When he’s not working in television (The Wire, Orange Is the New Black) and in film (Skyscraper and the coming First Man), Pablo Schreiber likes to read – and sometimes he gets paid to do it. Previously the British Columbian narrated the audiobook version of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and recently he put his voice to Jack London’s 1903 Yukon-set adventure novel, The Call of the Wild, for Audible. We spoke to the busy actor by phone.
I read The Call of the Wild as a class assignment in Grade 9. Totally aside from the recording process involved with this audiobook, I love the rediscovering of a book at a different part of my life, and how the journey of a book affects you in a different way than it did when you were younger.
As far as the recording, I think we did it in four or five days. Typically they were eight-hour days. The process is workmanlike in many ways.
Creatively, the book has different characters, which means different voices and determining how you want to interpret those characters. I haven’t done much vocal recording in film. I don’t do cartoons. So, I’m not that experienced in creating wildly different voices. I try to give an essence of character, without being too deeply characteristic in changing each one up.
I’m very interested in the themes of the novel. The idea of accessing our wilder side, and the journey we all have in finding our uninhibited and animalistic side. That’s the part of The Call of the Wild that resonated with me more on the second reading.
The thing that stood out to me is how accessible it still is. There are sections where the language is of a different time. There was a certain decoding involved. But the rest of the book just flows.
Obviously with the time period that it’s set in, the Gold Rush era, there’s a bunch of different characters up there from different walks of life. They all have to sound different. There are a couple of French-Canadian characters and a Scottish-Canadian character as well. Getting those sounds correct was obviously one of the challenges of the job.
With Jack London and Mark Twain, both of these guys came to the forefront at similar times, with similar experiences. It was such a watershed moment for readers. The stories from Jack London and Mark Twain in newspapers and magazines were the mass media of their time. The world was expanding, and people were really curious. They were the Beatles and Elvis of writing.
It’s a much smaller world now. Everything’s been done. I guess the next version of this would be space exploration. Certainly the people who went to the moon would be an example. I’ve got a project coming in October called First Man, with Ryan Gosling playing Neil Armstrong. That is such a fascinating time as well.
There are parallels, with people sending back images of the moon for the first time. So, we’ll hit certain times of history like The Call of the Wild again, when we have these new experiences of exploration. And the whole world will be watching.