"My goal is to have the viewer feel as if I’m on the couch next to them."
Eye On is a Q&A series that spotlights CBS television executives and creatives.
Last summer, Love Island arrived in the U.S. and quickly became one of the youngest-skewing and most socially engaged shows of the CBS summer schedule. But as viewers fell in love with the Islanders, it was the unseen voice of the island—narrator Matthew Hoffman—who stole the show. Hoffman’s witty, and often sarcastic, commentary serves as the audience’s lighthearted tour guide, providing color for the passion, heartbreak and everything in between.
This August, Hoffman returned for his second summer of (watching) love, and we spoke with him about his process and what it's like behind the scenes.
How did you land this job with Love Island ?
I was invited to audition by an executive who thought I would be perfect for the role. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever been asked to read for. I had heard of Love Island, but at that point I had never seen an episode. So when I researched it, I instantly saw what a phenomenon it was overseas, and assumed I had zero chance of getting it, as the job was too big not to go to a celebrity. Because I truly believed I never had a shot, I thought, well, I might as well die on my own sword, and rewrote a lot of the copy in my own voice.
After the rewriting, I then realized that the voiceover—no matter how funny I thought it was—actually had to fit over the visual, just like the show. I booked a commercial studio space on Ventura Blvd. that I found on Google and asked them to block off the afternoon. To make sure the lines fit over the visual, I recorded everything while they timed me with a stopwatch. I had to record three acts, and it took forever. I had no idea that nine months later I would be doing exactly the same thing from a shipping container in the middle of a field in Fiji.
After I sent off my tape that October, the casting director wrote me back that it was hysterical, but I heard absolutely nothing after that. I never had a callback, or follow-up meeting, and completely forgot about the show until the end of June, when I received a call that I was “the official voice of Love IslandUSA.” I will never forget it. I was driving and pulled to the side of the road, and started ugly-crying on the phone, and then immediately face-timed my parents and ugly-cried some more. Thousands of voiceovers later… it has been quite the journey!
What is your process for developing commentary for the Islanders?
I watch the show exactly like the viewer does! I come in every morning and watch each act with my genius voiceover producers. We pause the show on parts that accelerate the story, and pause for any potential funny moments and say what we see. I am very adamant that I never want to know anything more than the viewer knows. My goal is to have the viewer feel as if I’m on the couch next to them, so I want to find out the information in real time to capture my first and most genuine response.
Did you watch the U.K. version for inspiration from narrator Iain Stirling?
I'm obsessed with the U.K. series and think what Iain has done is nothing short of remarkable. As a viewer, it's hysterical, but after knowing what the schedule and turn-around time demand is to bring an actual episode to life, you can only say his work is beyond impressive. After we wrapped season one, I reached out and was fortunate enough to be able to tell him that I bow at his comedy altar.
How has the process changed when the “Island” moved to Las Vegas?
Last year, I was recording the show from a padded, windowless booth in Fiji, and this year I'm recording the show from a padded windowless booth in Los Angeles. To make sure the transition is seamless, I'm recording season two in a sun hat, applying SPF before each read, and only drinking imported Fijian rain.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Declining the chocolate chip cookie at craft service every day.