Conquering Andromeda: Danielle Rayne
We couldn’t leave for Andromeda without taking with us our new favorite turian (and probably next romance), Vetra Nyx. Yes, that tall, adorable and cool turian. And she wouldn’t be half of what she is if Danielle Rayne hadn’t given her voice.
However, this time we are not talking to a voice-only actress, because even if you have already heard her as Lady Deathwhisper (World of Warcraft: Cataclysm), sure you have also seen Danielle Rayne in his short Portal: No Escape, or on your TV screens (Hawaii 5.0, Revenge, Scandal, etc.), and we hope to see her much more in the future.
I leave you with the interview, and the option to read it in spanish right here.
You have been working as an actress since over 30 years, what motivated you to choose your job? And how have you ended in the voice acting world?
My high school drama teacher cast me in school plays and the acting bug bit. I went to a Conservatory Program in St. Louis and I had very good voice and speech teachers. I didn’t pursue voice-overs until 7 years ago, when I wanted to add it to my on-camera career. My friend Therese McLaughlin knew Brigitte Burdine, the casting director for World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm and she arranged for me to meet her. While I was totally new to VO, I managed to book a part! I had a demo reel, which I sent out to some Voice-over agents with the news I’d booked a gig, and one agent turned out to be friends with Brigitte and signed me right away. Lucky timing and a very generous friend helped me get my start in VO. Now I have a small studio in the house and you’ll find me recording an audition or a podcast I do for AIRSLA, which offers free audios for the visually-impaired.
How’s your work as an actress? It’s a hard job? I mean, you’ve to travel a lot, how does your family cope with that?
Once you find a way to deal with the constant rejection and gain perspective, it’s the best career I can possibly imagine. You audition all the time, and are told “yes” far less often than “no”—that is the hard part. Everyone finds their way to cope and stay positive. Travel is actually a perk, an episode of Hawaii 5-O had me on Oahu for 12 beautiful days—I will NEVER complain about that! Fortunately, my family is really supportive. I’ve even been able to bring my family on luxury cruises to Europe and Alaska, thanks to acting work.
You’ve to do a lot of risky scenes, did you have any accident while recording?
No, I really haven’t. The occasional cut or bruise, but nothing major. When I did Portal: No Escape, I had a terrific stunt coordinator, James Logan, and a killer stunt double, Heidi Schnappauff. That was the first stunt double I ever had and she made me look really good and kept me from injuring myself. And when you only have 3 shooting days, there is zero down time for recovery.
I’ve heard that SAG-AFTRA union players are having problems with the video game industry. Has it affected you in any of your works?
Certain productions that began prior to a date set by the union are not being struck. So it didn’t affect working on Mass Effect Andromeda because they had begun work several years ago. And while issues like extensive vocal injury while recording are on the table, my experience with Bioware was flawless–they looked out for me every single session.
As a prolific actress as you are, who has been working in a lot of media, have you ever suffered any kind of sexual discrimination because of your gender? Could you tell us if you have passed for any kind of these situations?
In general, there is far less work for women than men and we are judged by very different standards. Especially for on-camera work. Men work more as they get older, women far less. One of my first “mom” roles in a commercial, the kids were 7 and 8 years old, “dad” was 40, and I was 27. I bet you’d never see that reversed, where the mom was 40 and the dad 27. It’s part of the reason men work more and have longer careers than women. It’s frustrating, that’s for sure. Discrimination is hard to judge in acting—women just get fewer opportunities and fewer still as we age.
So a double whammy: age-ism combined with sexism. How often does someone say about an actor “Did you see the lines on his face?” but you hear that from people all the time when discussing an actress. Even reading YouTube comments can be painful (more on that below). That’s one of the benefits of voice-over work. I’m not judged as harshly for not being in my 20’s/30’s. Sometimes, a role is written for a man but the casting director will try to get them to consider a woman. The writing is key–how many women they include in their script? Do they know the producer will be okay with switching it up and writing in more female parts? Does the female cop have to be 30-ish? Could she be older? That’s where it begins. I love and admire the casting directors (many are female) who try to open those roles up that re written for a male, when gender doesn’t matter.
Of all your works an actress, do you have a favourite one or is there one you are truly fond of? and do you have a favourite voice work do you remember with affection? Any anecdote that you remember?
I’ve been lucky to rack up some really fun roles, from the Portal: No Escape character to Sarah Connor in Universal’s T2:3D. On-stage Hedda Gabler would be a top contender. I also did a play in NYC at Westside Repertory called The Admirable Crichton by J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan). I played Lady Mary who transitions from spoiled and lazy daughter to a fierce huntress after a ship wreck. She might be my favorite role.
Definitely, Vetra Nyx is a career high—I love playing her because she’s so well-written and dimensional. Sheryl Chee is incredible, her writing skills made me love and relate to Vetra from day one.
I’m curious, is there any female sci-fi character that you are fond of?
