By Marty Mulrooney
In AMO’s recent review of Dead Space 2, we described it as “an early contender for game of the year”. New female lead Ellie Langford was also praised: “her interactions with Clarke sparkle with genuine comradery, as well as offering occasional comic relief.” We were therefore understandably delighted when Ellie’s voice actress Sonita Henry agreed to join us to discuss her first foray into the world of video game voice acting!
Hello Sonita, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
No… thank you!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
My job is awesome and yet really silly when you think about it. I grew up in the UK but have spent nearly the same amount of time in the US so my accent is weird. I swear a little too much. I can’t walk in heels. That should sum it up I think!
How did you come to be involved with Dead Space 2?
I got a call from my commercial agent asking if I wanted to audition for it. Which is confusing because it wasn’t a commercial!
Were you familiar with the franchise beforehand?
NO. I actually wasn’t. I’m not a gamer.
What attracted you to the role of Ellie Langford?
I actually auditioned for and was cast as the Therapist who was originally written as a pretty cool chick. Very calm, very intelligent, very not like me!!! I didn’t realize that I had been re-cast until the morning of the table read and they handed me the script for the role of Ellie (originally called “Rose”) and said I was now Isaac’s new lady!
How would you describe the character?
She’s such a complex woman. During the game we find out that her entire crew had been attacked and ultimately turned into Necromorphs. She had to cut the arms and legs off her friends in an effort to survive. So she’s totally scarred from that experience and I think that colours the rest of her journey. She can’t allow herself to feel too much, so when she meets Isaac she is extremely guarded and not just because he’s a stranger.
Ultimately she has to learn to trust him but also to let him in, past this wall she’s built up. She knows that if she starts to care for Isaac and something happens to him she’ll be destroyed. She may come across as tough to some people but really she’s extremely vulnerable, and it’s the hiding of her emotions and vulnerability that make her seem like a tough chick.
How did the recording process work?
We had a table read. Then we would break the script down into a shooting schedule. We’d rehearse a few scenes one day, record them the next and keep going like that until the script was finished. This was over a 6 or 7 month period. During that time we also had a few voiceover sessions in the sound booth without motion capture (for audio logs etc.).
Did you get to act alongside Gunner Wright as Isaac Clarke, or were your recordings done separately?
All my motion capture scenes were with Gunner which was really helpful. Having the person there really helps make a very barren stage seem more real. Although with the way the cameras are set up to capture images we weren’t always looking at each other during the scene which made it a little… odd!
Can you talk us through the motion capture process?
I had never done motion capture before. Actually I’d never done voiceover either! So the thought of doing motion capture was both exhilarating and frightening in equal measure! It turns out that doing motion capture is a lot like theatre. The stage is bare except for maybe a block or desk which you have to pretend is a spaceship, a giant drill or a nest of Necromorphs! It’s actually a very liberating way to act. Suddenly your imagination kicks in and you remember why you wanted to be an actor in the first place!
That’s not to say there aren’t a few issues. You are very constrained by the world in the game, meaning you have to be aware of where you’re walking because in the game you may very well be walking through a wall or off a bridge! Also the first couple of days are a little weird. You don’t know the crew or the cast and you’re a little embarrassed but by the third day you’ve hung up your adult ego at the door and you prance around like a five year old!
Does this also mean that Ellie’s likeness is based upon your own appearance?
It is. It’s easier to see it now because my hair is longer but her face is pretty similar to mine. She’s actually a little darker than me (I have olive skin but my Dad is SUPER white!) Also her eyes aren’t brown. Sadly she has a better cleavage but I’d like to think my arms are that cut. HAHAHA!!!
Once the game was completed, what did you think of the finished result?
The game as a whole is amazing. It’s difficult for me to watch any performance I do but that’s just me being a sensitive actor-type! I’m always shocked at how much video games look like movies. I’m still used to Super Mario Bros on the SNES!!
Have you been recognised by any Dead Space fans yet?
No. I’m sure at future comic/games conventions there will be a few that recognize me. I have a wonderful following of sci-fi and Dead Space fans that are just the nicest people.
Had you ever previously played a Dead Space game before starring in Dead Space 2?
I actually went out and bought Dead Space and a PS3 after I booked DS2 so that I could see what I was getting myself into! I played it for about 20 minutes but got too scared!
How does voiceover work differ from acting for film, television etc.?
My background is film and TV, so my acting style is geared more towards having a camera in my face to capture all the nuances of my performance. With voiceover, you have to emote all those feelings just with your voice. It takes some getting used to but I love it.
Is it easier or harder?
Would you like to do more voiceover work in the future?
Can you confirm that Ellie will be back for Dead Space 3?
HAHAHAHA!!! I love how you just threw that comment in! I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of Dead Space 3 or whether Ellie will be back. I would hope they make another one and I would love to come back.
What would you consider the highlights of your career so far?
The Fifth Element was my first venture into the acting world. I didn’t even do school plays before that! I was at college when I shot that movie and went back to finish college afterward and didn’t really give acting much thought. Especially seeing as I was from a small town, it didn’t really seem fathomable to make it a career. But I had so much fun on that set, such a great experience. So I would have to say that was definitely a highlight.
As was Star Trek – I had wanted to work with J.J. Abrams for years (I was a huge fan of “Alias”) so that was a treat. He is such an amazingly talented man but he’s also one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and the crew and cast he has around him mirror that. I also have fond memories of doing indie films and extra work in New York City, that’s where I really “paid my dues” and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Dead Space 2 is a major highlight not just because of the world I got to be part of but because of the people I’ve met because of it.
Your recent role in the new Star Trek film seemed to get a great response from fans! How did that feel?
Wonderful! I’m always surprised when people recognise me from that or mention how much they loved that character. I was literally on the screen for a minute… if that. But I guess the opening scene of that movie is really important and special especially to Trekkers and Trekkies alike!
What is next for you Sonita?
Well, I just finished shooting a commercial. An episode of “Chuck” I’m in just aired, I’m shooting an episode of “Law and Order: Los Angeles” in the next week or so, and I seem to be getting more and more voiceover work – which is great!
Thank you for your time!
I really appreciate it! Thanks for contacting me. I wish you continued success with your website!