May 19, 2022

Dialect Coach Paige Walker & Two Unemployed Actors Episode 94

Max interviews Dialect Coach Paige Walker
What does it take to perfect an accent?
The 3 things Aussie Actors are doing wrong
The difference between Stage and Screen
Being audition ready

Episode Webpage:

An Add Kulcha Production

Max interviews Dialect Coach Paige Walker
What does it take to perfect an accent?
The difference between Stage and Screen
Being audition ready

Episode Webpage:

An Add Kulcha Production


Max Belmonte 00:12
Welcome back to Two Unemployed Actors I'm Mac.... I've just had a busy day but I am Max. I've
got a special guest today, Paige Walker, who has helped many actors across both stage and
screen, most recently working on Pieces of Her which filmed in Sydney and Helpmann Award
winners as well.

Paige Walker 00:36

Max Belmonte 00:37
in the past, some lofty talent. And then other actors like myself, so welcome to the show. Paige

Paige Walker 00:45
Thank you. It's so good to be here. Honestly.

Max Belmonte 00:48
It's such an important topic, American accent. I mean, for Australian actors. There's obviously a
lot of work, particularly when the pandemic was in full swing. We were one of the few countries
with an industry that was actually working.

Paige Walker 01:01
Yeah, it was pretty, pretty incredible. There was right before we went into our big lockdown in
October. I mean, there was so much US production every year, because like you say, we were
one of the only places that you could come so, so so many places. All over Australia, they were
building new studios.

Max Belmonte 01:18
Yeah, yeah. I heard theres another one coming up in Cairns. Russell Crowe's put his bid in for
Coffs Harbour.

Paige Walker 01:24

Max Belmonte 01:26
And yeah, they're all booked solid. So it's great. But of course, for local talent, it means making
sure that you've got your accent up to scratch because I know talking to a Casting Director,
there's no oh, this person's perfect for the role. Max would be great. We just need to coach him
a little on the accent. It's not they just want you to drop straight in and go.

Paige Walker 01:46
Yeah, it's really interesting. It's been quite a journey with accent since I started coaching here
in 2000. When I first started, it was very much like, look, we want to know that eventually
they'll be able to do it...

Max Belmonte 01:57

Paige Walker 01:57
But now it's it's like you say that, they like, no... its got to be spot on absolutely perfect.

Max Belmonte 02:01
Theres so much competition.

Paige Walker 02:02

Max Belmonte 02:02
Someone mentioned to me, Clickbait in, which was filmed in Victoria

Paige Walker 02:07

Max Belmonte 02:08
Yeah. They had to do all the ADR again in LA, because the accents were sort of dropping out.

Paige Walker 02:15
And I don't actually know who the coach was on that. But um, yeah, I watched that not too long

Max Belmonte 02:21
I mean, whether it's the streamers or the studios, it's great to see the productions.

Paige Walker 02:27
And they're massive, they are such huge productions.

Max Belmonte 02:32
It's intense.

Paige Walker 02:34

Max Belmonte 02:34
It's daunting, but it's great for even even in crew, you know, positions.

Paige Walker 02:39

Max Belmonte 02:39
Experience in VFX, all that sort of add ons. It's great. Can we take a step back? How did you
actually get started as a dialect coach.

Paige Walker 02:49
So I went to a performing arts school when I was in eighth grade. So 13. And my major at the
time was voice, picked up music theater, othan went to college for theater. And part of my two,
excuse me, two years out of my four years of the program was dialect and good speech. So I
started actually teaching my senior year at the performing arts school that was near my

Max Belmonte 03:14

Paige Walker 03:14
And then, when I moved to New York, which I did, right after college, it wasn't my, my focus for
being in New York was really to do theater. So I didn't do a lot of dialect coaching, then it was
kind of a periphery, sort of interest.

Max Belmonte 03:28
So you didn't realize then just how big of a role that's going to be.

Paige Walker 03:32
But then when I moved here in 2000, to Australia, there are once again, the US Dollar was, I
think, yeah, it's like 48 cents to the dollar.

Max Belmonte 03:41
Yeah, it was really great value.

Paige Walker 03:42Yeah, so that was when that was the first time I saw just huge amounts of US production
happening here. And it's like, right, oh, let's get into this immediately and full time. So that's
what I did. And just through the years, I've just added more in various, you know, sort of
feathers to the cap with it.

