Voice actress Courtenay Talor talks about playing Ada Wong in Resident Evil: Damnation, currently available on Blu-ray and DVD
Courtenay Taylor has made a name for herself both in voice over work for animated projects and video games, and stepping in front of the camera for live action roles. The actress reprises her role as Ada Wong from video games Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and the upcoming Resident Evil 6 in the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment animated sequel Resident Evil: Damnation, currently available on Blu-ray and DVD. I recently had the chance to speak with the actress over the phone about taking on this beloved role. Here's what she had to say.
You have a bit of history with Ada and the new games. Is there anything different you wanted to bring to Ada this time around, in this animated film?
Courtenay Taylor: It was funny because it all sort of happened simultaneously. They were very close in timelines. I didn't really know what I had gotten into, because I actually wasn't that aware of Ada Wong before I went in to audition. I'm just starting to get into the games. I knew that the franchise was huge, but I had only seen the live-action movies. When I went in, it was so much at the beginning of the process, that I was trying to keep the consistency between Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the movie, and Resident Evil 6.
Was it that much of a challenge to keep all these story lines straight for each project?
Courtenay Taylor: I think, as video game actors, we work in segments. We don't really have the luxury of on-camera actors, where you're going to shoot this thing for three months every day, with an arc. The material is so classified that, once you start the work, you hopefully get pretty settled just working in the moment, and the director and producers put it all together. It's more about making the choices for the character, and knowing that whatever comes along, your reactions will be in line with what you've decided for the character. For me, it was more about who she was, than really paying attention to whatever the scenario was, letting the director guide you into the circumstances.
It's interesting because you have this animation franchise, the live action films, and the video games. It seems there are very distinct fans within each world. Have you had interactions with fans about your work as Ada Wong?
Courtenay Taylor: It's interesting because Ada was briefly in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. I knew that I was taking over the role from another actress, and I didn't want her version to kind of color my version, but I did want to keep it consistent. I thought, when Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City came out, people would start interacting with me about it. It didn't seem to, until press started happening for Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil: Damnation, with people starting to take notice. It's a daunting role and she's an iconic character who has lots of fans all over the world. I have now recently, especially on Twitter (@CourtenayTaylor), had a lot of people get in touch with me, and I've gotten really good feedback so far. With Resident Evil: Damnation coming out, and Resident Evil 6 coming out next week, I'm sure I'll get more feedback. So far, it's been overwhelmingly positive. People have been really supportive.
When I spoke with Matthew Mercer, we talked about an ensemble cast in animation, as opposed to being in the booth by yourself. Are there particular scenes or moments that you wish you had that other person there to interact with? Or is that something you're used to by know?
Courtenay Taylor: I do on-camera as well, so I kind of live in both worlds. It kind of goes back to really being in the moment, because we only get the chunks of scenes and things like that. We don't get a whole arc where you get to read a script all at once. That's very rare. But, I think video game actors are a group that are particularly special, in pretending that there is someone there. I was very lucky because I knew that Matt was playing Leon. It was sort of like this unknown entity. I knew it was Matt, so I could play off the things that I know about Matt, as a friend. I already had some sort of connection. I have done group reads, and you couldn't wish for a more amazing session than a group of voice over actors, because they're some of the funniest people in the world. Sometimes it's nice to work by yourself, but other times, it would definitely be nice to have the other person there. We have really talented directors, so a lot of times, they will read lines in for us, so that we have something to play off of. I've been lucky to have worked with talented directors who have acting chops. It helps get us to where they want us to go.
Matt said they showed him some early animation while he was in the booth. Can you talk about seeing those early versions of the character, compared to the final product when you finally got to see it?
Courtenay Taylor: We did the auditions and they came in and explained a lot about our characters, after we were cast. We talked about how everyone interacted with each other, just to get a handle on what we were taking on. The animation changed over time, but it informs the type of voice. Obviously, they want the voice you auditioned with, but seeing Ada made me give her characteristics. She's sort of cat-like and she walks very quietly and you can tell she's very lithe. Those things were very helpful to inform what the timing is, and the lightness of the voice. She's sort of effortless, so that was great. I thought it was absolutely hilarious that Leon looks exactly like Matt Mercer (Laughs). I was like, 'Seriously? They even have the same leather jacket.' That was a funny aside. I don't look like Ada, but you can always pretend.
There's got to be a red dress lying around somewhere.
Courtenay Taylor: I know! And a thigh holster. Every girl needs a thigh holster.
You talked a bit about switching between voice over and live action. What's the biggest draw for you, in switching between both worlds. Is it about keeping yourself fresh?
Courtenay Taylor: I think they help inform one another. I was trained for on-camera, but I was working earlier in voice over. At a certain point, a couple of years ago, I realized how much they really inform one another. I'm now able to enjoy on-camera more. I think in voice over, because it's just the voice, you pay attention to things like timing. You pay attention to how fast someone talks, the nuances of the voice. I am now able to start bringing that into on-camera, to enrich the character that way. It's sort of an easy trap to think they're one or the other, but not both. The circumstances are always the same. You're just not always able to see them on stage in voice acting. I feel the on-camera acting has helped with video games, in particular. Video games are so incredibly cinematic now, so it's real easy to me to imagine what I'm looking at. The two really dovetail when you have the experience of being on set. You bring that into the room. It's a real bonus to do both, and I'm very happy to do both.
Is there anything you're working on now that you can talk about?
Courtenay Taylor: I just did a pilot called The Accidental Candidate. That is being shopped around at the moment, a very interesting script. I'm excited about that, and I have a few things on the video game side, but, of course, I'm not supposed to talk about it. I'm recurring on Cartoon Network's Regular Show. It's a great cartoon, and so funny. I'm so lucky to work with such talented people. I'm sitting there with Mark Hamill and J.G. Quintel and Steve Blum. I'm like, 'I'm the luckiest girl in the world!' It's hilarious. I kept looking over saying, Mark Hamill is playing my husband!' If I time traveled back and told the nine-year-old me who was in love with Star Wars, that she would be playing... I smile every time I leave, because I always think about that little girl.
Courtenay Taylor: Well, I hope the fans will go out and pick it up, so they can watch it at home. There's so much detail. It's such a beautiful project, that I think they'll be very excited. It's definitely worth having at home, and I hope they love the interpretation that some of the new cast members bring to the project. I hope they like it as much as I do. I really enjoyed playing Ada Wong, and I think that Resident Evil: Damnation is great to watch in the theater. Bring it home, turn out the lights, grab your sweetie, and check it out!
Excellent. That's about all I have. Thanks so much, Courtenay.
Courtenay Taylor: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. It was really nice chatting with you.