Interview with Raphael Sbarge, the Voice of Mass Effect's Kaidan Alenko
Mass Effect 3 is around the corner (March 6th) and we here at The Game Fanatics are ready! We had the chance to interview the voice of Kaidan Alenko, Raphael Sbarge. Originally from New York, Raphael Sbarge is very versatile and humble. He’s worked on such shows as Star Trek Voyager and ABC’s Once Upon a Time, in addition to giving a voice to Carth Onasi from Star Wars the Old Republic, among other projects.
Check out what Raphael Sbarge has to say on being Kaidan, the experience he had working with Mass Effect, thoughts on his fanbase and much more.
GameFanatics: How did you get into voice acting?
Raphael: I found myself voice acting as a natural out growth of the acting work I did. It was a new skill I had to learn initially— how to work with a mike, and how to understand how to make it work with my voice only. That took some time, and a fair amount of practice. But now, I really enjoy it, love the challenge of it, and always look forward to the next chance to explore new material.
GameFanatics: How much of the overall plot of Mass Effect 3 are you told prior to recording?
Raphael: Very little— we are on a “need to know basis”– meaning, if it has something to do with a major scene or a line, then they tell me. But sometimes, it’s actually easier NOT knowing, since I can make up my own story, and commit to that as I am working moment to moment in a scene.
GameFanatics: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your charity Green Wish?
Raphael: Green Wish (http://greenwish.com) is a nonprofit organization I began that helps other local green organizations — right now, our efforts are mainly focused on the Los Angeles area. Basically, we take donations made during the checkout process through local retailers, and then we turn that money back around and put it back into the community by awarding grants to groups that are doing good for the environment. Ed Begley Jr., noted environmentalist, is the face of the organization, and on our board. I am also producing a web series with Ed Begley and his wife Rachelle, documenting the building of the most green, sustainable house in North America. It’s called, “On Begley Street.” More info can be found at www.onbegleystreet.com
In addition to Mass Effect, I’m currently appearing in the dual roles of Dr. Archibald Hopper and Jiminy Cricket on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” (8 Eastern, 7 Central, Sundays). Quite a lot of Mass Effect fans have written and said they only started watching because of M.E., but then found themselves really enjoying it. It’s a good show, and I am very proud to be a part of it.
GameFanatics: Do you have any advice for those who wish to get into the profession?
Raphael: Voice acting isn’t about just saying the words — if anything, not being able to rely on body language makes your ability to convey the emotions and meanings of the moment that much more important. I have found that my theater work has helped me greatly in the voice over world, allowing me to bring more depth and complexity to the work I do. Remember, acting is an imaginative art. It lives in you, in your imagination. And, is a muscle that will grow the more you challenge yourself, and explore material.
GameFanatics: What methods do you use to find the character that you are playing, to make it more your own and less one dimensional.
Raphael: For voice work and video games, usually they’ll have artwork of the characters, which gives you a starting point. Then you find the character somewhere between the script, the voice direction and the art direction. With Mass Effect, we tried to find a balance that draws on his military background, along with a solid and straightforwardness that has become the hallmark of Kaiden. Ginny McSwain, a voice director on the first two games, was really instrumental in helping me find that tone for Kaidan.
GameFanatics: What are the pros and cons of voice over work compared to acting?
Raphael: Well, voiceover work is acting — you’re just relying on your voice, rather than your body, which is really both the pro and the con of it. You’re focused on your own character and lines, but it’s just you— all alone in a room, with your imagination, and a microphone. It’s a lot of fun to be able to create a character with just your voice, but it can also be surprisingly intense work, with little to react off of, and usually it’s all you for four straight hours (shy of the occasional bathroom break). I am really tired at the end of a recording session, every time.
GameFanatics: Any favorite roles or characters that you can relate to on a personal level?
Raphael: It’s funny; Kaidan and Archie/Jiminy probably don’t seem like they have a lot in common on the surface, but they’re both men who are trying to do the right thing, and are guided by their conscience. That’s what I hope to do every day, so I’d like to think that’s something I can relate to.
GameFanatics: Did you ever imagine your voice would lead to such a huge fandom? Were you surprised about the fan reaction to the voice message that Kaidan made for FemShep?
Raphael: Never! I often say it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like a Beatle. Ha! I was absolutely blown away by the reactions to the letter. We just thought we’d put it up for a few days, and then it went viral. We got responses from all over the globe — Norway, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Poland, Australia… I never could have predicted it, but I’m so happy that so many people found it and was very moved by how much it meant to them. I tried to respond to some of them– but never would have been able to respond to everyone. Honestly, it was overwhelming.
GameFanatics: What’s been your favorite piece of dialogue to record, be it from Mass Effect or otherwise?
Raphael: I really enjoy the quieter moments. So often video games are all about the yelling and the screaming, and the fighting. That all has its place, but I really like the more intimate moments, where you get to learn more about the characters.
GameFanatics: Having worked on projects for both Star Wars and Star Trek, as a fan, which do you like better?
Raphael: Oh, wow. How can you really pick between two classic franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek? I’m just so honored to have been able to play parts in both universes.
GameFanatics: You are very engaging with your fans (especially on Twitter, and we thank you!), is there anything you would like to say to your followers and fans before we wrap this up?
Raphael: First, thank you so much, to you and everyone else on Twitter and Facebook. It’s been so much fun, and the responses I’ve received the tweets and audioblog posts have been so amazing. Thanks to everyone for their continued support, and keep reaching out at http://twitter.com/raphaelsbarge. I do read what people send— I may not be able to respond to everyone. But, I do make a point of reaching out to the fans, reading what they say— and it has been incredibly gratifying to see how passionate they are about Mass Effect, and all things Kaiden.