Saturday, September 30, 2023

‘You assume it happens by magic’ Natick High grad making career out of voice acting

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As a kid, Barrett Leddy was always doing different voices and impressions. It continued at Natick High School, where he would do impersonations backstage to entertain his friends while performing in school plays.

“You’re a kid messing around you never think it’s going to be used for anything, you never think it’s going to be useful, that isn’t even on your mind,” said Leddy, now 31. “You’re just trying to make your friends laugh.”

Leddy though, has developed that talent into a full-fledged career as a voice actor. Providing voice work for numerous television shows, video games and other media, Leddy has become well known in the industry and has landed roles in high-profile series such “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

Natick native Barrett Leddy works as a professional voice actor. His work has appeared in TV shows such as

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“It’s really surreal to think that that I’m doing stuff I just used to do in front of my friends,” he said. “It sounds silly, it sounds dumb and it sounds impossible. You know that of course there are people doing voice acting, but you just never think it can be you you just assume it happens by magic. But it can be you, you can grow up and do it.”

After moving to New York for college, Leddy began taking voice-acting courses to see if he had what it took to become a voice actor. When he was a senior, Leddy entered an impressions contest hosted by The Howard Stern Show, where Leddy did his signature impression one of famous comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

“I won the competition, I got to go into the studio in New York and do it on-air,” Leddy said. “I saw that I could do this, I could make people laugh, and I started really to think that I could do this for a career.”

A new career with ‘Dueling Gilberts’

From there, Leddy did all of the things a traditional actor would do to get noticed. He made a demo reel of his performances, he hired an agent and he auditioned for work. As work started to roll in, Leddy had a chance to meet the source of his greatest impression: Gottfried himself.

“I was introduced to Gilbert by his wife, Dara (Kravitz), who had heard my impression,” Leddy said. “She had me do the impression for him, which I never would have done otherwise. Gilbert has that huge on-stage persona, like you saw in ‘Problem Child’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cop’, but he also has this very quiet, nebbish side of him when he isn’t performing. After I did the impression, he sarcastically told me that I should take over for him when he dies.”

Barrett Leddy played Snoopy while at Natick High School in a production of

From there, Leddy began interacting more frequently with Gottfried, often calling into his podcast and doing impressions of him in a segment that was titled “Dueling Gilberts.”

But when Gottfried died in April 2022 of heart disease, Leddy found himself with a rare opportunity. He had been contacted about about a casting audition for a Disney+ special, “Lego Disney Princess: The Castle Quest” as the series was searching for someone to reprise the role of Iago, the talking parrot from Aladdin that was originally voiced by Gottfried.

Given his unique qualifications, Leddy was cast as the new Iago, and he set out on attempting to replicate Gottfried’s iconic voice.

“I had the chance to work with Gilbert before, and now I was stepping in. I felt a lot of pressure because I wanted to show I could be his successor and carry on his legacy, which is very important to me,” Leddy said. “While I was recording, I was improvising and I had to think like Gilbert and I felt this force around me. Afterward, the director told me that I was just pure Gilbert.”

The series debuted Aug. 18 on Disney+. Leddy said he was blown away by the positive response, including from Kravitz. Leddy said it was challenging to read material that Gottfried had never seen, and to then determine how Gottfried would react to the dialogue and cues directed at his character.

“You have to be quick on your feet, you have to be able to improvise,” Leddy said. “I thought I was able to bring my own personal flair to the project, while maintaining Gilbert’s original character.”

Barrett Leddy, man of 1,000 voices

Voice acting may initially seem simple, but it’s a lot more than making the voice of a character. Much like a traditional actor, the voice actor must study the character, understand its motivations, and be able to reflect a wide range of emotions through voice.

Leddy said different aspects of his background have proven essential to his development as a voice actor. He points to not only his performances in traditional acting and theater, but even experiences while still at Natick High School.

“I did speech and debate in high school, which is extremely influential,” he said. “Doing the high school musicals all of them were essential building blocks that led me to my career.”

Natick native Barrett Leddy is a professional voice actor. In 2019 he won an Audie Award for his work in narrating an audio book,

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In addition to doing voice work for animated shows and movies, Leddy has lent his voice to various other fields and projects. In 2019, he won an Audie Award, an award given out by the Audio Publishers Association for audio book narration, when he was part of the narrating team for “SPIN: The Rumpelstiltskin Musical.” Leddy has also participated in podcast audio series, including “Space: 1969” where he co-stars alongside Natasha Lyonne.

Book narration requires an incredible amount of live reading, as well as being able to do dozens and dozens of characters that are appearing throughout the book. In some cases, such as when Leddy did the narration for a book based on the television series “Stranger Things,” he is tasked with matching the voices of characters that listeners already know.

“I had to imitate all of these characters, and keeping that consistent over the course of a whole book requires a lot of skill, and a lot of patience,” Leddy said.

Lorraine Leddy witnessed husband’s rise to fame

Barrett met his wife, Lorraine, while the two were involved in Natick High theater. For Lorraine, seeing her husband go from entertaining friends backstage during plays to doing voices for a living has been a remarkable development.

“That is something that has just become so full circle for me,” she said. “I have all these memories of our teenage years (of him) doing comedy bits and voices and making us laugh as just another kid in our high school. He was able to go on and target that as a full career, and he got so much encouragement from our friends and teachers and all of those people.”

In terms of underrated skills necessary for success, Leddy cited the need for strong vocal stamina.

“We are talking about hourslong sessions where you are yelling, screaming and doing death cries,” he said. “You need to take care of your voice, you need to be diligent and really protective of your voice.

“You don’t just go into a booth and scream, I don’t think people realize how hard this job is.”

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