Wastelands has a confirmed release date for this month, but we have to ask this: will we hear you sing again?
Hmm… I guess you’ll have to wait and see (or hear)!
Any favorite moments from Life Is Strange 2 so far?
Just the experience of voice-over work and my introduction to the gaming world. It was a world I had never really delved into before. Voice-over acting, specifically for gaming, is definitely something I had never done before and never knew [that] I would be a part of. Every aspect of the arts informs another, so it has been an incredible learning experience.
You’ve previously worked in films and TV, but what was the experience like to transition to VO work in the gaming industry? Do you think there is anything you could take from your work in Life Is Strange 2 and transfer it perhaps to a future role in film or TV?
So, as I said, this type of acting is definitely very different from on-screen acting. They are all connected and inform each other, but definitely different. I have a theater background where I was always used to having the other actors with me. Then I transferred over to film where sometimes you don’t get the other actor with you. In voice-over, you definitely don’t get the other actor. So, your imagination is in peak mode. It’s silly and weird, but also incredible to see where your mind can take you.
Like music, you have a big interest in dancing. But we believe that you broke your knee around seven years ago, no? What did it feel like at that moment, specifically when it came to pursuing a career in acting and dancing?
Oh, wow. I could talk about this all day. I was studying at the Urdang Academy in dance and musical theater. I broke my knee in rehearsal one day and, well, not to sound too dramatic, but my life got completely flipped upside down. I had grown up dancing all day, every day. It was as normal as brushing your teeth every morning. Not to say that it didn’t have me in a very negative headspace in regards to my body and the things I would do to my body and how I would treat it. But dance was my life, my outlet, my best friend, really. So when that happened, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. But when you have a heavy cast [that is] the full length of your leg… you have to be still and I had never had to be still. I spent a lot more time with myself and learned in a completely different way.
Acting has always been a part of my dancing experience, though. My dance teacher growing up would always discuss the character and emotional drive within our dance pieces. That always came first. Making the audience feel something was always at the forefront of her pieces, so we always had to dig deep emotionally and mentally, as well as physically.
It was a long road to recovery with my knee due to surgery complications and infections and just the state that my body was in prior to the injury. I hadn’t given my body or mind any kind of love and nurture ever. All I knew was how to hurt myself because that’s what I had been taught to equal good. ‘No pain, no gain.’ I quickly realized that was so far from the truth and [it] actually caused me to lose my body for a long time.
My amazing parents pushed me to get my strength back and we found the best physical therapists and personal trainers that we could find to get my strength back so that I could finish my last year and earn my degree, which I did. Woo! But there did come a moment where I had to recognize and come to terms with the fact that pursuing a professional dance career wasn’t the smartest idea for my body and mind anymore — for so many different reasons. And so I slowly started accepting this and focused on acting and singing and other creative outlets. Then I found dance meditation, a space where I could dance within my limits and not perform for anyone or anything other than my soul, and just move in the moment and let that heal me.
So, now I teach dance and I choreograph. That’s how I keep it in my life in a safe way. But all of my art stems from my dance training. Even in voice acting, where does it come from in the body? Where are they holding this emotion? Are they physically in pain? All these things inform how you speak. My dance training informs my life, even if I don’t do it all day, every day anymore.
You’ve previously dabbled in topics like mental health and body shaming for different projects. Dontnod has had a history of dealing with all kinds of social issues in the Life Is Strange series. Are there any topics that you would like the developers to cover in the remaining episodes?
I definitely see that they are broaching difficult topics and also finding more inclusive storylines, which is incredibly exciting.
Mental health and body shaming: where do I begin? Two of my favorite celebrities right now are Jameela Jamil and Bethany C. Meyers for how open they are about eating disorders, body image, mental health and how we can actively shift the mindset about our bodies, both within ourselves and those that are growing up in this society.
I still have a hard time finding the right language to discuss these topics because it’s such an intense and sensitive subject. The main point that I keep coming back to, though, is the exterior view of our bodies does not determine our worth. And the fear and shame that we are fed to believe about our bodies in their natural state is horrific. It plagued me up until my knee broke and I didn’t have my body to beat up anymore. I had to have my body taken away from me in order to recognize this at a deeper level. I want girls and boys of all ages, sizes, races, cultural backgrounds — because what our bodies should look like shifts from culture to culture — to recognize and truly believe that their bodies are theirs to cherish and indulge in. The more we love our bodies and give them what they deserve, our minds hear that and respond.
Then health and wellness are simple because we aren’t fighting against what we need or want for ourselves. And it’s going to be difficult because we have to untrain and unlearn what has been around for far too long. So we have to be confident in our beliefs and not only just speak about it, but [also] demonstrate it in the way we treat ourselves and others. That’s not to say that you aren’t going to have the bad days where you are triggered and low and fall into the dark hole of being controlled by your demons. But that’s okay, too, because that’s normal. Ups and downs are a part of it and that’s also incredibly important to recognize; that you don’t always have to be at 100 percent. Burnout is real and your body and mind will respond. So, if you miss a day at the gym, go sit in a park, smell the flowers and exercise your mind. It’s just as important.
Photo credit: Instagram
Life Is Strange 2 is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. For more on Dontnod’s episodic adventure title, check out Hardcore Gamer’s interview with Life Is Strange 2 co-director Raoul Barbet and lead producer Luc Bagadhoust and our reviews for Episode 1: Roads and Episode 2: Rules.