By LightForceJedi 21 Comments
Mark Meer is a Canadian-based actor, writer and improviser. He is a proud member of the Rapid Fire Theatre group and founded the sketch comedy/improv group, Gordon's Big Bald Head. Mark is most known for voicing Commander Shepard in Bioware's "Mass Effect" series. With the franchise wrapping up, I got a chance to ask Mark a few questions and had him reflect on the series, including what the future holds for Commander Shepard.
GamerLive.TV: Did you play games growing up?
Mark Meer: I did, but I'm pretty old. I remember when World of Warcraft was just "Warcraft." I loved Myth, the original Fallout, and Diablo, too.
Do you you ever play any of the games you’ve voiced?
I do. I've done two full playthroughs of Mass Effect 1 and 2, for example. Just got my free copy of ME3, so I'm looking forward to having free time to sit down with that.
From my knowledge, this is the first "Bioware" series you have worked on. What's the story behind you getting cast as Commander Shepard?
I've actually worked on quite a few Bioware games, but Commander Shepard is my first starring role. I first auditioned for Bioware back in 1999, for a single line as an evil cleric in the final cutscene of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Anm. Bioware liked my work and called me back to play Cyric, the God of Murder in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. Since then, I've voiced characters in Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, Jade Empire, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Awakenings, and Dragon Age II - plus the Mass Effect trilogy, of course. Besides the male Commander Shepard, I play several other characters in the series, including random aliens, the Biotic God Niftu Cal, Prazza, all of the Vorcha, and all of the Hanar (including Blasto).
What is it like to voice one of the most recognizable characters of this generation?
It's an honor - one I share with the talented Ms. Jennifer Hale, of course. Getting cast alongside one of the top voice actors in North America was a real thrill. I was a fan of her voice work in other games and cartoons like Justice League Unlimited even before we worked together. I'm a geek myself, so having my own action figure and seeing people at conventions dressed up like Commander Shepard is a dream come true.
What are your thoughts on how the “Mass Effect” franchise has evolved over the years?
It's been interesting to see the leaps forward in technology - even in the recording process. When we recorded the first Mass Effect, we were still working with paper scripts. Since then, we've saved a lot of trees by moving to a system called VADA, where the actor's lines are displayed on a screen in the booth, and the other characters' dialogue plays in real time in your headset during recording.
What's a favorite memory from working on the franchise? Do you have a favorite dialogue line?
I think my favorite memory is getting to meet Martin Sheen during his recording session in Los Angeles. My favorite line of dialogue is Shepard's catchphrase, "I should go." I must have said that hundreds of times over the course of recording the games.
Do you ever run into fellow Mass Effect voice actors?
As I mentioned, I got to meet Martin Sheen recently, he's great and kept us all entertained during his session. I've also had the pleasure of meeting Lance Henriksen, I've been a big fan of his for many years. I had spoken to Jennifer Hale on the phone before, but we met face-to-face for the first time at EXPCon last October. Since then, we've met up a few times in Los Angeles. I know most of the Canadian members of the cast personally - April Banigan (who plays Khalisa Al Jilani) and Jeff Page (who plays Conrad Verner) are both good friends of mine. My wife, Belinda Cornish, is also in the game. She plays Rana Thanoptis and is the very first voice you hear in the original Mass Effect, the Alliance Computer. I tend to run into her a lot.
Recently "Mass Effect 3" has been in the news because of its controversial ending. Longtime fans of the franchise are asking "Bioware" to remake the ending and provide a satisfying resolution to the series. What's your take on the subject and would you be open in returning to the role?
Bioware has said recently that they are considering all fan feedback, positive and negative. I don't actually know anything about their actual plans (and I couldn't say anything if I did), but I do know that there will be upcoming DLC. Changing or expanding the end of the game wouldn't be unprecedented. The gaming community saw it a few years ago with Fallout 3 from Bethesda and the Broken Steel DLC. I really enjoyed Fallout 3, and didn't really have a problem with its ending, but was thrilled to get the Broken Steel disc. Obviously, if Bioware wants to record more dialogue, I'd be there. I'm definitely scheduled to record more dialogue for DLC, but at this stage, I don't know what that will entail.
Currently we are seeing games such as "L.A Noire" and "Uncharted," using facial capturing software. Do you see a future in this system?
Those games were pretty successful, so I think we'll see more of that in the future.
What do you think of the hot button topics this franchise has pushed such as same-sex relationships?
I think Bioware wanted to be as inclusive as possible, and that included offering romance options to all gamers, regardless of their sexual preference. I'm not sure it should even be an issue - obviously, no one is forcing players to pursue those options if they don't want to.
If you were Commander Shepard, which side would you pick, Paragon or Renegade?
On my Mass Effect playthroughs, I tend to do Renegade first. Then when I do my Paragon playthrough, I feel like I'm redeeming myself for being such a jerk to everybody the first time through.
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