Commanding Shepard: Jennifer Hale Speaks

By John Walker on July 27th, 2011 at 1:00 pm.

The many faces that aren't the faces of Jennifer Hale.

Jennifer Hale has appeared in a great many more games than you probably realise. The person behind the voice of the female Shepard in all three Mass Effect games is also responsible for Metal Gear’s Naomi Hunter, SOCOM’s HQ, and even the grunts and groans of Metroid Prime’s Samus. And of course her spookily good British accent as KotOR’s Bastilla. Amongst literally hundreds of others, in gaming, TV and film. We caught up with Jennifer as she drove through LA, to ask how she came to provide so many of gaming’s iconic voices, the combination of anonymity and fame, and which of the Commander Shepards she’s voting for to appear on Mass Effect’s cover.

The actual face of Jennifer Hale

RPS: You do lots of voiceover work for film and TV as well as games. Is gaming different from other voiceover work?

Hale: I find it particularly demanding. Say when I do animated series, I’m typically working with the cast, and we get to interact with each other, and work off each other’s energy. In a four hour session you’re swapping back and forth about who’s in the hot seat. When you do a game it’s basically like doing a one-woman show for four hours. The level of focus that’s demanded, and intensity, energy applied and imagination and concentration is very specific.

RPS: Have you had any experience of sharing a studio for games?

Hale: We did that in Metal Gear, a bit. Kris Zimmerman was directing, and we got to do that, and it was fantastic. I did that on another project with Kris, Onimusha Buraiden. But it’s very rare. It’s wonderful when it happens – man, is it ever. But it’s very, very rare.

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: Was voice acting always the direction you were aiming for?

Hale: No, no. I was a singer first. I did go to a fine art school for theatre, but I preferred film acting, and I moved to Los Angeles to focus on that. I really did the voiceover stuff as a matter of practicality. I was only ever familiar with the commercial side of it, but one of my very first auditions was for a cartoon series – I never really watched cartoons as a kid, I was always outside, or reading a book. So I went into this cartoon, and it happened to be one of the lead roles in the series, and I booked it. So it was the convergence of singing, acting, timing, and the ability to manipulate my energy in particular ways, and from knowing mic technique, that all came together. And then I got training from a couple of the best voice directors who at that time were teaching.

RPS: Which series was that?

Hale: Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? I thought it was how cartoons worked. It was one of the first shows on regular network TV that met all of the educational TV requirements in the US. Our cast was four regulars. We were equally divided between genders, we were completely racially mixed, it was little to no violence, amazing information every week, perfect for kids. And I thought that’s what cartoons were! And my next series was something called Skeleton Warriors, there were ten cast members, to of whom were girls, and we blew stuff up and cartoon maimed each other every week.

RPS: You then went on to be in lots of the big Cartoon Network shows, so when did videogames become a part of all this?

Hale: Actually, my first videogame ever was the Carmen Sandiego videogame! I didn’t understand. I was like, “What is this for? How many flags? How many flags am I saying the name of?! Nine hundred lines, really? That’s crazy! Wha… I don’t… wha… okay!”

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: And maybe even more famous without anyone knowing it’s you is Samus in the Metroid Prime games.

Hale: I suppose so, yes. There wasn’t a lot of talking there! Although I think my most iconic role is probably Cinderella [Hale plays Cinderella in Disney’s DVD sequels to the film], but people don’t know me from that. Cinderella is Cinderella, and I’m very invisible in that, as it should be.

RPS: So do you ever play any of the games you’ve voiced for?

Hale: No, I’ve never played a game really, until I was just interviewed for the New Yorker. I think it’s the issue coming out this week or next week. Tom Bissel, who’s a wonderful writer – he wrote a book called Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter – I guess he mentioned me in there and it ended up being a story, and he made me play Mass Effect. I’d never played a game before!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Extra-Lives-Video-Games-Matter/dp/0307378705

It was very interesting. It drove me a little bit crazy, because when I was in the game I could see the tweaks and adjustments I’d love to do. But it was good, and I’m sure that that experience has informed Mass Effect 3.

RPS: Do you ever consider which games you’ll record for?

Hale: It kind of falls in naturally. The kinds of games that I just don’t feel so comfortable with, I’m not really suited for. There are some brilliant people who are much better at that than I am – they should be doing it. I’ve been in auditions for games and animation where I’ve thought, this is someone else’s gig. They’re funnier, or they’re more this character than I am.

