Shelley Blond……….Voice Actress. Mom. Lara Croft.
With a Tomb Raider reboot in the pipeline, TGL decided to go back to the franchises origins, all the way back to the mid 1990’s when no one, not even the development team behind Tomb Raider realised they were about to unleash one of contemporary video gaming’s most recognisable icons onto an unsuspecting gaming community.
Tomb Raider of course gave birth to the one and only……….Lara Croft.
Lara had just about everything; the smarts, the looks and the voice. She even knew how to take out a T-Rex. So even though many voice performers, models and even Angelina Jolie herself can all claim to have played Lara Croft in some way shape or form in the last 15 years, only one person can say that she was there first.
Say hello to Shelley Blond, the original voice of the Tomb Raider, the original Lara Croft. TGL recently caught up with Shelley to talk about all things Lara. Here’s how we got on.
TGL: Hi Shelley, could you tell everyone at TGL a little about yourself, what you do and where you come from?
SB: Hi TGL! I am a voice over artiste, budding children’s book author and I live in north London..Finchely girl born and bred. Married with a 16 month old boy who mimics everyone..just like his mum..so looks like he’ll be stepping into my voicing shoes at a later date!
TGL: Was a career in acting something you always wanted to pursue or did you ever consider following a different path?
SB: I always wanted to be an actress….from the earliest days. No other job ever crossed my mind. I sat glued to the TV watching anything with Fred Astaire..Marilyn Monroe..mostly dance things or comedies. Most of the work I have done on stage and screen have been either musicals or comedies. Two huge loves of my life. I am very fortunate that I have supportive parents and I worked hard and have been lucky enough to do everything I have ever wanted like present my own TV shows on Trouble TV and CITV, have lead roles in high profile commercials, be on the west end stage and do voice overs which is my passion and hobby as well as my job. My dad always told me…..”whatever you choose to do as a career, we will always support you 100%, but you MUST love it.” He was right. I am crazy about my job. You are in work 3/4 of your life and to do a job that you hate must be torture.
TGL: You’ve appeared in some incredibly high profile TV programmes, most notably ‘Cold Feet’ and even ‘Peep Show’ (a TGL favourite). What’s been the career highlight so far?
SB: I think even though I loved doing Peep Show and all the other stuff, my highlight was being in Cold Feet……simply because it was a show I was obsessed with way before I was cast in it. So to be in something that I watched so avidly was incredible. It was a lot of fun and everyone was just lovely. Also knowing that Angelina Jolie listened to my voice on the original game to get the correct tone and accent for the Tomb Raider Movie is a bit of a highlight!. That’s quite cool!
TGL: Tell us a little about your work as a TV presenter. Is it true that you have presented Room Raiders?!
SB: Yes!! They had a few series of it..I presented the very first two, and they named it Room Raiders because Tomb Raider had just come out and I was the voice of that! It was such fun. Running round all over the country and decorating teenager’s bedrooms. Some loved the result..others sobbed their hearts out…oh well! We were actually the first channel to do anything to do with re-designing rooms in a short space of time. We were all very proud that we came before changing rooms and programmes like that.
TGL: What celebrities room would you most like to ‘raid’ and why?
SB: I think if I had to choose any it would be Sarah Jessica Parkers room…just to get my hands on her clothes and shoes!! Just to be nosey it would be Victoria Beckhams. Given the time..my own room…never get the time to re decorate!
TGL: Take us back to the mid nineties and your work with Core Design and Eidos on Tomb Raider? Can you remember your audition for the role?
SB: I do remember it. I remember getting a call from my agent and being asked to record a few lines from a script into a tape recorder and to send it in. A week or so later Eidos/Core called me and I had to do an audition over the phone on a conference call. They would tell me what to say..for example, “welcome to my home” and I had to repeat it. It was quite nerve racking with all those people breathing down the phone. I knew they had been searching for the voice to no avail for three months at least and so that made me even more nervous.
