change for you to where you are actually aware of the fact that you messed up a little bit, and now I’m going to at least involve other people in my life? Sometimes, sometimes I like to go on Facebook and see, and go through people’s pictures who are like, who may be confrontational about race and don’t see — “I’m colorblind against race. I don’t see race.” And I go on their Facebook looking at pictures. I look at their wedding photos, I look at the, you know, party pictures, and I don’t see a person of color in their surroundings.

Tre: And I don’t like that term when people, “well, I don’t see color.” I do.

Jean-François: Oh it’s horrible. It’s a horrible term.

Tre: I see color all the time. You know if I, if I walk into a casting, and you walk into a casting, and I tell the CD to close their eyes, and you read the script, and I read the script, they might not see color, but they saw us when we walked in. And they know what our voices sound like, and they have to make a decision. And trust me, color is gonna be a deciding factor. Maybe not from a standpoint of “well, let’s go with the Black guy,” but if they say “well, you know his voice has a certain texture, a certain gravitas to it. I think we’re gonna lean more towards Tre.” And then someone else in the room will say, “well, yeah, the other” — let’s call him Jeff. “Jeff has a more friendlier tone, someone that is more guy next door.” Ok. So then what does the copy ask of? If your specs say authoritative, someone with a commanding voice, with gravitas, what you just heard me read, you’re gonna, you know, give it to Jeff because he sounds friendlier? That’s not what the copy asked for. If I’m doing something for the military and there’s like “pride, passion, commitment,” and then Jeff comes “pride, passion, commitment,” that, that’s not the same thing.

Kesha: So these things go on, they go on beyond closed doors. They go on with the agencies and the casting directors. A lot of conversations go on online. And I guess what Tre may be getting at is that we don’t have enough allies to stand up and say, “what in the heck are y’all guys talking about with regards to this, this thing?” And Anne, hopefully, I mean I hope that this is an education for you with regards to our struggle, and it will be for those who are listening to your podcast, who don’t have a thorough understanding of what we go through. I really think that it would be horrible not to mention that we’re laying out all of these issues that we, you know, these struggles that we deal with from day to day, you know, in voiceover, and not acknowledge the fact that there are people who should not, who are already more or less denied equal opportunity.

And then there are so, there are other people, and I’m sure I’m gonna mention her name, because I would not be able to sleep, that want to seize on opportunities that are for us, or at least giving us oppor — equal opportunity where they do ask for African-American, and they are not African-American. That just burns my grits! It burns my grits. And so the reason why, you know, this lightbulb is going on over my head is because Tre is talking about, more or less indirectly, allyship. You know what I’m saying? I’m think that what I would like — I don’t know if Jean-Fran — I can’t speak for the guys, but you know the performative allyship is something that just makes me nauseous from time to time, you know what I’m saying? It just would be good to have more alley — allies to recognize what the problem is and to try to make it better.

Jean-François: To be honest, I mean, I want to just clarify, I want to make sure I’m saying this right. Is it alley-ship or ally-ship? I’m not quite sure.

Kesha: Ally-ship. It’s ally-ship.

Jean-François: Ok, I just wanted to — I was like —

Kesha: You know — do you feel me getting excited here? [laughs]

Jean-François: I was like —

Tre: What allies we need, we need an alliance of —

Jean-François: I was like, I just was like, oh my God, um. I don’t — well, it’s just the fact that — you can’t —

Anne: We’re good, we’re good, ally.

Jean-François: There’s a study that went on Twitter that took Twitter’s accounts that used the N-word when Trump wanted — attacking people. Then what they did was make two fake accounts, one that looked like it came from a white person, and one that looked like it came from a Black person. The ones that looked like it came from a white person said, “hey man, you know, using that word like really hurts people without — and we need to do better as people and just love each other.” And they said the same thing, one that came, the account that looked like it came from a Black person. The ones who, who the white person reached out to stopped like 80% of the, the hateful comments going forward on their posts. So the importance of allyship is, is astronomical; is, is the only way that we can actually move forward is that when white people hold other white people accountable. It — with slavery, it — with segregation and Jim Crow, and it needs to happen now.

