Intro: With hard work and a never-give-up spirit, dreams do come true! Dionne Quan, a fiercely imaginative 27-year-old, best known for her role as cowboy-booted, spunky Kimi Finster, on the Emmy-award-winning Rugrats, as well as Yasmin in the animated series BRATZ, is also an AFB CareerConnect® mentor! Below she recalls acting out characters aloud from storybooks as a kid and describes a typical day at work.
The Story: Although born almost entirely blind, a crystal-clear image of myself as an actress led me undaunted down a career path beginning in childhood. I would do different voices for all the characters in any story. I just love the freedom that acting and in particular voice-over gives me. Kimi is edgy and a bit of a tomboy. She's also fearless and very confident and I like that!
With the help and encouragement of my parents, I enrolled in acting classes at age 10. (By the way, speaking of parents, I play Trixie Tang on Nickelodeon's hit series The Fairly Odd Parents.) There was really no courage involved, at least on my part. It was just fun because I love singing and acting. My passion for hard work and performance was validated when I received the Shining Star Award from American Women in Radio and Television. Another gratifying role I've enjoyed was the opportunity to star in the Nickelodeon spin-off series All Grown Up featuring the Rugrats' teen years, and appearing in the Nickelodeon/Paramount Pictures movie release Rugrats Go Wild!
Although I originally envisioned a career in musical theater and trod the boards with chorus roles for a couple of years, the obstacles were obvious. It didn't work well because, although it really was never a problem for me, people were worried about me walking around the stage. Also, in community theater, I was always cast as somebody blind, Asian, or blind and Asian!
The solution to realizing my dream seemed apparent when my dad happened to tune in to a radio talk show featuring a local voice-over instructor. He promptly enrolled me in the instructor's class, and there I found my niche. My first paying job was a national radio spot for an HMO at age 14 and various commercial voice-overs followed, along with many other opportunities.
In my line of work, not only do I get to create unique voices and in many ways unique characters, I'm able to passionately enliven fellow cast members by my ability to portray such characters from an almost innocent place. Actually, most don't even realize I'm non-sighted. About the only implication is an adjustment to my microphone so it doesn't pick up the sound of my fingers moving across the braille script. My hope is to give people around the world inspiration through my imagination and God-given talent.
Now that you know what I do and how I got into this line of work, let me tell you what a typical work day is like. My driver and I begin the day by going to morning voice-over auditions at my voice-over agency in order to keep the day open for any voice-over jobs that may come in at the last minute or scheduled jobs already set for the day. Once those auditions are recorded I am off to my first session. Each day varies greatly as this kind of career is never set to a 9-5 time frame.
If it is an animated series voice-over session, the script is brought to life by all the cast members in the recording studio. Cue lines and my lines are translated into braille the night before. Some animation sessions are scheduled to read each voice-over talent separately (or "wild" as it is called) and some like to schedule the entire cast together for a more natural flow to the script. An animation session can take about 3-4 hours per half-hour show, which can be around 30 pages of dialogue give or take. The voice-over director lets the cast know if their lines need to have a different inflection, pace, etc., and I take that interpretation and deliver the lines accordingly until the director believes he or she has the perfect take. In most cases, the voice-over work is done first so the animation can be drawn around the voice sessions. Often times, the voice-over talent's work and personality inspire the animators to breathe a lot more life into their characters' movement.
If I am booked for a TV or radio commercial voice-over session, the time allotted is one and a half to two hours (if not less) per commercial spot. The commercial voice-over jobs are usually much quicker to complete than an animated session due to a commercial spot being 60 seconds in length at the most, in comparison to the complexities of a half-hour animated show.
Once I have completed my last session for the day, I check in with my voice-over agency (or vice versa) to find out how my schedule for the next day is shaping up audition and/or session-wise. Just remember this type of career is very up and down. It is about working hard all day one day and perhaps not working or auditioning at all the next. But, to me, the love of the work is very much worth the wait!
The Contact: Dionne Quan