Q&A: Lake Bell on her voice-over obsession

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NEW YORK (AP) — Since she was a little girl putting on nightly shows to stave off bedtime and using her father's Dictaphone to stealthily record interesting accents, Lake Bell has been fascinated by voices.

In her new film, "In a World...," Bell finally realizes her long-held obsession, playing an aspiring voice-over artist trying to make it in a male-dominated industry. The film, which opens Friday, is also the directorial debut for Bell, the 34-year-old actress of TV shows such as "Boston Legal," films like "No Strings Attached" and, increasingly, comedy like Rob Corddry's "Childrens Hospital."

The latter has proven a particular inspiration for Bell, who has taken up writing and creating her own content. She is already writing her next script.

But as much as Bell's career is finding traction, voice acting remains, she says, her "soft spot."

AP: Where did your interest in voice-over come from?

BELL: Doing voices was a means to distraction to other things that were going on in my life. I would put on little shows, something called the "The Late Lake Show" that my family still talks about to this day that was ostensibly a procrastination tool to not go to bed. Accents, in a very simple way, seemed so mysterious. It seemed like people with accents and people who spoke different languages were so exciting and sophisticated and strange and wonderful. It seemed like the ultimate transformation would be to try to be someone like that.

AP: What age are we talking about?

BELL: "The Late Lake Show" started at four years old. I probably started losing it around 14. As I grew older, it became a little more sophisticated. Like, I would listen to Harry Belafonte and then try to be Latin and do a dance and the whole thing. I knew I wanted to be an actor, a performer — do characters — since I was a little kid. My parents were divorced and it was a source of making my brother laugh really hard. We traveled around a lot, my brother and I.

AP: So it seems this interest in voices always ran in tandem with your interest in acting.

BELL: Absolutely. Because your voice is such a massive tool when you are acting. Obviously, your body and your voice are what depict a character, so it's one half of the mechanism. It's inherently very important to an actor. The sexy baby vocal virus that's pandemic, that's infecting a generation of young women, I think really affects women and actresses trying to get jobs. If there was more self-awareness with their voices, perhaps women wouldn't pigeonhole themselves into sounding less than.

AP: When you arrived in Hollywood in 2002 after drama school, you hoped to find work as a voice actor. Do you still harbor interest in doing that?

BELL: I thought that I wouldn't need to be a waitress because I thought I would go rolling in with my demo CD that I made in drama school in England of me doing all these dialects. And I could roll into the voice-over community and just start being a voice-over star because I had heard a rumor that you made a lot of money. I did get an agent for it, but you can't just roll into someone industry and think you're going to conquer it. I was a total naive idiot. Lo and behold, I became a waitress like everybody else. I did not get any jobs until more recently.

AP: You have had voice-over jobs?

BELL: A couple here and there. I hope I get more from this movie.

AP: You're now an established actress who's transitioning into being a filmmaker, too. Most would say you've gone past voicing commercials.

BELL: Now I feel totally at home writing and directing. I feel very satisfied and inspired by the process, so I will do that for the rest of my life. But voice-over, I don't know, I have a soft spot for it. So I will always continue to audition for voice-over jobs, probably for the rest of my days. Obviously, the dream is representing products and being an omniscient voice that's not even attached to a character: the idea that your voice is coming from space. Often that is not a female voice. Hopefully, I can break that.

AP: You want to be God, basically?

BELL: I don't want to be God. I just want to be the voice of authority.


Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle