A few weeks ago I got a chance to meet Alesia Glidewell, a writer/director, voice actress, motion capture actress and the face of Portal’s Chell in person. Now, when I say the face I of Chell I mean just that. When I began talking to her it was quite a bizzare expereince at first as sitting across from me was the face of Chell, the face I’ve seen so many times through using two portals in a corner of a room. Well, that bizzaren-ness passed and soon had a blast getting to know Alesia. However, as stated before Alesia is much more than just the face of Chell. She came across as an extremely creative person that, while directing might be her true love when it comes to work, has an admiration and skill for a whole slew of jobs.
She was extremely down to earth, welcoming and overall just a really nice and charming person. Thanks, Alesia!
Alesia- I was born in Hawaii and moved around a lot from place to place maybe every year or two years. Kind of like an Army brat but also a company brat. I pretty much grew up an only child but I met my half brothers later in life. I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia, Peru, Mexico, Florida, Alabama, New Jersey. It’s like a dream come true.
Retroplayer- So you’re a writer, director, motion-capture actress and voice actress. What would you consider yourself, first and foremost?
Alesia- I guess I’d say an overall film-maker because the directing and writing go hand in hand. Directing can be just a piece of it where writing is the really creative part. I love and enjoy voice acting but I’m a lot more insecure about it. <laughs> It’s because it’s not a collaborative effort. You can’t play off each other and use each others energy.
Retroplayer- With voice acting, take us through your early experiences of breaking into industry, Alesia.
Alesia- I started about 7 years ago, I think. My first voice acting job was when I was 12 years old and I literally walked into the booth and said “Hi mom!” <laughs>. I got paid, like, $400 and I thought, oh my god! I have to go back and do this one day! It wasn’t just the money though, I enjoyed the idea of voice acting. So when I grew up and I was trying to work out where my place was in the world I looked to acting. So started taking acting classes for a good year. I did a lot of classes and a lot of training. So I started doing free jobs, handing my little demo reel out until it got picked up.
Retroplayer- Your first venture into the gaming world was with voicing Constable Neyla in Sly 2: Band of Thieves. What was your first impression of the videogame voice over business?
Alesia- Yeah, that was pretty scary and challenging for me as an actor. I realised there was more to this than just making a voice, I had to act. I had to go back and do some homework. It was fun because when you do it you have to get into the character and basically make all the sounds they make. It was great because they let me do both Neyla and Carmelita Fox and there were a few times where I had to play off myself <laughs>.
Retroplayer- To many gamers your voice may be most recognizable as Krystal in Star Fox: Assault and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. How did you approach her voice and what kind of voice direction were your given?
Alesia- I remember they wanted her to be slightly British but didn’t want her to sound too uppity, cockney and… they didn’t really want her to be British, I guess <laughs>.
Retroplayer- They were ticking off every accent! <laughs>
Alesia- Yeah! I was like, I dunno, I’ll try something.
Retroplayer- Krystal has a few fansites, Alesia. How does it feel to have so many loyal fans out there who are eager to hear you play Krystal again?
Alesia- It’s very cool. It’s not a feeling or experience I have anywhere else in my life. I really like how people can get into the character so much.
Retroplayer- I have to say, I was extremely taken back by the fansites. I guess I never expected a character- a non main character- to have fansites based on them.
Alesia- Yeah, I get asked a lot to help with fan animations. They want to use clips from stuff I’ve done or request me to record new lines and I always get into problems with thinking, will I get in trouble with Nintendo or the voice over unions? It would be awesome and I think I’d be totally down for it but I don’t want to step on any toes.
Alesia- Yeah, definitely. It’s been a long time. I’m surprised they haven’t done one since.
Retroplayer- Alesia, you’ve also directed and done voice over for commercials. When voice acting for commercials is the same level of work involved on getting the voice just right compared to voice acting for a game?
Alesia- Commercial work is very different. You still have to act but it’s a different kind of acting. It is character based but it’s short form. Plus, even if you’re playing a character everything in life is good- you don’t hate anything about your life or the product! Maybe you have a gripe at the start but you never emote like you would in a game laughs. Definitely there’s no kicking, punching or dying!
Alesia- I’ve dome some in Spanish and one in Portuguese and one in Italian, randomly.
Retroplayer- Is it true you were the original voice for Zoey from Left 4 Dead?
Alesia- Yeah, that one was so fun to do. I was hired when Turtle Rock Studios were initially developing it. Then Valve took over development and they replaced me. I was very sad and pretty bummed about it.
Retroplayer- And you voiced the entire game as her before they re-cast you?
Alesia- Yeah, I did the whole game. But who knows, I think in one session I started to loose my voice. That’s not super professional so maybe they were thinking, oh man she probably can’t handle this. Who knows. Also, I think once I done my lines I moved to LA and they were still recording in Seattle when Valve took over.
Retroplayer- Give us a run through of how you became Chell in Portal, Alesia.
Alesia- I think they went through photo submissions from all the agents in town and elsewhere. They had us come in for interviews and to be honest that was pretty much it. I don’t think me getting the part was connected to having done Left 4 Dead. I think they thought I had the right look for the part and took it from there.
Retroplayer- Do you think Chell is a little more memorable and iconic because she doesn’t have a voice?
