Seeking to find out just what goes into localizing an RPG, we were lucky enough to get hold of several of the voice actors and actresses from Tales of Vesperia to see just what working on a top RPG series is like.
Last week we spoke to Liam O'Brien and to kick off this week we chat to the talented Danielle Judovits about her work on the game and her voice acting career in general.
RPGSite: Hi Danielle, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you doing?
Danielle Judovits: Doing great!
RPGSite: It has to be said that you are still very young and yet your resume stretches back quite a few years. Just how old were you when you first started acting?
Danielle: Yes, it seems like I've been doing this forever. I started acting professionally when I was five.
RPGSite: From what I can tell, the majority of your work has been as a voice actor, but you did make a few small on screen appearances early on in your career. Is that an area that you would like to return to or are you happier behind the microphone?
Danielle: It's an interesting question actually - and it's one that I wrestle with a lot. I love doing voice work but sometimes I absolutely miss being in front of a camera. There's a different sort of reaction you can get or see out of people that you can't when you're behind a microphone. Right now, voice work is keeping me happy, but to be honest, I still haven't completely figured it out myself; I'll let you know when I do! ;)
RPGSite: Have you ever done any stage acting?
Danielle: The stage is actually where I started and how I got my "break". I grew up doing musical theater, and was lucky enough to catch the attention of an agent during a production of "Annie" I was in (every little girl's favorite show!). I still love the theater and try to continue to do shows whenever I can.
RPGSite: What is it about voice acting that most appeals to you?
Danielle: Although I kind of just fell into it as a kid and didn't really understand what I was doing or how it differed from on-camera, now looking back at it from an adults point of view, I think voice acting is a lot more challenging in a lot of ways. You have to convey everything you want to your audience, but you can only use your voice, as opposed to on-camera, where we can use body language, facial expressions and so forth. I really commend voice-over artists and think they are truly some of the best actors out there.
RPGSite: We originally got in touch with you because of your work on Tales of Vesperia. How did you first get involved with the game?
Danielle: I auditioned like many others and thankfully just got lucky!
RPGSite: Have you worked on many role playing games or was this a first?
Danielle: I've been lucky enough that I've done a lot of role playing games in the past, so I wasn't really going into this blindly and had a sense of what was expected.
RPGSite: Do you ever play RPGs yourself?
Danielle: HA! I wish I could say I did, but truth be told, I'm such a girly girl and rarely go anywhere near any type of video game. I need to change that because some of the stuff I work on looks so cool!
RPGSite: How long did the recording process take?
Danielle: From start to finish, I'd say we were done somewhere between 3 and 4 hours.
RPGSite: Now it may have only just been released here in Europe but it hit the shelves nearly a full year ago in the United States; how long has it been since you recorded the script?
Danielle: It's been a while, almost a year and a half I'd say.
RPGSite: Is it common for something you have worked on to take a long time to reach audiences and if so, do you ever find that frustrating?
Danielle: Yeah, sometimes projects can take a while, either they get delayed, scripts change, a lot of work needs to go into it, etc. I wouldn't really say it's frustrating, rather most of the times it's more amusing because I'll forget about something I worked on and then a year later I'll be walking through the store or see an ad for something and go "Oh ya! I totally worked on that!" That's the fun part for me.
RPGSite: In the game you portray a princess named Estelle, or Estellise Sidos Heurassein to give her full name, which is quite the mouthful. Are you glad it was kept to 'Estelle' for the most part?
Danielle: Ha, yes! Try saying that full name three times fast!
RPGSite: What are your thoughts on the character and her development throughout the game?
Danielle: It's been so long since I've recorded this, I've got to be honest with you, I don't even remember what happens to the character! I'm guessing you won't want to put that in the interview!
RPGSite: Actually, I think it would be good to keep it in - it proves just how long it has taken for the game to reach those of us in Europe. Plus, you know, I think it’s kind of funny. Would that be OK?
Danielle: HA, sure! No problem :)
RPGSite: Did portraying her satisfy any childhood dreams of being a princess?
Danielle: Oh of course, what girl doesn't want to be a princess? ;)
RPGSite: Did you feel you could relate to her at all?
Danielle: Ya, I think I try to relate to all my characters in some way; yes, she may have been a princess but she is also a young girl going through a lot of the same things I am going through or have gone through in the past so there is definitely a relatable factor.
RPGSite: What was the atmosphere like behind the scenes?
