In this episode our David Rintoul, known for his role in the recent series of The Crown (among many other things) joins us to tell us about his audiobook prep process and his advice for budding video game voiceovers.
In order to ensure accessibility for all, we have provided a transcript of the episode below. If you would prefer to listen to the episode, visit our podcast page here.
Episode 6: David Rintoul
David John: (00:00)
So hi again from me, David John, I'm here again to introduce you to the Squadcast podcast from London voice agents Voice Squad. I'll be interviewing people from all over the industry but mainly people involved with Voice Squad. And this week I'm talking to Voice Squad actor and voice artist David Rintoul. David is a hugely experienced theatrical actor and television and film as well as a voice actor. Got a few credits here.... correct me if I've got anything wrong, David, we've got Mr Darcy in the 1980 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Aerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. Some voice stuff- he's done a lot of work in Peppa Pig, I believe.
David Rintoul: (00:46)
David John: (00:47)
And of course many, many audiobooks - and these days doing a lot of work in the games industry, which is a growing part of our industry and very interesting part for us as actors. So we'll be talking about that. Says here you were in Warhammer, Vermintide and Pillars of the Earth.
David Rintoul: (01:04)
Among others. Yep.
David John: (01:05)
Great. So welcome David.
David Rintoul: (01:07)
David John: (01:07)
We're going to start right at the beginning. Acting. How did you get into it? When did you discover you wanted to be an actor and how did it all start for you?
David Rintoul: (01:17)
No family connection except one of my father's second cousins was a professional wrestler, so maybe that's where it came from. But I as a kid, I used to write plays at school, and a primary school teacher encouraged me to write plays and to put them on and to act in them. And then I joined a very good youth theatre group in Aberdeen, run by a wonderful woman, Catherine Hollingworth. Started off as an electrician, working for her, and then she eventually allowed me to play some of the odd part and I got completely obsessed by it.
David John: (01:44)
David Rintoul: (01:45)
Did a couple of tellys, um, as a teenager through her, went university, not to be an actor. Enrolled for law, was going to be a lawyer, worked in a law office before I went. Thought, no, pointless going through this long training, if I'm not - my heart's not, really in it.
David Rintoul: (02:01)
Didn't know what to do. Did philosophy. Which was a bit of a joke. I was 17. I didn't really know what I was doing but I knew I loved acting and Edinburgh's a kind of place which didn't have a drama department, but it was quite liberal.
David John: (02:14)
And that's the university, Edinburgh, yes?
David Rintoul: (02:14)
This is a long time ago, this is late sixties and they had two theatres and they said, well, boys and girls - run them. To those of us in the drama society. So in three years I directed six plays, I acted in thirty.
David John: (02:25)
David Rintoul: (02:25)
I wasn't a very good student of philosophy and towards the end of my second year, I suddenly decided, well, this is what I love doing I wonder if I could make a living and addition for drama schools? Got into RADA and that was it.
David John: (02:39)
That was it.
David Rintoul: (02:39)
David John: (02:40)
Wow. Everyone has such a different journey don't they?
David Rintoul: (02:41)
David John: (02:41)
But it's getting that bug that you got right at the beginning of creating and writing.
David Rintoul: (02:46)
Yeah, completely obsessed. And that decision to be an actor was not so much as a career choice, but as a kind of a, as a very deeply personal choice. And this is what I am. This is who I am. I'm an actor. That doesn't sound pretentious! But that's what I felt like.
David John: (03:03)
Yeah, yeah. The thing that's interesting as well is that, I don't know about you, but I had that same feeling. It was, well, no one can make a living doing that, coming from where you come from.
David Rintoul: (03:13)
David John: (03:13)
So you have to kind of battle through that as well. Yeah. So, um, you then left RADA had lots of different kinds of work - theatre film and telly. I imagine.
David Rintoul: (03:25)
I was lucky. I was lucky. I got a lead in a TV series again for BBC Scotland. It was Robert Louis Stevenson's last novel called Weir of Hermiston which is about a father and son conflict. And as it happened, most of my Scottish contemporaries were what used to be called character men, rather than young leading men.
David John: (03:45)
David Rintoul: (03:45)
So I got the part of Archie Weir - and it was a wonderful part - playing opposite the great Tom Fleming, who's playing my father, who I worked with quite a lot after that, and a fantastic Scottish cast. And this was about four months out of drama school. So a really lucky break.
David John: (03:58)
David Rintoul: (03:58)
And that got me into TV, both in Scotland and down here in London. And at the same time roughly I've joined a Joint Stock Theater Company, which is a Bill [William] Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark working with people like David Hare and Caryl Churchill and Howard Brenton when they were very young. I stayed with them for eight years on and off. So I had a lot of luck early on in my career, which is kind of necessary.
