Latinos In the US: Voiceover Actor Anthony Mendez Talks About His Role In New CW TV Show 'Jane The Virgin'

Anthony Mendez Voice Actor Latinos in the US
Anthony Mendez talks to Latin Times about his role in CW's "Jane the Virgin" and sheds some insight on what it takes to be a voice actor. Dynamic Theories

Against incredible odds, Latinos arrive to the United States in pursuit of opportunity, success, and the American dream. Each week, Latin Times showcases the life and career of a Latino that is living in the US. This week, we speak with Anthony Mendez, a bilingual voice actor that narrated on-air promos for HBO, MTV, Comedy Central, Showtime, and more. Now, Anthony Mendez will play a voiceover role in CW's new "Jane The Virgin" TV series, which is slated to premiere October 13.

Latin Times: Let's start from the beginning. Where did you grow up?

Anthony Mendez: I grew up in Washington Heights. I was born in the Bronx but I grew up in Washington Heights, which was like a little Dominican Republic. I’m a first-generation American-Dominican, so my parents strictly spoke Spanish at home. My mom learned English from watching the Electric Company and Sesame Street.

LT: Voice-acting is an extremely specialized profession. Did you always know that you wanted to become a voice actor while you were growing up in Washington Heights?

AM: No I never did, actually. I thought I would be in the music business since I was small, either as a performer or an audio engineer. I always wanted to be in the recording studio.

When my music career didn’t take off, I ended up transitioning to voiceover work. Now, I feel like I was destined for voice acting as the career found me, in a sense.

LT: How did your career in voice acting all begin?

AM: Well, I started a recording studio in downtown Jersey City and I initially wanted to record my own music to become a singer or an engineer at that point. At the same time, my friend offered to let me use the radio station rent free if I could help him produce radio commercials for his club and concert promotion business.

One day, one of the guys from the local radio station that was responsible for voiceovers on club spot commercials had taken a vacation. The guys asked me to do it instead.

From there, I realized that voice over was more than just announcing and that there was an acting aspect as well. I began to studying and take classes to improve my craft.

LT: Your career thus far must have been a very eventful journey. What sort of obstacles and challenges did you encounter?

AM: I think the biggest challenge for me, even before “Jane The Virgin,” was expanding what kind of work agents would send me. At first, they only wanted to send me Spanish voiceovers. I knew that if I wanted to create a more lucrative career, I had to do English as well. I ended up switching agents and I started receiving English voiceover opportunities.  

I started to do promos, and I’m still doing promos, actually. I’ve done promos for HBO, ShowTime, SpikeTV, and CNN. 

LT: Could you describe a little bit about "Jane the Virgin" and your role?

AM: When “Jane The Virgin” came along, that was my agent, Anna Rodriguez, thinking outside the box and just wondering“What can Anthony do with it?”                                                                      

"Jane the Virgin” waslooking for a Spanish accented character. The role was called the “Latin Lover Narrator.” That was exactly what it says on the script! I kind of knew right away what I wanted to do with the character, in terms of having that kind of seductive quality from that heavier Spanish accent. It’s almost like turning up the volume of my accent.

LT: Your role is the conscience, or the inner voice, of Jane. Is that right?

AM: Well, we don’t know exactly where or who this voice belongs. There are some hints that it might be Jane’s inner conscience or it might be Jane’s character for a novel that she’s writing. There are a bunch of different theories running around.

The way I approached it was understanding that Jane, played brilliantly by actress Gina Rodriguez, didn’t know her father. When the audition came to me, I wanted to connect with her character with a voice that would fill in the role of a father figure. We’ll see as the series goes on what this voice actually means to Jane.

LT: This actually makes a lot more sense than what I interpreted. It would not have been very cohesive if a seductive male voice with a heavy Spanish accent played the conscience of Jane, the main female protagonist.

AM: That’s where the acting comes in. Most disc jockeys do what is called rip and read. They’re simply reading and announcing to the audience. The nuance of voice-acting requires me to look for ways to connect my voice with a character.

LT: What sort of voice acting roles would you like to explore in the future? Do you think you’ll make the transition to live acting roles?

AM: Right now, I’m just allowing voice acting to lead the way to where I’m going and I want to stay open to any kind of project that I connect with.

I always thought that my first narrated series would be something on Discovery Channel or Nat Geo, and did not imagine I’d have a role in a TV series and play a character.

At this point, I would not want to do on-camera, because I feel like I could do a lot more work as a voice actor.  More importantly, another reason why I prefer voiceovers, other than the fact that my memory sucks and I can’t memorize the script, is because I spend a lot of time with my family. That’s important for me. I like being home with my family and as a voiceover actor, I do 99 percent of my work here, rather than have to travel to locations or shoot on sets.

I’ve also done voice work on GTA 5. I played the Spanish clerk in Rob’s Liquor store. I’m sure there are sound clips of my character dying in many different ways.

I would love to play more characters in video games in the future. That said, the challenge of voice acting for video games is that I’d have to schedule it for the end of the day because you are literally putting all your energy and them some into screaming into the mic, especially when you’re recording your character being killed or shouting at other people. By the time you’re out of the studio, your voice is done!

LT: As a Latino voice actor, are there any suggestions or advice you'd like to give to someone interested in pursuing this career?

AM: When people consider Latino voiceovers, they’re thinking of roles in the Spanish language. However, it is important to pay attention to the skills that an American-born, English-speaking Latino voice actor has to offer as well.

If I would give a piece of advice, it would be to work on your storytelling in both languages.

What’s more, train and be patient. Read stories out loud and read stories to children because they are quick to let you know if you no longer connect with them or with the story. The words are nothing without emotion and your kids really help you connect with your emotions.

What do you think?