For more than a decade actress Bahni Turpin has dazzled audiobook listeners with her vibrant performances. This year, Turpin received a lifetime achievement honor and has become one of AudioFile Magazine’s Golden Voices. I had an opportunity to interview Turpin about her life as an award-winning narrator, actress and community organizer.
Turpin fell into the world of audiobook narration while working as an actress—a career path she chose at the age of nine.
“The day [my mom] told me that I was going to take acting classes I was nine. I said ‘Okay!’ and I walked away and I was just sort of skipping up to my room and. . . . I remembered stopping on the landing of the stairs and saying that’s what I’ll do! ….the decision was made at nine. I never changed mind.”
In addition to acting on stage Turpin has appeared in several iconic TV shows and films including the HBO film O.G alongside Jeffrey Wright, a film that was shot inside an Indiana state prison.
Turpin was introduced to audiobook narration by an actress she was working with in a play. Turpin auditioned and began working with Random House, one of her early audiobooks was A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown.
“I thought it was fun”, said Turpin, “and then one day a director I had worked with on The Help called me and she said ‘Oh I just wanted to call you and let you know that you won! You won!”
That was how Turpin first found out she won an Audie for The Help.
“I didn’t know what an Audie was… I didn’t know there were awards for this.”
Since then Turpin’s accolades have been non-stop, with performances that have been highly reviewed
as lively, skillful and energetic. Her backlist contains hundreds of audiobooks spanning children’s,
fiction, non-fiction, and young adult.
This summer Turpin and a team of narrators will bring 131 books in the classic Baby-Sitter’s Club series to audio for the first time. Turpin will be narrating eleven-year-old Jessi, a ballet dancer and one of the junior officers of the club.
“I’m interested to see how girls today will receive them, they are a bit dated…they don’t have phones. They had to meet in Claudia’s room because she was the only one with a phone line/”
On the acting front, Turpin just wrapped up a play with Cornerstone Theater Company and is starting on a full-cast audio project. In addition to acting and narrating Turpin is also the founder and board member of the SoLA Co-op.
Are there any books you are reading to or listening to right now that you’d recommend?
I just listened to The Murmur of the Bees narrated by Xe Sands, what a unique voices Xe has…It’s beautiful very beautiful.
If you had the opportunity to narrate any book from your childhood what would it be?
James and The Giant Peach. I loved that book and I loved the original illustrations so much that I had to buy it on eBay to get the old version.
If you could choose anyone to narrate your life story who would it be?
It would have to be me!
For readers who want to dive into your backlist of audiobooks where would you suggest they start? Do you have any favorites?
The True Meaning of Smeck Day, that was a classic Bhani Turpin audiobook that won an Odyssey award. The Darkest Child, If Beale Street Could Talk, Allegedly and Children of Blood and Bone. I really really loved [Children of Blood and Bone] and I was really proud of it.
In addition to being an actress and audiobook narrator, you are also the founder and board member of the SoLA Food Co-op. Can you tell us more about that?
I started SoLA food coop about eight years ago I had purchased a home in South L.A. in 2010 and having lived in Hollywood for 16 years before that I used to having a lot of different options in buying [organic] food and down here not so much. They didn’t really stock organic foods in the grocery stores at that time and then shortly after a couple of the main conventional grocery stores closed. Still holding the dream of being an actress I didn’t want to open a grocery store, but I did get the idea of a cooperative…so I started doing that with no experience in community organization whatsoever. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I love it. Our goal is to open a full-service health food store in Southern L.A.