Courtenay Taylor – Game Time
Words + Interview By Tyrone Davis
If you are a gamer, chances are you’ve come across some of Courtenay Taylor’s work. Courtenay is an actress/voice actress who has loaned her voice to some of the most popular video game series out. With over 200 video games on her resume, Courtenay spoke with us about her early beginnings, video games in general and her leading role as Scarlet Rhodes in “Call of Duty 4 Black Ops – Zombie Mode”.
How did you get your start?
I went to apply for a master’s program in New York and I was managing a boxing and fitness gym at the time. My microphone would break when I was teaching a class so I had some vocal cord notes. When I went to do my auditions for the master programs the gentle man who I auditioned for said I had a terrible voice, I would never be able to speak to the back rows of a theatre and that he could NOT accept my application without a doctor’s note saying I was fixing what was wrong with my voice.
I left in tears and went back to one of my teachers at ACT. She said she thought that I had a cool voice and suggested that I look into voice-over. I didn’t know what that was, so she referred me to another teacher. It was a commercial acting voice acting class and I loved it from the second I got behind the mic. I continued to take class with her and eventually an agent came in to run the class as like the final class in a series of weeks. He made the mistake of giving me his business card so I just called him for six months until he finally broke down and signed me.
I called one day and he wearily said, “Hello Courtenay Taylor” and I said “Hi! It’s me! Guess what!? It’s my birthday!” He was like “…and you want me to sign you for your birthday?” and I was like “Yes!” and the rest is history.
You have been referred to as one of the best voice actors in the business. How does that make you feel?
Haha, Awesome! Pleasantly surprised? No, it is fantastic! I very much love what I do and if that comes through in my work and people get that then that makes me extremely happy. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love this job with all my heart. There are some amazing voice actors out there so I’m happy to be in good company and to keep doing this for as long as I can.
Are you a gamer yourself or is voice acting just a job? Please say yes to being a gamer, lol. I imagine you’d have some type of love for it, even if you’re not a hardcore gamer.
I am gamer adjacent. I do not have the coordination, patience or skill to be a good gamer, but I do try. It usually ends up with people laughing at me and taking the controllers out of my hands. But, I love to watch cut scenes from games. I have become more interested in indie games in the last couple of years and the kind of story telling they do on a budget. I would like to be a better gamer. My best life as a gamer is sitting next to someone who is really good and telling them what to do or just going ham in Melee Mode. That’s really my strong point. Little skill but a lot of energy.
“Call of Duty Black Ops 4 – Zombie Mode” was released not too long ago. Tell us about your character and the game.
I think Call of Duty goes without saying but my character is a new character named Scarlet Rhodes. She has a mysterious father who is quite frustrating in his mysteriousness to her. Through a series of circumstances, she ends up with a group of three gentlemen who are her companions during the game and the group sets off on some adventures. It’s true to form with the fantastical scenarios of Call of Duty. You’ll have to play the game to find more out about her. I will say that she’s super cool looking, she’s a bad ass and I would totally cosplay her. I’m thrilled that there’s a woman lead in Call of Duty that is as smart, tough and cool as she is. I hope everybody really enjoys her as much as I did voicing her.
A few fans would like to ask you a question. They are as follows:
A) Scott Huntley (Indianapolis, IN): I see you have voiced characters from a wide genre of video games. What is your favorite genre to voice a character for and what is your favorite genre to play?
I definitely like games that are more cinematic and story driven. I like any game that has strong capable intelligent female story lines. I like game that are very long because that means I get to work for longer on them, the more hours the better I always say.
B) Darnell Wilson (Catasauqua, PA): What avenues should one take who is looking to get started in voice acting for video games in particular?
Video games are definitely a specific type of magic that you want. Mic technique is great because there are so many you know there’s a lot of close up and a lot of far away so knowing your mic technique as far as when someone ask you to project, like when you are yelling at someone 40 yards away verse 10ft away. I always recommend taking some sort of physical class, a dance class, a martial arts class, something where you have some body awareness.
