Interview With Fryda Wolff

Say Hello to Andromeda’s Finest!

While these days she’s mostly known for her killer voice work in the world of video games, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with as much insight into the technical side of the industry as Fryda Wolff!

Aside from her stellar performances in hits such as Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Mass Effect: Andromeda and the odd Telltale epic, Fryda is also a former Sound Designer who’s more than a little vocal in her support of those who aren’t always recognised for helping to bring a masterpiece to life.

As you can see, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to chat to Sara Ryder herself about her experiences and viewpoints in this crazy medium we call gaming.

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to let us probe your brain!

“Of course! I live for the probing and the talking.”

Going back to the days before your work in the booth, you have been very open about your time as a Sound Designer for video games. After getting such a keen look at how it helps to build the worlds we know and love, would you say its contributed to your acting in any way, shape or form? 

“Having been a Sound Designer for games is precisely why I’ve had an easy time as voice actor. Voice actors are expected to record and edit their own auditions from home. If you’re like me and you own a vocal booth, you’ll also be called upon to conduct sessions from home and simultaneously act as both talent and engineer. My learning curve wasn’t as steep thanks to those 9 years spent as a games Sound Designer.

Beyond the technical knowledge, having been a game developer means I have a clearer perspective on how the sausage is made, versus someone who’s only worked at one particular station in the assembly line. I understand how games are made and how voice overs are implemented, so when in sessions for I use a lot of shorthand and ask clients relevant questions, like ‘is this line playing over combat,’ ‘how far away am I from the person I’m talking to,’ ‘is this line part of an earlier dialog branch, etc.’

If you play games at all, or at the very least go online to observe them via Twitch or YouTube, you will already have an advantage over those who can’t be bothered. If you’ve never watched a TV commercial before, then it would be difficult for you to understand what you’re auditioning for or conceive of how your VO will be used. If you don’t research what kind of game you’re auditioning for, then you’ll come up short, unable to cater to certain publishers’ trademarks or a genre’s basic expectations, for example.”

Do you think Sound Designers for video games don’t get enough credit? And could you possibly give a few examples of who you believe to be some of the modern greats and why their work is worth checking out.

“Sound Design is the most thankless job in the video games industry. Sound Designers will joke that they’ve done a great job when nobody says anything about the audio, because everything feels good and correct, as it should be. People usually only comment to say the audio is bad. Thus, Sound Designers are typically pleased with themselves when they hear no feedback about the audio and can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s icing on the cake to receive accolades or compliments for game audio, unexpected and always appreciated.

Some of my game audio heroes:

Damian Kastbauer. He’s a technical audio wizard, specializing in middleware implementation and programmatical solutions. Damian is world renowned for his tireless efforts to bring the game audio community together, provides resources for anyone who asks, and makes the game audio industry at large feel like a family. He’s everybody’s Game Audio Dad, even to his contemporaries.

Don Veca. Don was the Audio Director for the original Dead Space. He changed the way game audio was thought of by using “fear emitters,” volumes that when triggered would increase the layers and intensity of sound effects and music, dependent on the player’s proximity to an enemy NPC.

Matt Uelmen. Matt, at the young age of 24, was the core Sound Designer and composer for Diablo. Matt’s music for that franchise is, in my mind, still unmatched for how iconic and memorable it is. I can’t think of any iteration of Diablo without Uelmen’s music. In fact, I only played Diablo III with its shipped music turned off and with Uelmen’s music from Diablo I and II playing instead. It only seemed right.

Matt Campbell. Matt is actually a programmer, specifically he’s responsible for the AI Director in Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead is to this day the only game I’ve ever played where I felt not only that its sound and music were integral to the game, but that the game cannot be played as successfully without the music and sound effect cues which communicate what the game’s AI is doing. A genius move, and one of the few times I felt compelled to keep the game’s original music turned on.”

On a scale from Twilight to Christopher Lee’s Dracula, where does Mira from Killer Instinct stand? And was it fun to let loose that much hissing?

“Christopher Lee’s Dracula all the bloody way! Mira’s not vain, she’s hungry. Voice over work is absurdly taxing. I vomit my emotions at full bore. Often afterwards I’m curled into a ball and go hours without speaking for vocal rest, and for my nerves. Hissing on command for profit is of course the best time ever.”

You managed to make a lot of fans weep through your performance as the adorably strong-willed otter Lylla in Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Did her death scene bring a tear to your eye as well?

“Lylla is a crown jewel for me this year. Namely because she gave me the excuse to launch myself at Nolan North. Nolan and I hadn’t previously met or worked together (voice actors usually work in solitary, particularly for games). I happened to run into him at a different job. I introduced myself and told him I’d played Lylla. Nolan immediately went off, bestowing me with extremely high praise, but here’s the best part. Because Telltale was kind enough to feed us each other’s lines during our individual recording sessions, Nolan had heard some of my performance. Nolan told me “You made me cry!’ It’s fine and well to have made players cry. But knowing that I got Nolan North worked up and bawling has made my life. No further awards needed.

