Behind the Voice: An Interview With ‘Firewatch’ Voice Actor Cissy Jones

cissy-jones
Gamers may not yet recognize the name Cissy Jones, but it’s more than likely they’ve heard her voice. In fact, it’s pretty much a given if you’ve played a video game in the last five years. Since starting her career in game voice acting with The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series, Jones has lent her talents to numerous critical and commercials hits: Grand Theft Auto V, Halo 5: Guardians, Fallout 4, Life Is Strange — just to name a few.

She’s also taken some high-profile roles in notable indie games, most recently as the wisecracking, emotionally complex Delilah in Firewatch. Soon, you’ll hear Jones as the playable character in Ad1ft, one of the launch titles for the upcoming VR game-changer, Oculus Rift.

Fandom recently talked to Jones about some of her key roles and how she’s become one of the go-to names in video game voice acting.

Heroes of Newerth (2010)

Roles: Sister Death / Manticore / Cosplay Envy

Fandom: According to IMDB, Heroes of Newerth was your first voice acting experience in games. Had you been looking to get into the games industry?

Cissy Jones: I think that one was just in production less time than the others! The first game I booked was The Walking Dead from Telltale Games. I had just begun auditioning as a voice actor with my agent in San Francisco when those sides came through. To book it, what a dream come true!

Fandom: That’s pretty amazing your first role was The Walking Dead. Were you looking specifically do to voice work for video games, or was that just happenstance?

Cissy Jones: Total dumb luck. I got signed to my agent just before those auditions came out. Lucky me! I’d always been interested in voicing games, and I was so excited by the richness of the characters.

Fandom: At what point did you decide to focus on video game voice acting?

Cissy Jones: Gaming is just one facet of the voice-over industry. I actually do a ton of commercials (like a Southern California grocery chain, Ralphs) and narration for various shows/movies (one documentary I worked on has just been nominated for an Academy Award: Winter on Fire), as well as promos, celebrity soundalikes for trailers, amusement park voices, etc. So I wouldn’t say I’ve focused on video games, but I’ve been lucky enough to work on a bunch of them.

Fandom: Are you a gamer yourself? Do you generally play the games you’ve been in after they’ve come out?

Cissy Jones: My friend has actually been tutoring me on how to play — I’m so terrible at it! I learned on the old flat NES controllers, only I learned to play upside down using my forefinger and middle fingers instead of my thumbs so I could run fast and jump without having to release from the run button. So when the new controllers came out, I was completely befuddled. Long story short, any time I try to play, I either die straight away or end up with vertigo! I do watch playthroughs on YouTube though.

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series (2012)

Roles: Katjaa / Jolene / Linda / Brie / Dee / Shel

Fandom: The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series is where many fans came to recognize your work. How did you come to work with the team at Telltale?

Cissy Jones: Through auditions with my agent. Luckily they liked what they heard and hired me!

Fandom: You play six different characters in the game — more than any other actor. How did you prepare for each role? Did you record them separately or concurrently?

Cissy Jones: For me it comes down to character development and knowing who each person is. What are their fears, hopes, dreams? How do they like their coffee? What type of shoes do they wear? That helps to make them completely different entities in my head. Sometimes we would record several in a session, sometimes just one.

Fandom: The Walking Dead franchise of course spans much more than video games. How do you feel about contributing to a cultural juggernaut?

Cissy Jones: What else can I say, other than completely awestruck? It changed my life, being a small part of it. I gained confidence in my newly chosen profession, I met amazing people who are still friends to this day, and I got to die six different times!

Fandom: Is there another major franchise you’d love to be a part of?

Cissy Jones: Oh man. Star Wars? Batman? More Marvel? [Jones recently voiced Squirrel Girl in Lego Marvel’s Avengers. -Ed.] So many great ones out there. How do you pick just one.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

Role: Local Population

grand-theft-auto-5

Fandom: A number of the roles you’ve been credited with are for background characters. How does recording for one of these jobs differ from voicing a major character?

Cissy Jones: It’s usually random chatter that you hear in the background, so it’s less “precious” I suppose.

Fandom: Do you try to create a backstory for each of these characters — motivation for what they’re saying?

Cissy Jones: Sometimes, depending on the situation. In Grand Theft Auto V, I think you could light me on fire, steal my car, and throw me out a window — so not much room for backstory!

Fandom: Have you ever seen how these characters end up appearing in the games? If so, have they surprised you in any way?

Cissy Jones: Some, yeah. Sometimes I have no idea what the game actually is! A lot of games record under fake names (the gaming industry is notoriously secretive), so I’ve had people be like, “Hey, I just heard you in XYZ game!” And I’m like, “Uh, I don’t think so?” And then they’ll send me a clip and yep, it’s me! It’s always interesting to see how they make a bunch of random lines that I say fit into the gameplay.

Firewatch (2016)

Role: Delilah

Fandom: Firewatch is the latest of a string of adventure games you’ve voiced since The Walking Dead. What draws you to these sorts of roles?

Cissy Jones: They feel so real to me. They’re rich characters with flaws and secrets and warts, which is so interesting and fun to play.

Fandom: Delilah is one of the two lead characters in Firewatch, yet she never actually appears on-screen. Players form their impression of her solely on the sound of your voice. Did that affect how you approached this role?

Cissy Jones: This might be my favorite thing about this game. Typically (especially with female characters), their appearance defines how you are supposed to feel about them. So to have the players form a relationship with her, however they choose to form it, based solely on her personality, sense of humor, and quick wit was so much fun. I still did all the character development for her, but I felt a lot of freedom by not being boxed in to “hot girl” territory.

Fandom: Delilah mirrors Henry in a lot of ways, and their relationship is crucial to the game’s success. How much did Rich Sommer’s performance inform your own?

Cissy Jones: Rich is just a phenomenal actor. And [writer] Sean Vanaman had the glorious idea of recording us simultaneously, so what you hear are actual conversations — even though we were recording from separate locations (we never actually met until about a year into recording). So to have that ability to bounce lines around together and react to each other in real time was really special. He would deliver something in a way I had never imagined, which brought out genuine responses from me, which is what makes Henry and Delilah so vibrant. I wish every game could be recorded this way.


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