Hey Siri, who is the original voice of Siri? Susan Bennett.
Millions of iPhone users recognize her voice but for Bennett, a career voice actor, it was just another gig.
Back in 2005, a client hired her to record a different kind of script.
“All the phrases and sentences I had to read were created just for sound and not for content,” she said. “It was a whole new recording experience.”
She didn’t know it then, but her voicework would be used for “interactive voice response,” (IVR). Six years later, she found out she was the voice of Siri, the iPhone’s virtual assistant.
“When Siri first appeared on October 4, 2011, a fellow voice actor emailed me and said, ‘hey, I’m playing around with this new iPhone app, isn’t this you?’ I went, ‘what?’ and went on the Apple site and listened, and went, ‘wow.’”
“I love my work”
Apple had purchased Bennett’s voicework through the company that hired her. She didn’t get any extra compensation but the fans loved her.
“People just absolutely fell in love with Siri when she first appeared because you know they had fun with her,” she said. “She was so unique. Because not only could you interact with her but she was funny. She had a sense of humor.”
Fame was an adjustment for the introvert, now 70.
“It was really something for me to deal with, to accept the fact that my voice was everywhere,” Bennett said. “My goal was never fame. My goal was always just to do more work because I love my work.”
At first, she was worried her voiceover career would be ruined because the Siri voice was her real voice. But in the end, being Siri has been great for Bennett.
“I basically got a whole new career thanks to Siri,” she said, noting she does a lot of speaking events and presentations, talking about how the recordings were done and where Siri came from.
She once met Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at an appearance. He told her she was doing a great job at speaking events and encouraged her to continue doing that kind of work.
Her run as Siri ended in 2017 when Apple released OS11.
From smartphones to virtual assistants and more, tech is a big part of everyday living.
“Well, I think they’ve really become a part of our lives,” Bennett said. “People have Amazon Echo and all these other systems in their homes that are constantly on, you know, gathering our information. I have ambivalent feelings about it all, really. But I think they’re here to stay for sure.”
Despite having been the voice behind the tech, Bennet said she never uses virtual assistants like Siri and considers herself a traditional communicator.
“One of life’s great ironies is that I’m the voice of Siri and I’m a total non-techie,” said Bennett, who’s also a musician and a singer.
The downside of tech is how, in a way, it’s disconnected society. Bennett says neighbors don’t say “hi” while walking down the street and young people are fixated on devices.
She knows the voice is a powerful tool that can show emphasis and convey feelings. She encourages people to talk to each other more.
“I hope to be able to put some sort of humanity behind all of these digital devices, and hopefully try to encourage children especially to really get out there and see the world, and not just get so plugged into a screen,” Bennett said.
It’s good to have fun with tech, too. Bennett does have one warning though: “Don’t ever curse at Siri because she knows where you live.”