RPS: So, have you encountered the lovely term “femShep”?

Hale: Yes, I have come across the term! You know what – whatever it takes to get the female version of Shepard out there, I’ll take it.

RPS: How did you react to finding out that only 18% of Mass Effect players pick the female Shepard?

Hale: Yeah, you know… that doesn’t really ring true with the response I’ve gotten, but hey – BioWare knows what they’re doing.

RPS: My motivation to play female is that when there’s an opportunity to play an interesting female character, I’ll take it.

Hale: Yeah, good.

RPS: Are you surprised more people don’t do that?

Hale: I think it’s habit, largely. And I think they’re maybe less aware of the option. It’s not something that has occurred to them, and the marketing materials are all male Shepard. Although that’s changing. There’s the vote on Facebook where you can vote for which “FemShep” should be on the cover of the game.

RPS: So do you have a preference?

Hale: I like the one with the freckles!

RPS: But none of them have red hair, and that’s what Shepard looks like!

Hale: Yeah, see, the one with the freckles has a bit of red hair. It may not show up in the artwork, but the pictures I saw this weekend at ComicCon, she’s a red-head.

RPS: So how involved do you get with the Mass Effect games?

Hale: I throw my heart and soul into the words that I’m given, and do my absolute best to bring that to life. That’s the extent of my involvement. It is up to me to not drop the ball at one of the more critical stages of bringing this character to life. It’s up to me to really keep that sharp, and I take that very seriously.

RPS: But you were at ComicCon with BioWare?

Hale: Yeah, I had a couple of different BioWare things to do there, I’m working on a couple of different BioWare games right now.

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.

RPS: So could gaming eventually produce its own stars?

Hale: I don’t know. It would be a bum to have missed that boat, that’s for sure! It’s quite possible, although, as cheesy as it sounds, the player is the star of the game. That’s the beauty of games – that it’s you that inhabits it. It’s not about someone else, it’s about that you get to be that person, and if I do my job right, I as a person disappear. Your experience is primary.

RPS: Having gone to ComicCon, is there more of a temptation to become a known face in this industry?

Hale: Um… It is tempting sometimes, because there’s always that part of us that wants credit, acknowledgement, validation for what we’ve done. But I have to say I love the anonymity. I could walk through ComicCon, and no matter how many people who might be a fan of what I do, we’re in proximity and no one knew. I’m invisible. If I’d have done as many on-camera roles as I’ve done voiceover I couldn’t go to the grocery store in peace.

RPS: And that outweighs the temptation of fame?

Hale: I think the question is, what are the perks? The thing I would love about the fame is what I could get done with it. Again it sounds cheesy, but the good I could do, the money I could raise for things, the impact I might be able to make beyond just myself. Right now when I want to do some good, or change some things, or help people, I have to work like anyone else – I don’t have the advantages of celebrity to draw upon. That would be my main focus, my absolute passion, if I had more celebrity. Not that I don’t already contribute – I don’t think there’s any excuse for not contributing, for not giving back. It would just be increased quite a bit.

RPS: But the rest of it would make it not worthwhile.

Hale: Nooooooooo! Honestly, I think if you’re meant to be a celebrity you are. I am of the stature I am, so I’m exactly where I should be.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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99 Comments »

  1. Faceless says:

    This may have broken all staring eyes records.

    Oh, and no mention of her role in Planescape: Torment? For shame.

  2. skinlo says:

    Great interview, seems like a nice person! For balance though, I think you should try and interview the male Shepard actor as well!

    • Mirqy says:

      obligatory ‘there is no male shepard’ comment.

    • meatshit says:

      Please do. An interview with a robot would be very interesting.

    • westyfield says:

      Come on, Mark Meer’s work isn’t that bad. There are more duff lines that Hale’s, but it’s hardly like he saw a mudcrab today.

    • unitled says:

      Why should they interview male Sheppard too? :-S Jennifer Hale is a very well respected voice over artist who happens to have starred in Mass Effect. Asking they interview manshep as well comes across as a little privilege-y….

    • Coillscath says:

      I’d like an interview with Mark Meer as well. As far as I’m concerned, they’re both Shepard. I’m getting well and truly sick of the people who say Hale is better. Not because they’re saying she’s better, but because, for the most part, they can’t seem to say it without putting down Mark Meer’s portrayal of Shepard in some way. It’s as if you’re only allowed to like one peformance or the other, and if you like “male” Shepard, you’re an uncultured, woman-hating swine.

