“Hold onto your drawers and don’t piss in ‘em!”- Cid Highwind
There’s one thing taking over from a role that already had a voice but with Cid Highwind, Chris Edgerly was entering troubled gaming waters. Cid originally appeared in Final Fantasy VII, Squaresoft’s classic Playstation RPG, but back then he was mute, much like everyone else in the game. So in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Chris was booked to tackle this beloved character, lend his vocals to him and breath life into the role. Who better then to be given the job? Chris Edgerly has an extensive back catalogue of work both in animation and video games, an extremely versatile voice and, what I learned from talking with him, an outlook on life that I feel we can all learn from. Yes, some fans took exception to the entire English cast of Advent Children just because they could but, personally, when I played Final Fantasy VII way back when I had Chris’ voice in my head. He absolutely nailed it. But, as you’ll learn there’s much more to Chris Edgerly than Cid Highwind.
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Chris- Since I was a kid I loved performing for my brothers and friends, doing voices to crack everyone up. But once I tried acting and stand-up comedy in college, I was hooked.
Retroplayer- Tell us a little about your time doing stand up comedy, Chris. Was it something that came natural to you and why did it interest you in the first place?
Chris- It came fairly naturally. As I mentioned, I had tons of experience just performing for family and friends, but I understood that that didn’t necessarily translate to the stage. You have to make strangers laugh to know you belong, and I could do that. I guess I found it interesting to make that connection with people you didn’t know. It’s a powerful thing. Plus, I could meet girls that way, too. A very strong incentive to get good.
Retroplayer- Would you ever consider going back into it?
Chris- I have no plans to do the road again. Ten years was enough for me. But I love performing stand-up around Los Angeles, and love getting together with a few buddies to a special show we call “the men’s club comedy show.” Kind of an updated rat pack, if you will. Doing that show every now and again, along with an occasional guest set around town, is more than enough for me.
Retroplayer- Did it teach you any lessons that helped you better your voice work?
Chris- Absolutely. I always tell other stand-ups that have segued into voice acting that we have one tremendous advantage; a sense of comic timing. We understand the natural rhythms of comedic writing, and so much of what we do in voice-over is comedic. And we’re certainly comfortable around a microphone; not to mention that any job we do that doesn’t involve dealing with drunken hecklers is a veritable cake walk.
Retroplayer- With voice acting, take us through your early experiences of breaking into the industry, Chris. Was it tough to secure roles to help build up your résumé or did you find it relatively easy?
Chris- It took a while for me to really break in. First of all, I was living in Orlando for a few years getting my feet wet with stand-up and acting. I managed to stumble into a few voice over jobs as well, and that training was invaluable. It sure wasn’t to get rich, but I got familiar with soundelux in Orlando, and that led to me booking the role of Spiderman and J. Jonah Jameson on “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” ride at Islands of Adventure theme park. That led to more work with Universal once I moved to Los Angeles later that year, and yet it was still three years later before I landed an agent, and that was because the good folks at Universal introduced me to Pat Brady. Pat (and I never tire of saying this) is the reason I have a career. She was at a smaller agency at the time, helped me with my auditions, and reassured me that I was on the right path. Let me tell you, you really need a someone that believes in you when you’re trying to find your way through the wilderness of L.A and she was my biggest fan. Once she moved to a bigger agency, she brought me and some other clients along with her, and things really started to happen for me. So, I’d say by ’02 I was a working voice actor, and by ’03 I was a busy working actor. And it hasn’t let up since – knock on wood. and I also have to say that all the folks at my agency – CESD talent – show unending faith in my abilities, and give me every opportunity I could ask for. And that is crucial.
Retroplayer- Your first venture into the gaming world was voicing three characters in Tales of Symphonia. What was your first impression of the videogame voice over business and did you plan on getting into it in the first place or did you just happen upon it?
Chris- I really did set my sights on voice over early on. I loved the idea of performing without having to travel all the time, sleeping in my own bed for a change, and frankly, getting paid better for it. Voice over certainly qualifies. It was a dream job for me, and it was still on the far horizon. But that began to change, and video games were some of my earliest work. The challenge of video games is the volume of lines you have to deliver in a given session, it can run into the hundreds, and the work can be vocally very stressful. The games require a level of intensity that is vital to their success and the fighting and dying noises can really take their toll on your vocal chords. You can leave the session pretty drained sometimes. The actors that can recover quickly and take good care of their voices have the best chance at long careers in video games.
Retroplayer- Are there any lessons that you learned early in your career that you still stick by to this day?
Chris- Sure. There are lessons that can be applied to any endeavour, actually. Persistence, professionalism, and trusting your ability, provided that you work to maintain that ability. Just because you might have a natural talent doesn’t mean you should try and coast on it. It’s like any other muscle. Work at it and you’ll grow stronger. If I’m not auditioning five days a week (I usually do) then I need to be doing something else creative and performance oriented that will keep me sharp.
