We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Kwoka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Working in Voice Over in the Entertainment industry, I think people are often surprised when they find out how little time I actually get to spend in the booth recording. Most of my time is spent marketing myself to potential clients, casting directors, producers, etc. Otherwise I am negotiating contracts or following up on invoices (or looping in my agents to help with that!). People are not expecting to hear how much business is involved, and tend to believe actors sit around waiting for phones to ring! My voice is my business and brand and like any product, you can’t deliver something if people don’t know about it, so it’s a lot of metaphorical knocking on doors and putting myself out there to potential clients in varied ways.
The time I do get to spend in the booth is like Game Day – it’s what makes all the business worth it. All the training and practice I do, plus being able to confidently and efficiently set expectations for partners, and the creativity of the individuals involved, gets to come together and play! And nothing makes me happier than when I feel good about what I did and the client says, “Perfect, we got it.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a Voice Over Actor, I am most proud of the characters and stories I’ve gotten to bring to life over the years. From audiobooks to videogames, I love using my voice to create a rich and complex individual – or oftentimes several individuals – that an audience can relate to or find love for in some way. I think what makes me stand out is a combination of my innate gift of tapping into what a client/partner is really wanting, and my excitement to try things. I aim to bring my own imagination and creativity to a role, but also be flexible and collaborative.
I am incredibly proud of the recent short film I produced and acted in, “The Little Things”, both on camera and doing voice over, as it brought together so much of what I love to do, with an incredible all-female team of creatives beside me. It was a labor of love, which probably best sums up this career path in general. There is so much rejection, so much doubt, so much silence in response, every single time I put myself out there, it can really make the day-to-day a dreadful grind. But I’ve learned you really appreciate the vistas when you had to sweat a little more to see them. When the hard work finally pays off, and I hear how happy a client is with me, or how easy I made things for them, or even just make someone laugh in a session, I know I am doing what I’m meant to do.
It’s rarely easy, but I find that holding myself accountable to the mundane tasks and staying consistent has always helped me reach the next level. Which then just brings on a whole new bag of fears and self-doubt, but I welcome the challenge. If a day comes when I say “Wow, I’ve finally reached the peak”, I’ll just want to climb another mountain! So really, underneath all of the desire to make a client happy or be a part of an exciting project, is really a desire to push myself further and grow as much as I possibly can in this career, to experience as many roles and projects as I can and to enjoy the views of all the hard work I know I put in daily.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Honestly, throw a dart in Los Angeles and you are almost guaranteed to find someone or some place that is interesting and full of story. It’s one reason I love living here! There are definitely a few personal favorites that I think are a must-see for a first time visitor to understand that LA is more than just celeb-sightings though.
No matter who comes to visit, my go to stop when leaving LAX is The Whaler in Venice Beach. The deck has great views of the ocean, they are always playing classic rock music, and you can get some great people watching in from the street and boardwalk – there is ALWAYS a host of characters to be seen. I also love to walk the boardwalk from Venice up to Santa Monica. I actually used to sell hotdogs on the Pier so it’s fun to share that with visitors and get in some of the infamous LA sunshine.
I never pass up an opportunity to take a winding trip up to Malibu Wines or through The Hills to drive Mulholland. It’s always amazing what little gem restaurants and stores you’ll find tucked away as well! The atmosphere and vibe can change in a short distance in this city. Each pocket really has it’s own personality to show off. There are tons of hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains that I think are so worth the views as well. A few personal favorites being the Los Leones Trail and Mishe Mokwa Trail.
Having lived in the heart of Hollywood for a few years, I love at least driving down Hollywood Blvd with guests. Cinespia puts on a fabulous display in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery of Hollywood classics like Singing in the Rain or Pretty Woman. I always make a point to see some live comedy while guests are in town. You can’t go wrong with catching an improv show at The Groundlings, where I trained for several years, or UCB – you never know who might pop in and the talent is always incredible. If you can get a ticket, The Magic Castle is also an amazing host of skill and passion for their craft, and I love an excuse to get fancy.
I could spend a whole day in Griffith Park alone, between the hiking trails up to the Hollywood sign, horseback riding, golf courses, The Griffith Observatory, the Zoo, and finding Walt Disney’s old shed, I never tire of that location and can always find something for somebody to enjoy.
Downtown LA has always been a bit elusive to me, but recently I did a scavenger hunt through “Let’s Roam” with visiting family and would highly recommend it as a fun way to get to know your city more. We saw and learned about more of the rich history of Los Angeles and found some hiding-in-plain-site landmarks! Not to mention between The Broad, MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Staples Center, again, there is something for anyone to see and enjoy. A stop to Perch, a great rooftop near Pershing Square, for some delicious brunch and live jazz music, is also a great way to see LA from a birds eye view.
Of course, in my opinion, no trip to LA is complete without a little sport. Whether it be watching skateboarders or acro yoga artists in Venice, a Lakers game downtown, or my personal favorite, a Dodgers baseball game! The Dodger dog is famous for a reason, and now they offer vegan alternatives, so you just gotta. A view of the Angeles Mountains with a giant cold beer makes this a quintessential event in any LA itinerary.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So many people deserve recognition in my story and any of my successes.
The short list would certainly be my husband Hayes, who is “my cheerleader” and always encouraging and believing in me on the toughest days – not to mention who hand built my booth. As well as my family, especially my parents, who have only been supportive since day one. They knew I’d face enough rejection and never made me question my worth or choice of path.
I would also say the Voice Over community at large has been so welcoming, and just a wealth of knowledge that they are so willing to share! I always try to pay it forward to others getting started because I know how much I was helped along the way by veteran VOs. In that community especially I would like to thank Marc Scott, Tom Pinto, Jeff Howell, Townsend Coleman, and Scott Holst, who have all been incredible wells of talent and knowledge that has helped me tremendously.
Thank you to my agents at A3, Emily Latka, Brittney Weiskopf, James Murray and Matt Cooley, for being an amazing team, and my booth director, Eric Hurst, for making my auditions shine a little brighter.
Bronwyn and Banta, Dakota Lee Stroud