White people need to hold other white people accountable, or it’s not gonna change, because again just like how you have men who don’t, who don’t respect the, the information coming from a woman’s mouth, even though it is correct; and then a man can go back and say the exact same thing, and they’re like “oh yeah, I get your point, and I respect you, blah blah blah.” And the woman’s like, “I just said the same exact thing. Like what the hell? Where’s my respect?” It’s the exact same thing with Black people. There are some white people who don’t, who just don’t get it, because they seem to think that Black people are some other breed, who like, they just, they just can’t understand unless some white person breaks it down for them. So we need white people to stand up and do the right thing on almost every aspect of life when it comes to race.

Anne: So I’m going to ask the question which everybody has that discussion about, about what about characters, right? And then there’s always that response, or there is a response that says, “well, it’s just acting.” What, what are your thoughts about that and about the recent — there’s been some recent recasting of characters in the news lately. But what would be your response to, “well, it’s just acting?”

Kesha: I’m always gonna look to Tre and to Jean-François to finish my thought, because I just have so many things swimming around in my head. But you know, if you have… for instance, I don’t know, a character that’s supposed to be African-American, and if it’s supposed to be represented as such. And there is just hundreds of thousands of African-American voice actors who are capable of providing an accurate representation, why not hire an African-American to do that? You understand what I’m saying? That just goes back to what I was saying about equal playing ground a moment ago. It’s bad enough that we aren’t, well, haven’t been provided with the same opportunities. Equal playing ground, help me, help me, help me, guys! And so it is, it may be acting, but it’s more than that. Go ahead, Tre.

Jean-François: The problem with characters is that most characters are written by white people. And so the default, the quote unquote default character is white. It doesn’t matter. And also, and it doesn’t matter who like, I guess, like anime. Anime isn’t, anime characters are mostly Japanese. But yet white people still claim them —

Anne: Right. [laughs]

Jean-François: — because they feel they are the default to, to, to life. Not even just America, to life. They are the default. So when you have these characters who are written, and then you, and then let’s say, somebody decides to cast a Black person, not even just, not even just voiceover, a Black actor as a character that is normally white, the…

Tre: Conniption.

Jean-François: Is that the word I’m thinking of? That happens where they just, they just freak the heck out because they’re just like, “oh my God, like that is not what I was wanting, and that’s not what I’ve been fantasizing about, and that’s not what I’ve been envisioning my life, my whole life, because — and how dare you put this in my view?” And the only way, the only way to stop that is if they stop, if they, if the mindset changes on what is the default, and what, and having more than one Black person or person of color in a show or cartoon, and not just randomly throwing one in. Creating shows where —

Anne: And creators, writers, and —

Jean-François: Creating shows where it shows that Black people are people and not always going through Black struggles. The one, the one — the reasons why The Cosby Show and, was so amazing was because it showed a family living life. Family Matters was a Black family living life. Yes, they did have issues where they talked about race and other things, but otherwords it was just living life. Fresh Prince, a Black family living life. And those shows were amazing. And that’s what, more of what we need, so that people understand that we don’t — when you, when they throw in, when the white, white creator or writer writes in a person of color, they don’t always have to have their story go into this depression of racial injustice all the time.

Anne: Yes.

Jean-François: And that’s what they do. So when you have white people going, “well, what if we made Black Panther a white person?” I was like, you wrote that Black person as him going in through a Black struggle. This Black character’s nation was not invaded by colonialism. That was, that is the whole point, that is the whole point of that character. That nation was not invaded by colonialism. Where you have Luke Cage, where he’s been in injustice of gang, of gang violence, and so again, going through that Black struggle of, you know, being in gangs and going to jail and dealing with that aspect. You know, where you have Storm, where she was again wrote an as African goddess, an African — a little girl who’s a thief in Africa. They could have totally put her just in America, as a little Black girl in America, and done just fine. But you keep writing — they keep writing these characters, and it’s great and wonderful, and they want to give them a backstory, and I will totally, I totally accept all of them, because all of it is true.