      Both Hale AND Meer are Commander Shepard. Get the fuck over it.

    • Radiant says:

      Also he’s Alec’s brother.
      TRUFACT.

    • Ovno says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed playing male Sheppard and had absolutely no problem with his voice acting, still don’t see or care what it is you guys are always complaining about.

      Perhaps femshep’s was better but that doesn’t mean the guy was shit!

    • Sinomatic says:

      I don’t think its privilege-y to be interested in seeing a manshep interview too. There aren’t many roles in entertainment that are played by two different people at the same time in the same production. It would be interesting to see how the other person playing the same character found the same process.

      And as for which is better – its a preference people, there is no right or wrong (except for those of you picking manshep as better, obviously)

    • DrGonzo says:

      What he said. I’m sick of the arrogance around female shepard. I can’t stand her personally, it’s fine you do. Now let’s just agree to play it the way we like and not call each other stupid for it. You bunch of idiots.

    • metalangel says:

      I agree with this. I’ve only played Male Shepard once but I’m curious as to what he makes of the character, why he’s played it the way he has (and whether he was direct to or not).

      It’s something I’m fascinated by. All too often Mrs Metal is watching E! and you have a Hollywood actor on there: when they’re forced to ‘improvise’, even for an informal interview, they come across as so inarticulate, stupid, and boring… like they can’t generate any charisma without a script. I contrast this with the great voice actors of our favourite games and animated shows, who invariably have to do far stranger voices and say far wackier things for their roles. I wonder if their personality is any different outside of their work, and also whether they get more involved in their characters and fandom because they have to bring life to an animated character through their voice alone.

    • unitled says:

      Apologies if I came across as preachy there… Just seems we have an interview with a voice actor who plays some strong and positive females in games, all too rare even today, and about the second comment down was ‘Well, let’s see what the MAN has to say about this.’ That would seem to someone reading the comments cold as slightly privileged.

      In the background, we’ve got a story about lots of gamers choosing to play as manshep despite the fact that femshep has very, very solid voice acting. I can’t personally comment on manshep’s voice acting as I played from the beginning as femshep.

    • mouton says:

      The “balance” is only needed by the trolls on bioware forums who argue who is better. Jennifer Hale is a damn institution, it would have to be a juggernaut of a voice actor to balance her out.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’d skip Marc Meer and just interview Stephen Russell instead.

  3. db1331 says:

    I checked out her IMDB page a while back and I was amazed to see how many of the games I grew up with that she had a hand in. I had no idea she voiced Katrina in QFG IV, for example.

  4. schizopol says:

    this is so strange. Just last night I went and reinstalled Freelancer to have another go at the whole Freelancin’ space pirate vibe when I noticed that Junko Zane sounded suspiciously like Alex Rovias – whom i had recently dug up to share with a friend of mine, that she might experience the joy of Eternal Darkness. Lo and behold they were the same person & I learned how Jennifer Hale has been my main man since Metroid and I haven’t even known it. Suddenly I understand the creepy obsession with “FemShep”.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Jennifer Hale was Juni?! I had no idea… I must’ve played that game through half a dozen times!

      I did recognise her voice as Female Player Character in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, however.

    • MiniMatt says:

      It’s funny those little things – I remember first seeing Clive Owen in some movie and thinking “oh, so he’s like a proper actor too? thought he was just some extra they got in for Privateer”

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Did not realise she was in Freelancer too. Bastila was fantastic. I was actually emotionally involved in that KOTOR game. I was incapable of playing anything but the most goody two shoes straight laced nerf herder possible. Bastila is one of the very few female characters I have engaged with in that way, besides people like Alyx.

    • MonkeyMonster says:

      Ahhh mini matt, you just made my day – what a sadly underated game and now demands (as I found my old disc in house move) that I install a cpu slowerer and re-install.

  5. kupocake says:

    “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.”
    Would be interesting to know which Shepard’s lines the other actors respond to… perhaps it’s a mix of whatever they have on hand? Or perhaps there’s an internally slightly more ‘official’ Shepard after all…

    • Hillbert says:

      Perhaps they have someone like Garrus respond to Femshep whilst having Tali respond to Chapshep. Segregate it based on romantic interest.

