How do Rick Grimes and Negan get that signature sexy growl on The Walking Dead? And why are so many other male characters adopting that gravelly growl too?
Even though the actor who plays Rick on The Walking Dead is English the character has a very distinctive deep throaty drawl. And Rick isn’t the only one. Daryl, when he speaks, has it. Negan, even though he is a lot louder than the others, has it too.
Looking at some of the most popular male characters across TV there are many male characters that share that deep whisper like growl, even if their accents are different.
Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, and many of the male characters on Game of Thrones have it. Dean Winchester from Supernatural has perfected it. And they’re not the only ones.
That deep voice also has become more popular in movies for heroes and villains alike. But it wasn’t present in older TV shows and films. Back then heroes had steely voices but they weren’t as low or as restrained.
Why has that deep growl become such a popular character attribute for male characters? Many fans find it irresistible, but they may not know why. That restrained growl has become one of the characteristics that a hero character has to have. Subconsciously it tells fans that the hero is a man of passion, strength and bravery.
Body Mics Make That Voice Possible
The main reason so many actors can get that voice now when past generations couldn’t is the invention of body mics. Tiny super sensitive microphones that can be hidden in an actor’s clothing revolutionized the way that actors could deliver their lines.
Before these wireless microphones were commonly used actors had to project loudly in order for their voices to get picked up by large boom mics that were moved around to pick up sound but be out of the camera range.
When an actor was moving around a lot, or had to deal with outdoor conditions like wind the actor would have to practically shout in order for his voice to get picked up. Because the actor had to speak loudly a lot of the fine details in the voice that are audible in every day conversation were lost.
Body mics made it possible for an actor to speak in a natural low voice. The mics also can pick up variations in the actor’s voice that make it sound deeper and more resonant.
For a show like The Walking Dead that shoots outdoors in less than perfect weather, body mics are essential for creating those growly voices that have become synonymous with characters like Rick Grimes and Negan.
Advances in technology have also made it a lot cheaper and faster to edit an actor’s voice after a scene is shot. Digital audio technology these days is easy to use and inexpensive. It can be used to remove a lot of the background noise and clutter from lines that the actor says. Audio techs can also enhance the vocals of a given actor to increase the timbre and resonance of the voice.
Audio engineering can only do so much however. If a voice is over edited it ends up sounding thin and tinny. Some of the background noise that adds context and depth to the scene can also be lost. So when the body mics and sound editing aren’t enough studios use ADR to create that hyper masculine gruff growl.
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ADR is automated dialog replacement. An actor will go into a sound studio and record their lines over again, watching the film footage of the scene closely in order to get the timing, emotion, and delivery to match the on-screen performance.
Like sound editing ADR has gotten a lot cheaper over the years thanks to advances in digital sound technology. Now instead of doing multiple takes of a scene in order to get the right vocal quality the scene will only be shot once or twice. Then the actor will go into the studio for ADR to fix the quality of the audio.
ADR can still be expensive for a studio when multiple characters have to be brought in. But overall it’s usually cheaper than reshooting a scene.
Getting that signature voice can be time-consuming for actors and expensive for studios. But it’s critically important to the development of a character. On The Walking Dead Rick Grimes is known for his dramatic deep drawl. Negan is known for his snarly and distinctively paced vocal delivery. The characters wouldn’t be the same without those voices. They are just as important to the performance as the facial expressions and body language of the actors.
In order to take the audience out of the actual world and immerse them fully in the world of The Walking Dead it’s essential for the characters to have those unique voices. And, for many fans, they’re just plain sexy which keeps fans watching.