But until they start writing these characters as they do white characters, as just normal people doing normal things, we are always gonna — you’re always gonna see a problem with, well, dealing with the white people doing these characters. And it’s like, well, if you’re only, if that’s what you’re gonna do is make that character be, go through Black reasons, you need to hire a Black person so that a Black person understands them. I could do a, a… where you have Red Dead Redemption where these cowboys are going through life — I understand cowboy life. My family is from Oklahoma.

I always say, I always say this to people who say “it’s just a voice, it’s just acting.” I was like, “ok, this is what we’ll do. For that show, you can, can audition for the Black role, and we will change it white. We’ll make it white for you. And we’ll take all the Black — white characters and make them Black, and that way it gives Black people more opportunity to audition for those roles, who weren’t given the opportunity to audition for the white roles. We’re only giving them the opportunity to audition for that one Black role, so then you can go ahead, and you can audition for that one role that you’ve been wanting, and we’ll be able to have the more opportunity that we’ve been seeking out. So if that works out for you, then let’s do it. If not, leave us alone.” Because they say that Black people need — well, there’s Black — Phil Lamarr auditions for — Kevin Michael Richardson — and they throw out these guys who, the few, there’s like a handful of Black voice, male voice actors who are, who may do other roles besides Black roles, and it’s because they have to. They have to do those roles, because if they do not, they can’t eat. Because they can’t eat, because the lack of Black roles that are written cannot feed them.

Tre: And not only that, I believe that when you’re in the union, when they book you for a certain rate, it’s up to like three or so characters. So if you’ve done your Black character and then everybody else on the show is — you know, you’ve got a red-neck from Texas, and then you got, you know, some snobbish New Yorker in there, and they’re both white, and you can’t just say, “I’m not gonna do this because they’re two white guys, and I can’t do it.” But if you’re under contract to, you know, if the union’s paying you — and for Phil Lamarr and Kevin Michael Richardson, I’m sure they’re getting much more than scale, but let’s say double scale or even triple scale to do these characters — you gonna turn that money down? No, you’re gonna go and do what you’re contracted to do.

The thing that I don’t like is the pundits who not only go, “well, it’s just acting.” Yeah, you can say that because you get ample more opportunities to be everything and everyone else. Whereas Black actors get half or more than half of the opportunities, and then if we do, we just gotta be Black. So it’s like, ok, we can stay in our little pigeon-hole, and if you wanna be the gang banger or the corrupt cop or the whatever. And “Yeah, his name’s Andre, he’s a 42-year-old Black man, and we want him to sound rugged like a, like a thug.”

But then on the converse of that, on the flipside of that, there’s so many other roles — I mean case in point, you look at some of these video games, and especially the ones that are more episodic, you know. Some of these video games now are like watching movies. And you may have that one Black character who, you know, for whatever reason, he is the angry guy. Or he’s the bad guy that, that makes good. There are very few video games, very few animation — I’ll get into that in a second — where we are the hero, and purposefully the hero.

There’s a video game called Mafia 3, and the hero of that is a Black guy, and his name is Lincoln. It’s ironic. And — nothing on purpose, they made his name to be Lincoln. And he lives in New Orleans. He comes back from the war — well, I don’t want to give it away in case somebody plays it. But the cast is primarily, it’s a mixed cast. You know, you have these Italian mobsters, who if you go through the credits, are played by white and Italian guys, which is yay. And then you have some Creole folks that are actually played by Creole and, and people of color. As a matter of fact someone we know that’s near and dear, Dave Fennoy, is in the game. He plays a radio DJ. Big stretch because he’s a radio DJ. But I’m saying, you know —

Anne: [laughs] Yeah.

Tre: — they, these characters have some meat to them. They’re not just bit characters. They gave them purpose. They gave them meaning. You know, we need more, and for those folks that are listening, this is what we mean by representation. Not just “get us more jobs.” No, get us more jobs that allow us to be who we are. If you can do that, and if you can’t do that, then find people who know how to do that. Not everyone knows how to write for, or create characters of color. You know, there may be things you may assume about us, and then you know, if someone Black or Latino checks you, like “nah man, that’s not really how we talk.”

