Ania O’Hare is looking to make someone happy.
Casting director Ania O'Hare has a tip for people who want to voice animated characters: if you're submitting an audition recording, go into your closet.
"Oddly, the clothes create a sound that's not so echo-y," she says.
As vice-president of casting and talent relations for the television division of DreamWorks Animation, O'Hare has heard her fair share of closet cases.
At any one time, she works on as many as 20 shows, among them Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny for Amazon Prime, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Guillermo del Toro's Tales of Arcadia trilogy for Netflix and an upcoming new version of Where's Waldo? for the Universal Kids network. She's won three consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
"In animation, when you are hearing or auditioning people, you're looking for those who stand out, who are able to adjust a read when you give them notes. You've got to figure out how to make them bigger, but so it still feels real," says O'Hare, whose live-action work includes casting associate credits on the features Eat Pray Love and Transformers: Age of Extinction.
"You have to quickly recognize an interesting vocal cadence and the specific quality of the voice choices they are making."
O'Hare, whose husband, Darren, is a voiceover artist for commercials and video games, is "constantly listening" to people wherever she goes. She also makes two trips a year to New York to check out Broadway shows. "We get actors from everywhere," she says. "I love to find people who have never done anything in animation."
O'Hare herself hadn't planned on an animation career. Born in Warsaw, Poland, she moved to Massachusetts at just nine months of age, when her father got a teaching job at M.I.T. She began figure skating at age 10 and competed on a synchronized team, the Haydenettes, for seven years, winning national and international championships.
She earned an accounting degree and worked as an auditor, but after an injury forced her to stop skating, O'Hare moved to Los Angeles in search of a more creative life. After trying acting, she realized she preferred being behind the camera.
Casting fulfills her creative need, and it evokes the same feeling of giving people joy that she experienced performing on ice. "I can pick up the phone and say, 'I have that job for you,'" O'Hare says. "My main goal is to make someone happy."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, issue No 3, 2019