What Do the Oscars Sound Like?
A Q&A with the show’s live announcer
You may not know Randy Thomas by name, but you’ve probably heard her voice. This year, for the tenth time, Thomas will play “the voice of God” at the Oscars, introducing presenters and winners, and helping move the show forward at every turn as its sole live announcer.
From Morning Radio to the Oscars Telecast
Thomas began her career as a radio DJ. She had been on air for almost 20 years when, in 1993, she was invited to audition for the Oscars.
That year’s ceremony celebrated the Year of the Woman.
“They brought back every living legend that had won an Academy Award. So we had Sophia Loren, and these incredible actresses of all ages, taking the stage,” Thomas recalled.
Ten days after meeting with the director and producer of the show, Thomas found out she was selected to be the first woman in history to announce the Oscars.
The first experience felt “pretty amazing. It was a real roller coaster ride.”
That year, in particular, Thomas also announced the red carpet.
“I would introduce all of the actors that were walking the carpet within four seconds. That was the most daunting part of the entire show.”
As she explained, producers would see someone on the carpet and tap Thomas on the shoulder for her to read the designated card. “Then they’d hand me the next card and they would tap me when that person was on camera. I didn’t even have enough time to look up from the cards!”
Now that ABC has a separate red carpet show, Thomas focuses exclusively on the Oscars telecast.
Of her career path, Thomas said, “Sometimes, things find you.”
“As a DJ, I had this opportunity, and it changed the trajectory of my life.”
She has since voiced other major shows, including the Emmys, the Tonys, the SAG Awards, AFI Awards, Miss America and the Kennedy Center Honors.
“I was the first woman to do all the shows and now there are so many women that populate the live announce field. It’s wonderful.”
How to Prepare for the Oscars
Year round, Thomas eats cleanly, honoring a vegan diet and steering clear of sugar when possible to avoid congestion.
“Definitely 30 days leading up to the show, I take extra care in not taking in any sugar. Sugar is the downfall, so I try to remove it from my diet until after the show.”
Then, a couple weeks before Oscar Sunday, she pre-records all voiceover for packages, specials and bumpers.
“The bumpers take us into a commercial break and tell you why you should stick around and what awards are coming up next,” Thomas explained.
As for live work, she rehearses with script supervisor Tina Cannizzaro deBone just a couple of days leading up to the show. This includes presenter introductions and winner walk-up lines, including how many times they’ve won an Oscar or been nominated.
While there is little improvisation on the job, there are many tweaks to the script up until showtime — or even during the show.
“Producers change the color of the paper every time there’s a revision to the script… They’ll hand us a fresh sheet of paper with a slight edit and we have to keep updating our book so that our script is always the latest version.”
DeBone is charged with writing lines about every nominee beforehand. “When the presenter says, ‘And the Oscar goes to…’ Tina and I listen together. We have the sheet she wrote with all of the nominees and their history of Oscars and when they say a name live on the air, she points and that’s the paragraph I read,” Thomas said.
Thomas and deBone work from a production trailer behind the Dolby Theatre during the show. For Thomas, the moment of relief comes after she speaks her final line.
“Through the credits, you’ll hear me talk about an airline or how the Academy votes. Those are pre-recorded because they’re married to a graphic. Really, the last thing I get to say is the winner walk-up for the Best Picture award.”
“We really don’t know whose going to win. I think everyone knows that now.”
Working Under Pressure
“I’ve been doing the Tonys for 20 years—and the Tonys are a huge undertaking honoring Broadway—but I think the scope of the Oscars is just enormous and the show feels like that. The weight is a little bit heavier.”
“The fact that it is such an incredibly massive production is thrilling.”
And when you’re introducing some of the biggest stars on live TV, you need to perform well under pressure. Thomas admits that’s her strength.
“I think you have to have a steady hand and a steady voice to do this show. You have to not get rattled when things happen, or by the way that they say, ‘We’re going live to half a billion people in five, four, three…’ and yours is the first voice people hear on the show.”
While hosts and themes might shift over the years, Thomas’ role — and voice — has remained a constant.
“I believe that my job is to help the producers move the show forward in a timely manner with grace and elegance. That’s the voice that I seem to be able to find for that show.”
But even for a ten-year veteran, there can be challenges.
“Last year, I actually had a very difficult pronunciation that I wasn’t getting because I was only looking at the written word. Someone on the production team was a native Spanish speaker, so we video taped him saying the name. By watching his mouth and how he articulated the name, I was able to parrot it back.”
It’s these kinds of collaborations that Thomas is most proud of.
“I am just one cog in a giant wheel that has to perform perfectly for us to all have an amazing show.”
“Being asked back is the biggest honor there is and for this to be my tenth show is a little mind-blowing, but I’m really excited.”
This interview is part of “Only I Know,” our series dedicated to taking Oscar fans behind the scenes with some of the key players that make the show happen.