Good acting is good because the actor genuinely feels and expresses the emotions the character is meant to have. If it’s not real to us, it won’t be real to you. Telltale’s great at twisting the sadness knife to begin with. Add an otter on top and guaranteed you’ll feel some things.” 

Do you think the revelation about her father at the end of Octodad had any effect on Stacy at all? Or do you think she’s just going to stay away from seafood from now on?

“Stacy’s so comically, creepily bland about her dad being an octopus [normal human]. Stacy’s a little crazy and a little savage, much like me. I’d bet she’d think her fish sticks probably had it coming.”

Octodad was truly a gem of a game that fans would love to see more from. If a sequel does get made, what direction would you like to see it go story-wise?

“Oh gosh, I wonder what Young Horses have to say about that. I think Part II would be something about Octodad easing into retirement age. Navigating things like his kids’ graduations and life events. All the while slapping everyone in a six foot radius, of course.”

Legions of fans fell in love with Sara Ryder. In spite of the multiple ways players could customise her personality, in your mind what kind of person was she at her core?

“Personally, I’ll use sarcasm and cynicism to cope with hardships. It’s so much easier than being vulnerable, though being vulnerable has much larger gains and returns. I’d play Sara as a tough-shelled turtle till somebody got at her soft center with the right relationship. Tsundere me straight into space.”

Everyone has their favourite, but who is your squad and ideal romance?

“For squad I have to lean into banter since I’m not a hardcore Mass Effect player. Liam’s a cute sweetie and his side quest with the console on/off gag is hysterical. Drack is old and cranky and that’s just my type (I’m into headbutts).”

The hilarious relationship you have with Tom Taylorson has become somewhat legendary in the gaming industry. If you had your way, what project would you love for the two of you to work on next?

“Mass Effect: Andromeda II! Now that both siblings are up and about after the end of Andromeda, it’d be nice to see their relationship fill out and see where their paths take them, what kinds of callings they’d settle into in that new world.”

Fryda, thank you so much for your time! If fans want to get in touch and show you all of their Ryder x Vetra artwork, where can they find you?

“I’m on Twitter @frydawolff and you can see what I’m up to at frydawolff.com. Send me all of your fan art! I can never get enough, fan art is amazing.”

And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo.com, if you had to choose a topic to be turned into a top ten, what would it be?

“Top Ten Games to Eat Ice Cream and Cry To. I feel like this is an area of entertainment that could use further examination.”

Interview With Tom Taylorson

Blub Blub Blub! (He’s Everyone’s Favorite Octopus!)

Whether he’s giving guidance a new generation of actors or exploring the stars alongside the rest of the Tempest crew, Tom Taylorson never fails to inspire and hook us in with his impressive voice work!

Tom Taylorson-3

He reintroduced us to the Mass Effect universe as Scott Ryder and also brought the house down as both the hero and villain of modern indie hit Octodad. 

Lucky for us, he found time to take a break from exploring the Andromeda galaxy to have a little chat about his performances, his lectures and a good ol’ nerd out about why Mass Effect is so awesome!

Before we start with your roles, I would like to talk about your experiences as a guest lecturer and voice over coach. How do you first go about trying to make your students understand the value of voice acting?

“I like to think that my students already understand the value of good voice acting. It’s why they were in my classes to begin with: To better know about and deliver good voice acting. They know good work already. The real challenge is to get one’s own work to deliver that quality.”

In your lectures, what are some of the examples you use, in terms of video games, to highlight just how powerful the medium can be?

“I asked my students to discuss what they thought were the most effecting works for them. From there we got our base. Often I found that the same titles came up. Older titles like Grim Fandango; the Baldur’s Gate series. And then modern classics like many BioWare titles and the Uncharted series; the Arkham Asylum games, The Halo series, GTA, Red Dead Redemption. I’m always of the opinion that if it works for you, is believable, evocative, and effective – it’s good work. It may not always be to our tastes, but you know good work when you hear it.”

Octodad: Dadliest Catch rose up to become something of an indie darling in the mind of gamers. What was it like to watch it explode into the classic we all know and love today?

“I am very proud of that game, what it’s become, and the Young Horses team. I met those guys when Octodad was a student project at DePaul University in Chicago. I’ve since watched them take that idea, expand on it , have a successful Kickstarter, release the game on every platform imaginable, and continue working as a pioneering independent game developer in Chicago. They’re a great, imaginative, hard working team and I look forward to seeing what else they have up their collective sleeves. Also – the game introduced me to Fryda Wolff. So, big bonus there.” 

