Bhama Roget is the voice behind the Boomzap characters such as Dana Knightstone and the Narrator in Awakening, the Narrator for ZapTales, and Ellie from Botanica. In this interview, she talks to us about her job as a Voice Talent Actor and explains to us the work effort entailed to add voices to video games.
How did you get started with your career as a Voice Talent for video games and how long have you been doing this type of work?
I moved to Seattle in 1997 and began performing in local theatre productions, and somehow I met a guy named Tim Moore who worked for a company called Jet City Studios. Tim hired me to do voices for a website called ‘Disney Online’, and various other projects. Shortly after that I started working with an Improv Comedy group, and some of my fellow players were voice actors. They introduced me to a talent agent, and I began to audition for local voice gigs. Seattle was still sort of in the dot com boom then so there was a lot of work going on. I did voices for Sierra Online, Humongous, Playstation, Surreal Software, Atari, and Nickelodeon. Over the years, that work kind of dried up, but in the meantime the rise of casual games began. I did the original ‘Super Granny’ in a studio in Daniel Bernstein’s house, and over the next few years watched his franchise grow into Sandlot games.
What kind of involvement do you have in the creative design of the characters you portray and the overall story of the video games?
I am not involved in any of the design. I’m pretty sure the VO is One of the last things to go in the game. So what usually happens is I get the complete script, character artwork, and sometimes cutscene art sent to me for reference, and then I create voices based on the visuals and the notes from the designers. Sometimes they have very specific ideas on what they want the voices to sound like, and sometimes they just let me run with it.
How many different kinds of voices/characters can you portray?
I once did an audiobook where I had to do over 30 characters.
What were some of your favorite roles in Boomzap games? Which were the most challenging for you?
I loved doing the ZapTales because they get to be fun and silly. I also loved the characters in Otherworld and Awakening 4 was fun too. Dana Knightstone was a little tricky because I have a tendency to over dramatize her for some reason. Luckily, the designers will tell me if I’m off the mark so I can adjust things.
How did you get started working with Boomzap in particular?
Believe it or not, Chris Natsuume (one of the founders of Boomzap) and I were friends in High School. We lost touch as adults, but then managed to find each other on Facebook about six years ago. While Chris and I were catching up on the last 20 years, he told me that he had started his own game company, and I told him that I had my own voice over studio. I was living in Los Angeles at the time trying to break into the VoiceOver market there. Since I wasn’t having much luck, I decided to start my own studio and begun to do freelance voice work from home. In 2008 I moved back to Seattle, and around that time was the first time that I got an email from Chris saying, “hey, you wanna do some VO for a game I’m working on?” And the rest is history.
Take us through your typical work day. What is the process like to add voice in video games?
Well, the first thing I do is go through the script and look at the characters to decide how many actors I will need to use. When I first started voicing Boomzap games they were just narrators, so it was only me. In the last year or two they have grown from where I just needed to add a male voice to where I am now using up to 5 actors per game. I now have a little company of actors that I bring in regularly, which is really great.
So I go through the script and I will cast the roles according to voice type, and then I will call the actors and schedule a recording session. When an actor arrives, we will go through the story and the characters, I will show them the artwork, and then we will go into the studio. When we get in the studio, we record one character at a time, and we work together to find the character’s voice. Sometimes the actor makes the choice, sometimes I direct them, but usually it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes we watch videos on You Tube for character references. After the actor leaves I will go through the recording and find the best takes, or often times edit together the best parts of several takes into one take. Sometimes I will put a slight effect on the voice, or shift the pitch slightly. Then I package all the audio into a zip file and send it to the design team. I repeat this with the rest of the actors, and then I record myself. Once all the audio has been delivered to Boomzap, I then wait for them to go through it and tell me if there is anything they’d like me to do differently. If they like everything, then they drop it into the game, and that’s it.
What are the most challenging aspects in being a video game actor?
The most challenging thing about being a video game actor, honestly, is not to ‘act’ too much. Video game audiences really seem to want their voices to sound like real people. Sometimes it can be hard for actors, especially stage actors (myself included) have a hard time pulling back.
What do you enjoy most about being a video game actor?
As a person who has done a lot of performing on stage and on camera, I love the distillation of an entire character into just a voice. It doesn’t matter what you look like, or what your wearing, and you can play all kinds of characters. In live performance you can only really play what you look like. In voice acting you can be anyone.
Do you play video games? If yes, which ones are your favorite? What else do you do in your spare time?
I do play some video games, but I’m really bad at them. It’s embarrassing:)
What tips do you have to share for those who are interested in a career in voiceover acting?
Just take some classes and start there.
Aside from being a voice talent in the Boomzap games, where else in the entertainment industry can we find your work?
Well, right now I am at Seattle Repertory Theatre getting ready to open a production of ‘Boeing-Boeing’. I am also working on a second production of a multimedia solo performance called ‘Hippiecrit: I Want to Change the World, I Just Don’t Feel Like it.” I’m also a recurring character on ‘Cookus Interruptus’, (www.cookusinterruptus.com), which is a really great, unique website that presents instructional, nutrition-based cooking videos in a sitcom comedy format.
I was also in an Episode of Leverage called ‘The Hot Potato Job’, and if you look really hard, you can find me in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy Season 4, ‘Haunt You Everyday.” I’m the one in the mouse costume.
If you could portray any character, whether it be in video games or not, who would it be and why?
I want to play ‘Tank Girl’ on Broadway.