Expert to know: Jeffrey Pillars (Q&A Interview)

June 13, 2024

Jeffrey Pillars is listed on 50Pros as a top 50 voiceover artist in the world. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, he shares deep insights, background, and experiences.

How did you get started in the voiceover industry?

In 1983, my wife and I moved to Charlotte so I could work with a friend's theater company. Shortly after that I discovered the new film studios built in Wilmington, and one of my fellow performers loved my voice and suggested I give voiceover a shot. I fell in love with it and in short order began working steadily.

What inspired you to pursue voiceover as a profession?

In a nutshell, my wife became disabled in 2019. We live on a large piece of land in rural North Carolinaand care for all manner of animals and several feral cat colonies. Since it was up to me to do all the chores and caretaking, traveling for film and TV was off the table. So, I turned my focus completely to voiceover, which I was having great success with anyway.

Have there been any particular mentors or influential figures in your career who have guided you during this project?

John Causby at Groundcrew Studios in Charlotte. There has never been anyone that has been a greater supporter and cheerleader. I can't possibly repay all the favors he's done me.

How do you maintain a work-life balance as a voiceover artist?

I try not to wring my hands over auditions missed or jobs lost. What's the point? I try to find ways of distracting myself. I write a little.  The House of Goodbyes was my first book. It follows the last thirty plus years of taking in lost and abandoned animals and seeing them through to the end. My second book, I Was A Teenage Mall Santa, is a collection of offbeat Christmas stories and is being developed as a holiday anthology.

What is the best piece of advice you've received in your career, and how has it influenced your work?

Don't quit. So, I haven't quit. Sometimes things are rough. Geez, why didn't I stay in an auto shop in high school? Tough times pass. So, I've never quit.

What activities or hobbies outside of your voiceover work do you enjoy that help you recharge and stay creative?

I'm a Godzilla junkie. Isn't that sad? I collect all sorts of Godzilla junk. Creature from the Black Lagoon, too. For many years, I was a pro wrestling junkie. It's all changed so much in the last twenty years, I don't bother with it anymore.

I also work my ass off taking care of all these crazy animals. Currently nursing a feral cat named Mr. Fish. He has several health issues and, in truth, he's kind of a jerk, but I love him.

What do you like most about the voiceover industry?

It's always different. One day, I'm an Australian mercenary in a video game; then I'm selling snow tires; next I'm a persnickety school principal in an animated series pilot. You never know what tomorrow holds. Oh, and sometimes I don't have to wear pants.

How do you prepare for a new voiceover role or project?

It depends. If I nailed it in the audition, I'm usually pretty good to go. However, I'm terribly paranoid about sucking, so I'll read the copy or script so much I almost have it memorized. The goal is always the same. Keep the client happy. Happy clients come back.

What equipment or technology do you consider essential for your work?

At my home studio, I have the basics. iMac and Adobe Audition. Got a good mic. Cozy booth. But at the same time, I have access to a world class studio. I've done national commercials from home, but I always have access to top flight facilities.

How do you handle feedback and direction during voiceover sessions?

I never hesitate to throw my two cents in, but the client calls the shots and I always defer to them. I may not feel like it's the right direction, but that's not my job. I've seen too many friends straight-up ARGUE with the clients! Some have even walked out of a session! Idiots.

What challenges have you faced in your voiceover career, and how have you overcome them?

The only real challenge for me has been dry spells. Everyone goes through them. It's part of the business. But you still feel completely worthless and promise yourself to fill out an application at Walmart.

Can you share an experience where you felt particularly proud of a voiceover project you completed?

Two words. Tony Sharpe. The man, the myth, the legend. In my early days, Tony was an up and coming copywriter. He didn't have a lot of money, but the copy was so golden, I couldn't say no. I even did freebies for him. I loved the guy. All of a sudden I didn't hear from him for a few years and figured he must be working a lot at CarMax or something. Out of the blue, the phone rings and it's Tony. Can you be the voice of a bird? And with that one question, a fifteen year stint was launched with Windex as the voice of one of Crows. It will always be my crowning glory.

How do you keep your voice in good condition for voiceover work?

Lot's of Throat Coat Tea and not yelling at the animals.

What role does networking play in your career as a voiceover artist?

Not much of a networker, to be honest. When I first moved to Charlotte in 1983, I started going to something called First Friday of the Month Club for Working Actors in Charlotte. Yeesh, what a mouthful. Like the third time, they went around the room asking people where they were working and to share those contacts with the room. Excuse me? I work my butt off to get work and just supposed to blab my contacts? I'm much more comfortable going one on one.

If someone were interested in starting a career in voiceover, what advice would you give them?

Go to trade school.

Do you have any interesting facts or anecdotes about your experiences in the voiceover industry that you would like to share?

Never be afraid to do favors. In my nearly forty years doing this, you can't go wrong doing favors. I did a quickie cheapo video game for a young guy years ago. I did it for free. Now he has his own company and I do every single game. It pays to be kind.

What changes have you seen occur since you got into this business?

There's a lot of people doing it that shouldn't.

What changes do you foresee occurring in the future?

I'll dig my crystal ball out and let you know.

Who do you see having a competitive edge in the future?

Those who stay the course and persevere and persist.

What do you dislike most about the voiceover industry?

The uncertainty.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

It's not as easy as it sounds.

When you first started, how did you get clients?

My bubbly personality.

...and how do you get clients today?

I guess, in the end, all you do is strut your stuff. Be genuine. I like to make people laugh, so I aim for the funny bone in the session. I go out of my way to accommodate. Clients appreciate that.

What is your approach to continuous improvement and learning?

Listening. It's how I learned acting. I didn't go to school for it. That seemed counterintuitive to me. I watched movies and TV shows. I must have done something right. I was in talks for my own sitcom.

Do you have any facts, statistics, or figures about yourself or the industry as a whole, that you would like to share?

My last role on TV was as a badass Santa Claus on CW's Legacies. You can still find it online.

What else would you like to share?

The real reason I do all this is to take care of my animals. I have a pretty good SAG pension but all these critters cost an arm and a leg to care for. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how much you spend on litter! But this is my world now. Everything I do, I do for them.

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