Jon Bailey is not just the current voice of Honest Trailers (which recently nabbed an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series) he’s also a prolific voice artist who’s worked on real trailers, games, commercials, web series and animated shows such as Transformers: Combiner Wars, Zoolaplex and The Screen Junkies Show. Interview by Sam Halford.
Are you excited about the Emmy nomination?
“I don’t feel any different – (laughs) – sorry. It’s not like I specifically got nominated for an Emmy; it’s something that several people worked on that got nominated for an Emmy. Which is cool I guess, but I don’t know. I’ve never been nominated for an Emmy so I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to feel. I don’t know that means I can go around and say, ‘Hey I’m in for an Emmy’. I don’t think that’s how it works.”
What made you go into voice acting?
“When I first heard the voice actor for Optimus Prime do the intro to the Voltron cartoon in the ’80s I was like, ‘That’s so cool, that’s what I wanna do when I grow up!’ It was always in the back of my head. I started imitating voices when I was four; growing up I would imitate friends, co-workers, politicians throughout high-school and dating. It also kept bullies laughing instead of beating me up. It also impressed my wife’s family. I never really thought about making a living. I didn’t really know how you could do that, especially when I don’t live in an area where that’s like a normal everyday job. It was a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Most of it I did online but eventually I was able to do it as a full-time career, mostly thanks to my previous employer going into bankruptcy and not having any other choice.”
Was there a moment where you realised this is now your career and you could potentially go far?
“I don’t think I ever had that moment. I’ve had several big breaks but none of them took me to that. It’s not like I’ve had an email come through and realise I’m going to be a big huge mega star or make a fortune with an awesome career. It was more like, ‘Oh, this could mean some more work.’
“There’s never really been a life-changing message or job. Some of them I hold closer to my heart, like being the Epic Movie trailer voice is very cool in my opinion. But what might happen if I ever became the voice of a network like the AMC guy or the BBC guy – that one guy who does the entire voice for everything on the network. That is a big big deal. I think that one would be the moment when I could go, ‘Wow this is huge!’ So far it’s an on-going process – it’s like going up Everest.”
“I’m in XCOM 2 which is being ported to the consoles at the end of September. I’m voicing the Council Spokesmen who guides you through the game and tells you how you’re doing and what not.
“You can also hear me in SnarfQuest Tales, which was released recently – not the Snarf from ThunderCats; which is the question I get asked most often.”
Is there a main goal or a point where you can say, “I’ve made it”?
“No. This job is ever-changing and you have to constantly update your sights and your dreams, always be auditioning. Some of the biggest voice actors in the business still have to audition, every day for every job; they can’t just sit back and wait for the job to come to them. The bigger the voice actor is, the more they get requested but most of the time that’s a requested audition and not necessarily a guaranteed job. It’s constantly working, as long as you’re moving forwards and not backwards you’re doing okay.”
“Oh it’s so much harder now. Well, not voiceover but YouTube. If you didn’t start back in 2007 then you’re really too late to the party. There’s few channels where it’s just an individual or a few people doing something from their home and making immensely popular content. Once they start to get popular, networks snatch them up or they get added to another company. Like Screen Junkies is not all by itself; Screen Junkies is just one of 30 shows in the same network. They have interns, writers and a talent pool.
“I saw this coming once big companies started to take an interest. I’m not saying it’s impossible but very difficult. Even on my own personal YouTube channel I struggle to get regular views up. If brand new people get their views in the hundreds that’s doing pretty well now because they’re starting so late in the game.
“With voiceover it’s actually gotten easier to get into, depending on what kind of voiceover work you want to do. There’s so many different kinds of voiceover work now. There’s commercials, audiobooks, movie trailers, cartoon characters and video games. With the help of the internet you don’t always have to be in LA or New York or some major metropolitan area for entertainment to get work. Except if you want to be a cartoon voice actor, you still need to be in LA. But as long as you have a decent microphone, a quiet place to record and a computer with internet you can get at least a little work.
“Some people use pay-to-play sites though I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t think you should pay to audition. I think you should have someone who gets you auditions and then they get their 10% or however much. Some people have become very successful paying for auditions; it’s a good way to get some experience out of it if you’re new to the business, get your feet wet a little bit, see how competitive the industry is. For full-time work however, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Do have a favourite trailer you’ve done?
“My favourite trailer I’ve done is one of the first major trailers I did and that was the Blu-ray trailer for Book Of Eli, which is, in my opinion, still a good film even to this day. That was one of those first I saw on television and across the internet and was hearing my own voice in it, and people were paying attention to it. That was a break-out moment where I thought that this could be some more work for me.
“Anytime I do a trailer for a franchise I’m a huge fan of I get pretty excited. Like I’ve done voices for some toys for Star Wars commercials; I was the voice of Optimus Prime for the new Transformers: Combiner Wars series. Even if it doesn’t pay a lot or doesn’t reach a lot of people, it’s my favourite brand. I’m still doing it officially so of course I get excited about it. Sometimes I even get to do some ADR (automated dialogue replacement) for Marvel movies, so those are the cool jobs.”