TGL: What was the team’s vision for Lara Croft? What did they ask you to bring to your voice performance?
SB: If I remember correctly it was their first adult game……all their games before had been with kids in mind and they didn’t know if it would be successful or a hit. I do recall them asking me to read the lines very monosyllabically. They specifically said to read them like Sean Connery as Bond…but without the Scottish accent!
TGL: Did you enjoy working with the Tomb Raider development team?
SB: I did…they were a great bunch of people. Everyone was very excited about the game.
TGL: Did you have any sense at that time just how much of a significant gaming and cultural icon Lara Croft would become?
SB: None of us had a clue how huge she would become. When I had to start doing interviews with the New York Times and The New York Herald I started to think….hhhhm..this might be taking off!!
TGL: There seems to be something of a revolving door policy when it comes to Lara’s voice, nearly every voice actress appears to be replaced with every new game. Would you have liked to have been given another shot as Lara’s voice?
SB: No……I left after the first game on my own terms as I didn’t agree with some things within Core and Eidos and I never just do jobs for the money. I have to love everything about the job too and the company policies. One of my best friends, Jonell, got the job as Lara for the third game and I think 4 and 5 too. They called me a few times to ask if I would be interested to come back for game 7…..but in the end went for a celebrity name.
TGL: How ‘close’ is your voice to Lara’s in the original game?
SB: Hhhm…similar but I have much more expression in my voice and have a deeper tone. I had to really keep it on one level for Lara. They really wanted that. I do lots of stuff for ITV..all the ‘X Factor’ voicing and ‘I’m a celebrity’ promos…..so it’s more upbeat, street and musical.
TGL: What can you remember of the recording process?
SB: I remember it taking 5 hours and it was a lot of ‘oohs’ ‘ahhs’ and sounds of ”oooofs’ when Lara was smashed into a wall…..or falling off a cliff.
TGL: Have you lent your voice to any other videogames?
SB: Yes. I am about 7 different voices on Black and White. I play kids, old women…….a few men!! But my work consists mostly of cartoons, promos, commercials and jingles.
TGL: You’ve appeared in dozens of commercials. Any we’d know off the top of our heads?
SB: They were quite a time ago now…..but we won awards for our Toffee Crisp Cluster one where I play a changing rooms presenter(!) who does up someone’s house hideously and has to calm them down with toffee crisps. Also two David Gray CD Commercials when my boyfriend and I argue over who gets to keep the album when we split up. They were both very good fun and great comedic roles.
TGL: If given the opportunity, would you consider reprising your role as Lara?
SB: I think so. I am terribly proud of being the first Lara.
TGL: What role does music play in your life? You’ve appeared in a number of West End musicals.
SB: I hear a beat and my feet won’t behave. I love all sorts from jazz and Frank Sinatra to heavy rock and R’n'B and funk. I have a huge range of musical loves. I appeared in Only The Lonely, a musical about Roy Orbison, playing one of my heroines..Patsy Cline and that was a dream come true. I love to dance, sing and act. I’ve sung with many bands…recorded at Abbey Road and toured Japan with Gilbert O’Sullivan. I love to sing Rock ‘n’ Roll but Rock is what I love to sing. Give me some Tina Turner or AC/DC and I am away!!
TGL: What’s next for you? Are you involved in any projects at the moment?
SB: I purely do voice overs now. They took off in a huge way and so I do a few per day. My regulars are ITV, Blockbuster Video, On Demand, Biography and History Channel, Disney Channel, Discovery Channel. And it’s the perfect job when you have kids. It’s not 9-5.. You can work around kindergarten. And as I said before it’s my passion.
TGL: And finally….are you a gamer? Have you ever actually sat down and played Tomb Raider.
SB: Hahah…..I can just about type this to you!!! I can email on a computer…..download a few photos…and THAT IS AS FAR AS IT GOES! I am not a gamer..no!!
TGL would like to thank Shelley for taking the time out to speak to us. She’s an incredibly talented lady and we wish her and her family all the best for the future.