When you think of actresses it’s natural to think of celebrities that you see in film and/or on television but there are various types of performers that often go unrecognized because you hear them but you don’t get to see them. Voice acting is a form of acting yet voice artists seldom receive the same recognition as celebrities that we see in film.
Allow me to introduce you to Mia Bankston. Mia is not only a trained actress who’s been acting since the age of 11, but she’s also a professional female voice talent living in New York City. Her voice is described as warm, vibrant and comforting. Some of her clients include r4a, Caleb Rexius Productions, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and McGraw-Hill publishing.
Interviewing Mia was bittersweet for me because we share a long history. Both of us are from the metropolitan Detroit area and for many years she shared her best friend Tiffany with me. Although Tiffany is no longer with each of us (she passed in 2003) it hasn’t stopped me from following Mia’s journey. Her talent and her story is extraordinary and worthy of sharing with each of you.
Why did you pursue a career in voice talent?
Honestly, it’s been something that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’ve been acting on stage since I was a kid and when I went to undergraduate school, I had a drama coach who did voice overs. He kept talking about how I should do it, because I had such a great voice that could captivate and tell stories. I practiced doing a few radio spots with the campus radio producer and I didn’t really pursue voice over anymore until several years later when I moved to NYC.
I had been in NYC for about 3 years struggling to audition for theatre roles and juggle day jobs at the same time when I finally decided to just focus on taking classes for voice over. Taking those classes pushed me to get a voice over demo and set up a home studio and really just start pursuing voice over opportunities.
Is being a voice talent a difficult field to break in to?
Yes and no! Lol! It’s not easy! It takes a LOT of work and dedication. It takes a LOT of time and money. It’s a complete investment and you really have to set a goal and really focus on what it is you want. You have to view it as a real business. However, if a person is tenacious and determined and they have people around them who are encouraging, but honest with them, then I say go for it!
Before becoming a voice talent, what were you doing?
I was auditioning for lots of theatre and I did a few shows, but it gets really hard to balance auditioning with having a day job. When you are an actor, you have to find jobs with flexible schedules or bosses who understand what you’re trying to do and for me, it just wasn’t happening. I moved to NYC at the end of 2007, right before the economy went down the drain. I thank God that I’ve always been able to have some form of work, but sometimes you can’t be picky with what job you get when there aren’t that many to begin with. So when I took on a job that gave less flexibility, that’s when I started taking the classes for voice over.
Do you still perform in theater?
Yes! I’ll never stop being on the stage. I have just basically re-routed my vision and goals for the moment. Voice over is another form of acting and right now, I’m really loving it! It’s very empowering! I look at it as more frosting on the cake!
Being a Midwest native, what challenges did you experience initially in the field of theater?
I know I might get some backlash for this, but I have to tell you that I was not as open-minded before I left home. It has nothing to do with being a Midwesterner, but it has to do with the community that you surround yourself with. Traveling the world and experiencing other cultures and other ways of life, opened my eyes so much!
I was often told in my acting classes to stop being afraid. To be bold. To stop holding myself from stepping out there. The thing about acting, especially on stage, is that you have to be completely vulnerable. You are completely exposed and that’s the beauty of it – the honesty of it. If you are not open, you have no way of connecting with your fellow actors and the audience.
In the voice talent business is having a regional accent detrimental? Is it better to not have a regional accent?
You should just be you and sound how you sound. That’s what makes you unique. If you have a certain accent, you might only get certain kinds of work, but there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to work more, you can take classes to try to get rid of your accent, but it won’t help some people because no matter what, that’s just how they’re gonna sound.
What steps did you take to train yourself to talk in a more conversational way?
It’s something that I’ve worked on for years! It comes with the acting territory and some days are better than others. I am a lover of books and words. Most people train themselves to be more conversational with a script, by reading something different out loud everyday – whether it’s a magazine article or the ingredients on the cereal box.
Do you have a specialty in voice work or do you do several types?
Listen. My specialty is making someone’s product, company or idea sound good to other people. I’ve gone from doing voice overs for health care corporation orientation videos to hair care product commercials to being the voice of a goat in an audiobook.
For those considering the voice over business, do you have any particular bit of advice?
Get training, read everything you possibly can about the business, and be a sponge.