February is Women in Horror Month! As part of the Horror News Network spotlight on women this month we have interviewed Erika Sanderson about her experience as a voice actor for the horror audio drama, “The NoSleep Podcast.” Erika joined the NoSleep team as a narrator and has been a very prolific contributor since then. If you have listened to the show, odds are good you have heard her voice as a child, a demon, a woman with any number of accents, or all of the above. This fantastic actress told us about her experience in the industry and offered some insights into voice acting in the world of horror.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Have you always been a fan of horror?
Erika Sanderson: Ah, this is my huge confession – I am rubbish with horror! If I’m watching a scary movie and a creepy bit comes on I have a habit of suddenly becoming engrossed in reading up the plot ahead on IMDb so as not to get too scared. Having suffered from sleep paralysis since I was a child, I’m not very good at adding more fodder for my nightmares.
Stephanie: What inspired you to become involved in a horror-fiction podcast?
Erika: It was really by accident. I was performing in a theatre show with another NoSleep cast member, David Ault, and mentioned how I wanted to get into voice work. He recommended me to David Cummings who cast me in an episode of The Drabblecast he was working on. Then I started to be offered scripts for NoSleep.
I love the challenge of the wide variety of characters the podcast offers each week and I absolutely relish playing the evil demonic creatures. Pouring all that maliciousness and venom into a few short lines and knowing that you have the ability to unnerve your audience is strangely satisfying. Sometimes I get a role where the character morphs through a single line of dialogue, usually from an innocent child to some monster. Those are an absolute joy to play with, vocally.
Stephanie: Podcasting as audio-drama, even though based on “old-time radio,” is a newer horror medium. Do you think the more contemporary establishment of the medium is affecting the opportunities for women?
Erika: NoSleep takes the majority of its stories from the Reddit of the same name. There a lot of women who are writing fantastic stories with strong female voices which in turn is creating more opportunities for actresses in audio drama. It’s been a great pleasure for me to perform tales by wonderful authors like Rona Vaselaar and Caitlin Spice.
Stephanie: How does your experience in podcasting compare to your experience in theatre?
Erika: They are very different disciplines drawing on the same tools. In theatre you (generally) have the luxury of a rehearsal process that allows you to explore the character and the relationships with your fellow actors under the guidance of a director. On a show like the NoSleep Podcast, the turnaround of scripts is very intense, usually 48-72 hours, and you are recording in isolation. There isn’t time to do several different versions of a character. While I do sometimes give alternative line readings, in a lot of ways you have to be an actor and director, making creative decisions not only about your own performance, but also filling the blanks in your head imagining how someone else (usually on the other side of the world) would play their part and respond. Our producers do an incredible job of editing and mixing us so it sounds as if we are acting together in one room.
Stephanie: What is your favorite medium for experiencing horror (comics, film, tv, audio, etc.)?
Erika: From behind a cushion! Probably tv series. During my teens I was a huge fan of The X Files (the early supernatural episodes) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also remember watching Twin Peaks and a fantastic, though short-lived, show called American Gothic. I’ve always enjoyed reading a good ghost story or something that sends chills down your spine like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, and Susan Hill.
Stephanie: Any advice you would like to give to women entering horror?
Erika: Trust your instinct and creative force. Watch what those you admire do. Whatever medium you choose, writing, performance, make-up and effects, filmmaking – learn your craft and keep working at it.
Stephanie: Thank you for your time, Erika!
Headshot Photo Credit: Marcus Charter
About WiHM: Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Visit WomeninHorrorMonth.com for more information.