Where They Are Now

Where have I heard that voice before?

Actor Robin Miles ’86, ’94MFA, has narrated more than 450 audiobooks.

Interviewed by Lenore Skenazy ’81, founder of Free-Range Kids. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jordan Matter

Jordan Matter

Robin Miles ’86, ’94MFA, has been a Grammy finalist twice, has voiced hundreds of audiobooks, and owns her own company. And did we mention she has starred on Broadway? View full image

If you’re a fan of audiobooks, there’s a good chance Robin Miles ’86, ’94MFA, has read to you. She’s voiced more than 450, from Huckleberry Finn to Hidden Figures, and has directed dozens more. A theater studies major in college, Robin returned to Yale several years later to attend the School of Drama. Today, the two-time Grammy finalist lives in New York City, where she owns the voice-over production and teaching facility Voxpertise and teaches at Pace University. Her accents include Russian, Scottish, Jamaican, and femme fatale.

Lenore Skenazy: Were you always acting?

Robin Miles: I was a teen actor. I think I did West Side Story three times—playing Anita all three times—at a semiprofessional outdoor theater in New Jersey. I also got hired to do the musicals at Great Adventure: a three-month run, six shows a day, six days a week. I’ve been drawing a paycheck as an actor since I was 17. I really liked what I was doing and knew I wanted to go to drama school, and I was like, “Well, what’s the best one?” And I went to the library and looked it up and saw, “Oh! Yale. That’s where I’m going.”

LS: Did you check it out for yourself?

RM: You get to the campus and do a campus tour. I got paired with this undergrad who said, “You’re interested in drama?” And he sat me down with Angela Bassett [’80, ’83MFA].

LS: That sounds pretty persuasive.

RM: We sat on the grass and ate lunch, and she was so gracious.

LS: Tell me about your own background.

RM: I grew up in Matawan, New Jersey. We were the chips in that cookie! My mom’s side is Jamaican. My grandfather was a professor of Victorian poetry and Shakespeare there. And when my grandparents came here, my grandmother worked as a domestic and my grandfather was a driver.

LS: Wow, is that harsh. But growing up with poetry and Shakespeare!

RM: Nobody read me Charlotte’s Web. I got Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight! [a book written in 1867] and “He shall perish by the wine cup in his hand” [from a poem by Richard Henry Stoddard, 1825–1903]. My grandfather—I learned so much from him. My mother too. She was probably one of the first Black women to get her master’s degree from Columbia. And my dad’s the kind who can go into a boardroom in a suit and tie, and then talk to the guys on the loading dock.

LS: It sounds like you got every possible speech pattern from your family. How did you break into audiobooks?

RM: It was after grad school. I was coming out of a hair salon, looking all nice, and I was thinking to myself, “This feels weird. I don’t have a public service.” We always had that growing up. My high school madrigal group would go to nursing homes and sing. My parents used to polish résumés for young Black college students trying to get into business. So it felt weird, not giving back to anybody. And then I came out of the salon and saw the Lighthouse for the Blind.

LS: You started reading for the blind?

RM: I was rejected the first time, but yes.

LS: And you’ve done Broadway too.

RM: I had an All About Eve moment. I was understudying someone who had a bit
of a problem.

LS: Yes, this is a famous story. Jasmine Guy was onstage in previews, missing cues, forgetting her lines, and you were watching from the balcony.

RM: I didn’t have a costume. I’d never been rehearsed.

LS: But—

RM: I was ready! They threw me into the wet, sweaty costume—literally her clothes right off her. It was The Violet Hour, by Richard Greenberg [’85MFA]. The next day they offered me the job.

LS: Is that what you’re best known for? Being super-prepared?

RM: What I’m known for is nuanced storytelling and being able to do all these accents. And very credible male characters. And truthfulness. I’ve got that Yale Drama background.  

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