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During the first day of BlizzCon 2013, the Heart of the Swarm Casting & Voice Over Director, Andrea Toyias, hosted a discussion panel that included the voice actors of some of the most iconic StarCraft II characters. These actors provide depth to the Koprulu Sector and their talent breathes life into the pixelated characters created by Blizzard. We learned that each actor helps flesh out the role for which he or she has been written and how the final voice work can provide inspiration and direction in the development of StarCraft’s plot.

The voices for these characters inevitably becomes an inseparable part of the character’s identity. We, the fans, become emotionally attached to these characters that inhabit the world we’ve known for more than fifteen years. To some, the fans are overly zealous - after all, with post production, many fans probably wouldn’t notice the change. But to many sentimental fans, it matters a great deal. Famously, fans rallied in support of Robert Clotworthy, the voice of Jim Raynor, when Blizzard sought to replace him before Wings of Liberty. In the BlizzCon 2007 StarCraft Lore Panel, Chris Metzen, stated that while Robert Clotworthy had said he’d love to do Raynor’s voice again, Metzen loved someone new that had come into the studio and read for Raynor’s part. He said that from his creative perspective he wanted to get the character right and that the new voice was much closer to what he had originally envisioned for the character. But the impassioned devotees proved to be relentless and the campaign to convince Blizzard to retain Clotworthy succeeded. Similarly, fans were devastated when it became apparent, that despite early readings for StarCraft II, Glynnis Talken was not asked to reprise her role as the voice of Sarah Kerrigan. Fans attempted to repeat the success of the Clotworthy campaign, but ultimately, no amount of fan support would save her. Instead, the allure of working with an actress from another part of the science fiction pantheon proved too great and Blizzard hired Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame to voice the Queen of Blades for the StarCraft II story arc. Now, years later, nostalgic fans still debate the casting choice. The voices given to these characters matter. They enrich the story and elevate the tone of the experience. Panels like this and the one held in 2009 are opportunities for the actors to talk about their characters and how they found their voice.

This Voice Actors Present Were*:

Robert Clotworthy "Jim Raynor"

 

Neil Kaplan "Tychus Findlay"

 

Fred Tatasciore "Zeratul"

 

James Harper "Arcturus Mengsk"

 

Patrick Seitz "Artanis"

 

Steve Blum "Abathur"

 

Josh Keaton** "Valerian Mengsk"

 

James Waugh, Lead Writer - StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

 

 

 

*Cree Summer, the voice of Selendis, was scheduled to appear, but was unable to attend.
**Josh Keaton only attended the autograph session following the conclusion of the panel proper.

 

Andrea Toyias moderated the panel and began by individually introducing each voice actor. She proceeded to go down the line of voice actors and dialogue with the actors about the characters they voiced. Robert Clotworthy started by reiterating how much he enjoyed playing the role of Jim Raynor. He discussed how Raynor was a guy that no one wanted to mess with but was a dependable friend. When asked about the Raynor-Kerrigan arc he said that while rare for voice acting in a game, sometimes he and Tricia Helfer would record in the booth together and that allowed for great synergy. Otherwise, it was because of Andrea Romano and Andrea Toyias’ great direction that the emotion was convincing.

Neil Kaplan next discussed Tychus Findlay and why he made for such a great partner for Raynor. He loved how the duo’s genesis was portrayed in “Heaven’s Devils” and “Devil’s Due”. When asked what ending Neil would have written for Tychus, Neil ultimately answered that he wouldn’t have changed anything. To him, Tychus had always been a good guy and embodied the quintessential anti-hero, a Han Solo-esque character. He interprets the resolution of Tychus’ storyline at the end of Wings of Liberty as the ultimate redemption of Tychus’ choices. He believes that faced with certain death in that cave, Tychus chose to die by his friend’s hand instead of Mengsk’s death trap. Andrea did note that they had discussed bringing Tychus back in various incarnations.

Fred Tatasciore drew several laughs with his version of a "Samuel L Jackson" Zeratul:

 

 

He then continued by paying homage to Zeratul’s original voice actor, Jack Ritschel. Whom he said, really forged and established Zeratul for him. Fred described Zeratul as a good Darth Vader, something mystical, yes an assassin, but also a spiritualist. He’s an explorer, who despite the controversy his actions may spawn, always tries to do what he thinks is right - to spread and protect life throughout the universe. To connect with Zeratul, Fred has to think otherworldly, almost Zen-like. Yes, Zeratul has dark energies to work with but Zeratul is completely selfless, is fearless, a true Knight Templar.