So much of what we do in video games are fighting sequences where we will just run down, getting punched, kicked, stabbed, shot and thrown off a building. All those things are a lot easier to do both with real vocal control and also knowing what that sounds or feels like. So, classes that make you more physically aware are going to be more helpful for that. Perfecting your accents is very helpful as well because they are set in so many different areas of the world and have such international cast, that’s also very helpful specifically to video games.
C) Jordan Berry (Murfreesboro, TN): So, the Easter egg steps needed to uncover each level’s story are left for the players to discover once each game releases. Are you shown the steps/process in order to get a feel for the character’s plight?
I think what Jordan is asking is, “do we get a lot of background or linear outline of our characters story?”. Most of the time we do not. Sometimes the game is being written as we are doing our sessions. Other times, it is information we cannot know. If we are really lucky we might get sort of an overarching story line, but that is not the norm.
The original “Mortal Kombat” game was released when I was about 8 years old and I remember all of the controversy about the blood in the game, which led to some users having to put in the “blood code” to actually see the blood. Do you think violent video games contribute to violence in children or are those type of video games being used as a scapegoat?
That’s a great question! I believe that games themselves are not necessarily the root of the problem with violence and children. I think plenty of other countries have video games and they don’t have the same issues as we do here in America. So, I think it’s a combination of things. I think you can tell a story without blood and guts but there are certain gamer franchises that rely on that. I think that if a child has a healthy sense of imagination and their parents are open with them about what’s wrong and right, respecting human life and that they can make that dilatation between real life and video games, I don’t think that it should be a problem. Am I in favor of games also encompassing nonviolent story lines or things that don’t necessarily rely on those mechanics? Absolutely. I think video games are just like any other medium. You can handle them well or badly and just like any other medium they can be a scapegoat for any kind of behavior.
When I was a kid, video games would normally have at least 1 female character. I’m not sure how much women are being represented in video games today but maybe you can enlighten me on it. Have women been represented properly in video games?
That is a tough question. More than ever, women are a bigger part of the story and theirs characters are driving video game story lines, which is exciting. At the same time, I think that there is always more room for inclusion and representation of all genders, nationalities and ethnicities. So, I hope that we continue down that road and someday the standard is that games look like our world looks in real life. For the moment I’m really proud of the progress and I’m excited to see more of it.
As a woman and someone who is around people of the gaming culture, are there a lot of female gamers out there? I’m always shocked when I meet one because it’s so rare. Perhaps, I should attend a CON or two of some kind?
Yes, you absolutely should attend a CON and I think that I meet just about as many female gamers as I do male. It’s sort of a myth that gamers are mostly male. If you go to a CON, you’ll see all kinds. It is an amazing experience!
Which voice role was the most challenging and why?
I had to play a frog lock in a video game, which involved me holding water in my mouth and actually doing my script with my mouth filled with water. I definitely choked and spit and I should of known when I walked into the session and the engineer gave me a water bottle and a roll of paper towels that it was going to be challenging. Yeah, that was the one. There were a lot of other roles that are challenging in different ways but that was one of the most odd and physically challenging.
What did you enjoy most about attending PAX Australia?
I grew up a little bit in Australia as a kid so it was really fun to come home and see family. Going to PAX itself was great to meet a whole community of people I had not met before. I had hung out with people in the “Fallout” community, which was amazing. I loved how really intimate and friendly it was even though it was a pretty freaking large convention, but I thought I was really well run.
Speaking of Australia, being that you have a parent from there and have visited, what is the biggest misconception about down under?
That there are koala bears and kangaroos everywhere and that everyone you know walks around like they’re doing an advertisement for the Outback Steak House. You know people don’t stick shrimps on the barbie.
Follow Courtenay Taylor on Twitter @courtenaytaylor, on Instagram @courtenaytaylorla and on Facebook: Courtenay Taylor News Page.
Photo: Jason Willheim
Stylist: Jazmin Whitley
Hair/MUA: Chelsea Gehr