People can’t get enough of Octodad, largely in part to your dual performance as the titular character as well as his hilarious chef of a nemesis. How did you find the voices (or blubs) for each character? 

Sushi Chef was interesting. The Young Horses walked a fine line with their original character description for the audition (as a student game project at DePaul University) they said they wanted a bombastic chef with an accent, but maybe not, but Japanese, or not. Maybe he’s Japanese, or maybe he’s not but trying to be…they were trying to be nice and not go for the stereotype of what you might think of when presented with the idea of a villainous sushi chef.” 

“I took one look at the dialogue and thought ‘actually, guys… that’s exactly what you’re looking for.’ He’s a combination of Ken Watanabe and Roger L. Jackson as Mojo Jojo from Powerpuff Girls.”

“Octodad came from a quick analysis of what an octopus might sound like. I thought ‘ok, they have beaks…what would that sound like…’ and that was thrown out immediately. Not interesting or evocative enough. But then I thought ‘how many wet, blubbery noises could I come up with…’ that was the key. I use combinations of clicks and growls from the back of the throat, tongue blips, cheek flaps, and even my hands playing over my lips to get everything out. It’s silly fun.”

If a sequel never comes about, in your mind what becomes of Octodad and the Chef? Do they live happily ever after or will their conflict heat up again in the far future?

“Oh, I think the Chef is a changed man. He leaves Octodad and his family alone.  More interesting, I think, is the fallout with his wife and family. There’s a Telltale adventure game in that.” 

The character of Gilgamesh has been a long-time staple of the Final Fantasy franchise, however this most recent version had much more depth to him. What was your approach to playing such a classic boss character? 

“That was definitely a look at the script and the scene and just play the heck out of it, quite honestly. I mean, that’s what all acting is; but to think of the place of that character in the FF series or what the original Japanese actor was doing would be folly. Thoughts like that get in the way. So you keep it simple: What’s my version of this character and how they react in this scene? Go.”

You’re a well-documented video game nerd like the rest of us, not to mention a huge fan of the Mass Effect series in general. Do you have a moment from across the franchise that you believe cements it in your mind as one of the all-time greats? 

“The Suicide Mission from ME 2. Right up there with that – Mordin’s sacrifice in ME 3. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.”

“I actually met the actor, William Salyers, who plays Mordin during the sessions for ME: Andromeda. THAT was awesome to say the least. I taught his work to my students and then one day – there we are just chatting at the studio. He’s great.” 

Everyone has their own version of Scott Ryder, but in your mind what are the core components that make up this cosmic explorer, and which of those aspects did you really latch onto when recording his dialogue?

“There’s a lot of ‘don’t look at me; I’m just making this up as I go along.’ at every moment with Ryder. That was a lot of it. The having greatness thrust upon him thing. You look at Shepard and she was already great and then she becomes awesome, even super heroic over the course of the game. Ryder is not that. Ryder’s a scientist, an explorer. Dad was too, but he was also a leader. A member of N7. A real hero. And then one day – dad’s gone and he left you with the mantle of leader, for better or worse. A lot of Ryder is diffusing the crushing responsibility with humor and, at times, brushing past it. I even think there’s more that might’ve been done with Ryder’s grappling with that responsibility. It’s a lot of Ryder faking it until he/she makes it. And even then, still hunting for perspective because of the unfathomable newness of everything.”

Do you have an ideal squad and romance? Or do you have enough love for the whole Andromeda crew?

“I have to admit for having great affection for the whole crew. My play through (admittedly unfinished) was Sara romancing Suvi. Suvi’s a fun character and Katy Townsend kills it in the role.”

One of the little unexpected gems Andromeda gave us was the sweet and hilarious relationship you shared with Fryda Wolff. If you had it your way, what project would you love to take on with her in the future?

“I’ll do anything with Fryda. She’s been a good friend since my move to LA a couple years back. She’s exceptionally good at what she does and is just a force of nature. I’d be lucky to work with her on something again in the future. She’s so far ahead of me it ain’t funny. So we shall see. Happy to hang in her shadow in the mean time.”

Thank you so much for your time Tom! If fans want to get in contact, look up your lectures or just show off their personal Ryders, where can they find you?

For a painfully outdated website or to reach out to me via email you can check out www.tomtaylorson.com 
Current and day to day happenings are on Twitter: @taylorson
And watch out for http://www.battlechefbrigade.com/ That’s the next announced thing that you’ll be able to play. On The Switch first! (I love my Switch)

And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo, if you had to choose a topic to be turned into a top ten, what would it be? 

“How about The Top 10 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes And Why 1 And 2 Are The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 & 2 And The Rest All Involve Q, The Borg, And Patrick Stewart Putting On An Acting Clinic?” 🙂