Voice Actor Leaves Small Town to Pursue Passion

Zack Johnson has always been an entertainer, but that doesn’t mean self-confidence came easily. He found a passion in the creative freedom that voice acting provided, and so he’s decided to follow it — even if that means leaving his small hometown.

“There’s a hundred me’s out there in the same situation…What makes me different? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Video Transcript

Meet Zack Johnson: voice actor

Dowagiac, Michigan

(Zack in a studio speaking into a microphone)

Zack Johnson: So a normal show for me might be something like, “Smokin 99.1, WSMK Michiana. What’s going on? It’s your man, Ziggy Jay, here for another nightcap. And look, I got to tell you guys —”

I’ve always liked entertaining people. I’ve always liked making people laugh. I want to be a voice actor, animations, cartoons, movies, shows.

(Driving through a snowy neighborhood)

Nothing much around here to do that. I’m a small town guy. Me personally? I could live here my whole life and I’d be just fine, but I know I want to do more. My sister decided she wanted to move out. So I was like, “If she’s moving, I might as well go too. If family’s going to come over and help move her stuff might as well help move mine. I don’t have a girlfriend, a wife. Why not move to the thick of it? I moved to California.

(Zack walking through his house, opens bedroom door)

Are you excited? I’ve never showed a girl my room before.

Moving out here I’m forcing myself to swim, sink or swim, you know? And I don’t think I’m going to sink. I’d really like to not to. 

(Talking to someone in kitchen)

I’m excited. Let me know when the games are.

Woman: Okay.

(Zack looks into camera)

Zack: Ready? 

(Driving to broadcasting studio)

There’s something about being able to be anyone you want to be. Voice acting, you just have to have the right voice for it. My build doesn’t give off 280-pound bodybuilder, but I could go play that. I’ve always had self-confidence issues, and it mostly spans back to, of course, growing up. You ask a girl out when you’re younger. Things don’t go your way. You just think, “I’m ugly.” You know what I mean? Oh, attractive, you’re not.

When people would say like, “Oh, you have a really nice voice,” I took that. I was like, “Okay.” Because I was so self-conscious physically, that when it was something that people liked about me that wasn’t physical, I really liked that.

(In the studio, adjusting soundboard)

I don’t want to be that small town guy that goes out there thinking that I’m going to have it all under control and I’m going to get the first job I go out for because I know that’s not going to happen, but it’ll also make it that much sweeter when I do land something. There’s a hundred me’s out there in the same situation, doing the same thing. So like, I really have to stand out. I got to find what makes me different than those other Dowagiac, Michigan people out there. What makes me different? And that’s (sigh) what I’m trying to figure out — is why pick me over somebody else? You know how many white boys with this haircut there probably are out there? Hella. (laughs)

(On air)

All right, Michigan. And we’ll be right back, but right now, we got Ella Mai on the way. Migos coming up as well, but you know, that Young Thug coming at you right now. So, keep it locked right here. It’s WSMK, Smokin 99.1.

(Zack sits in front of stacks of CDs)

I did stand-up one time. So I don’t know how it’s supposed to go, but I can tell you how it went was not how it’s supposed to go. I never went back. I told the guy — he was like, “Hey, you know, your jokes weren’t bad. They were good delivered. It just, they weren’t the funniest.” I was like, “I’ll be back next week.” And I’ve never been back to that club since. (laughs) I think I passed by it the other day, and I strictly was just like, “That’s it. I’m not even looking at it.”

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