When you are faced with casting a voice actor for an animated production, there are certain things you have to know before you proceed. You can’t just decide to make a production and then go hire a voice actor and hope everything turns out all right. Even if you have done a lot of work on the script, it is not going to come together unless you cast the right people for the spots. No matter how good the lines are, if the voice actor does not deliver them properly, then your vision is not going to be realized.
You may not even know what a voice actor delivering the lines properly entails. That’s all right, if you are willing to turn over some of the creative process to the voice actor. But you have to know enough about it to cast a voice actor you know will do a good job. That means you understand what kind of character you are casting for, and that you consider all of the variables, like accent, before you look for someone to fill the role.
Is your character original and complex? Is he a rogue with a heart of gold and many shades to his personality? A character like that, even in an animated production, is going to need a voice actor that can pull off the complexities of the character. That means you are going to have to understand those complexities so that you can explain them to the voice actorunless, of course, you are willing to give the actor creative license and see what happens. That is a valid approach, but it is best if you are doing that because you trust the performance chops of the voice actor, than because you’re just hoping he knows more than you do.
If your character is a stereotype or an archetypal character, you will need a voice actor who can play a strong, even exaggerated, character. The inflections have got to be able to suggest that archetype. For instance, it takes a certain type of oily yet suave voice to play a Mephistophlean role and a voice with even more grease to play the weasel-type character. You know the type I mean. He’s usually a fast-talking, small-time crook or a thin henchman. For your project, you have to find someone who can create that effect with his voice and the dialogue alone. The character isn’t going to tell your audience he’s a greasy henchman.
Does your character have an accent? If so, how realistic should it be? Not every voice actor can do an accent. It takes a lot of work and a real pro to pull off an accent like a native speaker. Think Hugh Laurie, who plays the lead character in House, M.D. He’s an Englishman, yet you can’t tell he wasn’t born and raised on U.S. soil. The exaggerated accent can be done for comic effect or simply to suggest an accent. Audiences have a tolerance for bad accents as long as they are consistent and strong. You will have to know ahead of time that you need a voice actor that can do the accent you need, in the style you need it done.
You don’t have to know every last thing about the character’s voice before you cast, as small details are impossible to plan for and will be discovered in the process. However, you do need to plan ahead and know what to ask for when you approach an agency looking for a voice actor or seven.