The soundtrack to your morning commute doesn’t have to be staccato. Or singsong. Or just plain dull. It can be as outrageous as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” as uproarious as “Superbad” and as rollicking as “Pineapple Express.”
Well, maybe if you live in Vancouver, which has enlisted Seth Rogen to speak sweet nothings into the ears of people crisscrossing the bustling Canadian city. The Vancouver-born actor will be the new guest voice on metro rail, rapid transit and bus services, according to an announcement Thursday from the city’s transit network, TransLink.
Meanwhile, everyone else is stuck with humdrum variations of the directive to stand clear and the notification that the doors are closing.
Rogen, who is Canadian American, teased a few lines in a video posted by TransLink on Twitter.
“Those are very nice sneakers, but kind of a horror show on the sole, so get those feet off the seat,” he barks. “My mom might be sitting there one day, come on!”
The star of bawdy box-office hits seems to be toning down his language for the new routine. Appearing in a studio, he says he saw the new gig as an “opportunity to enrich the lives of the Canadian people.” He also uses the announcement video to plug public transit, saying, “I grew up taking public transit my whole life, and I still use public transit when I’m in the city.”
Rogen has big shoes — or, vocal cords — to fill. His is a substitute for a voice often associated with the proclamations of the Almighty.
In May, TransLink dropped the idea of using Morgan Freeman’s voice for some announcements when the actor, who played God in the 2003 movie “Bruce Almighty,” was accused of sexually harassing numerous women. Freeman has vigorously denied the charges, reported by CNN, and demanded a retraction.
That left passengers in limbo. But a solution took shape on Twitter.
A Canadian journalist reacted to the news that Vancouver had recruited Freeman by asking, “What, there wasn’t a Canadian actor who could’ve done the job?” She offered a suggestion to @Sethrogen. The next day, when the transit network walked back its plan to use Freeman’s dulcet tones in light of the misconduct allegations, Rogen weighed in: “Yo if they need a replacement now let me know.”
TransLink said it was interested. Talks ensued. Two months later, it released Rogen’s announcement video. “We did it team,” Rogen celebrated on Twitter.
The rest of the country looked on in envy. “Come do it for Toronto, Seth,” petitioned a City Council member in Toronto. The actor seemed happy to oblige, responding, “I’ll do it for the whole country!”
The voices behind transit announcements are some of the most recognizable in the places where they resound. And yet major cities have mostly stayed away from well-known figures.
The refrain “Step back, doors closing,” which alerts patrons of the Washington-area Metro that their choice is to move or be crushed, comes from Randi Miller, who won a voice contest in 2006. (She beat out her father, along with more than 1,200 other applicants.) “Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” which serves a similar purpose in New York City, is spoken by Charlie Pellett, a veteran anchor for Bloomberg News. He was raised in London but speaks with an American accent. Across the pond, the London Underground resonates with the voice of Phil Sayer, a British voice artist, instructing passengers to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform. He died in 2016, but his steady timbre lives on.
Rogen’s announcements could begin as early as next week, the Star Vancouver reported. The partnership is temporary, and Rogen will not be compensated.
Rogen is outspoken about his Canadian pride. In an interview last month on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” the actor — and noted cannabis enthusiast — celebrated the move by his country of birth to legalize recreational marijuana and drew a comparison with events unfolding in the United States.
“This week Trump made prisons for kids, and Canada legalized recreational marijuana,” he observed, calling it a “specifically good week to be a Canadian person.”
Rogen’s observations about international affairs have sometimes gotten him into trouble. His 2014 movie “The Interview,” a comedy about assassinating the leader of North Korea, led the repressive regime to brand him a “gangster filmmaker” and threaten “merciless countermeasures” against the United States.
Passions are not expected to run as high on the Vancouver transit system. In the announcement video, Rogen anticipates that his directions “could be additive in people’s lives, which is nice.”