Editor’s note: this interview contains spoilers from the first two episodes of Life Is Strange 2.
Dontnod Entertainment’s Life Is Strange exceeded many people’s wildest expectations when it debuted back in 2015, but the success that time around didn’t necessarily mean that the same fate would await Life Is Strange 2. After all, the relationship between Max Caulfield and Chloe Price left a long-lasting impression on many fans, not to mention that the whole cast of supporting characters and the town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, were ingrained in the hearts and minds of players. Sure, the sequel kept the episodic formula that had worked so well for the French studio in the first title, but the developer decided to drastically shake up the series by leaving behind the story of Max and Chloe and would instead introduce a whole new story dynamic, characters and settings.
Enter brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, whose relationship would be the overarching theme for the five-episode story arc of Life Is Strange 2. Instead of being restricted to one such setting like Arcadia Bay, Dontnod has players travel with the two brothers across different locations after an incident results in the death of a police officer, Kindred Matthews. Sean and Daniel’s father, Esteban Diaz, also dies at the hands of Matthews as he tried to defuse the situation involving the two boys and the police officer. With the first two episodes released — Episode 1: Roads and Episode 2: Rules — players have had their first taste of the different challenges that would test Sean and Daniel’s relationship on the way to their father’s hometown of Puerto Lobos, Mexico. Not only are both brothers trying to deal with the emotional fallout of Esteban’s death, but also Sean has to become the big brother needed to teach Daniel how to control his powers.
Dontnod might have moved the Life Is Strange story in a whole new direction, but that hasn’t stopped the developer from including Easter eggs in Life Is Strange 2. In fact, Life Is Strange 2 writer Jean-Luc Cano admitted in March that there are a “few more subtle references planned for this season.” Okay, almost any kind of reference to Life Is Strange would most likely appeal to fans of the series, but a female character with a striking choice of hair color stands out, right? Chloe, unsurprisingly, made her mark in the first title, so it’s naturally fitting for another female character to emerge and play an important role in the story of Life Is Strange 2. Players have their first taste of that when Sean and Daniel visit the Christmas tree farm in Beaver Creek, Oregon, with Chris and Charles Eriksen. As players explore, they’ll spot a character that has shades of Chloe about her. A drifter sporting long purple hair, an undercut and black ear tunnels, it’s safe to say that Cassidy catches a player’s eye even before they have the chance to listen to her play some music.
Life Is Strange fans only had a small taste of what to expect from the free-spirited Cassidy and her companion Finn, but she’ll move to a more central role in the upcoming Episode 3: Wastelands. As it was shown in the launch trailer and revealed in the episode’s synopsis, Sean and Daniel will find themselves crossing paths with the two drifters in California and getting involved in the illegal cannabis trade. With Wastelands slated to launch on May 9, Hardcore Gamer had the privilege to catch up with Sarah Bartholomew, who provides the voice for Cassidy, for an exclusive interview. We spoke to the 27-year-old dancer, singer and actor about how she landed the role for Cassidy, her thoughts on the character, the process of bringing her to life and how she prepared her singing routine in Rules.
[Hardcore Gamer] How did you end up getting involved with Life Is Strange 2?
I auditioned like any other project I audition for. Get the material, learn it [and] go in and do your thing. I had to prep [for] ‘I Found a Way’ and learn a couple [of] scenes.
What was the audition process like? Also, was Cassidy the only role that you auditioned for or were there any other characters?
We auditioned at this casting studio in LA that has a very distinct smell that always makes me want to throw up and [it] lives in my clothes for the rest of the day. I was given two scenes and was also asked to prep the song ‘I Found a Way.’ I went in and read/sang into a microphone. It was weird because I was asking (in my life) for a character with a southern accent and a character that is a singer. And there she was.
I don’t think I found out that I booked it until a couple [of] months later. There was no callback and they kept a lot of the details pretty secret until I was in the recording studio, so I didn’t know what it was for right away.
Considering that you haven’t played the Life Is Strange series, what was your impression of it after watching through it and what appealed to you most about it?
I honestly haven’t played computer/video games since I was younger. So seeing what the gaming world has morphed into was intriguing and terrifying. Ha-ha. Mostly because you can live in another world and I would imagine it could take over your life/reality. But I love that you have options and decisions to make and that there is magic to it.
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was pretending I lived in a video game, so having more of an immersive experience sounds extremely exciting. I didn’t know what Cassidy looked like until the episode released and watching her facial expressions and interactions with the other characters was far more touching and emotional than I ever thought a ‘game’ could be.
What an introduction for Cassidy, especially with players being treated to a cover of First Aid Kit’s ‘I Found a Way.’ What was it like for the opportunity to sing a cover of the track for Rules?
I grew up listening to First Aid Kit and have always been blown away by their dreamy harmonies and melodies. It’s a beautiful song and the [VO] director [Philip Bache] and I worked a lot on, allowing Cassidy to come through the lyrics and the tone — to really have Cassidy make the song her own. I am trained in musical theater, which can sometimes sound too manufactured, so we really took the time to create a more raw-sounding version of the song.
Do you ever feel nervous before you start singing? If so, how do you prepare your mindset before you begin recording in the booth?
I am a dancer, a singer and an actor. Singing is the hardest one to calm your nerves down for (for me anyway). It’s extremely vulnerable and exposing. I always get nervous, but I don’t always let my nerves get the best of me anymore. One of my teachers said, ‘It’s OK to be nervous — it just means you care.’ But I used to let my nerves completely take over and I would lose all sense of control in my voice and it was a mess. It wasn’t until I had some true vocal training from the Urdang Academy [in London] where I learned that I was able to control what my voice did on a technical level, not just emotional. I was still a nervous wreck in training.
The best thing to get over nerves is to just keep doing it until it feels more and more ‘normal.’ Perform as much as you can, in front of different kinds of audiences because it tests you. Getting connected to your body is also an important one. Dance, run, jumping jacks, shake it out — whatever works for you — and breathe. Breathe is the hugest tool. It can send you into a panic attack or it can bring [you] back and send you into a state of bliss. I teach singing and a huge thing I’m finding is that when my students are connected to their breath/bodies, they are connected to themselves and have a base to then launch off of.
This interview continues on page two, as Sarah Bartholomew talks about playing music as part of the band Rochelle, Rochelle, her first impressions of Cassidy and if there was any inspiration behind her performance for the character.