Interview with Jim Fangione
The voice behind the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series
As an actor Jim has performed in the NY premiere of several of David Mamet’s plays, including The Old Neighborhood, Oleanna and most recently in Romance, at the Atlantic Theater Company. Also with Atlantic: The Night Heron, Hobson’s Choice, Edmond, Sea of Tranquility, and Hellhound on My Trail. Regional credits include: Long Wharf Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theater, Berkshire Theater Festival, Alley Theater and Mark Taper Forum. Jim directed Romance at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and Seriously Funny, An Evening of Mamet, Pinter and Shel Silverstein at the American Repertory Theater.
He founded The Stage Company of Boston, where he directed his plays; Rubber Men and Driving Morality and produced Sketches of War, a benefit for the Vietnam Veteran’s Workshop directed by David Mamet starring Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Walken, William H. Macy and many others. On TV; Brotherhood, The Unit, Law & Order (original, SVU, & CI). Film appearances include; Transamerica, Spartan, Heist, State and Main, The Spanish Prisoner, Homicide, Suits, Claire Dolan, Maryam, Frozen Impact and The Last Days of May.
We are thrilled to have Jim Frangione here at Hot Listens. I’m a HUGE fan of his work, and even though I’m only familiar with his reading of The Black Dagger Brotherhood, I’m absolutely convinced he can take any novel to the next level.
Hot Listens welcomes Jim Frangione
I know you are primarily an actor, but how did you decide to start narrating audiobooks?
I’ve been interested in the connection between audio and the human voice and voice acting for many years. As a character actor I love to play with voices and dialectsand an audiobook, especially with unique and foreign characters, allows me to do that. For instance, I recently narrated Dennis Lehane’s new book, Live By Night, which is set in Boston around prohibition with lots of those great old Boston dialects as well as Irish, Italian and even some Cuban dialects, all great challenges to give each of these characters an authentic voice.
What other part of the process do you go through after you have finished studying – or reading a book for a narration?
Well, first, as I read the book I am preparing it for the studio. During my first read-thru I generally put together and then submit a wordlist to our research department so that any words, places or names that are either made up or that I’m not familiar with, can be vetted by the author so that I get the correct pronunciation. I generally like to think about a book for a few days after I read it to let the story sort of percolate inside me in order to find the right voice and energy for a particular character.
Which do you think is more important, a perfect accent (foreign or geographic), or the tone and pace in which you deliver the dialogue?
I feel that “Less Is More” is a good axiom when it comes to dialect and “character”. In other words, the audience (you!) don’t want to hear a narrator “acting”, you just want to hear the story clearly and for the narrator to delineate the characters just enough so that the different characters in the book are clearly drawn, and you know who is talking to whom. At least that’s my opinion. I love a great dialect as much as the next readerbut the narrator has to know when to back off and just tell the story without drawing attention to him or herself.
Which do you find more difficult to bring to life: a narrated character, or an acted character?
Loupe, I presume that here you mean the difference between a stage performance or a studio performance in an audiobook. If that’s the question, I think that they are two very different tasks. As a stage actor you have three or maybe even four weeks to develop a voice for a character in rehearsal with a director and perhaps the playwright there to guide you. With an audiobook it’s all you baby and giddy-up. There’s nobody there giving you feedback or coaching you along incrementally. And on top of that, you’ve got to be ready to dish it out as soon as you step into the sound studio…wham bam thank you M’am… and go! But also with an audiobook, you will ultimately have the opportunity to play multiple roles in the same book. Not true in the theater. Did I answer your question?… perhaps not.
What do you think makes a good narrator?
I will say that especially with the BDB Series by the talented Ms. Ward, in order to give the books their true and essential life beyond the page, you have to, as a narrator, want to, and ultimately need to, “go there”. Especially in the myriad, sumptuous and titillating sex scenes, of which there are scores and which are so much a part of the BDB Series. If I wasn’t willing or able to get into those scenes as deeply and as intensely I do, I wouldn’t do them at all. And I think that’s a touchstone for all narrators; if you can’t stand the heat, (or don’t want to turn it up) get out of the kitchen! Right?
Which genre do you find more difficult to narrate, and why?
I don’t think I could ever narrate a coffee table book or a cookbook, and I’d prefer not to narrate the inspirational book. Though I’m sure there are many lovely books in the aforementioned categories I think if I were to attempt a book of that stripe I’d be phoning it in and I won’t do that. However, I do think that both Romance and Crime Fiction are hard to do correctly, but when done right some of the most rewarding, for both the reader and the narrator.
Do you think reading all these romance novels has given you an insight into women psych, or are you more confused than ever?…LOL
Great question. I love women. And I have always felt, in general, very close to the woman’s point of view. It may be one reason that I feel so at ease with the sex scenes, which are written by a woman for women, for the most part. I am in a long-term, deep and sustaining love affair with a wonderful woman who is a brilliant psychology professor. We discuss the true meaning of these books on a cultural level. She loves the work I do with romance novels and supports all of it. I am a lucky man. So don’t let me screw it up by saying anything inappropriate here in print.
In an audiobook, who do you think is more important: the author or the narrator?
The mind of the author is the garden out of which everything in the story grows; the characters, the situations, the color, the tone. He or she is your source for everything that happens and nothing happens without them. As the narrator I must listen for the voice of the author and attempt to be true and authentic as it relates to that voice.
If you were ever in a bar fight, which BDB brother would you like to have by your side?
I’d have to say Rhage would be that guy. He’s got those beastly transformative powers, not one to be trifled with in any way. Scary dude.
If the brothers were real, which one do you think you would hang out with the most?
Probably Butch. He’s a Red Sox fanand that would mean we’d have to talk shop a lot.
Which brother do you think is the most multi-dimensional?
I’d have to say Wrath. Being blind has opened his alternate senses, but he also has a great sense of loyalty… as does his dog George who, like his master, is cut from a gentler cloth.
If you had to spend one night of unbridled passion with one of the shellans, which one would you choose, and why?
Give us one word to describe, Lover at Last.