Podcast Transcript – Episode Two: James Faulkner

It's Friday, which means the release of another podcast episode, and this week we are delighted to be interviewing Voice Squad artist James Faulkner! He discusses his career, his voiceover training, and the work he's enjoyed most.

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 Two: James Faulkner

David John:
So hiya to everyone, wherever you're listening from, and welcome to the Squadcast again. It is the second podcast from the Voice Squad - London voice agents - and whether you're a voice artist, or you're in the industry, or you're curious about the voiceover world, the Squadcast is here to give you a bit of an insight into the machinations or mysterious workings of a voice agency.

David John:
I'm David John. I'm an actor on the Voice Squad books, and a dubbing director, and the Equity Audio Counsellor - so entrenched in the audio world! I'll be interviewing different people each week - actors, producers, directors, movers-and-shakers from the voice industry.

David John:
Now for this episode, we're really delighted to be with James Faulkner, who is a Voice Squad stalwart and has been on the books from the beginning. [He's] probably known more throughout the world as Randyll Tarly in Game of Thrones. [He's] also Lord Sinderby in Downton Abbey and appeared in Da Vinci's Demons and Paul, Apostle of Christ. So lots of high profile stuff! In terms of voice, last Christmas you'd have heard his voice as Frith on the BBC production of Watership Down, and through the years at Voice Squad he's appeared in many commercials, and lots of games, and all sorts of other work which we'll be talking to him about. So James, thank you very much for talking to us.

James Faulkner:
David! It's my pleasure.

David John:
So let's kind of start at the beginning. Acting - you've been acting for many, many years. Did you always want to be an actor as a young person? How did you get into acting in the first place?

James Faulkner:
I was certainly not brought up to be an actor and with regard to many years, on June the sixth - which is about to to come up - I think I pass into my 50th year. I certainly didn't intend to be an actor. I was brought up to run my father's business. My father was a very interesting man who effectively had the largest glazing company in the UK during the fifties and certainly in London. And you would appreciate that after the Second World War a great many windows needed to be replaced. And that was largely down my father. That's what was earmarked for me.

David John:
That was the plan!

James Faulkner:
That was the plan! So every Saturday morning, I would be taken to my father's works in the Marshalsea Road, on the site of the old Marshalsea prison - the debtor's prison in Dickens's world.

David John:
Proper London!

James Faulkner:
Proper London! And spend the day with the workforce hanging out down there in South London. Unfortunately, my father died from Coronary thrombosis. He was only 52 years of age. And I remember going to a shareholders meeting when I was 17 years old, uh, at the DeVeer Hotel in Kensington and the man that my father had created managing director, put his arm around my shoulder and he said, 'James, you will never work in your father's business. Not even as a f-----g tea boy.' And pushed me through the revolving door of the DeVeer Hotel Kensington! I landed on the pavement and had to consider my future.

David John:
And that was acting?

James Faulkner:
That was acting. Well. There was another story actually. So what crystallised it for me was this. I went back to my boarding school and I was fully involved in the artistic life of my school. I never did any work at all, but I was in the choir and the choral society and I did every house play and every school play. But that my real delight at school, because we had a building we had, we had the television hut at our disposal. My friend Roger Wilkes and I - ran the puppet club and we had our own, uh, puppet theatre with a full range of marionettes and we would build our own puppets. I would do all the voices and build a puppets and this that and the other.

James Faulkner:
I knew that my partner had in his locked desk, a carton of two-hundred Kent cigarettes. And I needed to think about my future. I need to contemplate what on earth I was going to do in this life. And I jimmied the latch on his desk. And there indeed was the carton of two-hundred Kent cigarettes, which I lifted out, and underneath was a green booklet. A prospectus for the central school of speech and drama.

David John:
Wow.

James Faulkner:
They have schools for actors? I had no idea! I'd always intended to go to America to finish my education because I wanted to go to the Harvard school of business. I knew that management practices in the sixties were not good enough to grow an international company. And anyway, I opened the prospectus for the Central School of Speech and Drama. And on page three there was a black and white photograph of girls in tights at the bar warming up for a movement lesson. And I thought, well, sod Harvard, I'm going there! And a year later, I went there! That would have been 1965, mid-sixties.

James Faulkner:
I was very lucky because I had a boyhood chum, Jeremy Thomas, who is our Pantheon film producer in this country, has won, many, many Oscars. And his father, Rafe Thomas lived down the road from me and Rafe took it upon himself to be in loco parentis and advise me on my career. And he said, 'well you don't want to be an actor, James. I mean, really you don't want to be an actor. I see it close up.'

James Faulkner:
He said, 'well, I'll tell you what, if in six months time you still want to be an actor, I will help you. You don't have a father to advise you. I will. I will do it for you.' So after six months I [saw] Rafe and I said, well, I still want.

James Faulkner:
He directed all the, all the doctor films and many other films in size. He made fifty to sixty films as a director. And his brother was Gerald Thomas who was the director of the Carry On films. Right. So bizarrely my first voiceover job, aged seventeen, was to do the trailers for the Carry On films in the cinema.

