I am not hearing actors on TV.

Who is to blame? My rant about audibility in 2022.

I never had an issue hearing Olivier with old microphones and old technology

We have the greatest technology we have ever had. We literally have microphones that can pick up a pin drop in another room upstairs.

Yet, I have just watched my fifth TV series where I had to rewind the episode several times to catch what the actor was saying. No, this was not a thick accent thing or that I am losing my hearing. Several other people in the room didn’t understand what the actor said either.

How can this happen in 2022?

I have literally watched thousands of films and series going back decades that had nowhere near the technology we have now. I am able to hear every syllable and every inflection the actor makes. I am mystified and gobsmacked.

It wasn’t until one of my actor friends (who is quite a successful actor in film and television) said off the cuff, “Actors are taught this from acting coaches and casting people.” I, of course, answered by asking, “What do you mean!?”. My actor friend (who will remain nameless) said she had been coached many times to “whisper” and “do nothing” as an acting technique for the camera. This is where I submit the clip of my jaw hitting the floor and my eyes popping out of my head.

Really!? I said. This, to me, is shocking and unacceptable.

First, that casting directors are giving advice on acting. I am sorry, this is not your expertise because you cast a show. Unless you have trained as an actor and had quite a successful career acting before becoming a casting director, do not pretend you know what acting is. Sorry to be blunt. When you start casting actors by talent and not basing it off of their looks, charisma, and Instagram followers, you will gain some respect. And yes, I am not making a general statement about all casting directors. I am lucky to be friends with some brilliant casting people who have all that I mentioned above. The issue is that there are those out there who don’t, are given power to cast actors, and don’t stay in their lane when it comes to giving acting advice.

Secondly, whispering and mumbling are whispering and mumbling. Even on camera. It says nothing else to the audience whatsoever. It is impossible to show the variety of nuance, intention, and thought when you are whispering and mumbling. Oh yeah, and when the audience can not hear a word you are saying, they lose character and story. What the heck’s the point in that!?

Or is this just the actor? I will never understand why on earth any actor would think being unintelligible forever on celluloid is a great idea. Unless they were taught or told, this is some acting technique that works. If this is true, these acting classes and schools need to be shut down immediately. Actors pay handsomely to learn, and audiences pay handsomely to be drawn away into a story.

Acting is the sharing of a given thought with an audience. Great acting ensures the audience believes every moment and hears every single word. With today’s technology, there is no excuse for an audience to have to turn their volume to max or rewind several times to hear what the actor said.

Actors, the audience needs to hear every word. Your words must come out of your mouth like coins from the mint — crystal clear and without ambiguity. Diction, enunciation, and being on breath are Acting 101. These crucial qualities have been part of the craft of acting since the Greeks, and numerous voice coaches go to the top schools every year just to specialize in this crucial aspect of performance.

Directors, please learn about the craft of acting before directing. And do not let there be any influence on your actors by outside voices who do not deeply understand what an actor needs to deliver a crystal-clear, powerful performance on camera. After all, it is there forever.

Treat your audience better or find something else to do. I deserved better as an audience member.

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Lee Samuel Wilson

Lee Samuel Wilson

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Lee holds Canadian, British & Irish citizenship. He is an actor, director, dramaturg, professor, and artistic director.