Max Belmonte 03:59
Thats great. And when it comes to fundamentals of an American accent, do you have a specific
process as a teacher? Or is it depending on whether it's for the theatre, or whether it's for film
or the talents of the actor?

Paige Walker 04:16
Um, that's an awesome question. Look, it's I do have a process that I like to to work with,
because I feel like I always I start everybody off with a general American accent, which is the
West Coast sound, which is that you know, used for all television and film kind of accents.

Max Belmonte 04:33
That's what that was also called standard American?

Paige Walker 04:36
That's what's called here. Yes.

Max Belmonte 04:37
Yeah. Okay.

Paige Walker 04:39
And it's, I was also described it as your, your ballet of accent. So it's your fundamental of
accents. Once you learned that get into muscle memory, then if you need to tap off into
something more specific or regionally, you can do that pretty easily. But it's a little bit harder to
dial it back to something if the Americans had a subliminal or like, excuse me, a subtle
American accent the Gen Am one would be it.

Max Belmonte 05:02

Paige Walker 05:02
So it's a little bit harder to kind of pull it back into that more subtle sound if you start from a
super hard New York or a hardcore southern or something like that.

Max Belmonte 05:10
Yeah, I guess particularly to if your characters, you know, going through all the ranges of the
emotions and screaming and yelling as well as crying.

Paige Walker 05:21
Yep. So So just to finish off that question. Yeah. So I do start everybody off with that kind of, I
work with them on that accent first. Re whether it's for television versus stage. Yes. Obviously,
with film and television with camera work, you have the ability to take things much more
subtly. Yeah, you know, if you're going to do something for stage, then you have to look at the
size of the stage, how far the sound has to travel, things like that.

Max Belmonte 05:49
Whether you're mic'ed up or not.

Paige Walker 05:50
Exactly, exactly.

Max Belmonte 05:51
Yeah. Okay, that's really interesting. Is there a particular region of the states that you think is
the hardest to mimic? Or one that's more what you find is more challenging for students than

Paige Walker 06:05
Well, I do find that there's this mad obsession with needing to learn the Boston accent.

Max Belmonte 06:11
It is so distinct.

Paige Walker 06:12
Yeah, but I swear to God, people that you'd never get to use it. Never gonna use it. You've got
to learn the Boston accent like No, you really don't. Seriously, don't worry about it.

Max Belmonte 06:24
Yeah, it's interesting.

Paige Walker 06:25
And I wouldn't say it's, it's, it's the most difficult but it's one that people seem to be a bit
obsessed with.

Max Belmonte 06:30
Okay. Yeah. That's interesting. Okay, because I feel like for a while there, it was. It was the New
York accent.

Paige Walker 06:37
Yeah, it was.

Max Belmonte 06:38
That's interesting. That's Boston. It's so funny. Because it's Yeah. Why? Because it's such a
distinct so my accent like it's not like you can. So you basically, yeah, anyway to get that that's
okay. That's right.

Paige Walker 06:50
But then it's like, so I'm like, Guys, but look, I mean, even if you watch show set in Boston, how
often are you actually going to hear that particular accent?

Max Belmonte 06:59
Exactly, you know, because it's, it's made for? Well, domestically for Americans, therefore,
yeah, want to make sure they can understand you. And it's somewhat relatable, I guess.

Paige Walker 07:11
Yeah, absolutely.

Max Belmonte 07:13
That's interesting. What are three things that you see Aussie Actors doing wrong when it comes
to nailing an Australian accent?

Paige Walker 07:22
Oh, good question. I would say the first one is working too hard. Way over working our sound.
And... probably a big one for me would be making sure that the weak words stay weak. So it's
really, really hitting the specifics of the context what you're trying to say.

Max Belmonte 07:48
So it could sound a lot more natural.

Paige Walker 07:50

Max Belmonte 07:51
Not jarred out of it. Yeah, that's really interesting. Okay. I wouldn't pick that. Well, that's

Paige Walker 07:56
What would you have said

Max Belmonte 07:57
for me? Look, I just know, the biggest thing for me is, is the constant practice, like you can't
just go I've had heard a few lessons now. Fantastic. I'm good to go forever.

