Photo Credit: Isaac Sterling
We recently had the opportunity to talk to Laura Bailey, the voice actress behind Spartan Olympia Vale in Halo 5: Guardians, which released for Xbox One on October 27. She also recently voiced Fiona in Tales from the Borderlands, which finished its fifth and final episode on October 20th. Other notable credits include Lucina in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Rayne in Bloodrayne, and Jaina Proudmoore in World of Warcraft, as well as countless other notable roles both in gaming and anime.
In this interview, we talked about voice acting in a Telltale title, motion capture, Jaina Proudmoore in World of Warcraft: Legion, and creating Spartan Vale for Halo 5:
GameSided: Hi! Thanks for letting me talk to you today.
Laura Bailey: Oh, no problem!
GS: So, you were the most-cast woman in video games in 2014, and you’re well on your way to doing just a ton of stuff in 2015 too. I know it’s really hard to pick a favorite thing in your entire life, but in the last year or so, have there been any roles that stood out as just the most fun thing ever?
LB: Ah, I really loved working on Tales from the Borderlands. It’s so much fun. And the characters in that game are just so well-written, and even though it seems like it could be just all fluff and fun, there’s so much more to them, and Fiona is such a really cool character to get to play. She’s tough and snarky, but just a big heart on the inside. It’s great.
GS: Telltale Games are known for really intricate, character-driven narratives. Was voicing a Telltale game significantly different from voice acting other games that have less character-driven narration going on?
LB: It’s mostly because of the branches. It can get really confusing, knowing that this dialogue option is based on if the player chose this dialogue option in a previous episode. But the great thing about having Nick Herman and Pierre Shorette as the people in my ear the whole time is they were so aware of what was going on and they were really good about bringing it back to: Okay, this is the base of the branches, so this is where we need to come back to each time to make sure it’s all cohesive.
GS: Without spoiling anything, was there an ending or path from Tales from the Borderlands that you thought was the best one, or the right one?
LB: Haha, yes? Of course! Gosh, but I can’t say it, cuz it’s still too new, but I do! I do, I love that it’s open. Because I would love to come back and do more of that project. So, I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed so hard that a Season Two ends up happening.
GS: Are you playing any games right now? Just for fun?
LB: I am very excited about Fallout 4. I tried playing Elder Scrolls Online, I just didn’t have the time to invest in it like I needed to, which I know Fallout 4 is gonna be the same thing, but I’m gonna lose a lot of nights of sleep to that game. But yeah, I played Ori and the Blind Forest recently, which is just like a nice little indie game and it’s beautiful.
GS: I assume you end up playing at least most of the games that you get to act in. What about the games that you can go back to after you’ve played them once, like Super Smash Bros or World of Warcraft? Do you ever pick those up?
LB: I have not ever played World of Warcraft. Basically because I would lose my entire life, I think, if I played World of Warcraft. And, it sucks, because I know I would love it.
GS: Are you coming back as Jaina Proudmoore in Legion? Can I ask that?
LB: I have not gone in to record yet? I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer this. I think I am. I mean, I’m pretty sure I am. I haven’t gone in and done anything.
GS: I’ve heard that you’re a huge RPG fan. If you could voice any RPG character ever, even in games that didn’t have voice acting, who would it be?
LB: Can I be just a player character in Dragon Age?
GS: Absolutely, you can be whoever you want.
LB: Oh my gosh, I would love that. I’m not holding my breath for it, but it would certainly be great. But at the same time, I don’t know if it would be as much fun to play it because I would know what was gonna happen, too. So that’s a give and take right there. And, I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about Critical Role? So it’s this show where other voice actors and I have a D&D campaign and in my fantasy world, it would be awesome to have a video game of our game. So I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for that. If we’re talking ideal, that would be pretty great.
GS: So, I wanted to ask about motion capture. Does all of your voiceover work for gaming involve motion capture?
LB: No, not all of it, but a lot of it! And it just keeps growing more and more; I have a few big projects lined up next year, and all of them are gonna be filmed. But, you know [Tales from the] Borderlands obviously wasn’t, and a lot of what I do still is just voiceover. But I think with the evolution of games it just makes sense more and more projects are gonna start moving to the stages.
GS: Do you feel it helps you get into character more? Or is it harder?
I would be like, “I need to go give this stone I just found to Dagna.” I wouldn’t think, “I need to go find myself.”
LB: It’s got its challenges for sure, but there is something to be said about being able to fully embody a character: you become more attached when you have their little physicalities and their little tics. And, for the most part, I still do that in the booth, it’s just a little more unconscious when I’m doing it. Each character that I voice, I have a different posture for as I’m recording. It changes deliveries based on your body stance, at least for me it does. So yeah, I feel like I become a bit more attached when I play it on the stages, but also because when you’re filming it you’re usually working on that project for far longer because it takes so much longer to incorporate all that into the game, so that character has been with me longer than maybe something that I go in and do a couple sessions for.
GS: So do you have a favorite experience doing motion capture, like a favorite character to physically embody?
LB: I really loved the physicality of Fetch in Infamous: Second Son and First Light. I kinda had this image of Tank Girl in my head when I was first starting the character and it just kept growing into something else as we kept filming the game. I really liked her fun, punk physicality that I got to do for her, and it’s a little crazy, and then we went back to First Light to get to see her in a more vulnerable state, which was also really cool.
GS: Do you play the game, and then watch it, and see yourself doing all that? Is it weird?
LB: It is weird! And yes, I do play it. It’s hard, because I always second guess what I did at the time, I go: Aw, I should’ve done this! I try really hard not to be too critical of my performances when I play a game. Sometimes I’ll completely lose sight of the fact that I voiced a character, like when I was playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, I totally forgot that I was Dagna when I was playing the game. I would be like, “I need to go give this stone I just found to Dagna.” I wouldn’t think, “I need to go find myself.”
Next: Laura Bailey talks about Spartan Olympia Vale and Halo 5: Guardians