I’ll give you a perfect example. When I got hired to do, when I got hired for Madden, and I remember the audition, it didn’t let on what, who the game or what the game was about. It just said, “need a DJ for a sports video game, must sound like, you know, typical DJ or someone at the, you know, watching a ball game.” And so what I gave them, and I thought about that. I’m like, “ok, a DJ at a ball game,” and then I remembered, there used to be this, they call it the AND1 Mixtape, was basically this rogue group of dudes playing basketball traveling different cities. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters 2.0, because they played street ball, and they had this one guy who was the MC. He was always like, “aw man, what a pass,” and “oh baby,” you know, just getting the crowd hyped. So I gave them my version of that in the audition.

And here’s a fun fact, Jean-François and I both auditioned for that. Ok, there you go. And I remember I was talking about that, and you know, when I told him that I got it, you know, we were both celebrating because at least — I looked the other day, as if he got it, “hey, I lost out to somebody I know.” And if I got it, he’s like, “hey, I lost to somebody I know.” At least they’re keeping it within — you know, it’s gonna be a brother doing it.

But when I got there, and I’m looking at the script, you know, the majority of the folks that were on the staff, there was only one, no two guys of color. There was the — one of the engineers, my booth director. He was Latino. And then there was another sound engineer, he was Black. And I’m sitting there kind of looking at the script, and I’m like, “we don’t really talk like this…” And they’re like, “everything ok?” I said, “yeah, is it ok if I kind of freestyle it a bit, because some of these lines are…” And you know, admittedly they were like, “yeah, I know. It’s kinda white bread, huh?” I’m like, “yeah. Ain’t no kinda.”

But the beauty of that relationship I developed with that team is that they trusted me that, ok, let’s hear what he has in lieu of what we wrote. So I would look at that line and go, “nah, that’s not gonna work. What will work here is —“ and then I go into character. “Aw man, you let him do that to you? Aw, that’s not how we do it!” And they would play it back and like, “yeah, that fit so much better.” And from that point, it’s like, “look, go through the script. If you see something that sucks, you now have complete autonomy. Change whatever you need, because we want this thing to be as authentic” — because they, they realized, and this is the trickle down, yeah, they realized the trickle down theory of it. And what I mean by that is 70% of NFL players, and I don’t mean Madden, real NFL players are African-American. If you break it down further, of that 70% of African-American players in the NFL, African-American players, as in Madden, is probably in the 40%-60%. So in English, we buy more of they shit. And they’re like, ok.

Anne: So you’re helping them sell more.

Tre: That is correct.

Anne: Do you get paid more? That’s what I want to know.

Tre: You’re not gonna sell something that’s not authentic to the players that play. So they said, “let’s, let’s create this mode and make it fun, and let’s get someone they can relate to,” because if you’ve ever seen guys play sport video games, we talk a lot of shit. And some of the, the content that was written, I’m like, “this is not how guys talk when play video games.” Maybe in the Ivy League schools — “haha, well played, old bean. That was quite rrrousing pass you just threw,” but that ain’t how me and my boys get down. So you know, I really had to scrutinize the pages, and it got to the point where they would have certain pages where it just had the word “ad lib.” I’m like, “ok, what’s up?” “We just want you for the next two pages to give us whatever’s in your head right now,” but it has to happen across the board though. You have to get people that’s gonna trust that, if you give us these opportunities, and then you realize that we have talent to do what we are here to do, it opens more doors. But we got to get that trust.

Anne: So if I can kind of ask a question about accents — I know there’s a lot of, a lot of things we could talk about, but accents, but people who would say to you, “well, then you know, if somebody’s asking for an Irish accent, should I not do that because I’m not Irish?” I mean, what are your, what are your thoughts about that?

Jean-François: I mean, I can go to England and develop an English accent, a British accent. I mean, it happens all, every day. When I’m around my midwestern friends, my little country bumpkin accent comes out. You know, it just happens. But the problem is that they’re, they’re equating accent with race. I don’t, I don’t have an accent. When you —

Kesha: African-American accents, they don’t exist. [laughs]

Jean-François: — says African-American, I was like “mmm, you’re, that’s not a thing,” because a Black person in New York doesn’t sound like a Black person in New Orleans, which doesn’t sound like a Black person in South Carolina, which doesn’t sound like a Black person in Maine, which doesn’t sound like a Black person in California. See, we don’t all sound the same. And so you can’t say there’s an African-American accent. Now, there’s an African-American culture.

