You won't see Oscars live announcer Randy Thomas on camera, but you'll recognize that voice
On Oscar night, her voice will be one of the most important youâll hear â" so much so that, in awards show parlance, itâs called âthe voice of God.â But, like an ethereal deity, you wonât ever see her face.
At the 90th Academy Awards, Randy Thomas â" who, in 1993, made history as the first woman ever hired by the Motion Picture Academy as the Oscars live announcer â" returns for her ninth stint on the show.
When you hear a disembodied voice say, âLadies and gentlemen, Emma Stoneâ or âfrom Russia, âLoveless,â directed by Andrey Zvyagintsevâ or deliver a so-called âwinner walk-upâ like, âthis is the third nomination and second winâ for so-and-so â" thatâs her.
Thomas, who began her career as a radio personality in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Miami, has become one of the most in-demand voice-over artists in the business, lending her smooth, refined pipes to countless events including the Super Bowl, the Emmys, the Tony Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Thomas will spend Oscar night, as she always does, in a production truck behind the Dolby Theatre, watching the proceedings on a monitor and waiting for her carefully orchestrated cues. Days before the show, she spoke to The Times about her history-making hiring, last yearâs climactic best-picture snafu and what makes a good âOscar voice.â
As the first woman ever hired to announce the Oscars, what did that mean to you at the time â" and does it have an added meaning this year given the Timeâs Up reckoning thatâs taking place in Hollywood?
Well, the first time I did it, I didnât really appreciate the significance that it had taken 65 years for a woman to be placed behind the microphone of the Academy Awards. It didnât occur to me that it should have happened a long time ago. I was just gra teful to be there. The 1993 Oscars was âThe Year of the Womanâ â" if you recall, we had 67 past female winners together [for a group photo]. It was an incredible year, and it was really an honor to be a part of that.
Now it looks like weâre heading toward another year of the woman here. I continue to be in gratitude for the opportunity. I just think we live in interesting times, and Iâm really honored to be sitting in that seat once again.
Without giving too much away, is there anything youâll personally be doing during the show as the announcer to address the treatment of women in the industry and the recent sexual harassment scandals? Or will that be left to Jimmy Kimmel and perhaps the presenters and winners?
Well, they never write funny stuff for the announcers, so we have to leave all the jokes to Jimmy. My job, as I see it, is to move the show forward in a timely yet elegant fashion. Thatâs really my job: to deliver my lines in a way that wi ll keep the show moving and hopefully gain them a little bit of time by the end of the show.
How does announcing the Oscars compare with other live voice-over jobs youâve done, like the Super Bowl or other awards shows? Is there a specific vocal style because itâs the Oscars?
You know, thatâs an interesting question. I do have an âOscars voice,â and it seems to show up when Iâm doing the Oscars. All of the other shows that I do, I tend to find a voice for them â" and then thereâs something about Oscar. He brought me to the dance so I am most loyal to him.
How would you describe that âOscars voiceâ?
Itâs got to be smooth yet elegant. I am there to make everyone who I am introducing seem like theyâre the most important person in the world at that moment.
Last yearâs show ended in an epic best-picture bungle, in which âLa La Landâ was mistakenly announced as best picture over the actual winner, âMoonlight.â What d o you remember of that moment?
I was basically done. That was my last live read for the night, so I was about to tweet, âThatâs a wrap,â when I realized something was happening on the stage. The script supervisor, Tina Cannizzaro DeBone, and I went, âWhat the â¦.? What is happening?â
I was ready to go if they wanted to call for the âMoonlightâ winner walk-up. But at that moment, director Glenn Weiss thought there is nothing more important than what is happening live. They never called for the fixed winner walk-up. We all got to just watch it play out live on the air, which I thought was the most beautiful and brilliant. I was so proud of how everyone handled that.
What was the chatter in your headphones during all that? It seems like there must have been a lot of people freaking out behind-the-scenes.
Truthfully, I believe there wasnât that much talking. I remember Glenn just saying, âStay with him. Stay with him.â It was about what was happening live on stage. Everything else was kind of a blur.
It was crazy. But, of course, theyâve taken steps so that that can never happen again, so itâs comforting to know weâre covered now. But thatâs the exciting thing about being in a live show: You truly never know what might happen.
What was the mood like among the production team afterward?
I think we all were collectively gobsmacked. Usually I want to go to the Governors Ball. I want to do something fun after the show, even if it just means going to the bar with the rest of the production team. Last year I just wanted to get in an Uber and go home. I had a vodka at the bar and I got in an Uber. It was very strange.
Tha t mistake obviously had nothing to do with you, but I imagine your greatest fear is that somehow you personally will screw up, that you butcher someoneâs name or read the wrong text.
Well, gee, thanks for putting that in my head! [laughs] Yeah, itâs a matter of staying focused for a really, really long period of time. Iâm a little ADD so I have to work at being focused. But all of my pages are marked, and I stay on the page every moment so in case something happens and they need something said or read, I am on page at all times. That keeps me in the moment.
Aside from last yearâs snafu, what are your other personally most memorable Oscar moments?
Iâve had a few moments of getting to meet some of the people that I introduce. The first time I did the show, Barbra Streisand was presenting the award for best director, and her manager, Marty Erlichman, sent me a cassette tape pronouncing her name. He goes [with a Brooklyn accent], âTh e correct pronunciation is Baw-bra Streisand.â
On the air, I said, âLadies and gentlemen, please welcome Barbra Streisand.â After the show was over, Iâm walking out of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and she was stepping into an elevator. I said, âMs. Streisand, I was your announcer!â And she turns to me as sheâs throwing her shawl over her shoulder and she goes, âWell, at least you got it right.â I was like, âShe knows who I am!â [laughs]
But really itâs just the most exciting show on the planet. Being a part of the team is truly an honor. Only the best of the best get to work on this particular show, and I canât even tell you how humbled I am that theyâve brought me back.
What Iâm reading
Right now I am reading âYour Holiness,â which is a recently discovered unpublished work by the late author and spiritual teacher Debbie Ford. It's about how to find your own light of holiness in order to escape the darkne ss of your mind. Which seems to be a never-ending battle. Published by Harper Collins.
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