Actor Interview: Jesse Bernstein, the Voice of Zachary, for the Eternal Audio Book

Used with permission.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Today at Cynsations it’s my pleasure to welcome Jesse Bernstein, who performed the voice of “Zachary” in the audio book of Eternal (Listening Library), co-starring Allyson Ryan as the voice of Miranda. Jesse, could you tell us a little about your acting experience?

Hello, and thanks, Cynthia, for interviewing me and for writing such awesome books.

It’s funny because I didn’t come to Los Angeles to be an actor. I went to film school at the University of Texas in Austin and worked as an assistant at a talent agency for two years before I decided I wanted to be more creative and left the shirt and tie behind.

I took jobs waiting tables, however my acting career didn’t take off until I met an acting teacher by the name of Sandra Seacat. She approaches the craft differently than other teachers I’d worked with, giving the actor great tools to work with to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances. I’m thankful to have met her.

How did you come to connect with voice work for audio books?

I was reading stories to schoolchildren through SAG BookPals for about three or four years and thought I’m getting pretty good at this, the voices, the narration and I really enjoyed it so I sent my voice over demo to about five audiobook houses on the West coast and the only place that responded was Random House (the biggest book publisher in the world).

About The Lightning Thief audio.

They asked me to come in for an audition and to bring a book, any book of my choice. I brought Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Knopf, 1964) because that’s what I was reading at the time to my classes.

The following week Random House called and asked if I’d be interested in narrating a new title called The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Hyperion). I accepted.

What do you love about it?

I love telling stories. I come from a long line of storytellers, my uncles, grandparents, my mom and dad. I remember being at summer camp telling stories. What’s great about books/audiobooks is it’s a lot of fun to step into the shoes of a character that is so far from my reality and, for a moment, I get to be him in his world.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge for me is creating unique voices for all of his friends and family and sometimes monsters and villains and have those voices be consistent throughout the book.

How did you connect (creatively) with the character Zachary?

About the Eternal audio book.

What I liked about playing Zachary is that I feel he was a tortured soul and I think we all have that living inside of us (or at least a lot of artists do), and to play a character that is misunderstood and flawed is a privilege.

What do you do when you’re not acting? 

When I’m not working as an actor, there’s quite a bit of downtime. It’s important to keep your head in the game and not get down when the phone isn’t ringing so I like to run, do yoga and write. I know it sounds like a charmed life, but it takes work and discipline. Every day.

I just finished my first young adult manuscript called “Project Bee Sting.” I saw a bee on the ground struggling for his life, and I tried to imagine how he got to that place (his final resting place).

Please keep an eye out for the book, and you can see some of my commercials at

Cynsational Notes

You can find audio productions of Cynthia’s first novel, Rain Is Not My Name, as well as Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed from Listening Library/Random House. Click links to listen to excerpts. Note: Diabolical hasn’t been released yet, but watch Cynsations for updates.