Jennifer Hale Reflects On Her Mass Effect Experience

Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

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.

#1 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

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.

#2 Posted by Dany (7887 posts) -

Having gone femshep first time through Mass Effect 3, it was a great decision.Sshe really does a fantastic job bringing Shepard to life, making me care for her and believing she will kick anyone asses that get in her way.

#3 Posted by Brodehouse (9765 posts) -

I understand why she likes the end game because there's a very palpable sense of physical presence in her performance.

#4 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -

Nice piece, but gotta clean up those typos duder.

#5 Posted by eroticfishcake (7783 posts) -

Aye, she's really good this time around. Better then ME2 since she doesn't have that "THIS IS MY TOUGH CHICK VOICE!" any more. That bothered me a bit in that game. Still, as much as I enjoy her work as FemShep it doesn't change the fact that some of those lines are kinda corny.

#6 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -
@Tim_the_Corsair
Nice piece, but gotta clean up those typos duder.
I am either going blind or I just can't see them. Where are the typos commenter?
#7 Posted by GunslingerPanda (4687 posts) -

You really should have edited this beforehand.

#8 Edited by Rihanna (85 posts) -

@LightForceJedi said:

@Tim_the_Corsair
Nice piece, but gotta clean up those typos duder.
I am either going blind or I just can't see them. Where are the typos commenter?

I recently got a chance to ask here a few questions

Well let me just ask you, as somebody we doesn’t play any video games. What have you seen the most leap in the video game industry?

Is their a reason they don’t show you the script?

There are also a few misplaced commas.

#9 Posted by TeflonBilly (4713 posts) -

She really is amazing in ME3. Her prayer with Thane's son by his bedside particularily stands out.

#10 Posted by PassiveKaerenai (326 posts) -

This is cool! And I had no idea she did Onimusha. Where did that franchise disappear to?

but yeah, it needs a spellcheck. A lot of its/it's, their/they're mistakes, for starters.

#11 Edited by believer258 (11771 posts) -

Not that I don't trust you or anything, but I've never heard of GamerLive.tv and I'm not entirely sure this is legitimate. The misplaced commas and other little grammar niggles don't help my skepticism much.

Online
#12 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4676 posts) -

One of these days I will replay the Mass Effect games with femshep to hear Jennifer's performance and to see the renegade options.

#13 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -
@LightForceJedi

As an example from early in the article (changes in brackets):

Jennifer Hale is a long time voice actress, who has appeared (in) more mediums than you probably thought. From (-the)  voicing big roles like Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series to voicing Naomi Hunter in the Metal Gear Solid franchise (sentence should not end here). Her voice has made multiple jumps to TV and movies playing such roles (as) Disney’s "Cinderella" and Cartoon Network's "Powerpuff Girls". I recently got a chance to ask her(-e) a few questions about her time with the Mass Effect series and what (-the) future lies ahead for voice acting.

GamerLive.TV: What games did you play growing up?
Jennifer Hale: (Laughs) Anything outside with a 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 go outside I get a little crazy.

Well let me just ask you, as somebody (who) doesn’t play any video games(:) What have you seen the most leap in the video game industry? (sentence doesn’t make sense; What have you seen make the biggest leap in the video game industry?)

Those are just examples from a quick read through, and the whole interview is studded through with that sort of thing.

The piece itself is actually really good, and you ask good questions and receive good responses, but your transcript needs a lot of editing to clean t up and make it presentable (if you're trying to reach a professional standard that is; if not, fair enough).
#14 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@believer258 said:

Not that I don't trust you or anything, but I've never heard of GamerLive.tv and I'm not entirely sure this is legitimate. The misplaced commas and other little grammar niggles don't help my skepticism much.

I kind of expected people not to here about us. Sorry everyone about the spelling errors, but I was in rush due to final for college and didn't have time to spell check.

#15 Edited by believer258 (11771 posts) -

@LightForceJedi said:

@believer258 said:

Not that I don't trust you or anything, but I've never heard of GamerLive.tv and I'm not entirely sure this is legitimate. The misplaced commas and other little grammar niggles don't help my skepticism much.

I kind of expected people not to here about us. Sorry everyone about the spelling errors, but I was in rush due to final for college and didn't have time to spell check.

I'm not going to make fun of your grammar. I am, however, going to tell you that this sentence took me less than thirty seconds to type and I didn't have to think about it much to get the grammar right. I'm not asking you to be perfect, but as it stands your grammar is bad. If this were a regular forum post, I wouldn't say anything, but you claim to be a staff member from a gaming website, some sort of online journalism. You should be able to write well, or at least competently.