Paige Walker 08:07
Yeah, I do hear that a lot. I literally had somebody say to me. I'm like, so have you worked with
the accent much? Like I watch a lot of movies. And it's like, amazing. I love that for you. So...

Max Belmonte 08:19
That's great. How many were sent in Boston? Yeah, that's, that's wonderful. A for effort.... ah
bless. How much practice goes in, sort of evolving from there, how much practice actually goes
into perfecting an accent? If you're starting from zero? And you're just Australian, you've grown
up in Australia, Aussie parents, and you're trying to perfect the general American. How much
practice really goes into perfecting that?

Paige Walker 08:21
Exactly. It's a little bit hard to to say, because everybody deals with sounds so differently. Some
people are just accent sponges.

Max Belmonte 08:59

Paige Walker 09:00
You know?

Max Belmonte 09:01

Paige Walker 09:01
So it's a little hard to kind of guesstimate on that, but I would I don't even know about it.

Max Belmonte 09:08
Yeah, it depends.

Paige Walker 09:09
It really does. I would say it's not going to happen for you in two weeks time.

Max Belmonte 09:13
Yeah. Yeah.

Paige Walker 09:16
I'm thinking months you would need pretty pretty consistent but not like not every day.

Max Belmonte 09:21
Yeah. Yeah.

Paige Walker 09:22
You know, you've got to I was sort of say slow and steady wins the race on this one. It's, it's
each person's particular journey with it, but you've got to get into the muscles.

Max Belmonte 09:32
Yeah, that's the that's the important thing because the surprise to me was just how much of it
is about getting it into the muscles because and hence the you know, the early lessons in
particular, almost needed to rest because I'm so... I'm concentrating so much. And I'm literally
reading the scripts twice or the words twice in my head, you know, sort of that he wants an
Australian once and try to have that accent lens and then you're really using your mouth

Paige Walker 10:03

Max Belmonte 10:05
I was surprised just how much muscle... muscle works in there, like you're right about having
having a rest?

Paige Walker 10:12
Absolutely. Can you imagine if you had done that early on and then had to go on set? And
you're on set for 12 hours?

Max Belmonte 10:18

Paige Walker 10:19

You know, you've just been wasted. And at some point, your mouth goes, no, no, no more. Not
playing with you anymore. You know, you really exhausted really brain foggy? It is, it's it is
definitely you have to build up your endurance as well.

Max Belmonte 10:34
Yeah, that's interesting, particularly because we had a show recently where we talked about,
you know, one minute, you're auditioning, and you're doing self tapes next minute, you're on a
television series and the work schedules like it's, you know, so it was all about staying work fit.
But that's certainly something to add to the repertoire.

Paige Walker 10:51

Max Belmonte 10:52
So that you can hit the ground running, you don't need to go hang on timeout, I need to, I need
to rejig things.

Paige Walker 10:58
And you know, could you imagine, I know that when you run that humongous production?
You're like, sorry, can we start with a small scene today?

Max Belmonte 11:07
They'll be like, thank you very much bye bye we;ll pay you for the day go home. I'll call you.

Paige Walker 11:11
Exactly. Or not.

Max Belmonte 11:13
I mean, there's so many reasons not to hire someone, you don't want to give them another
one. So keeping that in the repertoire, keeping practice. It's really interesting. And I guess too
then that helps for us to to sort of drop in more naturally.

Paige Walker 11:27
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Max Belmonte 11:29
So if an if an actor does have a particularly emotional scene, like where they're yelling or
crying, that heightened emotional state, I mean, how would you approach that?

Paige Walker 11:40
Yeah, that's such a good question. I, I will always ask my Actors to bring in kind of around class
four or five, a scene, but something that has a heightened emotion, whether it be a comedy or
drama, because that is where the accent could lose its integrity, it might fall down a little bit. I
would work it without the emotion attached first, right? So find the sounds, make sure that
sounds are set. So you know the pathways, you know where they're going, and then start to
layer in that emotion. Taking the accent with you as you go. Okay, if that makes sense.

Max Belmonte 12:15
It does. That's really interesting. Yeah. Because I think I'm just relating it back to myself, as I
remember. The first time working through a scene with you and I was just, I was my own worst
enemy. Really? Because I'm overthinking every every syllable. You know

Paige Walker 12:28
Well that's the thing as well. Remember, Kevin, do you remember Kevin MAX? The little guy sits
on your shoulder and tells you how much you suck. Yeah, Kevin? Yeah. Yeah.