  6. Durkonkell says:

    I never really considered how hard it must be to get voice acting right when you have none of the rest of the cast present, haven’t seen the script in advance and can’t hear the lines from other characters. I respect the wonderful job Jennifer Hale has done in her various roles even more now!

    Thanks for the interview, John. Thohn.

    • Sinomatic says:

      I suppose its a little like when screen actors are doing green screen – trying to play off a tennis ball on a stick as godzilla or something.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I’m actually surprised this hasn’t changed over time. For instance, I’ve read up and seen some behind the scenes videos of Uncharted 2 and the way they did it was far more like movies: motion capture and sound recording would happen simultaneously with all concerned actors present at the same time.

      That might be part of why Uncharted 2′s voice work was of such a high quality compared with most games.

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      I really get the impression, especially reading this, that most games developers really have no clue how to work with actors.

  7. ChaosSmurf says:

    I’m always surprised again every time I heard that the VAs for various things don’t actually have each other in the room when they read their lines. Considering this the VA quality of Mass Effect/Dead Space etc is ridiculously good.

    Almost makes Oblivion seem acceptable.

    Almost.

    Great interview.

    • sinister agent says:

      Same. I remember animated films making a similar mistake a decade or more a go (some still do, I think, though I’m not certain). You can immediately tell the difference between the ones where voices were recorded separately, and ones where people were together. I’d imagine the same would be true of games, as well, particularly if motion capture and the actors’ appearance are taken into account too.

  8. Hammelbamf says:

    Well I played through ME2 again, but with femshep and I will definately roll with her in ME3.

  9. ynamite says:

    uhm, I’m not one to nitpick on spelling errors usually, but there were quite many in this piece err peace, uhm, no, piece.

    Great interview though, as always.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Well, there are plenty of journalists whose qualities include “excellent spelling and grammar” but little else. And I think the English language will survive Mr. Walker.

      Considering that he’s pretty good at the other parts of games journalism, I think we’ll keep him for now.

    • tenseiga says:

      ^
      I really love the writing of rps, the bad puns and everything else. The fact that it seems like a mom and pop website also adds to the awsomeness.

    • ynamite says:

      Agreed, it’s not something that bothers me, it really doesn’t. Mostly because I usually can’t spell myself.

      In any regard, keep doing what you doing RPS. I’ve been reading PC gaming journalism since the early 90s and RPS is by far the bestest I’ve ever come across. I love you, even though you’re all tea loving Brits ;)

    • John Walker says:

      I welcome people pointing out mistakes so I can fix them. But please do it by email, john@rockpapershotgun.com, rather than in the comments, as no one else wants to read them.

    • jonfitt says:

      I don’t pay much attention to any spelling mistakes, but I do think when I see them that modern online publishing seems to have neglected the poor copy editor. Perhaps the larger sites do employ them, but from what I heard from the Ziff lay-offs, life is tough for the noble copy editor.

    • ynamite says:

      But I want others to point and laugh at you, why else would I mention them?

      On a serious note: I’m simply going to refrain from mentioning typos in the future, but I’m too lazy to write you an e-mail just to let you know that I’ve too much spare time.

      I almost gave up the thought of even writing a comment in the first place, what with having to sign in and all. Yeah. I’m a lazy bastard. I do realise there is an keep me signed in option, but I empty my browser cache and cookies on a daily basis because I like caches to be empty and cookies to not get stale.

  10. Ross Mills says:

    Wait, you made this entire article, and you didn’t get a sound bite?!

    “I’m Commander Shephard, and Rock Paper Shotgun is my favourite site on the Internet!”

  11. zipdrive says:

    Good questions, guys, and quite a few good answers. Good on you, Jennifer Hale!

  12. reticulate says:

    Great interview. You guys should interview Nolan North next and ask him what it’s like being in pretty much every game ever.

    Also, as per practically everyone I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s work with femShep, but my main ME character is the default dude. It’s so I can watch all the trailers, look at box art and be all “That’s my Shep!” Lame, but there it is.

  13. Strontium Mike says:

    Bastilla’s accent was supposed to be British? What part of Britain was she meant to be from then? Same for Jennifer Mui, I loved the way in Mercenaries 2 the npcs would constantly call you the Brit or British merc to reinforce that she’s meant to be speaking with a British accent. Real subtle that.

    Thankfully games tend to come with subtitles and separate volume sliders for voices.

  14. woodsey says:

    I still don’t understand why BioWare (and more game studios especially) don’t at least have the main cast in all at the same time as much as they can.

