In Conversation With Tim Goodman: The Voice Of Bryant & May
It seems extraordinary, but in all the time that Tim Goodman has been the voice of the Bryant & May audiobooks we’ve never talked about it, he and I. Now seemed a great time to chat a bit about his ‘double career’.
Christopher: You began in rep, Tim. Thinking about life on tour, how difficult was it to do different shows all the time? Do you think it’s an important experience for actors?
Tim: Rep has almost ceased to exist now, but I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to flex muscles, make mistakes, beyond the gaze of the ‘big time’. I spent more than 3 years after drama school in almost continual work – the often desperate madhouse of ‘weekly’, the more leisurely but still intense pace of fortnightly, and the rather more grand and ambitious world of repertoire, where you rehearsed 3 or 4 plays, opening them one after another over a few weeks, then rotate them.
Christopher: What did you mainly play?
Tim: Almost all the major roles, the standard gradually improving, everything from Shakespeare to farce. Perhaps distance lends a little enchantment but all this is sadly unavailable to today’s actors, most of whom usually do very little theatre these days; not from preference. Most wouldn’t wish to be categorized as exclusively one or the other – it just happens. Soap stars, perhaps – I suspect some of them simply lack the confidence to expose themselves to onstage discipline and rigor!
Christopher: I’ve always found theatre actors very different from film actors.
Tim: I’ve spent little time with exclusively film actors; worked with Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, a few others of that period – all entertaining company…
Christopher: You’re very tall and square jawed – you seem to have been cast as figures of authority – is that how you saw your natural casting?
Tim: In my early and first career I was seen – I think – as a young leading man type, in some ways a disadvantage. In the mid seventies I became somewhat discontented; pretty continuous work, mostly TV, a few exciting but ultimately frustrating big-time near misses, a sense of having little control I think. I had greatly enjoyed one or two opportunities to direct and tried to find more. By then I was married with two young daughters and a mortgage. I slid rapidly via workshops and part time teaching to Head of Drama at a well-known school for the performing arts – all in less than a year.
Christopher: Did you ever want to play James Bond?
Tim: I worked with Roger Moore on ‘ The Persuaders ‘ some years before he took the part on, but was out of it by the time my age suited. A good friend around the early 70’s, Timothy Dalton, took it on of course, to cover the gap before Pierce Brosnan’s contractual obligations freed him. I though he was rather good although perhaps wrong for the time. Perhaps Bond is a little like Shakespeare and should reflect the tastes and propensities of his age…
Christopher: How did you come to specialise in voice acting?
Tim: Somewhere along the line I became Artistic Head of the school and a fair number of students went on to achieve artistic success of one kind and another. Disinclined to become Mr Chips, I took early retirement at the end of the last century, working as a senior examiner in my field, and resuming acting on a rather more casual basis. Audio books began to come my way, after ‘digging’ a bit, in 2002.
Christopher: You’re probably more familiar with the Bryant & May books than anyone else apart from me and my editor. In listeners’ eyes (or rather ears) you’ve became the voice of Bryant & May and now have a dedicated following, yet we’ve never spoken in the past. How has the series been for you?
Tim: Bryant and May have been a real source of enjoyment and a challenge over the years. What more could a semi retired actor ask for? The leading couple more or less established themselves at the start, but others have been less straightforward: their irascible boss became more nasal and drier, as you warmed to him and gave him a more sympathetic role to play.
Christopher: Favourite characters?
Tim: I have a soft spot for our tough, Kawasaki riding little Indian girl Meera, but found her voice a real problem; she’s ended up more or less standard rough edge London. There have been a few mind boggling challenges – I distantly remember a scene between three Liverpudlian teenage girls – You just hope the listener’s imagination will meet yours!
Christopher: I’ve just completed the twentieth Bryant & May novel, which brings a natural end to things (with a door left open of course). Has your approach to the voices changed across the books?
Tim: No such sophistication as instant in-ear pronunciation for me, I’m afraid! The producer and I usually have a chat and discuss tricky instances when I’m doing my pre-production reading (out loud) at home. There are some good sources, although very occasionally we’ve had to make an informed guess! You have, over the years, introduced some wonderfully obscure words, as I feel sure you would admit. As an ex teacher I can sympathise with the urge.
Tim doesn’t know yet that in the next book I’m hitting him with the most unpronounceable tongue-twister in the 20th Bryant & May canon. Let’s see what he makes of that!