David John: (04:25)
Yeah, luck is necessary, but then you have to, you know, take those opportunities I guess, and working with those people what a fantastic introduction to the industry. So were you at that point ever considering or working in voice at all, or was that something like the kind of later?
David Rintoul: (04:43)
Not really. I mean, I mean I did, I did some radio early on mainly in Scotland.
David John: (04:45)
That's kind of radio drama?
David Rintoul: (04:50)
Yeah I remember when I was a teenager, I bought a series of Shakespeare recordings by, you know, the greats like Wolfit and Paul Scofield. And, uh, Gielgud and so on. And I used to - up in my room - and I'd forgotten all about this, but I had a little tape recorder and I used to take myself doing Shakespeare speeches. I must've been fifteen, sixteen. It was a weird thing for a fifteen or sixteen year old boy to do but I suppose it was there.
David John: (05:31)
That's the actor! He was there at fifteen.
David Rintoul: (05:31)
I mean, how all this started, how the audiobook started was Marilyn Imrie, who's a wonderful radio producer. She did her first production ever and I was in the cast and it was my first radio production ever. And on one occasion I was doing a recording of a Walter Scott novel. I mean as a drama rather than as a narrator, being in it. And we're having a drink afterwards and she said, Oh, I had a funny day. She said, I've just been talking to the Ian Fleming estate and asking if the solo recording radio rights were available for any of the James Bond novels. And they said No what do you want? She said Oh, right! I'll have Goldfinger and From Russia With Love. And they said, Fine, you've got it. And there was just a slot then, this is talking about the 80s, it was a slot then - Storytime I think it was called - at quarter-to-five to five o'clock.
David John: (06:12)
And that's Radio Four is it?
David Rintoul: (06:12)
Radio Four. Yeah. A solo reading slot. And she said, well, I've asked Sean Connery's agent and he says, no, not interested. She said I do not know who to ask and I was sitting there having a drink with her and I kept completely schtum, I didn't say a word. But twenty minutes later she said, Ah David, do you want to do that? I said I'd love to. Of course I would. So I did the two things. Um, I was able to be on a chat show with Alan Titchmarsh, with Honour Blackman and I was able to say, do you realise, Honour that you and I are the only two people in the world ever to play Pussy Galore?
David Rintoul: (06:49)
So after that I did these two -
David John: (06:51)
So that was for radio not as audiobooks?
David Rintoul: (06:57)
That was for Radio. But then Shivers Press, as was, who were up in Finchley, said, well, do you want to do what turned out to be, all the James Bond books? And that, those are the first 40 books I ever did, which was a fantastic start! And that was in 1983. Um, and so since then I've done about 250 audiobooks. And it's been a large part of my career and a great joy. I mean, I absolutely love it.
David John: (07:23)
Yeah. And I guess at that period, the early eighties, it was growing.
David Rintoul: (07:26)
It was great.
David John: (07:27)
I mean nothing to what it is now. That was the beginning, wasn't it?
David Rintoul: (07:30)
Yeah. I mean, I think technically people were actually literally cutting it with a razor blade, stitching the tape together. That of course it was issued on as cassettes but so that was the start.
David John: (07:44)
And with this downloadable thing now it's just completely exploded. So, you say you get great joy from audiobooks, is that, that's one of your favourite audio jobs?
David Rintoul: (07:54)
I think it is. I mean, it's very hard work.
David John: (07:58)
But a good book I guess is a cracker.
David Rintoul: (08:01)
I think I've been lucky with the books I've got and I've been asked to read. I mean, you know, you do your fair share of stuff that you think, no, this is maybe not something I normally enjoy reading just for myself, but actually not many of these. Most of the stuff I've had to read up I've been really interested in. And also it gives you, it gives you books to read. Um, you know, it introduced me to books I might not otherwise [have read].
David John: (08:27)
And of course as a reader it's that thing, if the book is well written, even if it's not something that you may read, it's still a pleasure to read it.
David Rintoul: (08:35)
Yeah. Yeah. It also depends on genre as well. I mean, I've read some very good history books for example, and they are difficult because there isn't a story as such. It's a succession of facts. Um, and you're not quite as engaged in it. It's, it's much more of a job, a work. Still enjoyable, but I mean, I suppose what you, what I enjoy most about it is that good old fashioned thing of storytelling, which goes back centuries.
David John: (09:04)
And that's the skill of it, doing a history book is you, you have to tell the story so people will engage and listen to you.