    I thought she was fantastic as Bastila, as Shepard the voice doesn’t really click for me. Perhaps I’m too used to ManShep.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      Cost. Voice artists are expensive and they bill by the session. It’s a lot quicker and cheaper to do it one at a time, especially considering they are recording not one, but two Shepard VOs which means they’d have to get everyone else to read twice also.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s also a matter of logistics. Getting people together to record cutscenes makes sense, and I would argue should be a more general practise. But when it comes to conversations where you can pick three or four different choices at each stage, with multiple branching routes, it’s simply impossible to have two people record that together. (Without repeating each line over and over.)

  15. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    SHEPAAAARRD!

    Anyway, Hale’s track record is pretty awesome.

  16. KillahMate says:

    Excellent interview John. NOW PUT UP THE ELLEN MCLAIN INTERVIEW YOU’VE BEEN SITTING ON FOR FOUR YEARS.

    Ahem.

    Tag it ‘retro’ if you want.

  17. westyfield says:

    I recently watched an interview with Ali Hillis (Liara from Mass Effect, Dr Hanson from Starcraft 2), and it was very strange to hear her normal voice. This probably sounds naive, but as movie/TV actors mostly use their own voice, I’d expected voice actors to be the same, even though she clearly sounds different in Starcraft to how she sounds in Mass Effect. Seeing her then switch to her Liara voice was also somewhat disconcerting.
    Jennifer Hale briefly appeared in the interview as well, and I had a similar “You don’t sound like Shepard. Guards! Seize this imposter!” moment.
    Long story short, voice actors are crazy. Nice interview, John!

  18. Alexander Norris says:

    RPS: My motivation to play female is that when there’s an opportunity to play an interesting female character, I’ll take it.
    (…)
    RPS: Are you surprised more people don’t do that?

    It’s a format thing, too. Mass Effect is marketed as a CRPG where you create your own character, so I’d imagine most blokes will play mShep. If they’d marketed it as “play one of two established characters, one of which happens to be female,” I would gather people would have a reaction more in line with yours, John.

    • rittenhaus says:

      I tried to play male Shep after finishing the game twice with female Shepard. I just can’t do it. It may be because I enjoy the intimidation dialogue options. When Jennifer Hale delivers those lines, they’re intimidating. Male Shep just ends up sounding… not intimidating. In other aspects as well, Hale’s voice work is emotive and believable. Male Shep just sounds kind of dull-witted and cranky by comparison.

      Great interview, wouldn’t mind reading more like that.

  19. Schadenfreude says:

    How did they calculate that 18% stat I wonder? Is it that 18% of games played were with femShep or only 18% of players have played femShep?
    A lot of people have played through multiple times and I know I’ve played both Shepards – am I just cancelling myself out in the equation?

    EDIT: Incidentally I don’t think the gulf between Meer’s and Hale’s performances are as large in Mass Effect 2 as they were in part 1.

    • Mana_Garmr says:

      I’ve always wondered about that stat tracking stuff.

      Is the fact that turning off the uploading options is the first thing I do with most games sabotaging the chances of my preferences being taken into account?

    • mejoff says:

      It helps that the whole cast upped their game, as it were, for ME2. The writing was miles ahead as well, which will have helped massively.

    • DaFishes says:

      I don’t buy the 18% statistic, I really really don’t. EA marketing keeps trotting that out whenever there’s a popular movement for the female Shepard to get more marketing. Watch the timing on it–it happens every time. David Silverman, an EA marketing director, is particularly guilty of this. By the way, he’s the guy who had the “intuition” to market solely with a male Hawke for DA2.

    • viverravid says:

      I don’t buy the 18% statistic

      You should. ME games are major sellers, the audience is predominantly male, and the RPS commentariat is a very unrepresentative sample of people who bought the game.

  20. Skeletor68 says:

    Here’s a weird one. Jennifer is listed as Satele Shan in SW:TOR and was Bastila Shan in KOTOR.
    Distant relative? Daughter? Some other kind of cool reference to Bastila in KOTOR?

    Is this the geekiest moment I have ever had as a grown man?

    • Schadenfreude says:

      From Wookipedia:
      http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Satele_Shan
      “Shan’s biographical entry in the official site’s Holonet feature revealed that she was a direct descendant of Bastila Shan, a character from the 2003 Xbox and PC video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which was developed by BioWare, which is currently developing Star Wars: The Old Republic.”

