Sara Poyzer, an actress who starred in the stage production of Mamma Mia! for over 10 years, will be replaced by AI in an upcoming production for the BBC. “Sobering…” said the star in response to a crass email from producers posted in a tweet Tuesday.

“Sorry for the delay,” said a producer via email. “We have had the approval from BBC to use the AI-generated voice so we won’t need Sara anymore.”

The BBC sent a statement sent to Gizmodo noting “important context” for this use of AI. The company is making a “highly sensitive documentary” featuring a contributor nearing the end of their life who is now unable to speak.  

“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,” said a BBC spokesperson in a statement. “This will be clearly labelled within the film.”

Poyzer played Donna, the same role Meryl Streep plays in the movie version of Mamma Mia!, performing on stages around the world for the last decade. She’s one of the more prominent actors to be replaced by AI. Poyzer was met with frustration and sympathy from the rest of the acting world in replies on X and Instagram. However, Poyzer’s tweet did not include the full context.

“This is why we all need to stand strong in the face of AI,” said the Voice Squad, a voiceover agency that represents Poyzer, on X. “Sara has our total backing over this.”

“This is awful,” said one actor.

“It’s so out of order – shameful,” said an artist on Instagram. “There needs to be transparency so we can choose to avoid watching/listening to such shows.”

The BBC came under fire recently for using generative AI to promote Doctor Who. In that case, the company used AI to create emails and images to promote the popular series. The company decided to stop injecting AI into Doctor Who after an immediate and fierce backlash from fans.

AI voice technology is significantly more advanced than AI video generation at the moment, so voice actors could be first on the chopping block if generative AI is really going to take the jobs of actors.

Voice actors, just like other actors, are fighting the wave of generative AI in the media industry. The national actors union, SAG-AFTRA, just went on strike to guarantee actors wouldn’t be replaced by AI, among other protections. Though the BBC is using AI for very specific and sensitive circumstances, the incident raises a broader question of how producers should be able to use technology to replace actors.


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