‘Mamma Mia!’ Stage Star Sara Poyzer Replaced By AI On BBC Show To Recreate Voice Of Dying Person — Update

UPDATE: The BBC has issued a statement that offers important context to Sara Poyzer’s viral social media posts. The British broadcaster said it is using AI technology in a “highly sensitive documentary” to represent the voice of a person who is nearing the end of their life.

Poyzer was penciled in for the job, but her services are no longer required as the BBC attempts to honor the wishes of the contributor’s family by dedicating a brief — and clearly signposted — section of the documentary to recreating “a voice which can now no longer be heard.”

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Here’s the BBC’s full statement: “We are making a highly sensitive documentary which features a contributor who is nearing the end of life and is now unable to speak. We have been working closely with their family to explore how we might best represent the contributor’s voice at the end of the film when words they have written are read out.

“In these very particular circumstances and with the family’s wishes in mind we have agreed to use AI for a brief section to recreate a voice which can now no longer be heard.  This will be clearly labelled within the film.”

PREVIOUS: Sara Poyzer, an actress who performed in the Mamma Mia! stage musical for years, has been told that her services are not required on a BBC show because she has been replaced by artificial intelligence.

On her social media accounts, Poyzer published a screenshot of an email in which the news was delivered. She captioned the post “sobering” and tagged the BBC.

Sent by a production company making the BBC show, the email said: “Sorry for the delay – we have had the approval from the BBC to use the AI generated voice so we won’t need Sara anymore.”

Poyzer did not divulge the nature of the production that had opted to use AI, though it could be an audio show given she is repped by a voice agency. Poyzer did not respond to a request for comment.

Her Twitter (now X) post has gone viral, generating nearly 2M views and a debate about artificial intelligence depriving actors of work. She replied to some messages, saying the email was “grim” and “proper s***.”

Comedian Stevie Martin commented: “Most of my income comes from voiceovers. Without it I would have had to pick another career cos of money. This makes me want to explode.”

The 98% Podcast, which provides a voice for below-the-line actors, said: “This is incredibly enraging and upsetting and we should all be up in arms about this. For Sara, for ourselves as creatives, and for our industry. This is the beginning of a very slippery slope.”

Miltos Yerolemou, the actor who played Syrio Forel in Game of Thrones, added: “I think it’s time for British actors and creatives to draw a line in the sand. Like our American brothers and sisters it’s time to resist this.”

Poyzer, whose screen credits include EastEnders, tagged Equity in her social media posts. The union launched a campaign in 2022 to change the law and “stop AI stealing the show.”

AI will be a major discussion point as Equity renews its collective agreements with UK producer trade body Pact this year. Deadline revealed last September that AI provisions were a focus of Equity-ITV negotiations for actors on soaps including Coronation Street.

Voice Squad, Poyzer’s voiceover agency, said: “We were very disappointed to receive the production company’s response, particularly as it’s a BBC project.

“The BBC have always stood for quality in their factual and drama broadcasting. As a voiceover agency we feel that AI is a danger to the whole industry – removing work from artists who have trained for three years at drama-school and spent many years honing their craft. Voice artists are particularly skilled actors who deserve not to have their work devalued.”

Deadline has contacted the BBC for comment.

The corporation has made a number of pronouncements about AI in recent days. Late last week, the broadcaster said it would stop using AI for Doctor Who promotion after receiving complaints from viewers.

On Tuesday, BBC director general Tim Davie staked out some AI principals for the corporation. These included: “Never compromising human creative control, supporting rights holders and sustaining our editorial standards, but proactively launching tools that help us build relevance.”

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