[Below is an interview Jay conducted with Debra Wiseman, the voice of Hannah Baker on the Listening Library audiobook of Thirteen Reasons Why. And remember to leave a comment for your chance to win a free copy!]
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the great area of Palo Alto, California. I was always interested in the performing arts and Silicon Valley was rich with theatrical options. I did as many shows as I could and gained a lot of valuable experience. I visited New York City at the age of 11 and saw Les Miserables on Broadway. From that moment on I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. The Big Apple!
What attracted you to acting?
Acting was just a natural extension of my first love...singing. Just listening to good vocals isn't enough, there has to be emotion behind it and that's where acting comes in. I prefer comedy to drama, but I do both. My grandfather was an opera singer and cantor in Europe and that is from whom I got my voice.
What have been some of your favorite acting jobs?
I got my very first job in New York from an obscure ad in Backstage (a trade magazine) and after auditioning, I got a call that I had gotten the job. There was a catch: Would I cut my hair? Yikes! I was just out of school and had printed up 500 brand new resume pictures. Not to mention, my hair was long, curly,and extremely important to my persona. So I said, "No, I couldn't cut it," and the man said he would call me back to tell me if I got the job or not. I then asked about the project. He said it was Woody Allen's fall project (soon to be titled Bullets over Broadway). I said I would pay him and be bald to do the film! It was a fantastic experience in every way and I didn't have to cut my hair!
How did you get started voicing audiobooks?
Luck! I had my first audition for one and felt very at home in the medium. I booked that job and that led to others and ultimately...this job! I would like to work more in this medium. I really enjoy the challenge.
Is there anything special you do between when you get the script and when you sit in front of the microphone?
I read the script and make a list of all the characters and their personality traits. I then think of voices for each. Some voices are more of a stretch, but if the character is minor then I can sustain it. I usually keep the main character's voice close to my own sound since that is the voice for most of the book. In this book, my normal sound was too perky and light for such a troubled character, but we tried a few variations until we got one that sounded and felt like this young girl.
What did you enjoy most about recording Thirteen Reasons Why?
I really enjoy the challenge of choosing character voices that fit the style of the book and help relay the story effectively. This was a profound book and I felt that is was very important for the listeners to feel this character's honesty, so they could really experience what the character was going through.
Was there anything that made recording Thirteen Reasons Why more difficult than other audiobooks?
This book is not a flimsy or silly read. It is a serious novel depicting deep issues that can arise in high school. I knew going in that we had to keep the serious tone of the book, but also be real as to the whims and humor that goes with being a teenager. Well, by the end of the book I was completely invested in the character (just like when you read a good book). There was an emotional scene and I started crying, which was just a reaction to speaking her words as honestly as possible. If I was just reading the novel silently at home, I probably would've cried for the character as well. It means it's a good book, it pulls you in!