Karise Yansen, Renee Alleyne, Damian Lynch are widely recognised as three of the most versatile and seasoned voice actors in the industry…
and this time around they lend their talents to the Babble & Froth podcast.
The refreshing podcast sees listeners transported to the intimate setting of café and play the role of a fly-on-the-wall for candid conversations that explore; the global pandemic, relationships and parenthood amongst other topics.
We spoke to the trio about their own experiences of isolation during the lockdown, the resurgence of podcasts and the importance of diversity in the voice acting industry.
Please introduce yourself?
Renée: Hey, I’m Renée Alleyne and I’m a media-loving voice-over artist and singer living in
Karise: Hi! I’m Karise Yansen, and I’m an actor.
Damian: Hi my name is Damian and I’m an actor and voice actor. I play Greg in “Hi Paula” as part of the Babble and Froth series
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
Damian: “You’re on mute” – I’m doing a lot of work on Zoom/MS Teams and other virtual platforms and I hear this phrase almost every day.
What attracted you to the Babble & Froth podcast?
Renée: I saw a tweet from Nick looking for voice actors for this project and I took a leap of faith with it. All of my voice-over experience prior to this had been commercial, so shorter scripts with far less room for expression. This project not only allowed me to get my teeth into some acting but when I read the script, I was instantly excited about the subject matter.
Karise: Rebecca sent me the script and I immediately saw an opportunity to work on a great piece of writing, especially at a time when most creative industries were pretty much at a standstill.
Damian: The writing and the concept. As soon as I read it, I loved it. I also really enjoyed the “twist” at the end (no spoilers here!) and the well rounded 3-dimensional characters. Also the chance to work with Lara who I trained with many moons ago.
The episodes are all under 12 minutes in length and very easy for listeners to digest. As a voice actor, do you feel like the condensed runtime makes it easier or harder to get across your message?
Renée: No, I think the length makes it real. They felt like real-life conversations that you’d have with friends or a family member catching up.
Karise: Definitely easier. The episodes each bring such different dynamics and relationships to the table (literally) that you don’t want to stop listening. I finished the whole series in a day.
Damian: I think the runtime means you’ve grabbed the attention of your listener so you really need to hit the ground running. The beauty of the piece is that the drama kicks in immediately. We get to the story and find out who the characters are. It becomes quite clear who they are and where they are.
The podcast covers a range of relatable, but also heavy-hitting topics (family, relationships, etc), and the authenticity of your performances really resonated with listeners. Did you draw from any real-life experiences to deliver these performances?
Renée: Definitely. Being a black woman people have often expected me to sound a certain way, speak a certain way or act a certain way due to their preconceived notions of blackness. Reading as Shaniqua, it was an opportunity to show that black people aren’t one dimensional, there is not one monolithic black experience, black people have hopes and dreams, only smart we have strong family ties and values and this was an opportunity to get that across because when you’re faced with microaggressions on a daily basis don’t often get a chance to delve deeper into issues so I did draw on past experiences to now so I did draw on past experiences to really get into the character of Shaniqua.
Karise: Kind of – I think anyone can become a bit overbearing when they are going through something, but it’s important to talk about it. It’s also important to know when you’re becoming a bit too much, it’s good to be self-aware.
Damian: Absolutely. Anyone who has been in a relationship or knows someone who has been in a relationship will have had some experience of the issues in our particular podcast. We all know a “Greg” type character, male or female.
There was a time when many people believed that radio had run its course and visual content was going to be the dominant force. However, we now know that isn’t the case. Why do you think that audio has been able to stand the test of time?
Renée: Worked in radio for a very very long time and I think the power of audio, so whether that be radio or podcasts I don’t think is going anywhere any time soon. Because people like to feel like they’re not alone so you can turn on the radio and have it on in the background whilst you’re pottering around or running your errands or you can stick a podcast in your ears and listen to your true crime podcasts whilst you’re cleaning the house (that’s an insight into how my weekends play out.) Audio gives you that feeling that you’re not alone, but you’re also not distracted by it it’s not too obtrusive.
Karise: Because without opinions, the world would be so boring! I think we all love to hear people talk, even if we disagree. Whether working out, cleaning, cooking – it gives you a bit of company.
Damian: I think it is because storytelling is central to radio or audio drama. As humans we crave connection, we love hearing stories that are familiar and learning about new stories and people. Being read to and listening to stories is a comforting and intimate thing – provides human connection especially at a time like now when people are feeling anxious and isolated. I think also, it gives our imaginations the chance and permission to run free. Also, in the last 12 months or so with people spending more time at home than usual, it can provide respite from the groundhog day experience many of us have been going through recently.
Black voice actors have historically had a difficult time building a career in this space because we’re told that ‘British audiences need voices that they can relate to’. It is now acknowledged that diversity and relatability are two sides of the same coin. How important do you feel that it is to have more diverse voices in this field?
Renée: Diversity is so important because as people we’re all different, we have our own stories to tell and you can hear that in our accents and the cadence of our voices. I think the more diversity we hear the more it will just become second nature, it won’t be a shock to hear somebody that sounds different to you and the people you’ve grown up around. Diversity allows different types of people to hold different types of roles and that I think is really important so people aren’t typecast as oh you’re southern so you must be posh or you’re black so you must be from a broken home and aggressive. I’m hoping with more diversity and representation stereotypes will be a thing of the past.
