Mass Effect: Rana McAnear
Most of the characters we see in video games are based directly or indirectly on real human beings, sometimes they take some characteristic features from one or several people, but sometimes a real person grants them rights over their appearance (normally, their faces). Unfortunately, most of these models are not credited in games, so it’s a little difficult to locate them.
We are not the only ones that wanted to know who was behind the face of some characters, so when Mass Effect 2 was released, fans wondered who was behind the Asari Justicar Samara. It was the model herself who revealed herself as the face of the characters, thus getting the recognition she deserved.
Today, I bring you an interview with Rana McNear, the woman that was the face behind the iconic character Samara.
Todas Gamers: You’re a gamer, what kind of video games are your favorites? In your opinion, what’s the best video game you’ve ever played? And the worst?
Rana McAnear: I like action/adventure and quest games. I’d say BioShock is probably one of my favorite games, I was also obsessed with Tetris and Sonic the Hedgehog growing up. And the worst I think was this superhero team game that I can’t remember the name! I just remember Spiderman was on your team…
TG: Are you playing any video games now? If not, which one would you want to play?
RM: Right now I’m going back and forth between Uncharted 4 and Tomb Raider. I’m also really looking forward to the newest South Park game.
TG: Did you have any bad experiences playing video games? For example, harassment from men, being asked about your knowledge about one or more video games to prove you’re a real fan…
RM: The harassment mainly comes from when I’m in costume or online when people see pictures of me. Things like «oh, she was just model, she doesn’t play.» But nothing too bad… so far!
TG: You’re known because you’re the face of Samara and Morinth but, how did you get these roles? How was the experience of being the face of a video game character?
RM: I was on a modeling website called «Model Mayhem» and Bioware put up a casting call that I submitted to. They picked me and I went in for a 3D scan of my face shortly after. The experience has been pretty amazing. I’ve traveled all over the world and met some awesome people along the way.
TG: I know a lot of face models aren’t credited but, even so, fans are really amazed with your job and they often search who’s the face of a character because they want to know. What do you think about this?
RM: I think it’s a little strange that they don’t credit the model and I don’t know if anyone would’ve found me if I hadn’t of said anything publicly. I’ve heard that people searched me because they thought my face was computer generated and they wanted to know if I was real. I think that speaks volumes for the technology. The scan was so good, they were able to capture every detail! Even my freckles and eye color!
TG: I thought you worked as a model and as an actress your whole life, but I see that you’ve worked in a lot of things; you’ve worked as a costume designer, babysitter, actress, model… What was the best experience you’ve had in any of these jobs?
RM: Yes! That’s true, I’ve had a lot of different jobs. The best experience? Hum.. that’s a hard one. I think I’ve had great experiences doing all of them. I really do enjoy making costumes. I made these suits for a Sci-Fi short my friend wrote. They turned out really great, I was pretty proud. As a babysitter, I’ve had a lot of fun with the kids of course and I even got to travel with one of the families a couple of times. And with acting/modeling I love being creative and getting lost in a character, or trying to convey an emotion with just an expression.
TG: I know you like animals very much. Which one will you choose to have as a pet in Mass Effect?
RM: I do! I have a dog! I still need to play again to get the space hamster but I only had the fish hahah!
TG: Is the characterization process hard? It requires makeup or, because it’s for a video game, it’s just the suit and the sensors?
RM: In my case, it was very simple. No makeup, my hair was in a wig cap, I sat in a chair that rotated and a scanner, scanned my face. They also took some pictures of me smiling and some other expressions to get an idea of range of motion in my face.
TG: Did you have to practice something like movements or sentences before doing the motion capture? Did they give you any guidelines?
RM: I was given a short character breakdown of Samara, sadly the only thing I remember is they called her a «high priestess.» The scan was just of me sitting still, but Casey Hudson was there and asked me to look very stern and strong. He said normally they want the models to be expressionless, but in my case he wanted that look on my face!
TG: After doing the motion capture, there’s a digital process to make you look like the character. Do you recognize yourself in the characters? Do you think Samara and Morinth look like you?
RM: Aside from the blue part, I think it’s incredible how much they look like me. The only thing that’s really different is the fact that I’m very expressive, and they are not!
TG: I know you go to some conventions cosplayed as Samara, how were you experiences in such events? Is it difficult to wear a cosplay in an enclosed location with a lot of people walking around? Bringing an Asari to life looks warm, did you have to remove it for a while to cool down a bit?
RM: It’s pretty great for the most part. I love everyone’s reactions and excitement! I’ve had a few rude people here and there, but not many. Being in a crowd is hard sometimes because my armor is just made of EVA foam, attached with velcro, and not very durable so I worry about it getting damaged. I also can’t hear very well so that can be challenging at times. If I’m running to the restroom, hungry, in the middle of eating or going to be late I’ve had to say no to pictures and people don’t always respect that. The costume in neoprene (wetsuit material) so, yes! Being in the costume can be very warm, especially standing in direct sunlight or somewhere with no air circulation. I’ll usually try to do everything else aside from removing the costume to cool off – like drink cold water or stand under an A/C vent because it’s a lot of work to get on and off! I’ve also used these menthol headache pads under the suit to keep cool, they seemed to help. But surprisingly the costume can be cold too! If I sweat at all, that moisture stays there and if it’s windy or cold I feel it!
TG: Have you ever cosplayed any character other than Samara/Morinth?
RM: Well.. not really I have four costumes total: 3 versions of Samara (default, loyalty and Samara as an Azure of the Afterlife) and one of Morinth. I’ve thought about other characters but I feel like it would be weird. There are so many fan art versions of Samara and Morinth I still haven’t cosplayed yet, I’d maybe do those before I’d do any others.
You can find her prints here.