Interview: Laura Bailey Discusses Video Game Voice Acting And Playing Titansgrave With Wil Wheaton
You may not recognize Laura Bailey's name, but you definitely know her voice: she has done the voices for many iconic video games, animated series and has been an online presence recently with several Geek & Sundry web series.
Recently, gamers heard Bailey as the voice of both Bianca and Dagda in Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as the voice of Fiona in TellTale Games' Tales from the Borderlands.
So what's life like as a successful voice actor? We spoke to Bailey about that, as well as what it's like playing an RPG with Wil Wheaton.
What was the first video game you did voice acting for and how did that experience convince you that you wanted to keep doing that?
Well, the first video game I ever did was BloodRayne, which was a long time ago. I played Rayne in it. It was so cool to get to play a character that was so bad-ass, obviously. When I first started with voice acting, I was still doing a lot of on-camera work. It wasn't until I moved out to California about eight years ago that I really focused solely on the voice acting element of my career. When I was in Texas doing voiceovers, there was only so much there that's available. So I was working all the time with Funimation doing anime, doing the video games that recorded there.
When I came out to California, I realized just the sheer amount of games being made and different opportunities in animation and it really kind of blew my mind that I could just focus my career on that.
What has been your favorite video game role to date and why?
Oh, that's so hard! It's hard because I'm such a fan of video games, so a lot of the times the games that are my favorites to work on are not ones that I was a huge part of, but I was just excited to be part of that franchise. I was a huge fan of Dragon Age before I was cast as Bianca and Dagda in Inquisition. I'd been hoping, hoping, hoping to be a part of that game for a long time. So I was super excited when I got that phone call.
Getting cast as Serah Farron in Final Fantasy was a huge thing, as well, because I spent countless hours playing Final Fantasy games in the past, so I was really stoked to be a character in that world.
If you could voice a character in any video game franchise that you haven't already done a character for, what would it be and why?
I mean, Fem Shep, c'mon! How cool is she? But who could play it better than Jennifer Hale? So that's a hard thing because I would have loved the opportunity to do that, but I wouldn't want to ruin the experience I had with the actors playing it and with the cast.
If we could do a video game - and this is just speaking fantasy for some - of the D&D game that I play on Critical Role for Geek & Sundry, if we could make a video game version of our party, I would die. That would be the best thing ever. It's all voice actors in that game so, technically, we probably could do it.
Currently, we can hear you as Fiona in TellTale's Tales from the Borderlands. Telltale seems like it would be a really cool company to work with. Can you talk a little about that role and working with that developer?
TellTale is one of the best developers I've ever worked with. They're just one of the most welcoming, and they do a really amazing job of making you feel like you're part of a family when you're recording with them. They tend to reuse a lot of cast members from previous games and put them in new projects, as well, and that's really cool. And yeah, they're just really fun to record with.
A lot of the times, I don't get to see them in person because they're based out of San Francisco. They record here in Los Angeles, so only every once in awhile does one of them get to fly down and actually be in the recording session with me. Most of the times, it's over the phone. They're so funny and so nice and they just do an amazing job of allowing us to breathe life into the characters on our own, and also having such amazing writing that it lets you really play.
What is a typical day for you like when you're doing your recording sessions?
Most of the time, I have two or three sessions every day for different projects. So I'll have a session in the morning, and then a session in the afternoon. And sometimes, it will be like a 9 to 11, then an 11 to 1 and then 3 to 6 for something else. So you're really jumping from personality to personality all throughout the day. That's one of the things that I love so much about voiceover is that you can be creative in so many different areas. I can start with something very dramatic in the morning and then something crazy and goofy in the afternoon. And so I never feel like it's work. It always feels like playtime every single day.
Do you get scripts in advance? How do you prepare for roles?
It really depends on the project. Lately, and with a lot of projects in the video game industry, it's transitioning into motion capture. So a lot of the projects that I'm working on will film for a year, or sometimes two, before it ever gets released. So with projects like that, you get the benefit of coming on early on in the project and really create a character with the developers from the ground up.
With "First Light," the DLC for Infamous: Second Son, early on, we actually flew up to Seattle and had a workshop with all the guys at Sucker Punch to define who the characters were and what we could really envision for them. That was such a cool thing to do, and I feel like a lot more companies are really starting to embrace that aspect in their approach for characters.
And then, sometimes, I'll go in and, with a game like Persona 4, and I would never see a script beforehand. And I would just go in and record every day on the fly. Sometimes, I wouldn't even see the dialogue of the characters around my dialogue. It would just be words on a monitor in front of me and I would just read the lines and hope and trust in my director that it would work with everything going on around it.
Let's talk about Titansgrave: what has that experience been like for you?
You know, it was so crazy, because we were filming Critical Role - we had just started that and I play Vex'ahlia, a rogue character in that game where I do everything from a distance. And when we started on Titansgrave, we all created our characters together, so everybody else created characters that were more stealth and also did things from a distance. And that's usually my go-to. When I play an RPG, I'm either a ranger or a magic user or something that keeps far away from the combat because I don't like running into the fray. But because everyone else did that, I knew I had to create a character that had to be a tank because otherwise, we'd just be a party of people hiding behind rocks the entire time.
I created Lemley - I transitioned from what I originally envisioned for her and turned her into a tank character, and it was probably the best thing that could have happened because it defined who she was. And I love Lemley so much. She's hilarious. I love playing a character that acts first and thinks later. It's such a fun thing to do.
What's it like working with Wil Wheaton on that series?
I've been such a fan of Wil's for so long. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and I had such a crush on Wesley growing up. While we were filming, I would look across the table and be just like "What am I doing? What is happening in my life right now that I'm sitting across the table from Wil Wheaton playing a dice tabletop game. This is crazy!"
Photo: Isaac Sterling