David Rintoul: (09:10)
Yes. In as much as you can with it, an academic book. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
David John: (09:14)
So, let's talk about games because you've been doing a lot of work in computer games. Again, something that's exploded in the last, would you say five, ten years maybe? I mean, it's just incredible. And, you've done a lot of work. So how do you find working on computer games?
David Rintoul: (09:32)
Well, and again, I enjoy it. This has happened through Neil and Voice Squad. have a kind of what I call a conventional agent as well. I do film and TV through that. (A theatrical agent.) But I've benefited hugely from working with Neil and Voice Squad because he's introduced me to all kinds of different things like video games and, well, they're very high energy. They tend to be very high energy. I tend to get rather high energy characters! I specialise in dwarves! One of my very regular characters, is a Yorkshire dwarf, but I've also done my share of Scottish dwarves as well and all sorts.
David Rintoul: (10:16)
And I suppose what I enjoy, one of the things I enjoy, is you don't know really what you're going to come up against. You know, you'll get the call for this video game and you say, what are the characters? And you may be told about the characters beforehand or you may not. Sometimes you just turn up and there is an image on the screen. What do you think this character might sound like? And you go, Oh, well, um, what about this? What about this? What about this? And you've got to work quite quickly to find a voice, an appropriate voice for that image. If everyone agrees with that, if that's a good voice off you go. So it's very much in the moment. Um, and I enjoy that about it.
David John: (10:52)
Yeah. So that's kind of using all the old skills that you get from theatre, bringing the acting skills and having to work quickly?
David Rintoul: (10:59)
I guess it is. I mean, I never thought that I 'd reach my great age and be a kind of Mynah Bird actor. And indeed I'm not a great mimic. I can, if you give me a voice, I can do an approximation of it, but mimicry is a real separate skill I don't possess. But what I can do, I guess is invent voices and come up with the voices that amuse me or excite me. And you know, do that.
David John: (11:27)
Yeah. And that's all about making the character believable for the game. The players now demand good performances from their characters or they don't believe it.
David Rintoul: (11:36)
That's right. I mean, yeah, the player enters into the imaginative world of the game and you as a performer sort of that's your job is also to enter into the imaginary world of the game so that you take the player along with you and you both enter into that kind of imaginative world.
David John: (11:56)
So as it's growing, obviously you're getting a lot of work. There are a lot of other people interested in getting this work. I mean as well as what you've just said about the way you have to quickly think of a character and work on it then and there. What other kind of advice could you give for say a young actor coming in?
David Rintoul: (12:13)
Big advice. Big advice is very often at the end of a session or sometimes during the session they say, can you do things like: you have been stuck in the chest with a spear (or) you are being thrown off a bridge screen. All those general kinds of things. Combat noises, roars as you go into battle. My strong advice to any other actor is leave that to the end. Because if you do it at the beginning of a session, you tend to rip your voice to bits. Um, and then you don't have the access to the subtlety of dialogue. So do all the dialogue first and then do your screaming and 'man falls off bridge' and 'spear through head'.
David John: (12:54)
Very wise. It's what we say with ADR as well with the dubbing, you know, always do that stuff at the end because you can't really cheat it if you're dying and falling off somewhere in your throat cut. You have to scream as if you're dying and falling, you know?
David Rintoul: (13:09)
And again, I mean, you fall back into theatre resources there, you use your diaphragm, you try to get off your throat. But inevitably, usually I walk out of a video game session with a fairly tired voice. You've got to watch it. Because quite often I do a lot of theatre. You know, if you've had a really hard day on a video game, you've got to watch it if you've got a big show that night.
David John: (13:38)
Yeah. So I'm just popping back to audiobooks. Have you got a particular technique for preparing, because different actors prepare in slightly different ways. What do you generally do?
David Rintoul: (13:53)
Now I use an iPad. I've been using one for years and years and years. I used to ask the company to blow it up onto double sided A4 . I would mark up each voice in a different coloured ink. I would make my pronunciation lists and then I'd research pronunciation. When I was in the studio, I would have this thing, the double A4 like a conveyor belt. So when I made a mistake, I'd shift it on. If I was on a run you'd have to watch it because you're kind of leaning off the chair back into the mic to stay on mic. But you know, on a page of A4 it's very seldom you get through that without making a mistake and having to do it again. So now it's on iPad and I use an app that I can underline and make notes.
