Exclusive Interview With Laura Bailey, Voice Of Spartan Vale

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GS: So we’re going to hear you in Halo 5: Guardians as Olympia Vale.

LB: Heck yeah! I’m excited about it!

GS: Fans of the series know Olympia Vale from Hunters in the Dark, but, am I right? This is the first time we’ve heard her voice.

LB: Yeah, lotta pressure there, right?

GS: Yeah! So, what can you tell us about the kind of person Vale is, and what it’s like bringing her out of the page of a book?

LB: You know what’s hard, is that Hunters in the Dark wasn’t out when I got cast as Vale. So I was told all this backstory about her, but it wasn’t until really we were almost done recording that I saw Hunters in the Dark in printed form. I was like: Aw, man! This would’ve been great two years ago! But, it was cool, because Vale is not your typical Spartan. She’s not a run-and-gun kinda lady; she came from a diplomatic standpoint and found her way into the Spartan program because she was good in combat. But she does have a different perspective. In a lot of the levels, she is interested in culture, and she’s interested in learning more about what makes a lot of the different alien species tick. So it’s cool to get to go through a level and be like: Look at this, this is what this means in Sangheili, this is why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s nice, even from a player aspect to get to see that, what you didn’t know from the previous games.

GS: When you picked up the book, did you find that your portrayal of her matched pretty well?

LB: I think it matches it pretty well! I’m interested to hear what the fans say after the game is released. Microsoft and 343 are really specific. They know what they want and they know what these characters have been through, so they were very specific in the recording process about making sure that things sound the way they need to, and that the lines were right for the characters so yeah, I think they did a very good job of keeping that in mind when we were recording.

GS: You played Morgan Rivera in Halo 4; we’ve heard you in a Halo game before. Comparably that was quite a smaller role. What were the most notable differences between Rivera and Vale, and between playing the two?

LB: The thing is, with Halo 4, I went in for probably 4 hours of recording on that, maybe 8 hours. And that was years ago! See, that’s the thing with a lot of games that you work on, is you go in, they don’t tell you very much about your character necessarily, it’s just: Oh, this is who you’re playing! Okay, let’s record it! So, it’s a whole different experience being somebody like Vale, because she’s been with me for a couple years now and we’ve gotten to explore all these different aspects of her, and the audition process was crazy-intense. When we auditioned Vale, I had all these scenes to play with when we auditioned, just so they could see these different aspects of her character which aren’t even in the game now! We never filmed them once I was cast, but they wanted to be able to see where she was coming from and if I could portray that moving forward without all that extra scenework.

GS: You say you only went in for 4-8 hours for Morgan Rivera. Are there any other small, 4-8 hour roles you’ve done that you wish more people knew about?

LB: You know, I didn’t record for very long on Bioshock Infinite, but I was pretty happy with how everything turned out, all of the Lady Comstock audio that I ended up hearing in the game sounds very good, and Ken [Levine] is just ridiculous. Yeah, he’s very specific about what he wants. It was great to get the direction from him and then see what it actually was in the game once I went in. And then I also did very small little stuff in The Last of Us: Left Behind, the DLC. And that’s another thing that was a very small role but very, very well-written and I love working with Neil Druckmann, obviously, he’s a wonderful director, so I think it turned out really well, as well!

GS: Do you have any interesting or funny stories from recording Spartan Vale?

…If there’s another person in the room that you’re reacting off of, I feel like the performance is gonna be so much better.

LB: This doesn’t necessarily have to do with me, but it kinda does. The stunt woman playing Spartan Vale–her name is Natalie Padilla–she is unbelievable. So, we’d be on set together and I’d get to watch her. I’d do this running sequence and I’d run through, and then they’d cut, and they’d go: Now, for the next part of the sequence, Vale leaps over this giant wall. Okay, now bring Natalie, and she’d just run in and do this crazy leaping sequence and it was just amazing to get to watch these things! And then getting to see it put into the game and see what everything looks like–the whole opening cinematic with Vale just being the coolest ever was pretty awesome to get to watch.

GS: When you’re in there doing the motion capture work for Halo 5, was it just you and the stuntwoman? Were there other characters in there talking to you, or were you just there by yourself?

LB: Oh no, there’s the other actors as well. All of Fireteam Osiris was usually who I shot with. So we became an actual team that felt very cohesive when we were filming, even though Travis Willingham, who is my husband, did a lot of the motion capture for the Buck character because Nathan (Fillion) was unavailable, I’m pretty sure he’s filming Castle, being crazy busy like he is, so he laid down a lot of the groundwork for Buck so I got to work with Travis on the mo-cap stage for a lot of the process, and then Nathan came in later and he did all the facial capture and I think filled in some of the other scenes later as Buck.

GS: So that’s really different from just being in the studio by yourself. Do you like that better?

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LB: I always prefer to be in the room with somebody else. Even if it’s just voiceover and not motion capture, it’s…if there’s another person in the room that you’re reacting off of, I feel like the performance is gonna be so much better. And it seems like lately more and more of the games that I’m recording on have been doing that, where they get more than one person in the booth at a time. It can be more challenging because a lot of times, with game audio, it’s a lot of back and forth and going back to the starting point and moving forward with this branch, but I feel like the benefit is worth it, it pays off in the performances.

GS: Awesome, well that’s all I’ve got, actually! I’m looking forward to Halo 5, and thank you so much for talking to me.

LB: Oh, thank you! I’m very much looking forward to playing it as well. I can’t wait!