Jennifer Hale is a long time voice actress, who has appeared on more mediums than you probably thought. From voicing big roles like Commander Shepard in the “Mass Effect” series to voicing Naomi Hunter in the “Metal Gear” Solid franchise. Her voice has made multiple jumps to TV and movies playing such roles like Disney’s "Cinderella" and Cartoon Network's "Powerpuff Girls". I recently got the chance to ask her a few questions about her time with the “Mass Effect” series and what the future lies ahead for voice acting.
What games did you play growing up?
Jennifer: “ (Laughs) Anything outside with dirt and sticks”
Really you didn’t play any video games?
No, I am not good at it. I am an outside person; if I don’t get outside I get a little crazy.
So do you ever play any of the games you’ve voiced for?
It would drive me nuts because I have seen some of the games that I have voiced when friends are playing and it just drives me crazy. I just want to do it again and make it silently better.
What are your thoughts on how the “Mass Effect franchise has evolved over the years?
The writing has become much more character driven not that it wasn’t to begin with. It has just gotten a lot deeper with the character driven nature of the writing and with the depth of the stories and the narrative of the whole thing. The stakes are crazy high in Mass Effect 3, they were high in Mass Effect 1 and 2, but it just dropped into another zone for three.
What's a favorite memory from working on this franchise?
Recording some of the end game for Mass Effect 3
Do you have a favorite voice acting performance that you have done?
Oh my gosh, its like asking to pick my favorite kid. I have a few actually, whenever the writing, directing, and the material come together. It lifts its self up to whole that is greater than some of the parts. I think the end game stuff for Mass Effect 3 is one of my all time favorites, doing the Cowboy Bebop movie and voicing ‘Wolverine: the X-Men’. For me personally and something completely different, the ‘Powerpuff girls. Working on that cartoon was an insane party.
What’s the relationship process like between voice actors and writers?
Oh I wish, but very rarely if ever. I like it when I can hear directly from the writer. What they’re seeing, what they’re envisioning and what their intention is. I did brutal legend, just being in the room with Tim Shafer and talk about the game was fantastic and of course helpful. When we started working on Mass Effect 3, Matt Walters came in and really gave us the run down and the tone of the game. He really helped set us on beautiful trajectory. I don’t get to talk to writers enough because to me without them we got nothing. You know it’s remarkable that they’re so taken for granted.
Do you ever run into fellow Mass Effect voice actors?
Not in video games, but in animation we do. It's a blast in animation. We get to work together and we are all in a room. I worked on couple of shows, which we record invidiously and it’s just so fun when everyone is together. Video games its extremely rare.
For "Metal Gear Solid" we got to record in pairs and sometimes in threes I want to say. For "Onimusha: Raiden" we got to record some of us together, but its very rare for a video game.
Currently right now we are see games use facial capturing software in games like L.A Noire and Uncharted 3. Do you see a future in this system?
Oh I hope so! , mocap is the thing I love more than anything. It’s all I want to do frankly. I would do it for free, but my agents would beat with a yardstick. I absolutely love mocap and facial capture is necessary. I am seeing some stuff of mine, that didn’t have facial capture and I just want to beat the screen. It just makes me nuts that I don’t get to do the mocap for the stuff I do the voice for. You’re missing half the equation or you left half the money on the table. Go get it and put it in there.
Do you see that becoming the standard?
I really hope so. Doesn’t it raise the quality of the game to the next level? Don’t you enjoy it more?
What do you think of the hot button topics this franchise has pushed such as same-sex relationships?
My take relationships is that I am really glad their in the game because they are in our lives. There are people who are gamers who are in same-sex relationship and they should have someone to relate as well. If there were all blonds in video games, I would be bummed. It makes the game much more deeper and meaning full. Mass Effect has always been about the players choose, it just silly to take that choice away. They need someone who they can identify with.
How does working the Mass Effect series compare to your traditional Hollywood work?
(Chuckles) well it’s as if your script was ten to twenty times longer, larger and fatter. Its as if you showed up for work and they took the script, but they didn’t allow you see the script before you voiced it. They don’t really the tell me the story.”
Is there a reason they don’t show you a script?
Yes confidentially, the leaks are ridiculous. I was at an animation set this week and doing pick ups for a cartoon and I left the script their. That’s just my habit; I do not take the script out no matter what job I am doing. I don’t even want to attempt not doing that.
Lets say you have this massive script that's a couple feet high. You show up on the job and you haven't seen it ahead of time. Someone takes the script and cuts it into strips and then throws it in the air. Then randomly the hands you one strip of dialog and ask you to do it. For me, I used to do a lot of improv, so it works out for me.
Is it easier or it more challenging for you to work on a video game?
It’s easier in some ways and more challenging in others. It’s easier because I like the intensity and focus and the ability to go to start to finish in a set amount of time. Working on set, it's a lot of stop start for the actor because there are so many pieces in place. It’s a much slower process and immediacy for voice recording for games. Games are much slower process for the director because its years getting that stuff done.
You have previously worked on the "Metal Gears Solid" and "Metroid" series. Now I know it might be a stretch, but this is your second Bioware game, which leads me to ask. What does Bioware do different?
Not knowing what they do on the production side I can’t speak knowledgeably about that, but I can definitely talk about the voice side. My sense of it from the voice side is they have really strong mastery of the process and their controlling that process tightly. Recording for something like ‘Bulletstorm’ or the ‘Sims’ or something like that, I can deviate from the script but make sure it fits and works.
On a Bioware game, if I say anything that's not on the page, It would create a bug in the system and it would kickback and I would have to do it again due the technical demands they deal with. Having seen little bits of the game and seeing the graphics and depth of it. I can appreciate the amount of technical workload they have going on.
If you were Commander Shepard which side would you pick, Paragon or Renegade?
(Laughs) depends on what side of the bed I wake up on. I love to be Paragon, but sometimes you need Renegade.