James Faulkner:
[Imitating Classic 1960s Cinema Trailer] Yes it's all your old Carry On favourites in yet another Carry On comedy wiiiiiiiith Kenneth Williams as Randy Lal! - and all that!

James Faulkner:
So I did all those sort of sixties voices. I was seventeen years old when I was doing cinema trailers. So Rafe sent me off to Hampstead to be taught how to do an audition by Peter Barkworth with who was a very successful actor.

David John:
Who I've worked with! I've worked with Peter Barkworth. A fantastic actor.

James Faulkner:
Wonderful man - but at the time, interestingly, he was head of technical acting at RADA. So he was the man to talk to. He was absolutely the man to talk to.

David John:
Didn't he write a book as well?

James Faulkner:
Yes, he did. He did. Yeah. And I remember he apparently he rang Rafe and he said, 'well, I will get him in, but he'll only ever play restoration comedy.' They were going to enter me for all, for all the auditions, the random auditions and all the drama schools. He said, 'well, the first one up is for the Central School of Speech and Drama. You won't get in because it's just for the waiting list, but go along. It's good practice.' So I drove up to London. I went through the day at the Central School of Speech and Drama. I was still there at the end of the day and I was called into see George Ford, who was then principal, who said to me, 'well James,' he said, 'Course starts in three days.' Wow. 'Can you move to London in three days? You're in.'

David John:
Fantastic! And you did!

James Faulkner:
And I did!

David John:
Well I was going to ask you about your first voiceover job and where it started and you've already told me. The Carry On.

James Faulkner:
Doing the trailers for the Carry On films. In the sixties!

David John:
You can't beat that as a first job!

James Faulkner:
Absolutely. Oh boy. And it was a particular delivery, unfortunately. I learned it at the feet of masters, but I didn't have a voiceover agent until probably the 80s? When a friend of mine who made commercials said, 'really James, you should have a voiceover agent' I said, well, I don't, nobody wants to take me on. He said, 'well look, I can get you a voiceover agent because I'm going to give you this series of advertisements to do and that's how we'll start you off.' And it worked. I was in.

David John:
Yeah, because it was very different. Back in those days it was often considered as a little kind of extra thing that actors did if they had a bit of spare time, whereas it's now such a full-time industry.

James Faulkner:
You're absolutely right, David, and so many aspects of the entertainment industry when I first started were not considered. When I first became a client at ICM, you did not do commercials. They were forbidden. In fact, television was forbidden. You weren't allowed to do television. You were only allowed to do theatre and film. To have a proper classical career.

James Faulkner:
And ICM represented all the leading actors at the time. My first TV, uh, property at ICM was I, Claudius, which was considered proper quality.

James Faulkner:
Yeah. So, so the skill, I mean learnt the skill of it going along as you worked with the voice? I mean, it's not something that all actors particularly necessarily good at it.

James Faulkner:
I would agree. It's something you have to learn and you have to have a facility for,

David John:
And you have to work hard at it - like anything else.

James Faulkner:
Like anything else - to develop the right timbre and to develop your mic techniques. Let's hope I'm not screwing it up now, on this podcast!

James Faulkner:
Muscularity within the voice is not taught so intensively now as it used to be. My sort of accent, which is classic RP, is largely ignored now and regional accents have become much more normal. And that's fine, but it's the inner muscularity that is not taught quite as rigorously as it was in my day, when we would - the first year we had to wear a bone prop in every voice lesson.

David John:
So what is a bone prop?

James Faulkner:
A bone prop is something that fixes the jaw at an angle. It's a prop you wear between the upper and lower teeth and so the mouth is fixed and that helps develop all the minor muscles within the mask of the face.

David John:
So this is something from those days - it was a theatre based course, everything was about production of the voice and be able to do eight shows a week and using your voice?

James Faulkner:
Exactly so, David. You had to be able to hit the back row with no effort for eight shows a week.And not cry off because you were getting tired! Unheard of!

David John:
Absolutely! Never off! Never off!

James Faulkner:
And if you were sick then Dr. Greasepaint would get you through.

David John:
Absolutely. But the technique of - as you were talking about - using the mic, is so different to that -

James Faulkner:
Well theatres weren't mic'd in those days, right? Yeah. It had to be natural projection.

David John:
Never dreamt of having a mic -

James Faulkner:
So voice was was to do with your breathing and the amount of reserve that you carry in the ribs and the throat - always open - and then the muscularity on top.

David John:
So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about voice actors - about how it is kind of something anyone can do and it's a very simple thing and you just get paid loads of money for doing very little. So have you ever come across that?

James Faulkner:
Sometimes you get paid very little for doing loads at work.

David John:
Yes. Which most people don't know! An audiobook for example -

James Faulkner:
Is incredibly hard work! Because you are expected to do a hundred pages a day out loud, eight hours a day. And the voice is a muscle like any other. And it is very, very tiring. When I do a book, I reel out of the studio! I haven't done one for a bit.

David John:
And there's a lot of preparation and the focus in the studio is so high.

