What Is White Voice? ‘Sorry to Bother You’ Stars Do Their Best Impressions

Tessa Thompson does a pretty great white voice too.

A lot of strange stuff happens in Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley’s directorial debut about a black telemarketer (played by Lakeith Stanfield) who learns he can sell better using his “white voice” (played by David Cross). But it turns out that Stanfield’s real life white voice is even crazier than anything you’ll experience in the actual movie.

At a press event for Sorry to Bother You, Stanfield and his co-star Tessa Thompson told Inverse what white voice actually means before offering their own impressions. Suffice to say it got pretty weird.

When I asked for a simple definition, Stanfield was quick to point out that white voice isn’t real, adding that it’s “really, actually, totally, non-existent.” Then Thompson chimed in, explaining that white voice is less of an actual voice and more a state of mind.

“It’s more like, isn’t it concealing hunger?” she said. “It’s resourcefulness. It’s less about how it sounds and more about how it feels.”

Then she unleashed some white voice of her own.

“And how it feels is, ‘I’m cool. I got this. I have opportunity. I don’t need for anything.’ This idea that I think tends to be more true of white people because of privilege.”

Next, it was Stanfield’s turn to take a shot at white voice.

“I have something that could be represented by the idea of a white voice,” he told me, leaning in. “An undying sort of ambition under the thin film of excess. So it’s like, ‘No I don’t need to bite your heart out and eat it, although I’m starving and haven’t had a meal in six months. So come a little closer.”

Then Tessa Thompson chimed in.

“That was haunting,” she said, taking the words right out of my mouth.

Sorry to Bother You releases in select theaters on July 6, followed by wide release on July 13.

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