Between The Sheets With Chris Ciulla
Romance Narrators: You've acted in some very big movies. Fast and Furious and The Magnificent Seven, to name a few. Any fun on set stories you can share with us?
Chris: It’s probably better to say that I’ve been involved with some very big franchises…ha. I was in the Fast and Furious Supercharged Movie for the ride at Universal, and I did ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) on The Magnificent Seven. And the interesting thing is that’s a great example of my career in general. That I’ve been able to find all these different ways to earn as a performer, and now as a member of SAG-AFTRA (our actor’s union). And that search eventually led me to finding audiobook narration, which is now my full-time job.
As far as my movie performances, one of the good stories surrounds an indy movie I didn’t expect to be in, called The Petal Pushers. I auditioned for a smaller role as the wisecracking sidekick detective, and then the male lead (a well-known British actor that plays a lot of American roles on TV) insulted all the other actors and director during a meaty bender, and got axed from the pic. So I get a call at 2am on a Sunday morning from my agent (while I’m playing Fallout on my PlayStation) that I’m needed on set on Monday…as the lead. When I get to set, still trying to get off-book for my 10 pages of dialogue on my first day, I get to the trailer to change, and it still smells like the former fired-lead’s vomit.
Romance Narrators: How Hollywood! Tell us about your former career as a sports radio host and boxing analyst. How does that inform your work as an audiobook narrator?
Chris: In my days on radio, one of my key jobs was to either create original characters or do celebrity impersonations for sports-based comedy sketches. So any of that work helps build all these stock characters in my memory base that can appear anytime in all the fiction audiobooks that I record.
As far as the boxing analysis and commentary, it taught me how important preparation was for a live show. The study of the fighter’s records, their styles, trying to book interviews pre-fight, speaking with promoters about future plans, all that played into the quality of my performance on the night of the event. That level of preparation translates to audiobook work. The better we prepare, the more present and in-the-moment our performance will be on recording day.
Romance Narrators: You're a strong advocate for staying healthy and fit. How do you find your focus on fitness helps you in the booth? There can be some long sedentary hours in there, yeah?
Chris: In general, the more physically fit we are as narrators, the longer we can sustain a quality recording session. If you have worked on your endurance, in an emergency, you can go past that usual 6-hour mark, and still sustain a quality voice and performance for longer to make a deadline. Now obviously for long-term health, we always want to take a small break every hour or so, and have a quality lunch (also so our tummies don’t yell at us). But my knowledge of fitness and posture enables me to understand what I must do during those breaks (e.g. exercises that promote blood flow and posture correction).
Romance Narrators: You also know a good bit about booze. Let's rephrase. A few years ago you traveled the US and Europe as a cognac host for Remy Martin. What was that like?
Chris: It was really a fantastic experience. For my training, I was flown to Cognac, France, and sipped Louis XIII out of a cask. And the secret was…I had never sipped Cognac before that week in my life! But the job itself, when we were traveling around the country hosting the events, was quite challenging. The hosts had to lead 60-minute tours, explaining the creation of cognac from grape to eau-du-vie to cask to crystal bottle. I basically went to Graduate School, and received a degree in REMY Cognac.
Romance Narrators: You're no stranger to the comedy scene. Upright Citizens Brigade! Stand-up! Sketch Comedy! Celebrity Impressions! Who is your favorite celebrity impression to perform these days? Do you still do stand up?
Chris: Unfortunately, I haven’t done any stand-up in about 8 years now. But I’m still jumping into an occasional sketch show from time to time, both on-stage and filmed. I’m often called upon to do my Christopher Walken to this day on sports radio. It’s fun to not script anything when doing impressions on these live shows, and just see where the bit goes. But it’s amazing that Christopher Walken can be such an expert on March Madness…
Romance Narrators: Haha, who knew? Speaking of alter egos… you have not one, but two pseudonyms you employ for your Romance titles: Rock Engle and Leo Barnabas. There are so many different ways narrators utilize (and talk about) their pseudonyms. Can you tell us why you personally have pseudonyms and how you choose "who" narrates what?
Chris: I use pseudonyms because I record a wide range of genres that attract many different types of fan bases. And I think in our storytelling, we should do whatever we can to tell a quality tale, deliver a clear message, and keep the listener engaged and satisfied. A small portion of people who love self-help/motivation may not be fans of anything approaching a sex scene from fiction. So I think it’s important to give those brands a little separation, so people have the most enjoyable experience. As far as my different names, Rock is your traditional Romance/Erotica narrator. And Leo’s main gig is BDSM. And those worlds sometimes don’t like to be in the same room. I don’t think the majority of Rock’s fans know what a tawse is…yet.
Romance Narrators: Googling “tawse” as we speak. What is the last audiobook you listened to for your own pleasure?
Chris: I listened to The Outsider by Stephen King, read by Will Patton. I’ve loved Will as an on-camera performer for the last 30 years, but his work in audiobooks mesmerizes me. His character creation is masterful. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the titles he’s recorded for Stephen King, including Doctor Sleep (the sequel to The Shining), and the Mr. Mercedes Trilogy.
Romance Narrators: Is there an author out there whose work you would absolutely love to narrate?
Chris: JR Ward comes to mind. I’ve also enjoyed reading Sarina Bowen’s sports-based titles. Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward have some hot sellers as well. But there are so many really great authors out there, and I’m just excited that people are collaborating to produce some terrific audio.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about an audiobook of which you are particularly proud.
Chris: I’m proud of a book I recorded a few years ago called The-One-in-a-Million-Boy by Monica Wood. It’s the story of an 11-year-old boy with autism striking up an unexpected friendship with a 104-year-old woman, and it’s all about redemption.
But as far as the Romance genre, I’m very proud of SO GOOD by Nicola Rendell. I love my two dogs, Rocky (a 12-year-old Pug) and Coco (a 8-year-old Boston Terrier), and it’s a story about the love for a little furry buddy. And it’s a Boston-based tale, so I always like to pull from my Bostonian roots.
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Chris: The Whittaker Brothers Series written by Cat Carmine (co-narrated with Kendall Taylor) has some great “entertainment” inside…ha. (from Tantor Media)
And for Leo’s BDSM fans, the Mastered Series by Sierra Cartwright (from Insatiable Press).
Also, for Fantasy/Video Game fans, a series I did for Podium called Blades VR kicks ass.
And you get the entire series for 1 credit!
Keep up with Chris online:
Chris’ Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2L5hOtl
Leo’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2mdLKFo
Rock’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2JkAS1G
Twitter handle is @Actors2LA.
Facebook fan page at @CACtor.
Website for all general performance is http://ChrisCiulla.com.