James Faulkner:
It's very intense. I mean you can get lucky. You can have a really, really good producer that knows their stuff, and will pick you up on the tiniest thing. And some books are much easier than others. When Dayton's Bomber was originally done for the radio [it was done] with a cast of 42 I read the book on my own. With all the characters.

James Faulkner:
And you have to keep six bombers in the air, and the base, and the night fighters, and the ack-ack teams and all the civilians on the, on the ground. How many German accents can you come up with! Not easy!

David John:
So it's that versatility that's important.

James Faulkner:
Very, very important.

David John:
And people listening have to know which characters are speaking.

James Faulkner:
Exactly right. And although you still need to hear, essentially the voice of the narrator, somewhere through, it's a particular skill - keeping the voice of the narrator there and still adding the characters so that each scene will live.

David John:
Yes. Favourite jobs in terms of voiceover, does anything spring to mind? What's your, what's your favourite?

James Faulkner:
Well I'm asked to do at the moment, quite a lot of video games -

David John:
Quite new too -

James Faulkner:
Which is a whole new area.

David John:
And a massive part of the industry now.

James Faulkner:
And I'm told that the biggest game in the world is League of Legends and I'm the voice of Swain in that. And I've also just recorded for Dreamworks, a new animation series called Wizards. And that was kind of fun to do. You work over the net directly with Los Angeles who direct you in this thing.

David John:
So to prepare for that, you would have the script up front and you would work on your character before the recording?

James Faulkner:
Yes. But of course that can change. I mean, you've gotta be light on your feet.

David John:
Yeah. Got to be durable. You have to take direction.

James Faulkner:
You have to be able to take direction, take notes, and come back instantly with a response and and sometimes with a new character, 'Oh, just do this voice would you James?' And suddenly you're, uh, you're a hamster. Dressed as a detective!

David John:
Yes. That versatility is still important in the industry!

James Faulkner:
Everything aids versatility. The more you do, the better you get at it.

David John:
Just just before we go, thanks so much for talking to us. It's fascinating. And your career is still going from strength to strength.

James Faulkner:
I'm still busy! To my surprise and amazement!

David John:
50 years on. Absolutely brilliant!

James Faulkner:
Yeah. Well I mean, as my agent tells me, he said, 'well James, you said you've only got five more people to kill and the field is yours!'.

David John:
That's it. If you can hang on long enough!

James Faulkner:
If you can hang on long enough, it'll come your way!

David John:
So I've got a few, just five quick fire questions just to throw at you. Are you a cat person or a dog person?

James Faulkner:
Dog person! Very much a dog person!

David John:
Favourite ice cream flavour?

James Faulkner:
Oh, vanilla.

James Faulkner:
You're a vanilla man!

James Faulkner:
Well I'm not a vanilla man. I rather object to that!

David John:
Not in any way - yes!

James Faulkner:
But vanilla, there's always vanilla in the freezer because you can always knock up a quick affogato, with the vanilla and pour an espresso over the top. An instant dessert - takes seconds. Even I can manage that!

David John:
A classic. Now - tricky one - favourite movie of all time?

James Faulkner:
Well that is a tricky one. There are so many great movies. Yeah. I'm particularly fond of Les Enfants du Paradis, because I was in the RSC production of that when it was at first done in the theatre, directed by Simon Callow.

David John:
Ah, now last time you went to the theatre, what did you see?

James Faulkner:
It's been some time since I went to the theatre, I will admit to this and I feel rather guilty about it, because I travel all the time. Some years, literally I live out of a suitcase. The last thing I went to see that I, that I can remember was the recent London production of Guys and Dolls. And I went to see it because Samantha Spiro was in it, who's a wonderful actress who plays my wife, Lady Tarly in Game of Thrones. The poor woman is married to the ghastly Randyll Tarly, a man with no sense of humour whatsoever!

David John:
And finally, your favourite place in London?

James Faulkner:
My favourite place in London?

David John:
Yeah. What springs to mind?

James Faulkner:
Oh, well Regent's Park - that'll do nicely! I live just on the edge of that spot. I love Regent's Park. It's fantastic. What a privilege to be able to walk into town to do a voiceover forty minutes through Regent's Park. Get a cup of coffee on the way, you know, listen to the lions as you go! I love Regent's Park - and it's even got a theatre!

David John:
Well thanks James. Absolutely fantastic. What a pleasure talking to you. It's been great. Thanks a lot.

David John:
And next week we'll be talking about ADR. If anyone doesn't know what that is, it's automated dialogue. replacement. It's basically dubbing work. It's in virtually everything you ever see on TV or film. There's a lot of a post-production goes on.

David John:
And if you're interested in finding out any more about Voice Squad, you can always listen to any of our artists at the website, which is voicesquad.com, and do check us out, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

David John:
If you've enjoyed this, please rate it on your podcast site that you listen to it from and subscribe. That's really the end of this episode. The Squadcast is a Voice Squad Ltd production. It's hosted by me, David John, devised by Neil Conrich and produced and edited by Emma Samuel.


The transcript from our first episode, an interview with Neil Conrich, is available here.

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