Mass Effect: Andromeda: A Conversation with V/O Artist Katy Townsend
By Nerd HQ Gaming
All this week, Nerd HQ Gaming has been playing the much anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda, and we have to say, we’re quite impressed. Even though everything is new in the game (new ship, new characters, heck even a whole new galaxy!), it has that feel of returning home to visit an old friend that you haven’t seen in years. In that vein, Nerd HQ Gaming’s Josh Monroe and Paige Mount sat down and talked with a brand new friend: V/O Artist Katy Townsend, the voice of Suvi Anwar, Science Officer aboard the Tempest. (Note: to gain a full appreciation for this interview, all of Katy’s comments are to be read in a Cheeky Scottish accent.)
JM: What drew you to ME Andromeda and the ME franchise as a whole?
KT: Well it was funny because when I got offered the role and when I signed on to be in the game I had no idea that it was this franchise. It was kind of an amazing surprise. It was only after I got on the role that I started dabbling in previous games and found a greater understanding of just how incredible this universe was.
JM: Did you go back and play or research any of the other ME games?
KT: I went back and dabbled with 2 and 3, it was interesting. It was really cool and it felt good to be a part of the next installment in the franchise.
JM: Was it intimidating at all knowing that it was a very well-known franchise coming into it?
KT: Of course! It was the same thing as Fallout 4, the stakes are just so high. Wherever there is an adoring fan base and that passion for the game itself there is incredible expectations. (She laughs) You sort of just roll with it. I was really happy with this role, I was really taken by this character in particular. I trusted as I was working on the game that this character would hopefully be well received by the audience. Hopefully that’s the case. Have you guys played?
JM: We have actually been playing it all week as our game of the week for NerdHQGaming.
PM: I just recently got on the ship and I met your character finally.
KT: Awesome! Are you playing as male or female?
PM: I’m Playing as a female
JM: And I’m playing as a male. I usually go back and play as male and female.
KT: Cool to try and get a sense of both
JM: Yeah and they each have their own different story lines. We are really enjoying it so far.
KT: How so?
JM: It reminds me of 2&3 a lot which were my favorite games of all time. This is personally my favorite franchise
KT: Ooooo, okay…
JM: No pressure (Laughs) But going back into the galaxy of Mass Effect feels new at the same time through the exploration of andromeda. It has that reminiscent feel of what I loved about the previous games, but with a whole new galaxy to explore it feels completely fresh. So it kind of hits both worlds there.
KT: Oh, cool yeah.
PM: Yeah, we are starting with a whole new cast of characters in this game. It’s exciting to step into some new uncharted territory and see how these characters will expand and evolve across this game and future expansions if there is more to come.
KT: Of course. And Shepherd was so beloved that it’s always going to be difficult to fill those shoes. I love that we are taking a risk with this and trusting that over time the fans of the game will fall in love with this new universe and these new characters.
JM: Right, and personally I’m loving Ryder so far.
PM: Same, Ryder is awesome!
KT: Yeah! It’s really interesting, I love that Ryder is sort of fresh meat and inexperienced, that is a really exciting springboard because there are just so many ways you can go. The sky is the limit for Ryder’s character arc and it makes it really exciting to watch her character grow and expand in this universe.
PM: Definitely. Ryder has to prove him/herself a little bit.
KT: Yeah. It adds more of a challenge to the game I think.
JM: In our opening dialogue with your character you have a nerdy obsession with dirt
KT: Right (laughing)
JM: Is there anything that you would secretly love to research more of that may not be the most popular thing out there.
KT: You know it’s funny because in another life I would have loved to have done what Suvi is doing and study astrophysics or microbiology. I was never really that good at science but I would really love to research interesting scientific theories like holographic principle and string theory, something that involves those types of things. I’m kind of similar to Suvi in that I have this child like wonder for the world. I’m excitable like she is, it wasn’t very difficult for me to nail down some of the stuff that she does. But yeah maybe not dirt…. (laughing) . But I love that about her. I love that she is the ultimate nerd on the ship and the beacon for scientific knowledge and philosophical musings. I think that makes her a really interesting character to get to know.
KT: I also love that she is kind of at the intersection between science and faith. I think that is a really interesting aspect to her character as well and certainly is a source of debate between her and Ryder.
