Voice Acting is an Art Form: Roger Craig Smith (Chris Redfield) Interview

June 3, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Roger Craig Smith is no stranger to voice acting and has lent his voice to a fair number of characters in recent years, although with Resident Evil 5’s Chris Redfield it’s definitely his biggest gaming role so far. With the recent release of Resident Evil 5, I was delighted when he agreed to answer my questions for Console Obsession. The full interview can be found below. Enjoy!

CO: You’ve done voice acting for many years, but Chris Redfield is your first major videogame lead role, I just wondered how you got the role?

Well, it was sort of by chance, really. I had done some work for a studio in the past and that studio simply called me up to read for a character in a game they were working on. I showed up and read out loud (not even in a recording booth) to the client, they gave me some notes, we tweaked the voice a little, then they shook my hand and we went from there. It wasn’t until it came time for the producer to schedule the times for the recording that I started realizing this was a big game with a ton of work involved. To say nothing of the fact that I was gonna have to shave my goatee! I was gonna do facial motion capture for the first time with this game, as well—so that meant the beard had to go. I was bummed about that. I hate shaving. Man my life is difficult, you know?!

CO: Did you record voices with other actors in the studio, or were you on your own?

I was solo on this, since so many of the sessions involved facial motion capture. Even when we weren’t doing mocap, I was still going solo. That’s pretty standard for most of the video game projects I’ve worked on. However, the recording sessions for the TV series “Wolverine and the X-Men” sometimes have as many as 12 actors in the booth at the same time. That’s a ton of fun! But, for RE5, I was all by my lonesome in the booth. Thankfully, I was in the capable hands of voice directors Liam O’Brien and Stephanie Sheh. They kept me company and were hugely instrumental in helping me develop the character of Chris.

CO: How long did it take for you to finish voicing the entire script? Did you enjoy it?

Man, I can’t even remember how many sessions there were in total. It was quite a few for a video game, that’s for sure. But, this game has a ton of cinematic cut scenes, so there was a lot to cover. I had a blast recording for this character. It was also a lot of work, too. I mean, I’m not digging ditches in the mid-day sun or anything, but voicing a character in a game like this can be pretty demanding on the vocal chords. So, while I was a little nervous about the toll some of the sessions were taking on my voice, it really was worth it. The level of detail that the crew was putting into all the vocal performances only meant that they were gonna end up with a stellar project. And they did.

CO: Is Chris’ voice your real voice?

Well, that’s a tough one. It IS my voice, but let’s just say I’m nowhere near as cool as Chris sounds. I wasn’t affecting the pitch of my voice or anything like that, but I don’t go around sounding as bad-ass as Chris does all the time. I wish I did, but I don’t think anyone would take me seriously. Chris is huge and has arms like tree trunks—I’m 5’5″ and don’t really pull off the beefcake thing all that convincingly.

CO: Are you aware of the very first Resident Evil game (released in 1996) and if so have you heard the dreadful voice acting?

Actually, I’ve seen a bunch of stuff on YouTube from some of the earlier games and it’s classic. It’s endearing and it’s great to see how far the game has come. I’d like to think we improved Chris’ character just a wee bit from the earlier days. He definitely hit the gym over the years, so he’s got that goin’ for him.

CO: You aren’t the first actor to voice Chris, have you done much research in regards to his past voices?

None at all, really. In fact, in the recording sessions, they never played me a reference file from the earlier performances. In that regard, it was like tackling Chris as a new character, without having to adhere to any preconceived sound for him.

CO: When you’ve finished voicing a particular character, are you always satisfied with the results?

Well, yes and no. I always get a kick out of hearing myself in a game, but I think I’m like most people in that I dislike the sound of my voice. I usually listen to something I’ve done with a very critical ear and I always find myself thinking that “I could have done that differently,” or, “Man, that’s not how I should have delivered that line.” When you’re in the sessions, you put your faith in the director to steer you in the right direction and I felt very confident in my performance, thanks to Liam and Stephanie.

CO: Have you ever turned a role down, and if so why?

Unfortunately, I have. I hate to turn down work, but some work is too demanding on the voice. I do projects other than video games and some of them require that my voice not be scratchy or weak. Sometimes, these video games can be very damaging to the voice, so I have to be cautious with it and schedule my sessions accordingly. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out with the schedule and I have to let a job pass. It kills me to have to do that, though…

CO: What are the perks of the job? Any down points?

The perks? The people! I get to work with some of the most creative and friendly people in the world. It’s also a very casual environment, but people take the work very seriously. So, you have a chance to always be challenged in your career, but it’s not a grinding work environment. I love this job and I don’t work a day in my life, really. It’s a ton of fun and rewarding on so many levels. Honestly, I’d have to sit and think really hard about any down points, but the reality is there really aren’t any. I’m very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing for a living and I’m so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. What kind of a moron would I be to complain about this job?! I go to work in an air-conditioned studio and then hear my performance on the radio, TV, the internet—it’s a blast. Not a bad day at the office, ever.

CO: Have you got any advice for any budding voice actors?

Stick with it and never be ashamed to be where you’re at in the pursuit of your career. When I first started out, the goal of getting to be on a TV show or in a popular video game seemed so far away and so enormous—because it was, really. I was overwhelmed by what I thought were all the insurmountable obstacles between me and that lofty goal. But, when I set my sights on getting a local VO job for a local project, after a few tries and some mistakes, I landed one. Then, once I got that one, I looked for another. Then another. And so on and so on. All along the way I was learning about the local industry, making new contacts in both the local market and the LA market, investing in my career with classes, and just pounding the pavement to keep falling forward. Eventually, it became a full-blown career. So, just keep at it. Start small, dream big and stay focused on the immediate goals, while always stumbling forward to that big goal. Man, I sound like a nerd…

Console Obsession thanks Roger Craig Smith for answering our questions. His voice can be heard in Resident Evil 5 which is out now.

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