Gabe Doran has had a varied career as an actor, appearing in Sex and the City, Law and Order: SVU, Royal Pains, Blue Bloods and more, most recently as Lawson on The Following. He’s spit on Ice-T, kissed Kim Cattrall, and shared a gorilla costume with George Clooney. You might know him best if you’ve ever watched the Food Network, where chances are high that his voice has made you very, very hungry.
That’s because as the official voice of the Food Network, for the past four years Gabe has told you countless times what’s coming up next, why you should stay tuned, and definitely what to watch for some mouth-watering entertainment. In addition to the Food Network, Gabe narrated the Discovery Channel’s docu-series How Stuff Works, as well as voiced numerous commercials over the years. How did this Brooklyn family man with a fear of public speaking get where he is today, and how can you become the next great TV voice? Gabe’s got all the answers for you.
Did you always have a natural talent for performance/public speaking?
Yes and no. I always wanted to act but in high school I shied away from it. I’m still terrified of public speaking. My voice will crack doing a reading at a wedding.
What was your first gig in showbiz?
My first gig was in 1994 on the soap opera Another World. I had a recurring role as a police cadet. Fun fact: when Another World ended its run in 1998 they called and asked me to play a female gorilla named Caroline. They thought “female gorilla” and said “GABE?!?!” I graciously accepted! Apparently George Clooney wore the same gorilla costume for an episode of ER.
When did you first decide to pursue voice-overs?
In 1998, I worked as a bellman at The Paramount Hotel on 46th Street. I was getting some acting gigs but still needed my bellman day job. Another bellman said that I should ask my commercial agency (CESD) to send me for voice-overs and I said, “what’s that?” I asked my agency the next day and they introduced me to the VO Department. After six months of many, many auditions I finally booked something.
What was your first voice-over job?
It was a commercial for Pond’s Clear Pore Strips.
Do you prefer acting or voice-overs?
Tough question. I don’t get to act nearly as much as I get to do voice-overs, but I really love both.
So how DID you become the Voice of the Food Network?
They were looking for a new voice and my agent submitted me for the job. Food Network started me with a few different promo spots and after a month or so they offered me a contract. It’s a great gig!
Listen to Gabe’s work on the first two promos
What acting skills are involved in voice-over work?
The most important acting skills for voice-over work are being quick on your feet, open to taking fast direction, and connecting quickly to the character you’re playing.
Can someone who hasn’t performed in front of a camera still do well?
Yes, someone can do very well with voice-overs even if they don’t have experience in front of a camera. Often, you feel much more comfortable because there is no camera, so you almost have a sense of freedom to express yourself more comfortably.
What type of experience is required to succeed — are there voice-over classes or degrees?
Experience with acting helps, but the best way to get experience is to audition as much as possible. There are voice-over classes that you can take and they can be very helpful. I don’t think there are any voice-over degrees, but I kind of love the idea of that!
Do you have any additional advice for aspiring voice-over actors?
Make a really good voice over demo. It’s the only tool to get a good agent.
How can someone find a trustworthy, hardworking agent?
Finding a good agent is often a struggle. I was very fortunate to find my first agency, CESD, and I’ve been with them for 20 years now. They are fantastic! You have to look around and interview and see who you trust and can find a connection with. It’s not always an easy thing to figure out.
What should one put on a voice-over reel? Can it be DIY or does it have to be done professionally?
A voice-over reel should be about 5-7 different spots showing some range, and it should not be longer than 60 seconds. It can be as simple as copying some commercials on TV that fit well with your voice, recording your own voice doing them, and then putting some music behind that. It should be as professional as possible though, as this demo will most likely land you a decent agent.
What is your favorite role you have played?
Doing voice-overs, my favorite role is my current gig with Food Network. I love what I do and the people I work with are fantastic! My favorite acting role was doing an episode of Law and Order: SVU playing Frank Deering. That was a lot of fun and they were a great group to work with. I had to spit in Ice-T’s face!
Here’s Gabe guiding you through how salt works
What’s the hardest part of your job?
At Food Network, the hardest thing is definitely walking through Chelsea Market during lunchtime! Seriously, it is. But the hardest part of voice-overs as a whole is finding steady work and finding enough work to make a living, although I’ve been extremely fortunate since I started out in 1998.
What is your favorite part of working at the Food Network?
As an actor, my favorite part is having steady employment! My favorite part of being a member of the Food Network’s family is the people. They really are a fantastic group to work with and I’ve made some life-long friends.
Do you have a typical work week or day?
I audition daily and book other voice-over and acting jobs randomly. I get a lot of last minute work where I have to race into the city, so my schedule is a bit unpredictable. My wife Beth is the reason I’m able to have the flexibility to drop everything and jump on the subway. We have two incredible boys (Lexington, age 6 and Maximus, age 4). I love my family. They are so important and fun and cool!
Is there a dream voice-over gig you aspire to?
I want to stand next to Morgan Freeman in a voice-over booth. That would be pretty bad ass!