Posted on April 3rd in General

I AM PTK: Jimmie “JW” Stafford

You may not know Jimmie Stafford’s face, but he hopes that one day soon you’ll know his voice.

Jimmie is a voiceover actor and Phi Theta Kappa alumnus who was recently tapped to voice a series of history videos that will debut during PTK Catalyst 2018. Known professionally as JW Stafford, he joined PTK in 2007 while attending Cuyahoga Community College’s Western Campus in Ohio and served as president of the Chi Omega Chapter.

“I loved the sense of community they created on campus, and the service leadership opportunities were inspiring,” he said. “(Becoming a member) was a proud moment. It was a second chance to shine and show the world I was capable of so much more than I put forth in high school.”

Today, Jimmie lives in Los Angeles. We caught up with him to talk about his career, his influencers, and how a PTK service project got him started.

How did you get into voice acting?

Around the time I decided to finally go to college, I’d been using my voice professionally screaming/singing in various upstart bands, as an announcer/commentator for Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby, Golden Gloves boxing, and hosting various live events. It wasn’t until I volunteered through Chi Omega to record children’s books for kids with extended stays at a local hospital that I reignited my joy for using my voice and taking on different roles and knew I wanted to be a voice actor.

Where might we have heard your work?

You might not have! Regional ad spots are short-lived campaigns that don’t always garner the attention of major national campaigns. I’ve also done a bit of industrial work that required non-disclosure agreements from clients, which prevent me from listing them. However, I’ve just acquired a manager and new voiceover agent, and we are all looking forward to getting my voice out there on a much broader scope.

What notable people have you been able to work with?

As far as notable, I’ve had the honor of being in one of Alan Arkin’s improv classes. He says it was his final, but hopefully he’ll do one more. He is such an emotionally honest and kind human being; I’m blessed to have briefly experienced his teaching process. I have to thank my friends Frankie and Lisa for that amazing opportunity.

What kind of training have you participated in?

Where to begin … Acting and improvisation training are the two most important types of classes I’ve taken. Acting must come first — people often think it’s just about having a great voice, but it’s not! Don’t get me wrong — having a great sound helps; but without the ability to act, you are going nowhere in this business.

Voice acting is different in the respect that all of the scenery, and even the lines you react to, come from within your mind. You often record solo without hearing another voice and don’t have the luxury of a set to inspire you. It’s quite challenging!

Who has influenced you and your work?

Overall, my parents have been the biggest influence. Growing up with their work ethic has prepared me for the hard work that needs to get done after the hard work is done. My mom has always been the biggest believer in me and has always encouraged me to pursue these dreams despite the odds.

As far as voices, I’m a big fan of unique and distinct voices that tell a story within themselves, like singer/songwriter/actor Tom Waits for instance. He is so distinct in his tone and delivery.

In the realm of cartoons, I have to go with the late Christopher Collins. He is most remembered for being the original Cobra Commander on “G.I. Joe” and Starscream on “Transformers.” Mike Bell — he was in so many different 80’s and 90’s cartoons from “Voltron” to “The Smurfs.”

And last but certainly not least, Mark Hamill. I grew up on “Star Wars” and am a huge “Batman” fan. Nobody voices the Joker better.

What is something you were surprised to learn about this field?

Every day is a school day — I learn something new daily! It’s a very fast-paced industry, and by fast-paced I mean I’ve had to make a mad dash home from the middle of grocery shopping to record an audition in time! This is not something you can do in your free time if you want to do it full time. It takes an incredible amount of sacrifice, patience, and persistence.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Any project with a friend or one where I make a new friend is a great project! Having worked a bit on a campaign for a PTK International Vice President and knowing how much time advisors and officers devote, I will say this project holds a very special place in my heart.

How did it feel to be selected for this special project for Phi Theta Kappa?

This one was big! If you’ve ever traveled and had to shuffle textbooks around between your luggage to make sure your GPA stays afloat and your bags don’t cost extra, lost sleep to make sure Hallmarks are done properly, and been in the main hall during a convention to see the impact your chapter efforts have made, then you know just how important Phi Theta Kappa is to so many people around the world. It’s just awesome to be a part of such a rich history.

What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing voice acting?

The best advice so far was given to me by an incredibly kind and talented voice actor and animation teacher, Dino Andrade. He said, “Failure is an option, quitting is not.”

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