      Sith Lord Baras states that he believes Satele is also a descendant of Revan.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Ha, I knew I was totally going to bone her in KOTOR! *Ahem*

      Sorry for not doing my research Schadenfreude.

    • Althilor says:

      Which also makes it a nice touch that they have Hale voicing Satele, I feel even if the voice of Satele isn’t the same as Bastilla’s.

  21. Balm says:

    I made an effort to read that interview in Shepard’s voice. Was interesting. Was disapointed by lack of renegade interrupts. Was entertained by little giggle In-My-Head-Shepard exhaled when she said “maimed each other every week”

    • sinister agent says:

      Ha! Great, now I can’t think of this interview without imagining her lunging forward and pushing Walker out of a window.

  22. sasayan says:

    Excellent interview, and Shepard looks remarkably like The One True Shepard. John Walker is a man who knows how things should be.

  23. formivore says:

    It interesting she was maybe implying that studios deliberately try not to create VA “stars” to avoid having to pay a premium. Hmm, actually I’m not sure that that theory has any economic logic. In any case so much of modern celebrity is based on physical appearance that I doubt it would ever happen.

    • Veracity says:

      Could be. Then again, you sometimes see a bit of backlash when studios splash out on celebrities. Putting Captain Picard in Oblivion for two minutes and using Bob wot makes the tea for the remaining 200 NPCs springs to mind. That’s pre-existing celebrities, though, which I think is unquestionably a bad idea – the “invisibility” Hale talks about in the interview is practically the opposite of what you want and expect from “faces”, and only experienced VAs are likely familiar with the peculiar demands of rattling off four hundred lines in a box in an afternoon, in the worst cases without even being told its context.

      I don’t think the handful of well-known VAs getting some recognition would be harmful, but they do already get a little, and it’s probably worth acknowledging that their ubiquity is recognition, in itself – they’re known to be good at it, so they get all the decent work. The fact the good ones have chameleon voices and no one knows what they look like is always going to make film star levels of celebrity unlikely, though, without necessarily needing a conspiracy by producers.

      RPS (I think, could’ve been a Papers link) did run a feature a while ago on why it’s a miracle video game voice acting is ever better than atrocious (in short, it’d be really expensive to make it better and no one seems to care much), but whole seconds of googling didn’t turn it up.

  24. jonfitt says:

    I really wanted a sex change to be part of the reconstruction in ME2, but it wasn’t an option :(
    I guess I’m now stuck with default-face manShep for ME3 too.

  25. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I hope she pulled over or used a hands free set. Otherwise you are endangering lives.

  26. PanzerVaughn says:

    I was going to say “oh dang, she played the girl-duck in the animated Mighty Ducks cartoon” when i remembered there were actually two, and was going to clarify “The hot one” when i realized what i had thought, and made myself sad.

  27. Reapy says:

    Man looked at her imdb and surprise surprise I’ve been listening to this woman speak to me for more than half of my life without even knowing it. Crazy. She really is invisible. (Or maybe… WAS invisible :) )

  28. Big Murray says:

    Sometimes it seems like Jennifer Hale’s been in every video-game that’s ever mattered.

  29. Pointless Puppies says:

    We caught up with Jennifer as she drove through LA, to ask how she came to provide so many of gaming’s iconic voices,

    So…you creepily drove two cars behind her the whole time, or did you accost and forcibly interview her while you were both driving on the highway?

  30. Deviija says:

    I love you, Jennifer Hale. Such an amazing and nice person. I am also really, really happy that RPS snagged an interview with her, thanks for that! When ME2 rolled out with its hard media push, I remember Mark Meer got a lot of coverage and interviews, and it seemed like there was this push of the iconic and male Shepard (and his VA), while the female Shepard was invisible and Hale got a couple fan-related interviews online. So this is nice. :)

    Word to her about people may not know lady Shep is an option and marketing is always the male Shepard (until now). I even did not know you could play as a female when ME1 came out, I didn’t know until a friend told me half a year or so later. (And then I bought the game.)

    I also agree with her that the 18% number looks not quite right. But data being what it is, we don’t know the specifics of who these players are and what qualifiers they have for being counted. I made 6 DudeSheps, for example, but never finished them beyond the starting area. Were they counted each individually as six tallies for DudeShep? Or did they only count players/Shepards that played x amount of time or finished the game? Then there’s the ability to turn off the ‘send your telemetry data in to BioWare’ option. How many people did that like I did? Anyway, lots of unknowns and possible factors that do not give a better scope of these numbers.

