Interview: James Arnold Taylor

SciFiNow talks to the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars.

star_wars_clone_wars_xl_05--film-AGoing back to games, and the fact that you played Ratchet, one of the more iconic figures in gaming. Could you contrast the experience of doing Obi-Wan, and the process you have with the game and the show with that?

Well, doing the videogame with the show – the thing is that they run together seamlessly, beautifully, better than any other franchise I’ve dealt with, because it’s telling the same story and they’re expanding on it. Plus, the gameplay is tight – it sounds like a sales pitch for the game but it’s not; I got to play on it and meet the folks behind it, and you see how it works. And it is the future of gaming because you are interacting with the story that you basically just watched. So you can watch an episode with your kids and then go play it, and you feel like you’re immersed in it because it’s the same modelling; it’s the same artwork; it’s the same voices, thankfully. And then you take something like Ratchet & Clank, which is a series that I love. The last one we did was… A Crack In Time, which is just about to come out, and… I was not the original Ratchet. The very first game was voiced by Mikey Kelly, and Mikey is actually my brother Ninja Turtle, he was Michelangelo in the Ninja Turtles film with me, and so we give each other a hard time about that; of course he’s bitter and angry because I’ve done eight or nine of these games and he’s only done one. No, he’s not really; it’s very cool to be Ratchet and it’s a wonderful story as well, but it doesn’t work the same way as working on a Star Wars game does – it’s a part of the whole thing. And then you’ve got games like Syphon Filter, where I’m Gabe Logan…

You were Gabe Logan?

Yeah, if I do my job right, then most of the time you guys don’t know it’s me, but at the same time I like to get people to see that voice actors… first off, I hate saying ‘voice actor’ because that then implies that we’re very specific and it’s just one little thing, that we’re not actors. I think through the years now that everybody wants to be a voice actor – I get letters from people saying “Oh voice acting, that’s easy, any idiot can do that,” I’ve literally had people telling me that. Which is nice. But it requires acting, and you go, okay, if I’m doing a show where I’m playing Johnny Test, who’s an 11-year-old boy, and then there’s Doug Vegan, who’s the bad guy, kind of a Darth Vader character. [Taylor begins to alternate between character voices word for word] And Johnny and Doug Vegan are having a conversations back and forth with each other, that requires acting, not just some vocal acrobatics and the ability to do fart sounds, excuse me ladies. It does actually require acting, so I’d like people to see that in videogames and in animation, voice actors are really [just actors]… [Clone trooper voice actor] Dee Bradley Baker, he’s amazing, amazing in what he does. Dee and myself, we didn’t pursue acting and have it not work out, we pursued voice acting, that’s what we always wanted to do, and that’s what I hope people will take away from this.

Do you know what Ewan McGregor thinks of your impersonation of his voice?

I’d love to know what he thinks. I’ve doubled his voice in a couple of other things as well, sometimes when he’s doing an American accent, which is funny because his voice is very similar to mine when he does one, he speaks from a different place. It’s like James McAvoy – I’ve done a lot of doubling in that regard, Christian Bale… whenever they’re doing an American accent.

It wasn’t you shouting at the director of photography [in the infamous Bale outburst audio recording] was it?

No… As far as you know! But a lot of my work is in voice doubling, and I haven’t heard what Ewan thinks, but I know that when the trailers came out a lot of people thought it was him, so I take that as a compliment. But we do hit the same timbre, and when I went to first approach the voice I was thinking “What would a young Alec Guinness sound like?” And I wasn’t so much concerned with just trying to imitate Ewan because we had the same tone.

So do you think that the industry as a whole is taking voices more seriously?

I think so. It’s interesting, obviously there’s a lot of conflict. I sat on a board for the Screen Actors Guild when we were negotiating a contract between the gamers and SAG. Because one thing we don’t get… the difference between acting in a game or a cartoon, one thing we don’t get is residuals. And I understand their perspective and if they can hold onto that and not give it out… great! But what they are creating is films that are epic; If you look at Final Fantasy X, you play the game for 150 hours, so you look at that and realise that this is a world that’s been created. I think it’s brilliant what they’ve been able to achieve, and it’s wonderful that they’re using quality actors most of the time. It happens in every aspect of the world, and again it goes back to people wanting to be voice actors, it happens in the trailers, in the promo business. I do a lot of promos for Fox, you know, “Animation domination continues with The Simpsons”, that’ll be me, or “Tonight on Cops”, you’d never have guessed it was this guy, and that’s because it’s a craft, but there’s a lot of people that do want to try in and get it.

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