Exclusive Interview with Firewatch’s Cissy Jones
Cissy Jones is an established voice actress, known for Fallout 4 and The Walking Dead game. I had the pleasure of speaking to Cissy about her upcoming game, Firewatch.
What can you tell us about Firewatch?
Oh man, it’s going to be so great. I’m so excited for people to get their hands on it. It’s a really great story written by Sean Vanaman, who wrote The Walking Dead, so you know it’s going to be good. The player plays as Henry, who is a guy with marital troubles, you know, life decisions and choices, who just decides to get away from everything and go into the woods in Wyoming in the 80s and get away. His only lifeline is via walky talky to his supervisor, me, Delilah. And depending on how the player plays Henry, you can either have this wonderful relationship with Delilah or she can just kind of be a sounding board. It’s completely up to the player. Of course you get to walk through Olly Moss’s designs, which are just breathtaking.
How long does a normal recording session last, like for Firewatch?
Each session was four hours, however we recorded for two and a half years. Maybe closer to two years. We would do a session about once a month, depending on how much Sean had, but I think he had about a thousand pages of dialogue. Which is a crap load.
Is that typical?
No! No no no. (laughs). Most video games, especially shoot-em-up type games, I go in for a four-hour session and that’s that. But Sean is very dialogue heavy and really likes to get to the heart of what drives people, so these characters are really well-fleshed out. There’s a lot more talking that happens so you have many more recording sessions, and many more hours logged in the booth.
What inspired you to be a voice actor?
I used to work in Silicon Valley and I used to wake up every morning and hear my alarm and my first thought that went through my head was probably something I can’t say on here. (laughs) I just kind of decided for a change. I started taking classes up in the Bay Area and I just fell head over heels in love with it. I really threw myself into it full-time in 2010. And here we are.
Are there any voice actors or other actors that you would like to work with that you haven’t had the opportunity to?
Oh my god, all of them. (laughs). The great thing about voice actors is that they’re all really cool. Everyone’s really, really friendly. I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with some great people. But I want to work with everybody! There’s the great Rob Paulson, Kenny Milo, and I’d love to get in the booth with them. But in terms of the people I’ve already worked with, I’ve worked with some really awesome people. Anyone I get to work with I have to gush about.
What is your process for creating a new voice for a character?
It really depends on the style. I know Sean, who is a guy who is very heavy on realism and a real approach to a character as opposed to say, Dishonored where you just kill stuff. It’s kinda fun to sit down and think about a character like Delilah. Where she’s from, who is she now, how old is she, what are her biggest fears, what are her biggest accomplishments, what does she get joy out of, what scares her. Those kinds of things you really flesh out and understand who the character is. Sometimes you’re given a lot more liberty than others, like with Delilah versus going in for a session with no idea why I’m there and then being like “ok, you’re just going to launch a grenade and shout GRENADE 50 times.”
How do you maintain the voice for a character while developing another one, like if you had an upcoming project down the road but you’re still working on something current?
That all goes down to how much back work you put into it. How much backstory do my characters have so that I can slip into it, like an old coat. When I was working on The Walking Dead I did Katjaa, who is Belgian. She was a veterinarian, middle-aged, had a 13-year-old kid, she was married to kind of a hot head, and of course has an accent. So you know all these things about the character walking in and as I would walk to my session I would talk about things like Katjaa (using a Belgian accent). Just to get back into the head space. With each subsequent project, they’re all a different coat, if that makes sense. So Delilah is me. My voice, basically. Total goofball. But then working on something like Fallout 4 where you might not know the intentions of the characters and what they’re really there for, you get to be a little more mysterious. You get to have a little more fun with it. I’m not going to spoil it for people who haven’t played it. But it’s fun.
Since you’ve done a lot of video games, do you have a favorite that you like to play?
(laughs) I’m terrible at video games! I die within the first 30 seconds. Every time. Even in Firewatch where you can’t die, I’m sure I’ll find a way to die. I love watching play-throughs though, I think they’re super fun. I will say, kind of old school, I love Super Mario Brothers, that was the first game I ever learned to play and I think the only one I’ve ever beaten. Love me some old school Mario Brothers.
What has been your favorite character or game to voice?
That is tough. I would say to date, it would be Delilah. She’s just been so much fun and I’ve gotten to spend so much time with her. One of the things that Sean had me and Rich Sommer, who voices Henry, do was to record simultaneously so we actually got to have conversations instead of recording in a voice. It made it feel so much more real instead of just “oh the character said blah blah blah here’s your response, go.” We actually got to read through pages at a time as a dialogue and it’s so much fun, so fulfilling. I had a session eight days after I had a kid and I couldn’t wait to get back into the booth.
What has been the hardest character to voice?
Story would have to be Katjaa. She broke my heart. She was a very tragic character. I won’t spoil it for you, but her final scene stayed with me. In terms of vocal placement, I just did one for a Japanese company and I don’t know if I can say the name of it yet, but I play a playable character who just growls the entire time. By the time I left that session, I’m pretty sure my throat was bleeding. I’m kinda happy that wasn’t four-hour sessions for two and a half years. (laughs).
What’s the audition process like for voice actors? Is it different than going in front of a panel and just reading?
I will get emailed scripts, usually from my agent. I have a little setup at home, I have my microphone and my computer, and it’s soundproof-ish. I get in here and read the scripts. I kinda figure out who the character is for me and then take a crack at it. Sometimes you just send it off with your best wishes and good luck and then sometimes you never hear back. Sometimes you get a call back, sometimes you book it. Sometimes you don’t know who got it until you see it when it’s live.
Other than Firewatch, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Yeah, Adrift, it’s coming out March 28th. I’m the playable in that as well as a side character. And I’m really excited about that one too! That was a really fun couple of sessions. In terms of other games, there are some really big titles coming that I can’t talk about, although the Arkham Knight DLC just launched! And I can say that I’m Nora Freeze in that.
As you know our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us and all of our writers are nerds, in some sense. Is there anything that makes you a nerd?
Oh my god, what doesn’t make me a nerd? I’ve been a nerd my whole life. I was a spelling bee champion in 4th grade. And give me anything sci-fi. Carl Sagan is my favorite author.
Firewatch hits gaming shelves today, so make sure you grab a copy. And don’t forget to follow Cissy on Twitter!