  31. BobsLawnService says:

    “Yeah, good” – she doesn’t care man. She really doesn’t care.

    I know it’s wrong but I’m a little drunk and laughing my ass off after reading that.

  32. medwards says:

    I didn’t play as female Shepherd in the first Mass Effect because I didn’t want to play as a female for the titillation factor and I didn’t know that there was any merit in playing her beyond that. I think 18% is still pretty good and just a sign that many gamers haven’t been given a good reason to prefer Hale’s voice acting.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      Well from my perspective I didn’t even know FemShep exited till I got the game. I only rolled a FemShep out of frustration over ManShep’s voice not fitting with the default or my several custom faces. I don’t know why every line he spoke annoyed me so, it just did. I never felt that way with FemShep’s voice.

      After beating the game with FemShep I eventually tried once again to do so with the default male Shepard, but I just lost all interest in it about 65% of the way through.

  33. EndelNurk says:

    My favourite Jennifer Hale part is Major Sarah Parker in Ground Control. She hits it absolutely perfectly.

    • Groove says:

      Hot damn, she really is in every important game.

      As soon as I read that it immeadiately synched up in my head and the whole game came flooding back to me.

  34. Lambchops says:

    Frivolous question. As Jennifer Hale appears to be in “all the games” in much the same way Nolan North is in “all the games” are there actually any games in which they both feature? Would be amusing if the two most prolific voice actors in gaming had never actually crossed paths.

    • Lambchops says:

      To answer my own question Wikipedia shows both as appearing in Marvel vs Capcom 3, Spiderman Shattered Dimensions and the SOCOM series but that’s about it. If nothing else it’s some massively geeky pub trivia!

  35. BeamSplashX says:

    Hale’s matter-of-fact deliver of “That’s disgusting,” in Dino Crisis is still one of my favorite lines in a game. I was especially impressed since PS1-era Capcom games generally had awful voice work.

  36. Monkeh says:

    Great read! Also:

    “Hale: I don’t know. It would be a bum to have missed that boat, that’s for sure! It’s quite possible, although, as cheesy as it sounds, the player is the star of the game. That’s the beauty of games – that it’s you that inhabits it. It’s not about someone else, it’s about that you get to be that person, and if I do my job right, I as a person disappear. Your experience is primary.”

    Didn’t expect to read this from a person who has hardly ever played a game, very spot on!

  37. Urthman says:

    How on earth did Bioware miss out on basing one of the options for Shepard’s face on Jenifer Hale herself?

  38. Eversor says:

    Jennifer Hale believes female Shepard should be a redhead. I have chosen my true Shepard correctly.

    A wonderful interview, I never bloody knew she was in Freelancer! Another day, and I find out yet another piece of media I greatly enjoyed that she has voice acted in.

  39. cw8 says:

    No mention of Fall-From-Grace and Katrina?

  40. darkpower says:

    I would have a small question to her: Does she prefer the Paragon or Renegade Shep? Would be interesting to see which version’s lines she got into more.

  41. Drake Sigar says:

    No mention of Jun’Ko Zane? :)

  42. Qeyleb says:

    She played Persephone in Sacrifice. That’s right, she played a GODDESS.

    I don’t think Bastilla was meant to be a British accent. It was a unique accent, one I wish they would teach to other bland Jedi ;-)

    WHY isn’t her picture on IMDB yet?

  43. matrices says:

    She faux-complains a lot in the interview about not being famous.

    For one thing, very few voice actors are famous in Hollywood or in anything else, so this is not a video game-specific reality (although no doubt the Hollywood and advertising ones are paid massively more.)

    For another thing, you’ve been doing voice acting in games for much of your life, and yet you’ve never even played a video game? How the hell do you expect to become famous if you’re not even vying for recognition from at least your own potential fan base? She could have established a very well-read blog of her experiences playing games in which she is featured, as well as other games.

  44. dellphukof says:

    It’s a video game that employs artisans such as actors, writers, illustrators, designers and so on. Therefore on a purely technical level, yes, it is art. However I suspect the real question might be, is Mass Effect art on an emotional level? In other words, is Mass Effect profound or is it simply something to waste away 30+ hours?mat kinh hang hieu