2010 Best Voice in Fiction: PRECIOUS
"It's lovely to be read to, isn't it?"
It is indeed, and being read to by actress Bahni Turpin is lovelier still. The talented narrator is now a devoted listener, too, but she came to audiobooks with a bit of skepticism. Another actress referred her to Books on Tape, where she later auditioned. "It was very strange to me at the time because I didn't listen to audiobooks then."
In time, Books on Tape engaged her to read A PIECE OF CAKE, by Cupcake Brown, and Bahni was hooked. She had always liked reading aloud and found the assignment to be a comfortable and enjoyable gig. Of course, she's continued. But sometimes she's surprised at a director's requirements. "I auditioned for a new company, and the director was so picky," she says. "Every time you cleared your throat, you had to restart the paragraph."
Recently, Bahni, who has had roles in the television series "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace," relived her New York days while recording Sapphire's PRECIOUS [also published as PUSH]. The book includes references to shops and restaurants that she once frequented.
Bahni, who now loves listening to women's stories as she tools around Los Angeles, was mesmerized by her own voicing of the character Minny in THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. "While listening, I forgot it was me I was listening to," says Bahni, who enjoyed the book's rich emotions and vivid characterizations of several female characters.
The experience of absorbing audiobooks can be challenging for some modern listeners, Bahni feels. The heavy reliance on television for entertainment has led some to forget how to listen without a visual component. But she doesn't draw a line between acting and narration. Bahni reads each book before recording and makes notes about how each character should sound. "I like to give each one a characterization and really try to read the way I feel the text should be heard. I especially enjoy doing dialects."
The recently released audio THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, by Rebecca Skloot, features Bahni in the small role of Lacks's daughter. While she'd hoped for a larger role in the work that recognizes this African-American woman, telling the story was important. Years ago, cancer cells were taken from Lacks without her knowledge and without compensation to her or her family. They continue to be employed in worldwide research today.
Next up for Bahni is narrating a children's book, and she's hoping for a movie role. In the meantime, she performs regularly with the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles.--Jenan Jones Benson