Even if your grammar were better, I'd still question you getting an interview from Jennifer Hale. How did you meet her? How did you set this up? How did a college kid get an interview from a relatively prominent voice actor in the industry? How did a website, which you expected people not to hear about, manage to do this? Please, explain. And spell check it this time. Let's see if you really can write well.

Online
#16 Posted by onan (1284 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@LightForceJedi said:

@believer258 said:

Not that I don't trust you or anything, but I've never heard of GamerLive.tv and I'm not entirely sure this is legitimate. The misplaced commas and other little grammar niggles don't help my skepticism much.

I kind of expected people not to here about us. Sorry everyone about the spelling errors, but I was in rush due to final for college and didn't have time to spell check.

I'm not going to make fun of your grammar. I am, however, going to tell you that this sentence took me less than thirty seconds to type and I didn't have to think about it much to get the grammar right. I'm not asking you to be perfect, but as it stands your grammar is bad. If this were a regular forum post, I wouldn't say anything, but you claim to be a staff member from a gaming website, some sort of online journalism. You should be able to write well, or at least competently.

Even if your grammar were better, I'd still question you getting an interview from Jennifer Hale. How did you meet her? How did you set this up? How did a college kid get an interview from a relatively prominent voice actor in the industry? How did a website, which you expected people not to hear about, manage to do this? Please, explain. And spell check it this time. Let's see if you really can write well.

His main issue is the complete lack of a grasp on homophones. I couldn't finish the article, it was too hard to read because of all of the errors.

Quick tip taught to children: If you're not sure when to use "there" or "their" or "they're" in a situation, remember that if you're talking about a location, it's "there," because if you cut off the T, it's "here" and will never be "heir." "They're" is a contraction of "they are," the apostrophe doesn't imply the possessive, although I could see that confusion, since "Bob's" means "belonging to Bob."

As far as the Jennifer Hale interview, I think you're being a bit myopic about her status as a celebrity. Voice actors get almost no respect in the US and no recognition. I've seen a few no-name people on youtube doing interviews with her. Even this recent release party, they got most of the cast for ME3 to show up at a Gamestop. A few years back, I walked into a Gamestop on my lunch break and met Laura Bailey and Chris Sabat promoting a DBZ game... for the GBA, no less. I didn't get an interview with them because I was just trying to pick up a game and don't have any aspiration to be a games journalist, but I'm pretty sure I could have. Instead I got them to set up my voicemail message on my cell phone, and those two were pretty well known, top tier voice actors. They were ridiculously nice so I'm not putting them down for not being bigger celebs, but that's just the reality of the situation.

#17 Posted by believer258 (11771 posts) -

@onan said:

As far as the Jennifer Hale interview, I think you're being a bit myopic about her status as a celebrity.

Eh. Maybe. I wasn't really trying to say that she is a celebrity, but after going back to reread it, that's what it sounds like. I don't really mean to insult the fellow, I'm just really cautious of information coming from things I've never heard of, especially when it's not written very well.

Online
#18 Posted by Grimluck343 (1149 posts) -

Man, I really enjoyed Bulletstorm and I'm still not really sure why.

#19 Posted by moondogger (39 posts) -

Thanks for posting this, I really appreciated the interview and I think you asked perceptive questions. Well done.

#20 Posted by OllyOxenFree (4970 posts) -

Typing errors aside, this was a really nice read.

#21 Posted by Captain_Insano (1534 posts) -

Cue internet hysteria about Jennifer Hale 'not playing video games'.

Oh wait, the internet is hypocritical and stupid. Never mind.

Nice post overall.

#22 Posted by LegendaryChopChop (1191 posts) -

This was a great read. I love her voice acting and she does a tremendous job in ME3.

#23 Posted by Phatmac (5723 posts) -

Cool, love Hale in the Mass Effect games.

#24 Posted by onan (1284 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@onan said:

As far as the Jennifer Hale interview, I think you're being a bit myopic about her status as a celebrity.

Eh. Maybe. I wasn't really trying to say that she is a celebrity, but after going back to reread it, that's what it sounds like. I don't really mean to insult the fellow, I'm just really cautious of information coming from things I've never heard of, especially when it's not written very well.

He probably went to the ME3 release and asked if he could ask her a quick dozen questions for his gaming website while shoving a recorder in her face. I'm sure if it was a written interview via email or instant message, she would have had the same concerns you did.

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