|REFANB Interview: Joe Whyte, A.K.A. Chris Redfield|
Joe's Voice Actor Page
Resident Evil Remake
we begin with the interview, there are a few credits which need to be mentioned
in releation to this interview.
Firstly is Ted Boyke who conducted this interview with Joe back in 2002 for the magazine Press Start. He also sent the complete interview for us to use at Joe's request.
Graham Parker, Editor of Sega World Weekly and Press Start, for also helping get the final magazine edition of the interview and granting permission to use the whole interview. Please check out VideoGamesNZ too, the great site releated to Press Start.
And finally, a big thanks to Joe himself for being such a great and easy guy to talk to and going through so much to help get this great interview here for us to share with you online.
did you get started in the voice acting business?
I really came in through the back door. I've been acting since Junior
High School, so twenty-six years I've been acting. I never even considered
getting into voiceover until about six years ago because it's a very difficult
community to break into. Not a whole lot of people doing and actively
pursuing voice-over. Well, that's not true--there's a lot of people pursuing
it; there's a very small number of people who are actually doing it. [laughs]
So it just never occurred to me to even try my hand in that arena... Until
I started working at Disney in 1994.
are some of your past projects?
Well, Resident Evil was my first video game. But I've had voices in two tv shows, Sports Night, where I was the voice of a mountain climber with a mask on, climbing Mt. Everest, and I also did a vo for NewsRadio, which ultimately never made it on the air. Still got paid, though. Nice. I still get residual checks for like, .67 cents from that!
voice acting typically done early on in the game's development? When did
the voice recording for the role of Chris Redfield take place?
Is voice acting typically done early on in the game's development? When
did the voice recording for the role of Chris Redfield take place? Yes,
it normally takes place very early in the production. Because all of the
animation is done to the vocal, the voice-over is usually done very early
in the process, which also is sort of a safety measure... They'll do the
original script, and have the voice-over done for it, and then if something
changes, they still have time to get people in to do the changes, or as
production goes along, maybe something changes and they need to re-record.
Or a character design might change and they'll want the voice to be a
little bit different, so they'll be able to come back and redo the voice
in a different way or something like that.
they use the same voices for both the American and Japanese releases of
Resident Evil (or "Biohazard" in Japan)?
Yes. As far as I know.
you the guy who says, "RESIDENT EVIL!" at the title screen in that demonic
[laughter] Yeah. Yeah, that's me. At the end of all the sessions, they asked me to do some little extra lines. There were just some little extras - some little pick-ups that weren't actually Chris Redfield; they were just sort of in the game. I also did some of the vo for Richard in the game. The scene where Richard gives the radio to Jill and Chris is my voice. Pretty funny to hear my voice coming from two characters.
narration in the opening FMV intro movie for the game was also yours.
Yes. It's supposed to be Chris narrating.
about the other voice actors in Resident Evil. Did you interact with them
when you recorded your role, or did they have separate sessions for each
It's an odd thing, doing voice-over. Because in all the games that I've done, and in all the movies that I've done, I have never once met any of the other actors. Except for the Disney stuff, but then only because I work there and know who just about everyone is. [laughs] It's a very strange thing. When all is said and done, you see the final product and here are these people acting together and it's seamless--hopefully it's seamless. And it's a very strange feeling. No, I have not met any of the other video game actors.
the actual voice acting process like?
Well, that is similar to any acting gig, on-screen or off. There's certain
work that you do as an actor to get to know who your character is and
how he would respond in a certain situation. Again, a lot of that is given
to you by the director. They tell you what they want, I think more so
in voice acting, because I think onscreen acting you bring more to the
character in terms of who you are as a person and what you look like and
how you respond to things physically.
How does voice acting in a video game differ from your previous voice work in animation?
Well, there are similarities in that in
animation you almost never work to a picture, because all the voice is
done well before the picture exists. Because the animation of course is
done to the voice track. Also, most video game recordings that I've done
have been the same thing: no picture. And you just do several takes of
each line, and the directors take their pick and the animation is done
to that sound.
