PORTLAND (AP) – Most people don’t know Steve Zirnkilton’s name or his face. But get him to read two of the most familiar sentences on TV, and they might well know his voice.

Zirnkilton reads the on-air introduction to the hugely successful crime drama “Law and Order.” But he is known for more than just that one show.

Zirnkilton has forged a successful career doing voice work for TV, radio and films ranging from “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Dateline” to CNN Headline News and “Today.” His voice has been heard on “Rugrats,” “Family Guy” and a documentary about the 2004 Boston Red Sox season, and he’s done industrial voice work for clients like Hyatt Hotels and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

He has come a long way from when he moved to Maine 25 years ago and read commercial fishing reports for a radio station in Ellsworth. Now, the 46-year-old Zirnkilton works from a studio in his home in the village of Seal Harbor, just south of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

While Zirnkilton’s voice is heard the world over, he leads a small-town life with his wife and two children on the edge of Acadia National Park – and in relative anonymity.

“People will say, ‘You’ve got a great voice, are you in TV?’ But no, no one has recognized me by my voice,” he said.

Zirnkilton grew up in York, Pa., and spent his summers in Maine. After graduating from New England College in New Hampshire, he began work at WDEA radio station in Ellsworth, and later worked as a reporter for a TV station in Bangor.

For “Law and Order,” he appeared in the pilot program as an actor, playing a detective. After the pilot ran, he was cast to narrate the introduction, which has gone on to become one of the best-known intros in all of TV.

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups – the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories,” Zirnkilton reads.

Zirnkilton has narrated the introductions to the “Law and Order” spinoffs as well. And he has an array of clients that keep him busy, from news spots to TV shows to films.

“I very much enjoy being home to go to children’s activities and sporting events,” he said. “But I have to work some odd hours. If I have a promo for HBO Asia, it might be at night. Or something on CNN, it could be anytime.”

Last fall he narrated the video “Faith Rewarded,” a documentary of the 2004 Red Sox season put out by New England Sports Network. Zirnkilton grew up a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, but after so many years in New England he’s now a Red Sox fan.

When pressed, he says his favorite piece of work was the introduction for “Law and Order.”

“But ‘Faith Rewarded’ was probably the most fun,” he said, “because it was just exciting to be part of such a thrilling time.”

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-04-17-05 1315EDT

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