By Chanda Temple
Many people wondered if the voice they heard during the opening ceremonies of the World Games was Morgan Freeman.
It was not.
Instead, it was Kyle Holman, a Birmingham trained thespian and voice actor who has gained a lot of recognition for his voice, which he can make to sound like Academy Award winner Freeman.
Holman was booked to be the “voice” for the opening ceremony after Dr. Henry Panion III, the artistic director of the World Games, wanted a narrator/storyteller who could read in the style of Freeman. Holman put several hours into recording segments for the opening, and he said that Dr. Panion and his team were gracious enough to “let me do what I do.’’
“I want to do everything I can to reach their vision,” said Holman, 57, a Birmingham native. “I was proud to be a part of it.”
During the opening ceremony, Holman could be heard introducing performer Bootsy Collins, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, all of the acts and more. A different announcer served as voice for closing ceremonies.
“I have to tell you, being backstage and seeing what it takes to do this and seeing the planning and then the number of teams it takes to do this, I was able to really watch and see how hard these people worked to pull this thing off,” Holman said. “If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. I’m very proud of Birmingham.”
Working behind the scenes is normal for Holman, who’s done other voiceover work for countless clients from around the globe, including in New Zealand. He presents a voice to fit the role and does the recordings in his home.
Holman is also used to being on stage. He’s appeared in Red Mountain Theatre Co. productions including “My Fair Lady;” and “Porgy and Bess;” and Virginia Samford Theatre’s “9 to 5;” and “The Sound of Music.’’ Years prior to his Birmingham acting appearances, he studied four years at the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts in New York before doing theatre work in New York.
Holman said his acting bled over into doing voiceover work, which he has been doing since the mid-1990s. He never set out to sound like Freeman, it’s just that one day, early in his career, someone told him he sounded like Freeman from the movie, “Shawshank Redemption.’’ Holman was flattered. The movie is one of his favorites.
“I see (Freeman) and picture him, and I understand him in my head when I am doing that sort of thing,’’ Holman said of his work. “Honestly, I don’t really hear it. The fact that other people do is wonderful.’’
Holman explained that Freeman talks in threes, and Holman approached his delivery from an acting standpoint while also taking note of Freeman’s speech pattern. Most of what he does are impersonations and character work.
It’s easy to see why show business comes natural to Holman. His mother was a model and dancer, and his father played the beloved Cousin Cliff on Birmingham television decades ago. Holman would watch his father entertain children and thought that was the coolest job for a father. “As a little kid I didn’t know,” Holman said. “I thought everybody’s dad did that.”
A question Holman often gets is if he is the voice heard at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. (For anyone unaware, the voice on the airport loud speakers sounds just like Freeman.)
“I’m not at the airport. That’s another guy,” Holman said. “There are four, five or six of us who do it, who do that style of read. We are spread out across the Southeast.”
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