Tre: Because you know, accents and dialects are different. Case in point, you could have someone, and I use California for example — you can get somebody from Compton, you can get somebody from Ojai, you can get somebody from Irving, you can get somebody from San Francisco, you can get someone from Sacramento. And you put them all in the same room. All these brothers or all these sisters, all these brothers and sisters in the same room, and you say “alright, today’s topic is gonna be… barbecue.” And someone from the Valley’s like “man, man, I had some barbecue. It was so great, so and so and so.” Then dude from Oakland, “yeah, man, ‘cause me and my dudes, you know what I’m sayin’, we had that great barb’cue.”

Kesha: Barb’cue! [laughs]

Tre: They’re all from California, but they’re from, they’re from different regions of California. And, and people talk differently in different regions. And that’s what I think folks need to understand, that yeah, we’re all Black, but we’re all from different regions. I can take three people from Jacksonville where I live, and you may have one who may not have been exposed to quote unquote the hood, but he got that cousin that’s from the hood. And then they sit in the same room, “so man, how you been?” “Aw man, you know, just tryin’ do what I do, man. Everything cool.” “How you mom doin’?” “Oh Mom’s doin’ great, man. You know, she just retired and” … if someone’s not used to seeing that, they may look —

Anne: Oh interesting, yeah, yeah.

Tre: — dumbfounded like, “I didn’t know you could speak so well,” and that may offend — “hell, you mean I speak so well? You think I’m dumb or somethin’?” You know, and that can be very offensive. No one likes to be told they can speak well as if —

Anne: What do you mean —

Tre: — as if you assumed otherwise.

Anne: — I mean, what’s that definition?

Tre: And what makes you assume otherwise, because maybe, yeah. Because I mean, I put the R on the end of my words? Or maybe I say “um” a lot? Or instead of saying “nothing,” I might say, “it ain’t nothin’.” You know, what gives us our authenticity, and that’s why, if you have someone that’s not of color trying to portray themselves, we can hear it. If you give a white guy, who, you know, maybe he’s been around some Black folk, or maybe he’s, he grew up in that area, he can probably get away with it because it’s been entrenched in him. If he grew up in Houston, Texas, and he grew up in the fit of war, and he’s like, “what’s up, shawty, whatchall boys — ain’t nothing, man. Just doin’ what I do.”

Paul Wall grew up around Black folk. Very popular rapper. What he’s doing is not a caricature of Black people. That’s him being him, because that’s what he was exposed to as a child. That’s what he grew up around. That’s whom he grew up around. So what you see from Paul Wall is Paul Wall. But if you throw, you know, Harvey Miller into that group, and he’s there for a day, and all of a sudden he goes back to wherever he came from, he’s walking the dog, “hey yo, wassup, homie?” Looking like, “man, what the hell are you saying?”

Anne: [laughs] My brother, who moved to Atlanta for a year, came back with a twang. But yeah, it’s not unlike — I was from upstate New York, moved to New Jersey and developed a Jersey kind of an accent, or we’ll call it a nuance. And depending on, you know, the people that I was around, you’re right. I mean it’s, I’m gonna call them nuances. Is it an accent, nuance, very, very valid points. So —

Tre: Now Jersey and New York do have distinctions though. [laughs] Now that, that you can go, with that you can probably get away with being accented. But then let’s, let’s break the microcosm down even further. Let’s stay in New York. So a Brooklynite, someone from The Bronx, someone from Poughkeepsie, and someone from Syracuse, if you put them all in the same room, the ones from Poughkeepsie and Syracuse will probably have no accent at all, no, nothing, nothing nasal.

Anne: I didn’t consider myself having an accent when I was in upstate New York, and I said, “water and car.” You know, everybody else to me had an accent. I think it’s all relative to who we’re with, who we’re around at the time.