Yeah, voiced by Jim Belushi and James Woods.
And in one of those commercials, there's a lizard that the guinea pig
rides in on, and the lizard is sort of a bucking bronco, and he's making
this crazy sound: [Joe makes a screech reminiscent of a dolphin cry or
a "bucking bronco lizard"] [laughter]
What was it like working with Capcom? How was Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami?
It was a great experience. Shinji and his
partner, they were very very nice people, very pleasant to work with.
Shinji's an excellent director. There was a little bit of a language barrier,
but fortunately Carole Ruggier, who was the casting person on this, was
in the booth with Shinji and his partner during the sessions. Shinji was
able to tell her what he wanted to hear. And Carole was then able to translate
that to me. Carole doesn't speak Japanese, but she knows how to talk "director"
language with them, and she's also a very good director herself. So she
was able to then sort of be the go-between between he and I and able to
get the performance that Shinji wanted out of me through her.
Had you played any RE games before working on Resident Evil: Rebirth for GameCube?
I have never really been a big gamer. I am now. [laughter] I'm totally hooked on the new Resident Evil. In fact, in the past three nights I've put in about twelve hours! [laughter from both] And I'm totally hooked. Not because it's my voice, but because the game is so cool. Uh, and I'm not getting paid to say that!
What do you think about it and the way your performance was implemented?
Yes. I love the game. And I think the voice was very well implemented, in fact I was actually very pleased when I first turned the game on and heard the opening movie, that soundtrack to the opening movie. I was nervous before I heard it because Resident Evil was actually the first video game voice that I had done. And the only other one that--I've done five games now--and the only one that I've heard, other than this one, was uh, I actually was able to do a voice match for Clancy Brown as Mr. Crabs in the Sponge Bob Square Pants video game that came out, "Operation Crabby Patty." Please run out and buy it. [laughter] And this Thursday I'm voice matching Ernest Borgnine as Mermaid Man for the next SpongeBob game. But I was very nervous about this. Because this is a big release and actually I was really hoping that it would be good and so far I've been very happy with it. I think it came out all right. Of course, I haven't gotten far enough into the game to see anything but the opening movie! [both laugh]
Do you have an extra desire to get through the game without getting killed, knowing it's your screams you'll hear if you fail?
[both laugh] Well, I'm actually looking
forward to some of the big death scenes, because they were so much fun
to do. I mean, how often do you get to just scream like you're being,
you know, murdered by a shark? It's not that often... It's very cathartic,
by the way. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance. [laughter]
[laughter] I draw on past personal experiences. I spent a summer working with disadvantaged zombies. Just kidding.[laughs] It's something that you just have to be a little kid about and just totally pretend. It's that unbridled ability of a child to just absolutely play make-believe. And also, some people, like me, just lack any kind of governer on how they act in public [laughter] So, that's kind of like, [laughs] you just let go and just close your eyes, just let your eyes roll back like a shark and you just go, you just let it loose. Ah, let loose the beast within. It's a lot of fun. Um, like I said before, how often do you get a chance to pretend stuff like that as an adult? It's just play time.
Also, had you seen the recent Resident Evil movie, which actually came out long after you did the voice acting?
No, I haven't seen it yet. Kate and I don't get out to movies very often. I love going to movies and I love sitting in the theater and eating the popcorn and watching the films on the big screen, but in Los Angeles, it's very frustrating to go to a movie. The movie-going audiences here just don't know how to behave.
It's also expensive.
