The editors at Rock, Paper, Shotgun have cranked out an interview with voice actor Jennifer Hale about the work she's done for BioWare (as the voice of Star Wars: KotOR's Bastila and Mass Effect's "femShep"), how she ended up with a career in video games, the importance of voice acting within the industry, and more. A few excerpts:
RPS: Obviously intonation is so crucial. So how do directors get around the lack of someone to respond to?
Hale: Sometimes, on extraordinarily rare occasions, you'll be able to hear the dialogue of the other person. That's only working with BioWare, because they have a very specific system that allows that to happen. However, working with BioWare I tend to be the first one recording my stuff, so other people work off me, but I'm not always necessarily working off of them. To get around it I read really fast, I read as much as I can, because you don't usually get the scripts ahead of time, because they're highly confidential. The producers are given mountains and mountains of work, and it's extremely difficult to get anyone anything ahead of time, so it's basically the art of cold-reading and acting on the spot. I'll ask physically where am I, what's going on, how much ambient noise, how much battle just standard acting questions. But you've got to hold them all in your head, you've also got to know your history with the other person you're talking to and what you want from them, and then drop into that moment, and let it rip.
RPS: And you've gone on to play some pretty major roles in games. Would you say Shepard is the most famous one?
Hale: Gosh. Bastilla [from Knights Of The Old Republic] is also quite popular, and Naomi Hunter [from the Metal Gear series] as well. Those are probably my most known. Apparently I've done over one hundred of them.
RPS: We've lamented for years that voice acting has for too long been undervalued, and it's certainly improving now, but it's still very rare for a name to become known. So what have BioWare done differently?
Hale: I don't think any of us are known. We're still invisible. I think that with the body of work, and momentum and consistency of us voice actors getting work, we're starting to get a little bit of a following, and I think that may be shifting things a bit. You can liken it to the very early years of the movies, when they wanted to keep the stars anonymous, but then they started to get a following. It was the later generations that really benefited financially and in terms of notoriety. I don't know if that will happen in games or not, but I guess it's my role and my fate to be where I am in the history of the whole thing.