Courtenay Taylor Mass Effect Panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con

Courtenay Taylor (Mass Effect) Panel (2)

“It was my lovely swearing capabilities,” said voice actor Courtenay Taylor on how she landed the part of the human biotic and notorious criminal Jack in the video game series Mass Effect  “I can really drop an f-bomb with authority.”

As well as Jack from Mass Effect 2 and 3, Courtenay has also lent her vocal talents to games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Project Zero 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Resident Evil 6. Leading a panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con to talk about her work in video games, she was supposed to be joined by fellow voice actor Alix Wilton Regan, but an unfortunate illness meant that she was unable to make it (though Alix did apologise on Twitter to those that had hoped to see her).

Mass Effect 3 (Jack)Of her role as Jack, Courtenay revealed that when she did audition for the character in Mass Effect 2 she had no idea just how popular the franchise was. “I didn’t realise that Mass Effect fans were so intense,” she said, recalling the time that Mass Effect 3 was released. “I remember going to the release party for Mass Effect 3 and there was a line around the block. I went into the GameStop store and I was like, ‘What are all these people doing here?’ Everyone was like, ‘It’s for your game.’”

Having worked on blockbuster video games, Courtenay explained how the increased use for voice actors was down to two major factors. “Because games have become more cinematic, the player is really immersed. I hope that you guys get the experience that you’re actually in the game, you’re part of the experience.” She reasoned that video games becoming more like movies was down to the writing having changed. “The storylines and characters are so much more interesting. Once you get involved in somebody’s storyline… I’ll use Jack as an example – she had such an intense storyline that you feel like you know her, you want to know more about who she is.”

As well as the characters she gives a voice to, she was asked if people want to know more about the actual people behind the games too. “I think there’s more of these conventions and so we have more opportunities to be seen and meet people,” she said, citing how social media has allowed her to meet and make friends with her fans. “I’ve seen people here who I’ve been talking to on Twitter for a couple of years and I’m like, ‘AHHHH, IT’S YOU!’”

She was then asked if she had met any cosplayers that had cosplayed Jack from Mass Effect, only to answer that she had not, till the Saturday at MCM Birmingham Comic Con “I have been to a bunch of conventions in the last couple of years and I have always missed the people, but [I get sent] pictures all the time of these amazing pieces of art that people have done. There’s like a six-foot tall paper Jack that lights up, things like that. But only yesterday did I meet a girl who was dressed as Jack from Mass Effect 3 and I freaked out, jumped up and hugged her.” So happy was Courtenay on seeing a Jack cosplayer that she even tweeted a picture out on the day.

“I think it’s a huge level of commitment to cosplay Jack,” she said. “Especially if you do Jack [from Mass Effect 2] with the belt bra, I mean, that’s love, right? So I’ve only seen one, but if you see any then send them to me. I love getting pictures and seeing the level of what people will do. There’s lots of Ada Wong’s walking around too, that’s easier to slip on. I love them all.”

In taking the role of Ada Wong in Resident Evil 6, Courtenay revealed that she was aware of the franchise beforehand, but knew little about the mysterious character and was “completely gobsmacked” upon landing the part, for she felt that her audition had not gone very well. “When I went in to do that audition I actually thought that the audition was going so badly that I was like, ‘Okay guys, this isn’t really working, so thanks, but I’m going to let the next person come in.’ I didn’t know that much about Ada Wong, but I knew it was a big deal and that they were reading a lot of people for that role.”

In comparing the characters Jack and Ada she described how they both stretched her capabilities and that she enjoyed both experiences equally, however Jack was closer to herself, given that she was “more ill-behaved,” whereas Ada was so much further given that she’s “sophisticated and smooth” and therefore much more of a challenge. For Ada in particular she also did a facial capture for the role. “It really was like a great pair of high heels that might not be the most comfortable to walk in, versus your Doc Martins… they’re both awesome, you just don’t wear them both at the same time.”