Tre: Yeah, but there’s something you said that, that, when I heard it, I had to nod to myself. You said that depending on where you moved, it was a certain accent that people could relate to. And I think that’s an issue with non-people of color, when they come to people of color, because they can’t relate to what they hear. They’re not able to discern, you know, this guy speaks intelligently, just because it may come off a little gruff to them. But to around people that can relate to him, just because he may come off as being abrasive, as long as he can articulate his point, and being able to articulate your point does not mean you have. to. be. articulate. It just means, do you understand what I’m saying to you?

Anne: Sure. Absolutely.

Tre: You know, you think about when, when you’re in a voiceover session, and they say ok, give me A, B, C of something. I’ve done things where I was hired to do something, and then they said, “well, you know, we, we — it sounds good, but we want something that’s gonna connect and gonna relate.” And I asked, “do you mind if I kind of freestyle it?” And they go, “yeah.” And then I give them something, and then there’s that pause where the lightbulb just went on, and then they go, “can you give us three more of that?” So now that’s telling me, “yeah, they feeling it.” Then I just give them three more variations of the same thing. And by the time that session’s done, the mindset that they had when the session started with “this is how we want that character or that read to sound” has been totally changed to “man, we should’ve went with that in the first place.” I’m thinking to myself, “yeah, you actually should have.”

Anne: I’m gonna say yeah, that you probably are not the only one that has been asked for different sounds, right, in a session. Kesha, I’m quite sure you might, you — depending on what job you’re doing, if you’re doing promo versus commercial versus this or that, you’ve been asked for different, different takes, different sounds.

Kesha: Yeah, all the time.

Anne: Is there issues with people when they’re directing people in terms of how you should sound? Or what are they, what are the words used?

Kesha: I’ve been asked to add more attitude. That comes up a lot. Actually my very, very first job in voiceover, they asked me to — I was playing [laughs] I was actually playing a hippo, which didn’t have a race, but in previous productions of the, you know, the film, Jada Pinkett Smith was the character. And I don’t sound like Jada Pinkett Smith at all. But you know, and, and [laughs] honestly a lot of times, when I’m being asked to be more urban or have more attitude, I don’t do it very well. And so when it becomes offensive is when they try to tell me how they feel I should be able to obtain that. Like one client told me to snap my neck, you know what I’m saying? Like, yeah, this is a true story. It’ll go in my book. You know what I’m sayin’? And I’m like [laughs] it’s, it’s frustrating because you know, I got the job based on what I would think is because I, I sounded great reading the audition. And then when I get in the room, then they want to try to make and mold you into their version of what they think is more Black, which is again having an attitude or you know, so forth and so on. It’s frustrating.

Anne: Probably I would imagine that the people directing, that are not of color, that are asking you this, and they don’t know how to, they don’t know how to ask you to sound a particular way.

Jean-François: I have taken my, to myself, and I started to also help other people, Black people understand that we are going to take the urban direction and change it to Black guy next door, Black girl next door. Because again they want, changing it from, you know, taking the aspects of being more relaxed, you know, in your speech, more, you know, conversational to — instead of the ignorance that they think that it should, that it would come with the hood-ness or the thug-ness or the sassiness, or the such and such. And then just take it as, you know, just relax your speech. They don’t see us as guys next door, girls next door. They see us the urban community.

As a Black actor, I always make, I made the decision a long time ago to not take certain roles. And I will perform them as, as need be because I will not give them what they’re looking for. I’m giving them what they need. This is what you need, because this is how, this is how we are. And so this is, this is, we’re not going to play into the tropes and caricatures, other aspects of it. This is what a Black person sounds like, which is quote — the whole point of representation is that you can see me as I am, and not what you think I should be.

Again the mindset has to change of what is the default, what is the norm? Because I am, I grew up in a white suburb, the only Black family to live in a segregated town. I didn’t grow up in the hood. I didn’t grow up in the urban, in the urban city. I grew up in a white suburb in Missouri; that’s plain and simple. Even the Black people that lived in the town was not — it was a country town. It was not an urban setting. So this whole, again, this whole aspect of what urban means, or what, when politicians talk about Black people like we all live in urban communities — no! We live in your communities. We live in normal communities. Black communities are normal. They are suburbs. They might be underfunded. They’re still suburbs to cities.

