Rodney Saulsberry: A Voice of Black Cinema

All his life Rodney Saulsberry has been told, “You have a great voice!”

Now, his distinctive voice is everywhere! He’s using it to narrate movie trailers, pitch products, bring life to cartoon characters and make his living in Hollywood. He may have entered your home with the familiar movie trailer, Starts Friday at Theater Near You.

Rodney’s voice may have urged you to see some of your favorite movies including The Best ManHow Stella Got Her Groove Back, Friday, Soul Food, White Man’s Burden, and others. As one of the premiere voice-over talents in the country, Rodney’s talent is a crucial part of the advertising and promotion of many movies.

“It’s fun to check the paper on Monday morning and see that a movie was a big hit and you were a part of the success,” he says.

The hit movie The Best Man was one of those successes.

You may have also heard him urging you to buy products in radio and television advertisements. He has been a pitchman for ALPO, Honda Accord, Colgate, Greyhound, 7UP, Burger King, Nestle Crunch and others. He has also been heard voicing promotional spots for sitcoms and dramatic series on NBC, FOX, ABC, BET, UPN, CBS and the WB networks.

Living in Los Angeles provides Saulsberry with the opportunity to work on many different projects.

“There’s so much to do out here,” he says.

One of the interesting things he has had the opportunity to do is work with cartoons. He is the voice of Robbie Robertson on the hit series Spider Man. He also provided the voice of the character Willy on the FOX cartoon Xyber 9.

The entertainer says that animation is one of the hardest elements of his profession.

“Animation is the most taxing because the characters require altering the voice,” he says.

He has even used his voice to showcase singing skills. He lent his baritone flavor to the ensemble of background singers on the recording of Hakuna Matata on The Lion King soundtrack. He continued his animation musical journey by singing on two numbers from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. He has even recorded two R & B albums.

Since his voice pays the bills, Rodney is very careful to protect himself.

“I’m careful not to stay outside in the cold. Strong alcohol isn’t good. If I’m cheering at a game I have to take it easy. I have to be careful,” he says.

It was Rodney’s acting talents that led him to pursue the entertainment industry. He first set foot on the west coast when he comes to town with the national touring company of Your Arms Too Short To Box With God. The success of the hit musical led to an acting career. His impressive list of television credits includes Taxi, MASH, Gimme A Break, Hill Street Blues, and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. He also enjoyed series regular status on the soap operas Capitol and The Young and the Restless.

Making the transition from acting to voice-over work is a decision that Rodney says he made happily.

“The acting wasn’t fulfilling. I always played detectives and cops,” he says.

Like many African-Americans in Hollywood, he admits that race is factor around the industry.

“You would think that race wouldn’t matter with the voice, but it still does. I fight the same battles that any African-American in the workplace does,” he shares.

Despite the challenges, there are many positives. Rodney has the support of his wife Helen and their daughter, Traci. His average workweek consists of eight hours. He no longer has to worry about acting auditions.

“A 40-second spot should not take a good guy more than three takes in 10 minutes,” he says.

In an interview with Black Enterprise magazine Rodney shared how he continues to strengthen his voice and perfect his craft, “At breakfast, I read cereal boxes out loud. Driving down the street, I read street signs. I listen to news radio and repeat word for word what’s being said. I vocalize as if I were going to sing. And when I’m watching trailers in the theater, I’m repeating it quietly.”

Rodney is happily enjoying his success behind the scenes. “The money, freedom and variety are so good, how could I not love it!”

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