Nick Omana is the man of a thousand voices. A voiceover actor for the last 25 years, Nick has done voice work ranging from the Smurfs to being the live announcer for NBC’s Last Comic Standing. We spoke to Nick about his career, how his kids have benefitted from him being a voice actor (no yelling!), and why in voicework, you can only die twice.
How did you get into voiceover work?
When I was little, my brother and I had a reel to reel recorder. We would record little radio plays. At the time, I had no idea that you could get paid to do that. Later on, I was doing radio work in L.A; I had the midnight to six AM shift. It was for a Top 40 station, so I would hear the same song seven times. It was so boring!A friend of mine was working at a large ad agency in L.A., and told me that I should try doing voiceover work. I tried it and I loved it.
What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
I actually started working in cartoons first. I did Duck Tales, Ninja Turtles, Winnie the Pooh, the Smurfs, etc. Then I started doing more promos; I was the voice of Fox Cable Networks for nine years. I’ve done Bank of America, Southwest Airlines, LL Bean, and I was the live announce for NBC’s Last Comic Standing. I’ve also done work for the US’ Department of Defense, for their radio and TV networks that go out to the bases and ships around the world.
And now you’re doing a bit of stand-up comedy, too.
That was an off-shoot of working with Last Comic Standing. I’ve been doing it for three years now. My voiceover work always comes into my comedy. I’ll tell the audience some of the stranger voices I’ve had to do.
I’ve had to talk as if I were underwater. I’ve had to sneeze like a baby, talk like an alien, and bark like a dog. Hey, what can I say? It’s a living! [laughs]
But you love it, though.
Absolutely. I get paid to play, for goodness sake. I wake up in the morning looking forward to what I’m going to do for the rest of the day. That’s a great way to live.
You were telling me a funny story about meeting your second wife’s son, Michael.
When my second wife and I were dating, Michael was 10. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him that I talk for a living. He asked me, “Well, how hard is that?” A few years later, Michael was interested in doing voiceovers, too. He auditioned for a commercial and he got it. He recorded the spot, and he did really well. When he came out from the booth, he said, “Wow, that was a lot harder than I thought!” [laughs] Michael then went on to play Otto in Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power for a year!
I once read that before a concert, Celine Dion doesn’t speak at all to protect her voice. As a voice artist, what do you do to protect your voice?
There are certain things you try not to do. I stay away from dairy, because it can make you congested. Coffee can make your mouth pasty, so that’s not good either. Chocolate and candy is a no-no.
Aww, that’s too bad!
I’m not a sweets eater. My deal is salts and carbs. An open bag of chips is an empty bag of chips no matter how big it is! If I could eat my way out of it I’d be happy. Overall, I try not to push my voice too hard. And having kids can be a danger to my work.
When you yell at them, you blow your voice out! The kids definitely benefitted from me being in this industry because I didn’t yell at them a lot. [laughs]
What are you working on now?
I’m doing the voice for the new X-Com game coming out next year. There’s lots of shouting, and I die a lot of different ways! I get electrocuted, shot at, vaporized. I went through all the levels until we got to Level 4, which was the most intense level of the game. I told the director, “Okay, I only have two takes.”
“I can only die twice!”[laughs] It’s the old Daffy Duck trick. He drinks a gallon of gas, lights himself on fire. He said, “It’s a great trick but I can only do it once!”
You had also mentioned earlier that you have mild dyslexia.
I work my way around it; it might mean that I double space the lines and highlight my part of the script so I don’t track extra words. Something happens though when it’s time to record; my focus becomes very concentrated and I can read through scripts and copy without a problem.
It’s great how you learned to adapt to make it work.
It’s God’s little joke; “If you’re going to do something you like, I’m going to make it a little difficult.” I’d rather have it be this way than any other.
In addition to the voiceover work, you also run workshops to teach other people how to get into this field.
I teach all levels of workshops. The basic one is the commercial workshops. The focus is on giving people a strong foundation in voiceover. There are other workshops that focus on the marketing aspect of finding work after you’ve had training.
Let’s talk about your kids.
I have three kids; Samantha, 22, Christina, 23 and Michael, 25. Christina and Michael are my step-children but they have always been my kids to me. When they were little, I would be driving the girls to practice and we would have the radio on. The girls would hear me and they’d say, “That’s our Dad!” and be so excited. I mean, how cool is that? And my son called me recently and told me he heard my LL Bean commercial. To this day, I enjoy hearing that. It’s satisfying on all levels that I get to do what I love and the rewards are incredible. It’s just been great.