Karise: You can’t be what you can’t see. So no matter what anyone says, representation is important. I would’ve never started acting if I hadn’t seen people who looked like me, or sounded like me, in successful places. There’s still a lot that needs to change, but I believe we are at the very start of the beginning.
Damian: I think it is extremely important. As a Black British actor, I want to see and hear people who look like me because I live in a city (London) where diversity is all around me. So if I watch or hear something where there is no diversity amongst the cast, characters or story, that doesn’t strike me as real and I don’t relate to it.
The Babble & Froth podcast really filled a void in a lot of people’s lives because it allowed them to enter a world of human interactions that they’d been deprived of since the lockdown. Were you aware of the significance of the podcast when you were recording it?
Renée: I didn’t even think that we were giving people human interaction that they were missing because of lockdown I didn’t even cross my mind until now, that’s so nice. Thinking about it though, I often look back to the podcast that I’m listening to it makes sense and it makes me feel really happy that people found solace in our podcast.
Damian: I don’t think I was, to be honest. I knew that we were creating something special due to the energy and passion that Nick and Rebecca had in getting this project off the page but the feedback and wonderful comments we’ve had from people who have listened to the series has blown me away.
The podcast works so well because it brings intimate conversations to the forefront that are normally discussed in private. What are the types of conversations that you would like to see talked about more in our society and why?
Renée: I’d love more conversations around mental health within the black community and generational trauma. The effects of mental health issues tend not to be discussed and therefore not treated and this results in said issues being passed down. So, we just end up in a cycle that could be avoided. We’re going to face trauma within our lives that we have to deal with so it would be better to address generational trauma so that’s not the foundation we’re not starting the lives of our children’s lives off with before they even start living their own lives and have to face their own difficulties you know?!
Karise: The portrayal of black people in the mainstream media. There tends to be a lot of ignorance when it comes to how black people are seen in this country, and when you read a lot of the stories in the most-read publications, it’s easy to see why. It needs to change.
Damian: Hmm, tough one. I think for me, more conversations about mental health. I think there is still a taboo about admitting that you might be struggling at times and around talking frankly about mental health, in particular amongst Black males.
If you could sit down at a cafe and have a conversation with anyone throughout history, who would it be and what would you want to ask them?
Renée: It would probably be Jesus and I would want to know what exactly was it that he was preaching, how did he want people to behave, and how does he feel about his words being used to start wars and victimise people. Everything like, that would be a very long conversation, hopefully, food would be involved.
Karise: It would probably be a distant grandmother on my mum’s side, someone who lived hundreds of years ago. I’d ask her who she is and what her vision of a perfect world would be.
Damian: Martin Luther King. I’d ask him how he coped with the weight of pressure and responsibility on his shoulders and what kept him going.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU:
A book you have to have in your collection –
- Renée: I’m the worst for collecting books and not reading them but at the moment I’m reading Coming Insurrection by the invisible committee, I also have Mariah Carey’s The Meaning of Mariah Carey which I got given for my birthday. I need to finish reading Still Standing by my friend Tola Doll-Fisher which is an incredibly inspiring book that I’m partway through (hopefully she doesn’t read this and think I’m a bad friend) and I have a load of Alice Walker books that I’ve started and haven’t finished – this is terrible I feel so bad.
- Karise: Spirituality Before Religions – by Prof Kaba Hiawatha Kamene and Nelson Ford
- Damian: The Art of Happiness – Dalai Lama
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date –
- Renée: I would say the Lucy Pearl album Lucy Pearl is one of my favourites of all time. I love that album as a piece of music but I wouldn’t say that defines me I just love it. It’s a very hard question.
- Karise: Black Truck by Mereba
- Damian: I love Black Man Statues by Makola
A film/TV show that you will watch whenever it’s on repeatedly –
- Renée: I have a few of these, Die Hard: With a Vengeance especially. If any of the Die Hards are on one, two, or three I have to watch them. Maid in Manhattan if that’s on I have to watch it and Transformers, the first one, I love that film.
- Karise: Paid in Full
- Damian: I’m a massive Marvel fan so anything Marvel basically.
What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week –
- Renée: Sad is the weather this week if you think back last year we had glorious sunshine and I think that’s what we all need in our lives right now I hate this wind rain situation we’ve got going on not vibe 0 out of 10. Mad – State of the world. What’s happening in Colombia, the stuff that’s going on in the UK, the distribution of the Covid vaccine and then to add to that, the finale of Line of Duty. Like, these are all the things I could go off on seriously. Glad – I was weirdly thinking about how great it is that we have so much access to so much music and every different genre. We can listen to anything we want to from anywhere in the world whenever we want to, so I’m glad to have access to so much art. So 12 out of 10 for access to music.
- Karise: Sad – Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole’s passing, hearing his family and friends talk about how selfless he was is heartbreaking. Mad – Farming. Amazing film. It’s so raw and honest, that it’s hard not to feel angry at some of the scenes. Glad – DANIEL KALUUYA WON AN OSCAR!
- Damian: Sad – The continuing Covid crisis, in particular in India. Mad – Ignorant people in general. Glad – Catching up with some of my close friends in person for the first time in a year!