Well, it is expensive, you know, you're paying an average of eight-fifty, nine dollars a movie and then the prices that they charge for concessions, I don't know how they get away with it. But the thing that drives me crazy is that so many people just don't know how to act in the theater. You know, there's a lot of talking, kicking the back of the chair, you know, it just drives me nuts. You know, the cell phones and pagers going off... We don't want to go to theaters. The only movies I really get out to are the big, big releases. You know, I'll probably go see Star Wars when it comes out, I'll go see Lord of the Rings [II] when it comes out, and maybe one or two others, but other than that I usually wait until they come out on video. I'll definitely rent Resident Evil [the movie] when it comes out, but I haven't seen it.
Any interesting/funny experiences in voice acting?
Over the years, I've done some pretty odd characters. I've done a lot of animal sounds which are usually like, you know, like talking animals, you have to sound like an animal. You have to ta-a-alk like a go-o-oat [mews like a goat] or something like that. [laughter] Um, dinosaurs, I was the voice of Aladar for Dinosaur, I mean the scratch voice of Aladar. For two years, I did that. I would say that the strangest things that I've done have been the death scenes. I just did two characters for Red Faction 2, which'll come out later this year. And one of the death scenarios for those characters was that they had been lit on fire, so I had to pretend that I was running around a room in flames... Which you really have to kinda get outside of yourself to do! It's not something anyone can have any real-world experience with and live.
What advice would you give an aspiring voice actor today?
Practice every day, work on your voice. Increase your range, especially if you want to do characters. If you don't want to be pigeon-holed as a certain type, you have to, how do you technically say this... broaden your access to your voice. You have to do exercises to lower your pitch, to be able to raise your pitch, to have a wide range of sounds you can do. Also, study accents and dialects. Pick your favorites, maybe your family is Italian and you grew up hearing that accent - that's something you can have in your bag of tricks.
To be really flexible in different roles?
Yeah, try to be as flexible as possible. If you can gain a reputation for being a utility person, someone who's able to do a little bit of everything, you'll get a lot of work. If you're limited to one or two specific voices, chances are you won't work that often. Take a class; there are a lot of good voice-over classes, especially here in Los Angeles there are several of them.
And, record yourself. Get a tape recorder and record yourself doing characters, and commercial stuff. Like, you know, listen to commercials on the radio if you don't have access to actual copy. You can listen to commercials, write down what the person is saying and then do it yourself. And try to match what's going on out there in the world today. Voice-overs, like everything else in entertainment, follow trends. The trend right now is very natural, conversational, "non-announcery" sounding voices. Which sounds like it would be easy to do--"Oh, I just have to talk like myself."
Well, [laughter] there's a little bit more to it than that. You really have to practice it. And get with people who know what they're talking about. And practice, practice, practice... Record yourself, listen to it, and you'll understand what you sound like.
You modeled a lot of stuff at Disney including Long John Silver's arm and the ship, the Legacy, in Treasure Planet, using Maya. Very extensive work with Maya and 3D modeling; did that background give you any insight to the way Resident Evil was being created and the animatic footage that you saw?
Yes, it did. In-as-much that I knew what I was looking at. There's no mystery in 3D to me; I've been modeling for six years, so I understand that process. In fact, I mentioned to Shinji that I was a modeler and that I had done a lot of 3D modeling and we talked about that a little bit.
Since you've been in Resident Evil, you've worked on a number of games. What future projects can we look for you in?
I was very fortunate to work on the Jimmy Neutron CD-ROM, which is coming out soon. In that, again, I was brought in to do some voice matches, and I was able to voice match Patrick Stewart as King Goobot, I think his name is, or something like that. Which was a lot of fun. And a couple of other characters in that. I've got Red Faction 2 coming out. Sponge Bob is already out...
And Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears video game?
Sum of All Fears, Yes, I've got a couple of characters in the Sum of All Fears game.
Any other future projects?