Max Belmonte 12:39
Yeah, it was interesting. But, but it's sort of you got to it's about doing you just got to get in
there and get it done.

Paige Walker 12:44

Max Belmonte 12:45
Kepp practicing and find your way in. As I remember. I sort of ended up with like a keep
practicing. And then I'd end up with a few sentences that would help me. So if I'm on set, I can
just read those sentences.

Paige Walker 12:58

Max Belmonte 12:59
And they sort of helped me from different sort of exercises. And what was interesting is they
changed. So one one month, you know, if someone asked me to do American accent, well,
these are the three sentences Absolutely, because I can't the bloody r's or something. And then
it'd be something different some other time. But it's interesting, because I know it's great to
when you get a script before you start reading it to understand exactly what you need to
accent required. But I did turn up for an AFTRS shoot. And they said, Can you do an American
accent? And I'm like, Yeah, and I was sort of three quarters of the way through working with
you. And, okay, let's hear it. So we went through like, Yep, great. Awesome. So I'm like, brilliant
winning. That was the first moment where I sort of it all kind of landed. And I could tell Kevin to
just piss off basically, because I'm starting to find that momentum.

Paige Walker 13:49

Max Belmonte 13:50
So I've always kept like a little safety blanket, a few little sentences, so that I can sort of find it
a bit easier to go back in.

Paige Walker 13:58
Yep. I'm a huge fan of key sentences. Key words. 100%.

Max Belmonte 14:03
What Aussie actors do you see working at the moment who are just absolutely nailing their
American accent execution?

Paige Walker 14:09
Oh, man. Well, I just have to mention my darling, Miss Bella Heathcote, who I just finished
working with on Pieces she killed it actually was very interesting. All that all the people that I
got to work with on the show. I mean, some of them I worked with for literally five minutes.

Max Belmonte 14:27

Paige Walker 14:27
Yeah, that's all the time I had to work with them. But then others like Bella, who she puts so
much time and effort into it. Just just fantastic. I had somebody recently said to me that like I
thought she was American.

Max Belmonte 14:41
Love that. Yeah, that's great. That is a compliment.

Paige Walker 14:44
It's a totally, yeah, it's such a testament to the work that she put in.

Max Belmonte 14:48
So when you're attached to a program like that, I mean, big budget full on production. How
early do they bring you in?

Paige Walker 15:00
Let's see we started shooting last year in end of January. So I think I started working with the
actors. December.

Max Belmonte 15:10

Paige Walker 15:10
Yeah. And then that allows people like Bella who who prefer to have a bit more time. Yeah,
they've got that. Exactly. But then other people I wouldn't see until sometimes on the day,

Max Belmonte 15:21
really? What could you do? There? I mean,

Paige Walker 15:25
I'm just, well, sometimes that was how you just got to make it work.

Max Belmonte 15:29
Yeah, yeah.

Paige Walker 15:30
Yeah. I mean, obviously, these people were, you know, smaller characters. And we're Ross they
didn't have a great deal of dialogue.

Max Belmonte 15:36

Paige Walker 15:37
But it definitely you don't ask a lot of them.

Max Belmonte 15:39
Yeah, absolutely.

Paige Walker 15:40
Cuz I'm like, Okay, guys. So here's your lines. Talk to me, like, run with your lines were raw.
And then I would be on the CANS listening to them while they're doing the scenes, I would need
to pop out if there was a sound that was a little bit screwy.

Max Belmonte 15:52


Paige Walker 15:53
You know, and then they weren't getting direction from director and

Max Belmonte 15:56
yeah, you've got your blocking, you're trying to work it all out. You're trying to make sure you
have your lines down. It's a lot.

Paige Walker 16:01

Max Belmonte 16:01
It's tough when you're coming into like a 50 worder or a small part, sort of coming into a game
that's just been working so solidly together.

Paige Walker 16:08

Max Belmonte 16:09
But that's really interesting how you can actually go put your hand up and go hang on, that
didn't sound quite right. Just give me a second.

