Voice Pro’s Heard but Not Seen

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It wouldn’t be an insult to say that Steve Zirnkilton, better known as the signature voice of “Law & Order” and its progeny, phones it in. The busy voice man is the ultimate telecommuter.

In 1997, he installed an ISDN-equipped studio in his home in Seal Harbor, on Mount Desert Island by the coast of Maine. It cut work-related travel dramatically for Mr. Zirnkilton and made it possible for clients to download his work.

Mr. Zirnkilton’s workload recently increased. CNN asked him to do promos for “People in the News,” the weekend magazine for which he already was the voice.

“Since it profiles people who are at the very center of major news events, we felt the promotional `voice’ of the program needed to speak powerfully to viewers,” said CNN Senior VP for Marketing Scot Safon. “We chose Zirnkilton for the promotional campaign because his voice captures the importance of the subject matter.”

His ability to sound authoritative-in addition to representation by New York-based Atlas Talent-has landed him voice gigs on documentary programming such as The Learning Channel’s “Code Blue” and “Ruby Ridge,” and work on NBC’s “Today” and on MSNBC. It probably helped him win four terms as a representative in Maine’s state Legislature between 1982 and 1988 after getting his broadcasting start in radio. (“I was not good at asking for money,” he said. “I did not enjoy it.”) He also had a role in “Rugrats: The Movie” and played Detective No. 2 in the first episode of “Law & Order.”

Mr. Zirnkilton’s voice acting has kept him busy-and not just because he has become the voice of so many programs from “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf. In addition to the “Law” spinoffs, Mr. Wolf’s “Crime & Punishment” on NBC and ABC’s “Dragnet,” he also voiced the syndicated “Arrest & Trial.”

“In addition to having an incredible voice, Steve is just a really terrific guy. It’s wonderful when a 20-year friendship can evolve into a 15-year business relationship as well,” Mr. Wolf said. “It’s also nice to know the person who arguably has the most recognized voice in America.”