Yeah, well, one of the things I'm trying to put together is, I have a small group of actors and actresses that get together every Sunday at my place. I have a little studio at my house. And we get together every Sunday and work on voice-over stuff. We record each other, we do commercials and character voice-overs and then we all sit around and sort of critique each other and help each other get better. And something that we're putting together is that we're going to do some old-time, old-fashioned radio show type stuff. We're going to write our own material, sort of like the old Firesign Theater recordings. They will be in the style of nineteen-forties radio shows, but with modern comedic sensibilities and references. Once we have this pilot put together, we're hoping to sell it to XM radio or Sirius, the new satellite radio industry.
Do they currently have any things like that?
They do; XM radio has one or two stations that are devoted to comedy and they've also got some old-time radio shows, but they're actually playing the real shows from the forties. [Ted goes through his memories of listening to Dragnet, The Lone Ranger, etc. radio serials in Junior High]
That is like a format that's just kind of been passed-over nowadays.
It's been ignored, yeah. Because civilization has moved toward--well, we're all very visually stimulated. You know, it's like MTV. Before MTV, you know, of course your band had to have an image and it mattered what you looked like to a certain extent. But after MTV hit, now all of a sudden, if you don't have video package, you're dead in the water. And I think it destroyed, MTV has contributed to the destruction of a lot of good bands. Because people who are playing really good music, if they don't have a video, they can't get a break.
You're also running a website, whytenoise.com?
My website is partially a self-promotion website - it's got my pictures and resume and vo demo reel, but it's also a website for WhyteNoise Productions, which is the name of the group of actors that I have that will be involved with the radio show stuff, and their personal websites too, so it's kind of like a link, a little portal for them as well.
Actors who are trying to get into the industry can come to me to produce their own demo reels. Which they can then use as tools to go out and get their own agents, if they don't already have an agent. I can also work with people who already have agents and help them cut their demo reels together, either based on material they've already done, or by making up new material. And helping them to create, you know like a character demo reel. We'd come up with a scenario. A short, like thirty-second or minute-long scenario using several of their characters, sort of custom-write a little sketch, and then they can record that and use that as their character reel.
Yeah, there's a lot of stuff on the horizon. I would like to get more into voice-over production. I still have a lot to learn, but it's coming along.
Yeah, I'd say so! In the year since you've gotten the Resident Evil job, you've like done what, four or five other games?
Yeah, it's really gone well. My agency, Imperium-7 Talent, is really doing a good job for me. They're calling me in all the time. Last week I had ten auditions for commercials and video game stuff. They're really great people - Love my agents. Great people. Oh yeah, if any casting people out there are interested, my agency is Imperium-7 Talent in Century City. 310-203-9009. You don't have to put that in there [laughter].
How about movies?
Well, I'm currently modeling on Chicken Little and doing a lot of scratch vocal for that. And that's for Mark Dindal and Randy Fullmer, who used a lot of my voices on Emperor's New Groove, and I'm kind of hoping that some of the scratch vocal I'm doing for Chicken Little will stay in the movie. But we'll see, that's yet to be decided.
One more thing, Joe... How do you get past the part where all those zombies crash through the windows? :) And can you tell me where the helmet key is in the mansion?
[laughs] Now see, I could tell you... But then I'd have to chew your brain out.
Footnotes by Rob:
Seeing as it has been a while since Joe conducted this interview I asked him if there was any thing he'd like to add or update about what he'd said in this interview. The first thing is that he has since seen the Resident Evil movie...
I did see the movie by the way. I liked it, but it has nothing to do with "my" Resident Evil. Totally different story. But I did like it. I'm easy to please when it comes to movies.
And when it comes to future projects...
I've been doing some work on some films, most notably a small part in the upcoming Disney movie "Home on the Range", and a couple of small commercial things, but nothing major. I've just auditioned for some cool stuff (cross your fingers), but I haven't heard back yet.
...and finally, some further replay of the Remake on Gamecube.
I bought an "Action Replay" card for my Gamecube and have been re-playing RE - the remake - with Chris loaded for bear - unlimited ammo and a 44 magnum - it's tons of fun. He kills anything very easily. Fun. Bang bang. fun.
Thanks for your time Joe. :)