“I have just fulfilled one of my biggest dreams as a voice actor and now it’s like the sky’s the limit in all areas of my career…”
Multi-faceted actor, voice actor, recording artist, songwriter and musician Leonard Dozier is referring to becoming one of the primary voices for NFL Films, the iconic organization responsible for producing renowned and consistent television content. “Just being one of a small group of narrators is really a thrill,” says New Jersey-born Dozier, whose distinctive voice can be heard on the Super Bowl Recap for each of the last seven Super Bowls for “NFL Films Presents.” “It’s been one of my long-time, lifetime goals since doing voiceover work at the age of twenty-four years old. Just being one of the new voices of NFL Films has already boosted my stature and profile enormously, both personally and professionally.”
Dozier’s ascent into the upper echelon of voiceover professionals is the culmination of twenty years of work that includes being the voice of several iconic organizations including the NBA, NASCAR, IPNOS, JAARS, Boomtown Casino, Independence Blue Cross, NJ Tourism, and more. As an actor, he is equally as decorated having appeared in a number of key roles, including his memorable portrayal of AME founder, Bishop Richard Allen in the Emmy-nominated docudrama, “Fever: 1793” and in the same role for the documentary, “Apostle of Freedom.”
Unquestionably spurred on by his delivery in high school of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s groundbreaking “I Have A Dream” speech, Leonard’s interest in acting was further stimulated through the founding and creation of his theatre production company, Cineplay Productions, which has now expanded into the terrain of music and other audio productions. A career in acting seemed like an inevitability when he went to Fordham University – and yet, Leonard recalls, “my focus was actually on singing and on music. The acting was almost like a tertiary aspect of what I was doing. Once I got a record deal, that was my focus.”
As it turned out, during recording what would (at the time) have been his first album for a major record label subsidiary, Leonard was fortuitously ‘side-tracked’ by engineer/producer Andrew Manzano, who offered him free studio time in exchange for Leonard’s distinctive tones on a promotional spot for another artist. “When he first presented the idea, my response was ‘what are you talking about?’ forgetting that I had been voicing the morning announcements all four years of high school. I was not interested at all in being a voice actor!”
When corporate politics resulted in the dissolution of his record deal, Leonard found himself turning back to his first love, acting, and then onto voiceover work. Over the course of the last decade, Leonard – who has been nominated twice for prestigious Broadway World Best Actor awards – has appeared in a variety of key stage and film roles, most notably in the Ernie Hudson/Todd Bridges (Nollywood Oscar-nominated film) Turning Point; in a number of August Wilson plays including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come And Gone and in the world-premiere of A Gift From John McKee; in Battlecry (written and produced by Emmy winner Granville Burgess, directed by Tony-nominee Gabe Barre and musically directed by Emmy and Grammy-winner Paul Bogaev); in the world-premiere short-play “The State of Ben and George” (directed by Christopher Smith, creator of “Amazing Grace on Broadway) and in the role of Walter Lee Younger in the stage classic A Raisin in the Sun.
While Leonard’s ongoing commitment to do film, television and stage work has been evident throughout his career, he admits that “success in doing voiceover work has been the big surprise.” He considers his work in 2012’s Hollywood-produced movie Legends Of Oz (alongside Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer and Lea Michele) as the primary catalyst that led to the creation of “Get Behind The Mic,” his now-nationally-known workshop, highlighted in mega-union SAG-AFTRA’s magazine, distributed to its thousands of members.
“The original idea was to host one workshop to give people the nuts and bolts of how to get into the voiceover business,” says the genial man with the golden voice. “That was in 2012 in Ocean City, New Jersey – and it was originally going to be done once a year. I’ve taken the one-day workshop to six to seven cities each year and with the help of SAG-AFTRA, I’ve worked with over more than two hundred people. In December 2019, he released an online, independent-study program for voice actors titled “Get Behind the Mic VO Online Conservatory.”
The man whose voice has been heard on nearly every genre of voice over—from commercials for singer Ruben Studdard to audiobooks such as “Freedom’s Prophet” (the only official biography of Richard Allen) recently released by Penguin/Random House and the upcoming “Raising Sons of Promise” from Tantor Media. The crowning achievements in his career would come after one of the most tragic and painful experiences of his life. After undergoing diaphragmatic plication surgery in June 2021 and facing devastating and life-altering news as a result of it, Leonard was nominated in October 2021 by the Society of Voice Arts in Sciences for “Outstanding Body of Work in a Career. “I saw voice acting as something that was completely anonymous. It has given me some added celebrity while being surprisingly rewarding, and I have to admit, I never saw it coming when I was originally thinking of a career in acting and music…”
Leonard’s ongoing and original love for making music has in fact continued throughout the demand for his voice and stage acting. His self-produced 2011 “Vitamin L” album resulted in radio play and a video for the track, “This Thanksgiving.” In 2016, he released a second CD, “Soul Of A Pisces and in 2018, Dozier released his third album “Sunday Word” preceded by the exceptionally infectious “Fly” a pop-flavoured, soul-infused tune penned by him. “The song harkens back to the late 70’s, early 80’s sound of artists like Hall &Oates. “It has been my most-added song to Spotify playlists. The uplifting, message-centric album has led to an eponymous podcast that has produced four seasons of faith-based interviews and content. “Strange as it sounds, there may be nothing I am prouder of than the “Sunday Word” podcast. Following two smooth-jazz charting songs in “Sheltered In With You” (a duet with Tamira Charone, the niece of his musical hero Luther Vandross) and “Christmas Kind of Way” (both songs produced by hitmaker and Grammy nominee Chris “Big Dog” Davis) his new album “The Tears I Cry” is set for a spring 2022 release. Meanwhile, with an increasingly busy schedule as a voice actor, VO coach, actor, and podcast producer and host, the married father of five (two biological and three stepchildren) and new grandfather, reflects with justifiable pride, “I’ve achieved almost every goal I set out to accomplish when I began my career in the arts two decades ago. I guess the only thing left is a book, right?”
–David Nathan is the founder of Soulmusic.com and is a renowned journalist and biographer who has profiled many legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton, Alicia Keys, Usher and Whitney Houston. He is an advisory board member of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.