When I put my old newspapers out for recycling on a Sunday night I always make sure I wear a spangly cloak, lime-green plastic hot pants and a revolving red light on my head so passers-by will definitely notice me. There's a valid reason for this attention-seeking behaviour - it's that I do the voice-over for the TV ads that encourage you to recycle your newspapers, so I want to be conspicuous when I myself am doing it, to show that I agree with the concept behind the commercial.
You see, despite what you might think, doing advertising voice-overs requires more than just shouting in a soundproof room for a few minutes in return for loads of money. There is a moral dimension too.
The two occasions on which I've faced a moral dilemma while doing a voice-over have both come when I got jobs where I didn't do the original commentary and instead was revoicing something, and both were connected with motoring.
Six years ago, I voiced a series for the National Geographic Channel called "100 Dollar Taxi Ride". This was a show shot and voiced by a hyperactive Canadian who went to various countries with a little DV camera and paid a taxi driver to drive him as far as $100 would take him.
For some reason, it was decided that I should replace the hyperactive Canadian for the UK market. But the producers also felt that they didn't want to alter the script, so I found myself saying the Canadian's words.
Because I was doing 26 half-hour programmes in three days, I went along with what the producers wanted, not fully taking on board the idea that when the series went out people would really believe that it was me in the cab. Then, after it was transmitted, I found myself caught up in a terrible world of lies; either I had to pretend that it was me in Salt Lake City or Istanbul doing the kerazzee things the Canadian had done, or I had to tell people the truth that it wasn't me in the cab - in which case they would look at me with a disappointed expression and say things like: "Why did you lie to us?" At first I took the easy option and lied, but dishonesty gets a grip on you so soon I found myself having affairs, shoplifting and serving as a cabinet minister in the first Blair government.
From then on, I decided to be honest. A little while later I did a thing for the Discovery Channel, a series made by their German arm, which looked at the lives of individuals from the countries of Eastern Europe that had recently been part of the Soviet empire. One programme featured a Ukrainian who bought Mercedes cars in Germany and then drove them back to Ukraine to sell them at a profit.
I was reading from a translation of the German original and the pressure of time meant that I didn't get to read what I was saying ahead of time. But one sequence went: "Yuri goes to meet a friend at a car auction but the friend never turns up. That is the way they are, these Eastern Europeans, unreliable, dishonest and lazy with no sense of punctuality..." Luckily, I realised what I was saying before I'd finished and got the producers to make the script more acceptable for non-Aryan audiences. As a result, I felt better about myself.Reuse content