Anne: If each of you had one thing to end this podcast on, how we might be help you be allies, what would that be? Kesha?

Kesha: Representation matters, authenticity matters. True —

Tre: True allies, yes.

Kesha: Ally, alley — am I saying it right?

Jean-François: Maybe you got a friend named Aly.

Kesha: Why do I say alley? True allyship.

[Anne and Kesha laugh]

Jean-François: ‘Cause, ‘cause you knew a girl named Aly.

Kesha: Yeah. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m exhausted. And you know, um I just wish that we had more folks in the industry who would not sit idle. And most importantly, at this stage, a lot of folks just need to listen [laughs] you know? I’m not —

Jean-François: You know —

Kesha: I’m not finding a lot of listening going on. Um… and also don’t… last thought here is I wish that a lot of people who aren’t of color wouldn’t hold people of color responsible to educate them on the disparities, not just in voiceover but just you know overall, within the African-American experience. I don’t, I — sometimes I have to force myself to step away from social media, because I don’t see enough of that. And it’s frustrating, and I have to protect my peace [laughs] from time to time. But I mean, if I could, you know, I have a million thoughts in my head, but I think that’s pretty much how I’m feeling.

Jean-François: Let me ask you that, Anne, like what do you think that we should, we could be doing differently? Or what, or even what, just in the aspect of white people, what could white people be doing differently to help these, this situation?

Anne: You know, that’s a good question to ask of me because being… white, privileged, there’s a lot of things that I didn’t know, and a lot of things I still don’t know, and as you say, listening is, is so very, very important. And like I say, I’m so grateful that you guys are here talking today. I know, as Kesha just said, it’s gotta be exhausting. It really does have to be exhausting, and the more that I see and the more that I hear, and the more that I try to educate myself, the more I realize just how much hardship — like I can’t imagine, because I’ve not gone through it, but it makes me just want to do whatever I can to make it right, and it starts with listening.

You know, I still have a long way to go. I would absolutely like to see your opportunities be equal no matter what the part, like it shouldn’t have to call, you know, for a person of color. I think you should have opportunities for every part. I’d like to see that change. I’d like to see the mentality change in terms of what companies are looking when they’re advertising. Maybe they stop thinking so like demographically, but just understand that you brush your teeth the same way I brush my teeth, and you know we use the same toothpaste, whatever! I wish that that would change. And I wish that on casting, there would be more representation for the creatives, the writers, the, you know, the marketers, the people that produce shows. I’d like to see, I’d absolutely like to see more representation. Because again like if it’s just coming from the white man’s perspective or white woman’s perspective, that’s, that’s just not, it’s not cutting it.

Jean-François: Well, I mean [laughs] that’s the way it’s always been. So you know, trying to change that mindset of like, even let’s go music — let’s go with something recent. Jimmy Fallon had this girl Tiktoker on her show — on his show, doing these Tiktok dances. Well, this girl is extremely famous and extremely rich because of Tiktok, and she doesn’t do anything original other than do — copy other people’s dances. Now the dances were all created by Black creators. Now these Black creators — now there’s a huge controversy about Tiktok, about shadow, shadow banning, which is, they’re still allowing the videos to be there, but they’re not giving them views, or they’re deleting Black creators’ videos, or as soon as the pretty white people do the skit or the dance or the whatever, it automatically puts theirs first above the Black people or even the Black creator.

So too, and when people were like, “well, why is this mediocre girl, random girl doing dances of these Black people,” who should have gotten at least the recognition that the, the spotlight of going, “hey, this is actually our dance. She has, has absolutely nothing to do with it. Why is she getting paid millions?” This girl’s worth $2 million net worth for doing other people’s things, while they are receiving pennies to dollars for their views and for their videos and skits and dances. And it just, to have that, that Elvis syndrome of liking Black culture but not liking Black people, so we need to put a white face to it — because they go, “well, um, Elvis is the king of rock n’ roll.” Not, not at all! Elvis was entirely mediocre. Now, artist objective, but he was extremely mediocre. Otis Blackwell, who he stole his whole singing style, who was his ghost writer, he literally took his, would listen to his ghost writer’s record and then repeat exactly what he heard — like that was Otis Blackwell all day. The, Chuck Berry was king of rock n’ roll. The… Little Ritchie was king of rock n’ roll. That, that’s who.