Paige Walker 16:14
It's it's very much a timing thing. When you're on set. You know, you have to read the room,
you really have to read the room. If there if it's crunch time, you just shut up. Take some notes.

Max Belmonte 16:27
We're losing light,

Paige Walker 16:28
you know? Yeah. And you just keep quiet. Just go. We'll just ADR that....

Max Belmonte 16:32
There's 1000 in the background.

Paige Walker 16:33
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But obviously, if it's a, or if it's a major clanger.

Max Belmonte 16:37

Paige Walker 16:38
You know, that you kind of got like, you know, if....

Max Belmonte 16:40
Boston comes out of nowhere.

Paige Walker 16:41
Exactly, exactly. If you know, they're stopped for a second fixing a lighting, you know,
something or another, you just like, dashing. You know, just like sneak away? Yeah, that's

Max Belmonte 16:51
That's really great. Because it's an Actor being so nice to have that when you're working on a
big budget, you know, with the crew that they can afford to have that focus on. I'm finding that
more and more, is that your experience that more and more voice style that coaches are
attached to, to projects early on?

Paige Walker 17:06
Absolutely, yeah. Yep. I think it's, I think you kind of really have to because they're using so
many Aussie actors, you know, just sort of going back to Pieces. on that entire production.
There were, I think, two actual Americans. Everybody else was from somewhere else.

Max Belmonte 17:24
Yeah. That's amazing. And talking to your earlier point, you know, you've got to be ready to go,
you know, there's no, just give me a minute.

Paige Walker 17:31

Max Belmonte 17:32
Or work with you over, you know, if you're supporting and you were part, you got to make it
work. That's really interesting. And so, in theater, if you're working with an ensemble on a play
on production, are you attached to the company or to the production or the play that?

Paige Walker 17:55
Usually... usually the play the play?

Max Belmonte 17:58
Of course, if it's required, and then if we're connected, it's required? Then you'd be would you
be in the room for rehearsals?

Paige Walker 18:04

Max Belmonte 18:05

Paige Walker 18:06
In the room for rehearsals, in the theater for previews. And several, probably first couple shows
that we'll check back in sort of halfway through.

Max Belmonte 18:15
That's awesome. I mean, as an actor, it's great to have that sort of support.

Paige Walker 18:19
Well, yeah. And that's really what I feel. I mean, I always say I'm, I'm really become the
cheerleader. Yeah, you know, I just want everybody to feel so comfortable and knowing that
they can just go out there and not worry. I don't want the last thing I want people thinking
about our sounds.

Max Belmonte 18:34
Yeah, yeah.

Paige Walker 18:35
And pronunciations and that, like, I just want that to be second nature at that point.

Max Belmonte 18:39
Yeah. Lastly, Have you have you ever had, like a crazy sort of timeline where you've been
brought into a project? And, you know, they're having some issues? And they really need you
to? And there's only a few? Or is it just coming down to moments, such as on Pieces of Her
where you've got five minutes to work with someone?

Paige Walker 18:57
You know, it's not that I can recall where it's just been like, holy?

Max Belmonte 19:01
Yeah. Yeah.

Paige Walker 19:03
But there have been a few productions that have been brought in, where I have not had a lot of
time with the actors, right? Just particularly with theater, because theater is don't have a lot of,
you know, a lot of funding behind them. So yeah, like much smaller productions, I'll have two
sessions for a very chunky play.

Max Belmonte 19:23
Right, right.

Paige Walker 19:24
So I can do I do my very best with them and give them the information that I think that they
can kind of absorb or find useful or then kind of add on his practice to then yeah, in their own
time. Yeah. And then hopefully, you know, to say, look, you know, get in touch if you need me.

Max Belmonte 19:42
But um, yeah, well, it's, it's great. So from actors perspective, to have resources yourself
available to us whether were on preparing for a role for the screen or for the stage when it
comes to auditions to can you help actors we're self taping Oh,

Paige Walker 20:00
Oh, absolutely. I do it quite a bit actually. Yep.

Max Belmonte 20:03
Even as a reader?

Paige Walker 20:04

Max Belmonte 20:05

Paige Walker 20:05
And I think it's great to have an American voice as a reader, because it can be hit can start to

pull the ear.

