The New Tough Guy Persona
Over the past decade or so, a new acting style has become more and more popular for the TV actor. The role of the “Whisper Talker.”
Actors today tend to find that speaking in low, fast tones (much like that of a whisper) will provide a stigma around the character they are portraying. A tough exterior, yet broken soul, tormented by a shattered past and irrevocable loss. Often times these characters have something to prove and although they have the muscle to see their role through, deep beneath the surface is a softer persona looking for acceptance.
This I get.
What I don’t always get are the words coming out of the actors mouth. Nothing ruins the flow of a story, or interrupts one’s viewing pleasure than having to rewind, up the volume and rewind again in order to figure out what was said. And too bad for you poor souls that don’t have the convenience of a DVR.
So this began me thinking about who the best and worst whisper to ever grace our television sets. Here is my list and my ratings:
Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) - 24
First of all, in my opinion one of the greatest and innovative TV experiences ever aired. The first three seasons really was a combined effort to make what I think was the greatest TV show on at that time. It wasn’t until the mini-movie 24: Redemption which aired before season 7 that I really noticed Kiefer Sutherlands whisper talking. It’s really noticeable in the opening scene of the movie and continues to the end. Of course he’s not all whisper talker and changes his tone whenever the situation arises.
Whisper Talker Rating: Audible
Jim Caviezel (John Reese) - Person of Interest
Quickly becoming one of my favorite shows, Person of Interest is exciting to watch and has a leading actor with viewer appeal. Jim Caviezel whisper talks through most of his lines but he acts his tough guy part in convincing fashion. It’s too early to tell whether I’m going to put down the remote or not. I figured he played Jesus, therefore I should be tolerant to some point.
Whisper Talker Rating: Audible
Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday) - Lost
A great show that sucked you in every week. Intriguing, and the show style was very original. I just couldn’t get around a whisper talker that didn’t have the muscle to back it up. Jeremy Davies played Daniel Faraday in the show and was more of a boy genius than a tough guy. Although he had torment in his life, the whisper talking role should only apply for those with a rough exterior in order to portray their softer side. On TV nobody cares about the soft spoken nerd. By the way, if you want to see excellent tough guy acting by Jeremy Davies, look no further than Justified, season 2.
Whisper Talker Rating: “Can you please repeat that?”
Joseph Fiennes (FBI Special Agent Mark Benford) - Flash Forward
Academy Award nominee, Joseph Fiennes is known for his stage and film acting and has no problem with stepping outside of the mainstream to act in the independent films as well. But combine a poorly written script and whisper talking and you have “Flash Forward.” It’s hard for me to blame him for his approach to his character. There obviously is a reason for his character to be brooding and conflicted. Anyone would if they knew their fate and couldn’t stop it. Too bad he didn’t flash forward to see how the show would have turned out.
Whisper Talker Rating: I’m going to bed.
The role of the whisper talker is alive and well in TV and often times mocked on variety shows. But one thing is for sure: with TV encroaching the limits of what they can do on TV as well as cable shows being more accessible, the role of the tough guy whisper talker is not going away anytime soon. Please, just whisper talk sparingly.
Bjc on January 14, 2018:
I’m glad i’m not the only one out there that finds “whisper talking “ in the majority of today’s movies very annoying. The film industry needs to realize this may have been popular once, but now it’s just mice following each other. It is VERY distasteful!!!
Jo-An on October 29, 2016:
Yes, and now he's doing it on Designated Survivor, quite a good show if it wasn't for the darn whispering. Even Michael Weatherly is doing it on his new show, Bull. The worst is Eamonn Walker on Chicago Fire. When he comes on I mute the tv. I can't do that with the two new shows I mentioned because they are the main characters, so after awhile I imagine I'll stop watching. I find it that annoying.
Joeyr on September 21, 2016:
I hate Kiefer Sutherland's voice on any show. I can't watch him on anything. Touch, 24 drove me so crazy that I only watched a few episodes of each. Does he think it's sexy? It is not, it's just plain stupid and annoying. If he doesn't have a medical condition, then speak up.
11q2w3e on May 30, 2016:
wentworth miller in prison break whispers all his lines!!!! incredible annoying!
TalkSoup on May 02, 2016:
The whisper talk annoys the hell out of me especially when 2 actors are doing it together i.e. jack bauer and tony almeda in season 7 of 24.
But this article left out the most annoying whisper talker of all. Nicole Kidman. I know she usually only does it to hide her accent but i have yet to watch a movie with her without having closed captions
george liddell on January 17, 2015:
one of the new incoming TV. directors said he would put a stop to whispering on his TV shows I cant remember his programme or channel but it has not been done. I find it very frustrating listening to whispering as I am 84 and cant hear the end of
tkay1 on November 17, 2014:
Elizabeth Mitchell is also whisper talking her way through her role on Once Upon a Time as the Ice Queen -- so annoying.
Jimmy on July 25, 2013:
Its the bleedin' voice coaches, I reckon. It has clearly become very fashionable amongst many of the modern screen actors, mostly male, to lower one's voice to a whisper, full of menace and affected charisma. The usual effect achieves neither. I can't think of any of the great screen actors (Pacino, de Niro, Spacey, et al) who affect this whispering technique. Tally-ho!
Ter on May 16, 2013:
It is so unrealistic. People in real life don't whisper everything they say. It comes across as very "actorish" like the stilted style in old movies from the 30s
D on February 08, 2013:
Can't stand "whisper talkers" ---- very annoying. JUST TALK ALREADY!
Help_Us on January 22, 2013:
I am glad I found this blog..cause whisper talkers drive me crazy!! If anyone watches "Spartacus" on Starz the character Crixus is one of the worst whisper talkers out there...only time he isn't whispering is when he is yelling....why are they allowed to do it..no idea.
Andi on December 30, 2012:
You forgot Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica. I was always wondering, who he didn't want to hear, what he was saying.
Danger247 on January 24, 2012:
Thank you!!! I stopped watching 24 ONLY because Jack's whispering got on my nerves. I noticed Jim Caviezel's whisper immediately but I am still able to tolerate it so far. Someone please tell Hollywood that this is not cool! Oh, and shaking the camera around and flashing from scene to scene makes us SICK! Literally!
Borsia from Currently, Philippines on October 17, 2011:
OK I hate to date myself but there are lots of us who's hearing isn't great and rather than try to figure out what the whisperers are saying we just change the channel.
That said I have been in the 3rd world for so long that I am not familiar with any of these shows which means that there are 2 possibilities.
1. they haven't been aired where I live.
2. I changed the channel.
marek504 (author) from California on October 12, 2011:
Thanks for the comments Alecia!
Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on October 12, 2011:
I never realized how much people whisper on television. The only show I've seen is Persons of Interest and while I could understand Jim Caviezel's whisper, the plot almost put me to sleep. Very cool hub!