As video games get larger and larger in scale, the voices from the mouths of their characters become more and more important. You’ve heard those voices all over your favorite game worlds, and many of them may even seem familiar, and you may have wondered, “Who is that voice?”
We got the opportunity to speak with one of these talented voice actresses, Tara Sands. Tara’s filmography is one deep bench, and chances are good you’ve heard her skills at work. Tara has performed voices in titles such as one of The Young Folks’ top games of 2017, NieR: Automata. Furthermore, she’s made her mark in other mediums like television and anime. Even if you some how haven’t played a game she’s been in, you’ve definitely heard her take on multiple Pokémon, especially the starter Bulbasaur.
Thanks to Tara, we learned quite a lot about the voice acting process. Take a look at our interview with her and learn more about how the voice overs in games we love come to be!
(This interview was conducted via email. The contents of correspondence are presented here in as was originally provided, save for minor formatting.)
The Young Folks: You often provide voices for dubbed versions of anime and videogames, and both mediums have been known to borrow from each other from time to time. Has doing voices for one ever impacted your performance in another medium?
Tara Sands: My work in dubbing anime shows definitely helped once I started dubbing games. In both mediums, your acting is often dictated by the amount of time you have or the number of lip flaps on screen. Not all actors are used to being told how many seconds they have for their performance or watching the screen while they record, so working in anime definitely helped. Performance-wise, I just try to stay true to the character and style of the show or game.
TYF: On top of your work on many well known anime (such as Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh,
and Pokémon), you’ve lent your voice to many Japanese games like Fire Emblem
Echoes, NieR: Automata, and Final Fantasy XV. Are you drawn to by anything specific about Japanese media, or is that a happy coincidence?
Sands: They do like to hire actors with dubbing experience, so I guess it’s not a coincidence. It sort of goes back to my other answer…they like to bring in people who can listen to the original Japanese and match it for time and tone. They often don’t want an exact voice match, but you still have to honor the spirit of the original voice.
TYF: Several of your credited game performances are for various background characters; which sometimes don’t even have names; yet serve to help the game’s world feel more immersive. When providing these kinds of voices, is there any kind of specific direction or preparation you use?
Sands: I don’t know until I get in the booth what I’ll be doing, so unfortunately there is no way to prepare! I just make sure my voice is warmed up for those sessions since it’s kind of like vocal gymnastics. I get to play old ladies, young boys, monsters, sprites, etc. So you just have to be ready for anything. It’s also helpful to be able to do accents during some of those sessions so that your characters don’t all sound the same!
TYF: Some of your most easily recognizable work has been to provide the cries of many Pokémon for the early dubs of the English series. Did that work ever make you consider picking up the games at all and if so, what do you think about them?
Sands: I am terrible at games, so I kind of gave up!! But yes, at the beginning I did try to play some of them. I more just watch my friends play now.
TYF: Is auditioning for a voice role in a series much different from auditioning for a game performance?
Sands: It really all depends on the style of the show or game. I am finding that a lot of the games I audition for now want very real, cinematic performances, while cartoons allow you to do broader, sillier line readings.
TYF: Moving away from gaming a bit, can you tell me more about your role on Netflix’s Disjointed? As I understand it, you play plants?
Sands: Ha, yes! I provide the voice of some talking marijuana plants that show up about halfway through the first season. I won’t give away too much more than that, but it was so much fun to work on and it’s Rated R, so I have to make sure I tell kids not to watch it!!! I also got to come back for an episode in Season 2 and that will be on Netflix in January.
TYF: I’m told you also have a show that’s played on Unlocked, a live streaming app with a focus on pop culture. Could you explain a bit about that show and the app itself if possible?
Sands: I am just figuring out the Unlocked App and exactly what I want to do with it. It’s an amazing place where fans can chat in real time with voice actors and people are doing some, amazing, creative things on there. And people are also just doing mundane, silly stuff and the fans seem to like that too. Twice I have gone live with voice actor Colleen O’Shaughnessy to eat tacos and talk about whatever comes up. Hopefully, we’ll have time to do that again soon. The people watching type questions to us and it’s always more fun to answer those while eating tacos with a friend!
TYF: You seem to enjoy interacting with your fans a lot, both online and at conventions. Have you ever had an encounter with a fan that left a long-lasting impression on you or your work?
Sands: Yes! When we first started Pokémon about 20 years ago there was no Twitter and conventions were not as common, so when I started going to a cons a few years ago it was so eye opening. I met a ton of people who watched the shows as kids and I learned the impact the shows had on them. They learned life lessons about friendship and struggle and perseverance through these shows and they were so important to them. It always helps to think about who will be watching when I record, so interacting with fans has been invaluable. It makes the job so much more rewarding.
TYF: Finally, is there any series or franchise that you’ve dreamed of being a part of but it hasn’t quite happened yet?
Sands: South Park! I’d also love to do more super hero roles at some point. Fingers crossed.