Sarah Connor—that’s a given–I love the 1st and 2nd Terminator movies. I didn’t see the original Terminator until well after 2 came out, but you really see the girl Sarah become the legend Sarah in that 1st film. Princess Leia from the Star Wars trilogy inspired me as a kid—brave, spunky, in-charge. A favorite old book was Friday by Robert Heinlein—Friday is a cool sci-fi character. I’m a true geek…Blade Runner is another favorite film of mine.
How was working with BioWare? Did you notice any difference in the work environment? From the outside it looks like a very nice company with its workers.
I had an amazingly positive experience working for Bioware. They take care of you as a voice actor and are very mindful not to cause any vocal injury. The VO and Performance capture director, Caroline Livingstone, and the engineer Judy Alice Lee were fantastic women running my session, usually. Caroline patiently described everything I needed to know about Mass Effect, since I hadn’t played prior to being cast as Vetra.
What do you think about Vetra Nyx? We believe she’s going to be an interesting character, is the second female turian we see on the Mass Effect Universe; is she as cool as she looks? No spoilers, just talking about her like a real person. Without talking about the game, how did you feel being Vetra Nyx?
I’m biased, but I think Vetra is incredibly cool. A few early reviews agree but I think I’ll refrain from any details and let people reach their own conclusion. (because spoilers 😉
When the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer came out and we saw, for the first time, Liam and Cora’s face, many men (of different ages), began to criticize that BioWare was making ugly female characters, as it happened with Cassandra (from the Dragon Age series), PeeBee and Sara. Do you think society is so used to see a kind of feminine beauty, that they get angry when another different feminine beauty appears?
Yes—I think we live in very unrealistic times and especially so in the USA. I’ve watched TV shows from the UK and Australia, and I see more realistic beauty in their shows. So many US shows have this model-turned-actress beauty standard that is hard to overcome. Attractiveness is completely relative and these are just their opinions…
And the entertainment business has always been brutal towards women and their appearance. I just started watching The Feud on FX and it’s historically accurate in the discrimination actresses endure. Plus the internet gives users license to be anonymously brutal and spew hateful comments on Twitter, Reddit, etc—things people probably wouldn’t say if they were face-to-face with the person they’re criticizing. I force myself not to read YouTube comments—the self-esteem can only take so much. I really regret it when I do. Case in point: after they announced Natalie Dormer as Lexi the Asari, I saw someone say in YouTube comments Dormer was old at 35! Made me furious. I have no idea what the remedy is for this insensitive behavior. Some say we’re too PC but I disagree.
Have you ever played the Mass Effect trilogy? If so, Did you like it? Any favourite moment, character or romance?
I bought the trilogy and began ME1 but I’m the WORST gamer. I’m making my husband play and I’ll interrupt and make him hit all the dialogue options. I’m lucky he’s really understanding. What I love about the whole Mass Effect franchise is how incredibly inclusive it is. I watch gameplay videos as research and am really grateful to gamers who share their gameplay online.
I’ve to talk about this: FemShep is a reference for a lot of girls who play Mass Effect (and we aren’t few), because she transmits us her force; did you play with FemShep? Did she transmit you that sensation? What do you think about FemShep?
Definitely!! I chose FemShep and named her Vetra Shepard, of course. I love Jennifer Hale’s voice acting—I believe her AND I believe in her.
PeeBee, Sara and Cora aren’t the classic female character who looks like a supermodel like Miranda, EDI, Quiet, Cortana or Samus Aran in the last videogames; do you think the time has come for female characters to gain strength and avoid thus falling into stereotypes? Or do you think it’s something punctual?
When Terminator 2 came out back in 1991, Linda Hamilton was more muscular and defined than any actress before her. People were amazed, horrified, impressed. I’ve always had well-defined arms—at 14 I had biceps from grooming horses—and her physical condition as Sarah Connor really helped me feel less like a freak of nature.
I’ve heard that men and women have very different self-perceptions. Men are more confident and see themselves as more handsome and fit than they may actually be, so they relate to a male player based on an incredibly fit guy like Steven Brewis. Women tend to range between a too harsh view of ourselves to a realistic one and so we comfortably relate to a realistically attractive female player. I know personally that if the female player appears to be 5’10”and 110 lbs, I won’t relate to her as easily. I really like Sara Ryder so far and can’t wait to customize her appearance.
And finally, is there anything else you want to say to your fans?
Mass Effect Andromeda is a great franchise for women to game on an equal playing field. My experience working with Bioware shows they are 100% pro-women and pro-gender equality. Mass Effect fans have extended so much good energy toward me and I want to thank you. Reach out to me on Twitter at @DanielleRayne (but I can’t tell you romance options for Vetra. Sorry.) xo
I run on coffee, sarcasm and lipstick. Hace años le vendí mi alma a Bioware y me convirtieron en la Shadow Broker. Tengo un papelito que dice que soy N7, pero no quieren darme mi propia nave. Me gusta llevarle la contraria a la gente y por eso soy una Inquisidora enana y pelirroja.