We caught up with voice actor Jennifer Hale ahead of her appearances at Supanova’s Sydney and Perth events.
You may not recognise her name, but you’ll probably know her voice – she’s Shepard in the Mass Effect games, Billy’s mum in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
How did you first find your way into acting?
It was a happy accident, which I am eternally grateful for. I went to a fine arts high school, and I started working at a video production house next to a video production studio. I got called next door to do a couple of spots, and got a few mentors, and just kept doing that really. I worked it like a business, went door-to-door, spoke to agencies, cold-called people with my stuff. I went to Atlanta, which was probably my nearest ‘big city’ where they do film and TV, and booked my first audition. Then, I got into voice acting a little bit, moved to L.A. for film and TV, then auditioned for my first voiceover role and booked a cartoon series, and it just kept going from there. It all happened with a bunch of years behind it. I’d spent six or more years before I got to L.A., just working my craft, studying as hard as I could with what was available to me. It was a lot of preparation. Once I got my first cartoon series I jumped into class with anyone I could find who seemed worthwhile, and just learned a tonne from some really brilliant people.
You’ve starred as a few different comic heroes – did you ever read any?
I actually wasn’t allowed as a kid. I couldn’t do any of that. I just read lots of books with tons of words and no pictures. I played by myself all the time; my best friend was my dog, and my imagination was pretty intense, so that’s helped me a lot.
Do you consider yourself much of a gamer?
HA! I suck at it, I spend so much time doing it that if I played them as well, I would have nothing to bring to them because I would have no life. When I have free time I am outside, having a life, doing things, so when I get into that booth I’ve got something to bring to the party. When I was at Machinima recently, I discovered to my dismay that first-person-perspective games make me puke. I thought I had food poisoning! I thought, ‘Well there you go – that’s another reason this isn’t for me.’ If I played games I was in, it would drive me nuts, ’cause I would just want to keep going back and changing things that I’d done, trying to make them better.
Do you have a favourite role?
It’s really hard to pick – it’s like asking me to choose a favourite child. I love, love, love the variety I’ve been able to do. It’s the variety that really makes me happy. I also loved that we pretty much broke the glass ceiling with Shepard – getting FemShep on the box for the third one, which wasn’t me, it was the fans. And BioWare being so incredibly responsive to them. I also love the indies; the spirit and the grit of an indie is great.
How was it working with the team on the Halo games?
Working with that team was amazing. First of all, doing motion capture is one of my absolute favourite things to do. The fact that I got to do that was absolutely incredible. I loved working with them. I love [the character, Sarah] especially because she’s got this irreverence that I really like; she’s not as serious as Shepard, she’s not wound as tight. She doesn’t have as much pressure on her – I mean she’s got a lot of pressure, but not, like, the galaxy. You can have a lot more fun, and she’ll take the piss out of anybody.
Finally, is there any franchise you haven’t touched that you’d like to?
There’s so much. Everything is changing and I love it. I always joke that anything where I can sing a ride a horse at the same time I’m happy to do. At the same time, I also joke that I want Edward James Olmos’s role in Battlestar Galactica. Anything in that sci-fi world I love. Television is in this incredible time, whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi, it’s there. Those are my favourite genres, because you get to go a little outside the box, and yet it’s still connected to the human experience.
Jennifer Hale will be appearing at Supanova Sydney (June 16-18) and Perth (June 23-25). You can still get tickets at the website.