When asked about Arcturus Mengsk, James Harper discussed how even though the character an actor is playing may not be a protagonist, you always have to think of them as being in the right. He sees Mengsk as having started in a noble place, trying to protect his people, when power goes to his head. In order to make Mengsk believable, James has stated that each actor must believe that their character is in the right. James Waugh, the Lead Writer of Legacy of the Void, stated that one of his favorite sayings is that each villain is the hero of his own story. Yes, Arcturus Mengsk is a megalomaniac and that is ultimately what does him in, but the times in which he lives are dangerous. There are two alien races attacking humanity, dissent in his empire, and the constant threat posed by the Kel Morians. Arcturus believes he is humanity’s savior. He is the only possible option, but humanity will be saved on his terms and it is ultimately that narcissism that leads to his destruction. James Harper also said that an actor has to see the character’s goals, identify the obstacles and then become that character who achieves those goals by whatever means are necessary. He said that Chris Metzen was instrumental in the creation of Mengsk’s voice. The southern drawl was something Metzen suggested and saw in Harper’s voice.

When asked about channeling Artanis, the Hierarch of the combined Protoss, Patrick Seitz explained that Artanis, a noble warrior, has his back to the wall. Patrick also voices Garrosh from the Warcraft mythos and described how it’s an interesting exercise to play these characters very differently. Artanis is calm and possesses the subtlety necessary for the politics of his reality. James Waugh jumped in when asked about how all of these characters relate and react in a perpetually war-torn universe. Each character reacts differently to the constant struggle and to cut through some of that drama, they, the writers, try to create characters that have a core. He thinks that each of the actors on the panel have done an excellent job of embodying these players in a way that speaks to the root of each character. And for Artanis specifically, who is really stepping into Tassadar’s shoes and struggling with becoming a leader in the shadow of someone who was great. James continued by saying that Zeratul knows he is right, but he also knows how crazy he looks. The point is that all of these characters are trying to bring this conflict to an end.

Steve Blum talked about his work playing Abathur. When he was asked how he is able to connect with and portray a non-humanoid, Steve indicated that Abathur is just another character with a job to do. Abathur’s only interested in his purpose and if something gets in his way like blood or flesh or bones, he’d eat them and spin something out that’s a little bit better. Andrea said that when recording Abathur’s lines, they’d attempt to eliminate any emotion. But, she reminded the audience, there’s just a hint of creepiness. Steve went even further; he reminded the audience that Abathur lost his calm collectedness when dealing with the existence of the primal Zerg and that this particular character’s emotion is written into the lines - not everything needs to be acted out. James jumped in to reiterate Abathur’s singular purpose. Abathur is only interested in assimilating and evolving new creatures. He isn’t interested that it is painful and he doesn’t care about the consequences. He represents the genetic interests of the Swarm and lacks the interest in broader affairs.

James Waugh, the lead writer for Legacy of the Void, discussed how he as one of the authors of characters designs them with a core, with an individual truth. But, he acknowledges that the this is a collaborative medium. The actors have to put the flesh and bones on the scaffolding that he and the other writers create. He writes the intent of the line but sometimes in the booth, the actor’s take on the line through that character’s eyes comes out better. Andrea and Neil tied it all together by explaining how the writers, actors, and directors all have to work together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. The actors only have pieces of the story and to bring it to life with truth and honesty and to make an observer believe that these characters were together, when the voice actors never really were, is a testament to the strength of the direction.

Like all BlizzCon panels, the StarCraft II Voice Actors panel concluded with a brief audience Q&A. The questions mostly came from voice acting hopefuls and thus the queries mostly focused on the voice acting industry itself. Directly following the audiences’ questions, Josh Keaton joined the group on stage for an autograph session, where a special limited edition poster that showed a cinematic shot of each of the voice actors’ characters included on the panel were given away and signed.

Overall, the panel was a rare glimpse through the looking glass into StarCraft II’s acting process. It offered an interesting take on the material from the voice actors point of view and other insights into their industry . It was clear that many of these key players are enthused and humbled by our appreciation and passion. Perhaps what is most telling is when asked which other character than their own in the StarCraft universe they would like to portray, none of the actors were interested in trading. Just as their roles are an inseparable part of each of actor now, without someone to lend their voice and bring life to lines on paper, the player’s experience would not nearly be so complete. After all, video game characters are only a collection of actions and words created to reflect a different reality from our own, they too need a voice.

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This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) BlizzCon 2013 event article.

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