David Rintoul: (14:41)
I've stopped underlining each voice laboriously which I could do with an electronic app, but actually it's usually pretty obvious who's speaking. If it's really difficult, then I will underline just to draw attention to who it is. But I still make the pronunciation lists. So what I do is I'll make the pronunciation list, underlining in red each of the words I don't know, usually foreign words, but some obscure English words as well. I will then write them all out longhand on blank sheets of paper and then I'll research it. And now sometimes I can research it with a dictionary. Sometimes they use Forvo or other pronunciation guides. Forvo's good for some languages, not so good for others. It's good on German for example, but you know, et cetera. But usually I try and get it from the horse's mouth.
David Rintoul: (15:38)
So I had a lot of Polish words and I went to Justyna, who's in the agency, who is Polish, recorded her, but that's not the end of the process. Once I've recorded her, I go back to my handwritten and against each word in red ink, I use my own particular kind of phonetics. Um, so there it all is in order. I give a copy to the person on the other side of the glass of both the written and the recorded, versions so they can check through as well. So it's quite a laborious process. I mean it's luck of the draw. Some books you have a very short pronunciation list, but others very, very long pronunciation list. I suppose my biggest was a Dorothy Dunnett historical epic about who the original Macbeth was and it's 850 pages. And I think I had something like 600 pronunciation queries in Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh Gaelic, old Norse, Icelandic, you name it. And so that was a huge piece of research. But you know, you take the rough with the smooth and, and it's an education.
David John: (16:51)
It is. Yeah. Yeah, it is sometimes hours and hours and hours of preparing often more than the actual recording of the book, isn't it?
So what we usually do is ask a few kind of quick fire questions that we ask everybody. So just to get a picture of what you feel about certain things. Yeah. So just before we go - are you a cat person or a dog person?
David Rintoul: (17:12)
We've got a cat and I'm fond of both. Dogs are more difficult to keep in a way. Cats. We have a neighbour who looks after our cat, Oscar.
David John: (17:20)
Does the cat sitting. Yeah. Good. Good. Oscar. Good name. Favourite ice cream flavor?
David Rintoul: (17:28)
Ah, I'm rather fond of a vanilla and salted caramel.
David John: (17:34)
Very good. Yeah. Um, okay. Here's a good one. What is your favourite movie of all time?
David Rintoul: (17:40)
Seven Samurai. Well, I'd have to juggle, but I say that and Les Enfants du Paradis as well.
David John: (17:47)
Yes. Yes, yes. Two classy bits of work. So last time you went to the theatre, what did you see?
David Rintoul: (17:53)
It was two nights ago I went to see Ibsen's Rosmersholm. And it was very, very good. It's a weird play. Ibsen is an extraordinary writer. I've played Peer Gynt and I've played Allmers in Little Eyolf, but he's very weird. But that was a good production, I enjoyed that.
David John: (18:07)
And where's that on?
David Rintoul: (18:08)
Duke of York's.
David John: (18:08)
Yeah. Okay, good. And now to London where you've lived since?
David Rintoul: (18:13)
Since oh '60 (1960)...Oh wait a minute. '69, (1969).
David John: (18:20)
And was that coming down to RADA? [Yes.] Okay. So what is your now your favourite place in London?
David Rintoul: (18:25)
Goodness. Uh, it's a good question. I'll tell you what - my favorite place (is) the river. I love the Thames and I'm lucky enough to live in Fulham. I can get the boat from Putney bridge down to work, if I'm working in central London. I quite often taken the boat in to work, so I love the river.
David John: (18:44)
Yeah and that covers an awful lot of London, of course. Great. Okay, David, thank you so much!
David Rintoul: (18:52)
David John: (18:52)
Very interesting talking to you.
David John: (18:54)
Next week we'll be talking to Kobna Holbrook Smith. He's a Voice Squad artist. He's gained a lot of attention for his work in movies recently. He was in Mary Poppins Returns and also Paddington 2. He's recently been working in the West End as Ike Turner in Tina the Musical, very successfully. Award-winning, actually won an [Olivier] award. He's read a lot of audiobooks, in particular the Rivers of London series. Rivers of London! There we are. He'll be talking to us, you know, in more depth about his work in particular with audiobooks and also everything else he does.
David John: (19:33)
If you want to find out any more about Voice Squad or listen to any of the artists, listen to David's reel or Kobna's reel, then please visit the website. Please check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And if you enjoyed the episode, please subscribe, rate us wherever you listen to the podcast and come back and listen to the next episode. Squadcast is a Voice Squad limited production hosted by David John, devised by Neil Conrich. It's produced by Emma Samuel and also edited by Emma Samuel. If you've got any questions please drop us an email.
The transcript from our previous episode, an interview with Adjoa Andoh is available here.