JM: What parts of your own personality did you infuse into this character that really shined through in the performance?
KT: That’s a good question. She is an avid tea enthusiast which is something we have in common. She is deeply spiritual and I am as well, although I don’t follow a specific religion, but neither does Suvi. She has a strong belief in a higher intelligence that her science has led her to believe in. The older I get the more spiritual I become. She is quite like a sensitive wee soul, I kind of relate to that as well (Laughing). There are a couple of little adorable moments especially in the first introduction with Ryder where Ryder suggests that she go out in the field and she feels completely inexperienced. That is something I would definitely love to see in future installments of Andromeda, Suvi coming in to her own and gain experience and learn from Ryder and the rest of the squad mates in that sense. But yeah definitely with [Suvi] it was like slipping on a glove there was just so many things I connected with. Some of the things [Suvi] would talk about are things that would come out of my own mouth, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch.
PM: That’s a great role to play, something so easy to fall into
KT: Yeah it was really funny because there are some sentimental and emotional moments where she is talking about her affection for her family and how difficult it was for her to leave them to embark on this journey, and coming from small town in Scotland I left my entire family behind in Glasgow to come to the US and Los Angeles to start a life for myself. It was emotional and when I was reading through those pieces I felt I related a lot to that aspect of her character. That’s a credit to the writer as well, Sheryl [Chee], she is amazing. She has a background in philosophy, I found that really interesting, it makes perfect sense that she would be the voice behind Suvi for certain scientific musings.
PM: When you moved here from Scotland did you ever think that you’d be getting into voice acting?
KT: I didn’t really know to be honest. This has been a huge surprise and a bit of a whirlwind you know. I used to play a lot of games when I was a kid and less so in my teenage years. My first year when I was in LA I ended up at E3 convention and it had been a good 10 years since I had played any kind of game. I felt like that moment where Marty Mcfly steps into the future it was insane and electrifying. That was my beginning of this curiosity in perhaps exploring this niche of gaming. I call it a niche but it’s actually one of the biggest aspects of the entertainment industry. That was the start of it for me I thought the whole thing was exciting and wanted to explore it further. You never end up going the way you think you will, some things catch you off guard.
PM: I think that’s just life, you can’t plan it out.
KT: Right. With Fallout 4 I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the fans of the games. Really immersing myself into the community and getting to know them. That kind of passion is infectious, so I’m excited to meet and engage with the ME fans as well. It feels like an entirely new community and so far it’s been really lovely. It’s fun to have a mass group of people to nerd out with and explore an entire new universe with.
JM: Do you have a favorite character from Andromeda or the past ME games?
KT: I’ve just started the game and I have a feeling that PeeBee is going to be my favorite in Andromeda. During one of my last sessions I came out a little early and got to catch the tail end of one of Christine Lakin’s voice over sessions and it was so much fun so I’m really excited to explore PeeBee. My favorite character of all time is Courtenay Taylor’s character: Jack.
PM & JM: YEAH!!!!!
KT: She was a badass. I am a fan of her work in general, I got friendly with here because we both worked on Fallout 4 together and she is just incredible voice actress and I really admire her work. Jack’s probably my favorite, those tattoos and everything.
JM: The tattoos are amazing.
PM: I want those.
KT: I want those too! Probably Jack’s my favorite overall.
PM: Do you have any future projects that you are excited about?
KT: It’s crazy, I actually don’t think there is anything I can share right now. It’s so funny because when I started ME it was September 2015 so it was 2 months before Fallout 4 had even come out. There are these giant gaps in between everything so sometimes as an actor it can be tricky to push momentum forward with your career because you are sitting on these secrets. The projects I’m working on now are again completely different then ME and Fallout 4. Diversity is really important to me and it’s exciting to branch out into different worlds. I’m excited for everything I’m working on. It was amazing to work on ME, I hope they continue this Journey with this character Suvi if there is a sequel, I hope so.
You can follow Katy Townsend on Twitter @thecheekyscot and make sure you follow us @thenerdmachine and use #nerdhqgaming for all video game related news and inquiries. All in game images courtesy of BioWare. Photo by Dana Patrick.