Danielle: Completely calm and fun, they basically just let me do my own thing and just kind of go with it!
RPGSite: What advice were you given in regards to finding Estelle's voice?
Danielle: Again, they were pretty open about letting me find my own voice. It was basically just me with a few minor tweaks.
RPGSite: And were you happy with your final performance?
Danielle: I think so, I've yet to see the final game though, so who knows!
RPGSite: You have worked quite extensively in animation, both western and anime. How does the recording process differ between the two and also with recording for a video game?
Danielle: Yes, there is quite a difference. With regular (Western) animation, I record a session, often with a full, or almost full cast together at the same time. Then it is animated, or drawn to match our voice. With anime, the picture is already done, so I have to be much more in tune and sync up my voice to the characters mouth while watching it from a screen. Also, with anime, you pretty much always record alone, which is the same as most video games.
The only other difference with video games is since there are so many different options when playing a game and the creators never know what the player is going to pick, the actors have to record each possible response, or reaction. Sometimes that part can be lengthy depending on how many different options there are!
RPGSite: In doing my research for both this and our other Vesperia interviews, I was amazed by just how many different projects various members of the cast have worked on together. Is there any particular reason why the same few names seem to be involved with everything?
Danielle: Yes, the voiceover industry is actually a very small world, and the same people tend to work again and again, though I'm not sure why. I guess directors/producers know what they want, and trust they can get it out of the talent pool they already have. Unfortunately for many, it's a very small pool to get into, but once you're in, you're set! It actually almost sounds like a high school clique or something now that I think about it!
RPGSite: Do you think it is a positive or a negative to regularly work with the same people?
Danielle: I think it can be both. Of course there is a comfort factor of working with people you know, and can maybe trust more to do/try different things but at the same time, sometimes as actors we need that unfamiliar territory to give us an extra little push!
RPGSite: In recent years you have provided voice work on both Wolverine and the X-Men as Shadowcat (alongside Liam O'Brien) and The Batman as Batgirl, both of which are franchises that are very much in the public eye at the moment, particularly Batman. Are you a fan of the comics or movies at all?
Danielle: YES and yes! When I found out I was cast as Batgirl, I literally cried I was so excited. Both of those characters are so iconic and I say it with all sincerity that it is truly a real honor to be able to portray both of those kick-ass characters!
RPGSite: I take it that you have enjoyed working on the two shows?
Danielle: Very much so, you become like a family, and some of my favorite times working have been on those two shows. The people I work with are SO incredibly talented and I have so much fun going to work, how many people can honestly say that? I'm so lucky! I will say I don't think I've ever laughed more than while working on X-Men, they are some of the funniest people ever!
RPGSite: If you were asked to reprise the role of Batgirl in a new live action movie, what would you say?
Danielle: OF COURSE...just let me add a few more crunches to my gym routine first! ;)
RPGSite: Many of your characters cannot seem to avoid getting into the odd fight from time to time. What might I see if I walked into the studio while you were recording your battle cries? Any danger of being struck by an errant foot?
Danielle: Haha! My friends love coming with me to sessions purely because they know they will see me act like a completely awkward fool! You have to get physical when recording action stuff, in battle and so forth. If I didn't move around while recording, it just wouldn't sound right. I pretty much break a sweat every time I do any real heavy duty action stuff, because I'm moving around and flopping my arms around like a mad-woman. I'm sure it's quite entertaining to anyone watching, but you do what you gotta do ;)
RPGSite: Is it a lot of fun or perhaps even a little embarrassing when you are recording those segments?
Danielle: It IS fun, I used to get embarrassed but as a voice actor, if you want to work, you better get over that real quick, because MOST of the time you would be embarrassed otherwise, because sometimes you just have to do something weird or awkward to get the sound out that they are looking for.
RPGSite: We are nearly at the end of our time, but just before we finish up, what advice would you give to anyone that dreams of becoming a professional voice actor?
Danielle: I would say that although yes, it is hard and may seem difficult to break into, it isn't impossible if you really want it. You just can't walk into this industry blind. Do your homework, do the research, take a good voice over class, and put 110 percent into it and you can and will succeed.
RPGSite: And many actors have worked on more than one Tales video game over the years. After your time on Tales of Vesperia would you return to the series if they called you about working on a future game?
Danielle: Of course, any time!
RPGSite: Danielle, thanks for your time. It's been a privilege.
Danielle: Thanks, been a pleasure!