But it’s just that, “well, we need this, this white face, this white voice to be the spotlight. We can’t have The Temptations be, you know, the face of music and Motown be the face of music, so we’re gonna give their songs to The Beach Boys and have them do it.” You know? So we have to, again, change who… the, like I’m gonna keep repeating, the mindset of who America is, who this default is, and that there is no default, and that we all live in this place, and we all sound different, and we all look different. And that is ok. Black people watch NASCAR. Hispanic people watch NASCAR. White people watch NASCAR, and it is ok to have a Black person be the voice of NASCAR and telling them, you know, about the engines roaring and the left turns, and all that BS. And it’s ok to have Tre be the voice of NASCAR, where we had a lot of white voice actors getting a little, a little nasty and a little attitudy about him being proud of voicing NASCAR. “Why’s this uppity Black man” — this is what it translated to — “why’s this uppity Black man bragging about a job that he stole from us?”

Tre: Yeah, because they would ask, “how did you,” you know, that, the emphasis on “you,” as if I didn’t have an opportunity or I didn’t have — it was like, “man, how did you get that?” I’m like, “what do you mean?” “I’m just saying, I auditioned for it.” I’m like, “and your point?” “I mean, I just don’t understand how you got it. What did you do?” I’m like, “I took the same copy you did and read it, and gave them something that perhaps they didn’t know they needed.” And that’s how I got it. There’s no magic pill to this. And I think you, you touched on something, Jean-François, and I’m gonna reiterate something that I said in regards to casting directors. But I also think there is a fear of people of color that are in voice acting because especially now that the spotlight is on us, it’s like… “great.”

You know, I liken it to — you think of any athlete that has entered a predominantly white field of sports and then they go on to dominate. And then they go “shit, we can’t keep anything to ourselves.” That mentality is still there. It’s like, “it’s cool if you want to come and play, and you know, we’ll let you play a few games with us, but hold, hold, hold on. You gettin’ too good at this game that we showed you how to play.” First of all, you didn’t show us how to play the game. We learned how to play just like you did, and perhaps we wanted it more because we know that we had to work a little bit harder, because it maybe came easy for you.

You may have known the CD who may have known your agent, and they were buds, and it’s like “hey, give my guy a shot,” and you know forsake everyone else. You know, we don’t have those kind of connections where we can call up a producer, call up, you know, someone we know that’s deep in the bowels of Hollywood or wherever casting is happening, say “hey, my man Rick, you know, he’s, he’s looking for a shot, man. I can vouch for him.” “And he can do the work?” “Oh, I’m sure he can do the work. He just needs an opportunity.” We don’t have those conduits like our white counterparts have. So when people, you know, wave the flag of “they want to be an ally,” show us.

Anne: Ok, you guys have been amazing. I thank you so much for sharing with us, and sharing with the listeners. This is probably a topic that we could have multiple podcasts about, but I do appreciate that you spent the time to help educate, you really did. And I hope that BOSS listeners out there, that we do our best to take all of this into, into consideration, and let’s be the best allies that we can, so that we can just move forward in this industry and in this world. So I’d like to thank you so much, Kesha.

Kesha: Yay!

Anne: I love you. Tre.

Kesha: Love you too, man.

Anne: Tre, Jean-François. You guys have really, really —

Jean-François: I do what I can.

Tre: My pleasure.

Anne: — been amazing. I appreciate you spending so much time. My gosh, it’s been over an hour, and we’ve only just begun. [laughs] So yes. [laughs] Alright, guys, I’d like to give a great big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL, that allowed me to get together with these wonderful people today. You too can network and connect like BOSSes. Find out more at You guys, have an amazing week, and we’ll see you next week. Bye!

Kesha: Bye!

Tre: Later on.

Jean-François: Bye-bye.

>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.