With questions opened up to the audience she was asked which member of the Normandy crew in Mass Effect she would romance. “We’ll keep it in this room,” she laughed. “The guy who plays Thane [Keythe Farley], he’s just as awesome in person as he is as Thane. He’s also happily married with children, but I love him so much. So it would probably be him, because he’s talented, funny and amazing, and he’s directed a few video games – he’s an actor and a director.”

Asked how much creative control and input she had with the character Jack, she revealed how writer Brian Kindregan wrote the character for Mass Effect 2 with little room for imrpov. “The storyline was pretty much in place,” she said. “The way that she was written, I’ve never picked up a character like that. It was like I would have written her. I would walk into the booth and we wouldn’t have to do that many takes because it was just simpatico between the two of us. He put so much time and effort into thinking about her storyline. I just drew on the fact that when I was in high school I was a punk rocker and I ran away from home. So there were things in my life that I could kind of draw on that weren’t exactly like Jack’s circumstances, but I could exaggerate those. And I definitely had a little anger management problem in my youth so it was right there.”

The next question had Courtenay being asked how she managed to get into voice acting. She revealed that she used to run a boxing gym and went to theatre school at the same time. “I would teach these huge boxing classes without a microphone. I would scream all the time and I got really bad vocal cord nodes. So when I went in to do my Shakespearian audition for this programme the guy basically laughed at me and was like, ‘I would never accept your application for this programme because your voice is terrible.’” Courtney said how the experience left her in tears, but she then went to visit her speech teacher. “She said, ‘I think you have a pretty cool voice. You can do voiceover.’ So I took a class and I just loved it.”

Courtenay Taylor (Mass Effect) Panel (6)Having worked on numerous games, a member of the audience wanted to know which games she enjoyed working on the most. Courtenay singled out Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Vampire: The Masquerade. “Knights of the Old Republic I played a character named Juhani who was a Jedi, so that was one of my favourites. It was the second video game that I did and it was for George Lucas so that was pretty major.” She then recalled how she previously used to teach boxing classes at the Skywalker Ranch. “They had me come out there during lunchtime and teach the people that work there,” she said. “I remember walking through there and thinking, ‘I’m going to work for him one day. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it’s not going to be teaching boxing.’” For Vampire: The Masquerade it was the first game where she played multiple characters, which made her realise, “‘Wow, you can do all kinds of really great characters all from the same game? This is perfect.’ There was a character that I did that was sort of a precursor to Jack, her name was Damsel and she also had a swearing problem.”

Upon being asked if there were any roles she would like to play she laughed and said, “Anything on Game of Thrones. I’ll do a walk-on, I’ll do anything, just rub some dirt on me man.”

Courtenay then revealed that she is not much of a gamer herself. “I try, but it’s really bad,” she said, citing that she doesn’t have thumb dexterity and so watches other people play instead. “I went to a con where they were previewing Titanfall and afterwards there was a big dance downstairs. So I went down there to hang out and I was swing dancing with this guy and he’s like, ‘Wow, you’re so much better a dancer than you are a gamer, because I just watched you play Titanfall and you suck!’” She mentioned that she had recently started playing Assassin’s Creed III. “It was very exciting once I realised that I could punch people in the face and take their wallets,” she said. “I basically just did that and after a while everyone was like, ‘You know you have a quest, right?’ I have played Resident Evil 6 but I can’t get to the level where you can play Ada because it takes forever and it’s really distracting to play with your voice. I like playing with others because I can hear my friends’ voices. If I hear my voice I just go, ‘Ugh, really? They used that take?’”

She was finally asked if Mass Effect fans will hear anything about Mass Effect 4. “You gotta ask that question, huh?” said Courtenay. “I cannot tell you either way. I hate this answer more than you guys probably do. We’re signed to these non-disclosure agreements where if I actually said something there would be a puff of smoke and I would just disappear, I wouldn’t even be sitting here anymore. I’m not allowed to say, I’m so sorry.”

Before leaving the stage she revealed that she likes both tea and coffee (“I’ve been trained to drink both”), and cake over pie before requesting that people bring her tea and cake.

“Thanks so much guys, I’m so happy I got to meet some of you. Thank you so much for having me, and say hi on Twitter, I’m at @courtenaytaylor.”

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