Alesia- Yeah, it’s like a movie when you have a character that doesn’t speak. It doesn’t matter because you’re with them, you’re already on the same page. Plus, it’s all about your imagination. In my mind Chell sounds amazing and in yours she sounds like how you want her to sound.
Retroplayer- So what kind of voice do you hear Chell having in your mind?
Alesia- Well, I’d imagine it would be an inner voice, like a monologue of her thoughts rather than speaking aloud. That or my morning sexy voice, perhaps.
Retroplayer- Give us an insight of the people who work in Valve.
Alesia- They’re all pretty cool. After the initial Portal job I became really really good friends with Bay Raitt. He’s amazing. Everyone at Valve is the same. They’re all workaholics, super happy and all brilliant and nerdy at the same time. It’s a pretty amazing bunch of people.
Retroplayer- Did you ever get a chance to play Portal for yourself? If so, what do you think of it?
Alesia- I’m super embarrassed to admit but I did play it but couldn’t get through it. I tried though but because of work and my wedding I really couldn’t stick with it. I tend to enjoy quick little games or shoot em ups with blood and guts! <laughs>
Retroplayer- And do you agree that Chell looks different in the second than she did in the first?
Alesia- Oh yeah definitely. In the first she has darker skin, elvish ears and the messy hair. In the second one she looks more cute, a bit more cartoon-like!
Retroplayer- You’ve directed a good few projects including First Date and Look at Me. What are your duties as a director during production?
Alesia- Well, you’re involved in everything and not just picking the shots. You’re involved in working with the art department with every single prop, all the production, every location, what people are wearing, the choices the characters makes, the tone, the feel and basically shaping the project. It can boil down to the basics but if you want you can have your hands in everything else.
Retroplayer- What’s the inspiration behind Look at Me?
Alesia- Look at Me is an ensemble romantic comedy. It was brought to me because I’m a female director even though romantic comedies aren’t really my kid of thing. It was a great project and I worked really hard on the re-writes to make it a little more of my own. It was a really cool experience and very different from my short movies in a lot of ways.
Retroplayer- As an artist, does directing offer you something that voice acting simply can’t? If so, what?
Alesia- Well, like I said earlier I love the collaboration element of it. To be able to bring people together that you respect is really amazing. It’s also a great feeling because you think, all of these people are coming together to work on my film? It’s amazing.
Retroplayer- Give our readers an idea of what Snagbuddy Films is and your motivations behind setting it up, Alesia.
Alesia- Well, the name Snagbuddy came from my father calling me that as a child. I was the kind of person who would bring home a homeless person and be like, “Mom this person is awesome! They need a place to stay!” <laughs>. So because we moved around a lot I wanted to make friends really fast. So, Little Miss Snagbuddy is what my dad called me.
I started Snagbuddy films when I made my first short film. It was a company until I moved to LA and dissolved it. So I now work independently and when I start a project I choose freelancers and we work as a team.
Retroplayer- You’re also a science fiction fan, Alesia. What sci-fi in particular has inspired you?
Alesia- I’m into all kinds of science fiction. City of the Lost Children, 12 Monkeys, Total Recall, eXistenZ and They Live to really cheesy stuff like Earth Girls Are Easy and fantasy like The Princess Bride. I like Terry Gilliam kind of stuff but even cheesy films like Cherry 2000- it inspired my first short film.
Retroplayer- You’ve done motion capture on Condemned 2, Matrix Online and Fear: Project Origin. Give us an example of a typical day of what doing mo-cap entails.
Alesia- Well, with mo-cap you go into a giant room with a grid on the floor with a computer set up on the side. You get into a skin tight costume with white ping pong all over it including your sneakers- you can bring your own if you want! I still have tape on my sneakers from a mo-cap session. They really strap it down to them. Sometimes you get to use a really cool prop like a gun, others times you don’t and you need to let your imagination run wild. It’s a similar script than you would get for voice acting. It might say “Number one- leaning backwards while choking”. In FEAR it had one of the scariest for me. It said, “When sitting on your knees and straddling someone in a slightly sexual position you are…” I remember reading that and thinking, what am I supposed to do? They asked if I was comfortable with it. I was like, yeah let’s do it!
Retroplayer- Are there any videogame franchises that you would love to work on, Alesia?
Alesia- I’ve always loved Resident Evil. Back in college I played Resident Evil 2 for, like, 23 hours straight! That and the House of the Dead series. Oh and the Dungeons and Dragons series like Baldurs Gate, I loved that.
Retroplayer- At this point in your life what is your main source of inspiration, Alesia.
Alesia- I find inspiration from people day to day. I get inspiration from certain peoples outlook on life. That and certain old movies I’ve been catching up with like La Strada and Knights of Cabiria. I’ve been slowing down and basically enjoying these movies that when I was much younger I would have though were boring.
Retroplayer- How do you want Chell to be remembered?
Alesia- As being a completely unique character.
Retroplayer- What’s next for Alesia Glidewell?
Alesia- Having done my first feature but it wasn’t my baby. I’d like to write my own Sci-fi feature.
Retroplayer- And finally, do you have a message for all your fans here on TGL?
Alesia- Thanks for being fans!
**Be Warned! This video contains major spoilers for Portal 2!**