Recently, I had the pleasure of having a chat with Gemma Laurelle. Laurelle is an Australian Actor and Voice Actor with credits including Tiger Cops, Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire and Blade Symphony.
Getting into the video game voiceover profession almost by accident in 2010, Laurelle says it is her absolute favourite acting job these days. Having appeared in more than a dozen video games since 2010, Laurelle has only fond memories of every game she’s worked on and includes them all as examples of what she’s most proud of.
It’s not just games that Laurelle works on either. As an accomplished screen and TV actor and voice actor for cartoons, Laurelle has run the gamut of acting gigs. However, her love of gaming means that voice acting in video games is her true love.
Gemma Laurelle Video Game VO
Curious as to how she got her start in video game VO, I asked.
“I was on my way to a film set and the director and producer were in the front of the car. As we were driving to a location I started talking about Call of Duty,” she explains.
“And the producer just turned around and goes, ‘Hey, yeah. I wonder if you would be interested in voicing an indie game,’ and I was trying to contain myself with excitement so I just said yes right away.”
Laurelle tells me that her excitement at the prospect of voicing a video game gave way to some nervous trepidation as she wasn’t really sure what she’d gotten herself into.
“I was just like, ‘Chuck me in the studio. I’ll do whatever, just for the fun.’ And that was it,” she said.
Having been a gamer for over 20 years, voicing video games had never occurred to Laurelle before that day, but once she was in the studio she tells me it was the most natural thing ever.
I never really thought about it before.
And then I was like ‘That’s just a natural, fun thing to do. Of course, I’ll do it.’
Though being a video game voice actor does come with its own set of unique and interesting challenges.
How chunky do you want the vomit?
In her first game, Blade Symphony, Laurelle played a ninja named Pure. As a game with no dialogue, Laurelle was instead tasked with creating all the sounds Pure made when striking, taking hits, dying and so on.
A lot of video game voice acting seems to be the creation of various grunts and noises of exertion so I asked Laurelle what kind of an experience that is.
“When you first do it, you get self-conscious cause you’re in the booth and the sound engineer and people are staring at you as you’re making, basically just human unintelligible noises.
“But it’s really good because it makes you focus. And you don’t want to do a disservice to the game and repeat the same sound.”
Aside from the initial embarrassment and self-consciousness, Laurelle tells me that it’s actually a great exercise into seeing how human communicate without words.
It’s fun to realise how much sound we actually make with our mouths when we aren’t speaking the English language.
Like, if we’re confused it’s like, ‘Hmm.’ And just all the little nuances and its really fun.
Though Laurelle says that the most fun she has is when recording the sounds of death and vomit.
Probably the most fun stuff is deaths and vomiting because those have been the most hilarious things I’ve been doing.
Not real life vomiting in the studio, but putting water in your mouth and then you get the questions, like how chunky do you want the vomit? That’s when I’m in me element!
Not like any other acting
An example of some of her proudest work is the voice acting Laurelle did for Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire. In the game, Laurelle plays the titular Tahira who fights to regain control of her kingdom.
Set in the mythical land of Ma’abtik, which has a Middle Eastern flavour, Laurelle had to use an accent. “It really stretches your listening brain. Trying to deliver the character and the style and really listening for what the writers and developers are really looking for,” she says.
Laurelle also points to the beautiful story in the game and Tahira’s relationship with her horse as highlights. She also told me that “That was the one I actually did epic vomit sounds.”
When it comes to accents, she explains that lots of her voice over work requires her to ditch her Australian accent.
A lot of my work is actually in British or American dialect. Video games are mostly American dialect. I just gather because of the market size.
Working in cartoons also requires Laurelle to use American or British accents, though she does occasionally get to keep her natural Aussie twang.
Gamers Making Games
Laurell’s first foray into gaming was in school in Queensland. Growing up in the country meant going to country schools that weren’t as well-funded as they could have been. Laurelle remembers her school having one computer and having to book in to have ten minutes on it.
“It had very basic games like Space Invaders,” she tells me. “I think it was called Vector Spaceship. It was a very basic two-dimensional, you had to plot and chart where your little vehicle went.”
Like many kids who grow up in Australia, Laurelle also got to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? on her school computer.
“I was absolutely obsessed with that one,” she says excitedly. “That and Myst. That really kicked off my love of video games. I was like, ‘Where can I get more of this?’ I was totally immersed in that world.”
Outside of school, Laurelle experienced video games the same way many of us did, at her friend’s houses. “When I left school, I went over to a mate’s place and they had a Nintendo and that was a big thing. So I played GoldenEye a lot.”
Now that she’s appeared in video games, I asked Laurelle if she has an extra appreciation for voice acting in games and she tells me she definitely does.
I’ve become so much more attuned to the voice acting in games, and so when I feel something’s a bit odd, I go, ‘Oh, that stood out for a reason.’
Then I start listening to it again or replaying it again or thinking about, why did that work? Or why didn’t that work? And what would I’ve done differently?
In a really fun constructive way, because it’s a lot of performance work, and so now that I’ve started doing it I’m really listening to how other people are doing, and what they are bringing to it and thinking, wow, that’s really awesome.
How did they get the emotion in that? They must’ve literally been walking with the character as they’re going through it. You’re like, there’s no disconnection here. It’s yeah. So yeah, I’m fully attuned to the voice acting a lot more than I used to be.
So what does the future for Gemma Laurelle hold? Aside from her many projects — Grey Area, Pixel Pickle and an unannounced game — Laurelle would love to work on more games and get more involved in high profile releases.
I mention Overwatch to her as an example of an ‘ultimate’ achievement and she tells me that it would be a lot of fun.
“That would be fun. It would be totally fun,” she says. “Because the stories between the characters and their attitudes, and they’ve got such distinct personalities. I wouldn’t say no to that, I’m not crazy!
“You play the game, you hear the voice you’re like, ‘Oh my God!’ I get excited when I hear other actors voicing characters in such a kick-ass game. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, they must’ve had so much fun!’
And fun is the aim when it comes to video games, which clearly Laurelle has a lot of. She tells me that one of her favourite memories is voicing a zombie game for mobile in Japan.
I had to voice all the zombies, there were a number of zombies, different kind of deaths, and a soldier. The most fun I had in that particular game was because I actually got in the booth with another person.
And it was so funny. We could hear sound engineer down the hallway laughing, because there’s a comraderie. There’s a one up man-ship that happens when you suddenly get two voice actors in a room. Because you’re like, ‘Well I can be more zombie than you. And I can be more disgusting in my crawling on the ground cause my body is being chopped in half’ kind of voicing.
As we’re wrapping up our interview Laurelle mentions that she’s currently working on a game-in-development, but she’s not able to tell me which. I pressed her on it, but all she would tell me was that it’s a game she knows I’d know about.
Thinking back on the games we discussed, I’m really hoping Laurelle has landed the role of the Junker Queen in Overwatch.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Special thanks to Gemma Laurelle for taking the time to speak with PowerUp!