Max Belmonte 20:11

Paige Walker 20:12
You know,

Max Belmonte 20:13
I mean self typing through the pandemic, but certainly now it's more often than not the go to.
Yeah. And you know, maybe it's third pass before you actually enter the room.

Paige Walker 20:23

Max Belmonte 20:24
It's, it's crazy. But the benefit is, of course, agents suddenly get to see all the work you're doing
as an actor, whereas before they wouldn't. There wouldn't be a part of the process. They
wouldn't be in the room. That was interesting.

Paige Walker 20:36

Max Belmonte 20:37
Where do you see the future? Like, do you? Do you see it changing in any particular way? I
mean, at the moment, Boston's the.... I can't I can't let it go.

Paige Walker 20:45
Boston. I love you. Okay, whoever's from Boston, what's trending?

Max Belmonte 20:48
What's Trending?

Paige Walker 20:51
What's Trending in 2022?? That's an awesome question. I don't know, where do I see? God? I
don't know.

Max Belmonte 20:58
I mean, hopefully, you're brought on earlier and earlier and productions, to as many of the cast
as possible.

Paige Walker 21:04

Max Belmonte 21:05
From a business perspective, project perspective. But yeah, I guess it all just depends on what
the projects are, I suppose.

Paige Walker 21:13
Yeah. Yeah. And it's pretty cool. Because I feel like, you know, all of this, this whole industry
now is so global.

Max Belmonte 21:20

Paige Walker 21:21
You know, which is just awesome. You know, sucky for American Actors.

Max Belmonte 21:26
I know right. more competition.

Paige Walker 21:28

Max Belmonte 21:28
But but if you've got to shit together, and you're in Australia at the moment, there's plenty of

Paige Walker 21:33
So much. Yeah. So it's, you know, it used to be if you wanted to be in music theater, or you had
to be a triple threat. I feel like the American accent is absolutely one of those things you must
have in your skill set. Now, you just must. And why wouldn't you? Why would you? You know,
pull yourself out of the possibility of all of that work?

Max Belmonte 21:52
Yeah. It's a huge industry, particularly locally.

Paige Walker 21:56
Absolutely. And, you know, unfortunately, the Australian market, you know, it isn't big enough
to support the actors that we have, you know, so it's like, yeah, man, grab all the work that is
coming over here. Do it. Do it, do it.

Max Belmonte 22:11
That's great. Yeah. I think the last time I had a 50 worder, or was a while ago, a few years ago
on set for deadly women. And I had a moment where I was doing that whole overthinking.
Kevin was being in my mind. What's going wrong? And I remember we did a zoom catch up.

Paige Walker 22:30

Max Belmonte 22:31
I think it was the night before even you know, just going through the line.

Paige Walker 22:34

Max Belmonte 22:34
You know, was more for my confidence in the hills.

Paige Walker 22:37
Well, that's, you know, that's another thing that I'd love to be able to do. You know, if
somebody has an audition, and I've been working with them when they call me on the day?
Yeah, let's just run it on the phone super quick. So I can hear it and go, you are fabulous. You're
gonna kill it. You know, it is it's because the you know, the voices is, is that very vulnerable
space to work from, you know, and then you're going in and you have to do not only put
yourself out there as an actor, put yourself out there vocally. But then now do it another
accent. It's a lot. It's a lot to ask.

Max Belmonte 23:06
Yeah, it's interesting. And of course, the more work like most things as an actor, the more
you're doing, well, the more work you're doing, the less it looks like you're doing anything at all.

Paige Walker 23:14

Max Belmonte 23:16
One of those things. Page Walker, thank you very much for your time. Really appreciate it. Lots
of tips and tricks for up and coming actors.

Paige Walker 23:22
Absolute pleasure. It's been so nice to chat with you.

Max Belmonte 23:25
You've been listening to Two Unemployed Actors. I'm Max. Make sure you follow, download and
listen, Sam and I will be back next week. Bye.

Paige Walker Profile Photo

Paige Walker

Dialect coach, aerialist, voice artist, tango dancer, mom

Paige Walker hails from New York and has been a go-to dialect coach on Aussie shores since 2000. Her work has seen her coaching on Helpmann award winning shows, STC, Beautiful, Stan and Netflix series. Paige's passion for this work is about allowing the actor to find their own voice within the accent and character, layering their authentic sound into the piece.