Retroplayer- Chris, you’ve been in some rather big videogame franchises during your career including Assassins Creed, Mass Effect, Kingdom Hearts and Lord of the Rings. Is there any particular role that you’ve played in a videogame that doesn’t get enough attention that you’d like people to check out?
Chris- I guess there will always be some performance I’ve given that I wish people knew more about, but I think the one that flew under everybody’s radar was as Prince Humperdink in “The Princess Bride” video game, which I believe was for a smaller console and mainly for kids. but I, like so many people my age, absolutely cherish that movie. It’s an all-time classic, and when I saw they were auditioning for it, I told my agent I HAD to book something in it. Anything! And to do Chris Sarandon’s character was bliss. I have no idea what the game is like, if it’s any good at all, but I don’t care. It was just so cool to voice anyone from that movie.
Chris- Actually, no. I had no idea about it.
Retroplayer- Take us through a typical day of the recording process of Advent Children, Chris. What kind of direction were you given when voicing Cid?
Chris- We were dubbing it from Japanese to English, and it was already animated, which is flipping the process, so you’re matching your performance to picture, which is challenging. But the character had been pretty fleshed out already, and my audition was what they wanted, so we were nearly there. Basically, he’s a bad-ass, and has tons of swagger and attitude. Not a problem – who wouldn’t want to play that?
Retroplayer- Chris, you also played Cid again in Kingdom Hearts 2 and Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus. As an actor, what about his character interests you?
Chris- Like i said before, he’s so cocky and no-nonsense that it’s a release getting to deliver his lines. The kind of guy you pretend to be when you’re playing as a kid.
Retroplayer- Would he be a character you’d be keen on playing again?
Retroplayer- Final Fantasy fans are quite a rabbid bunch, Chris. How have your interactions been with them and do you get a sense that in their eyes you did the voice of Cid justice seeing as his first appearence back in 1997 had no voice?
Chris- I haven’t had any interaction with them, save for a fan letter/email now and again. Most of it is complimentary, but I noticed a message board or two when the English-speaking cast was announced years back, and I learned quickly that there will always be people you just cannot please. They have very strong ideas about these characters, and sometimes you just don’t measure up to them. And I don’t begrudge them their passion one bit. They have every right to decide if they like me or not, and say as much. They spend their time and money on these stories and it’s their passion that fuels much of the industry. So, as far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to voice their opinions. Provided they confine their opinions to my performance, of course.
Retroplayer- Chris, you’ve been in some rather cinematic franchises. In terms of storytelling and character development do you feel that videogames are beginning to rival TV and film?
Chris- Certainly. Video game developers have said for years they want to create a cinematic, immersive experience with their games. They want to deliver a story and experience that is so powerful you can’t turn it off and they succeed often, I think. There’s still a ways to go, but it’s such a young industry compared to film. And they have the gamer for dozens of hours if they want to see a story to its conclusion, so they have so much opportunity to provide depth to a character. That’s something only movie franchises can do, and it takes them years.
Retroplayer- If you didn’t provide the voice for Cid, who from the rich Final Fantasy universe would you have liked to have portrayed instead and why?
Chris- So many choices. To be diplomatic, I’ll just say I’m glad to be Cid and leave it at that. Sorry to be cheeky.
Retroplayer- Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what do you play?
Chris- I do, but it’s all sports games with me. I’m your typical guy – love watching sports, playing them, and sitting down and playing them again on a TV screen and doing what I couldn’t do out on the field. Every now and then I’ll pick something story-driven, but they suck you in so effectively that I have to avoid them if I want to get anything else done.
Retroplayer- Chris, you’ve also worked extensively in animation voice overs, most notably on Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law , Drawn Together and The Simpsons. Do you approach voice work for animation the same way you would for games in terms of preparation and execution?
Chris- The difference with animation tends to be that you’re working on half-hour stories, as opposed to these epic ones in video games. The sessions will be a little less strenuous, usually, but a character is a character. Someone created them, wrote them and cares how they are portrayed. So, you have to try and be authentic and not cheat yourself or the audience, regardless of what you’re playing. But in video games, you also have to plow through about a hundred random lines for every conceivable scenario, so your focus is really challenged.
Retroplayer- This year will see the release of the 2011 version of Top Cat in which you’re voicing Benny. Tell us a little about the project and how you approached the character of Benny which was originally voiced by Maurice Gosfield in the 60s series.
Chris- Well, I looked at a bit of the old series and tried to match Benny as best I could. Not just his voice, of course, but his personality. He’s tirelessly loyal to Top Cat, and innocent as the day is long. You can get the voice but not the spirit of him, and it wouldn’t work. I hope I managed to do that. Funny thing is, I was only vaguely familiar with the show as a kid, but my wife grew up in Venezuela and watched it throughout her childhood.
Chris- It’s hard to choose, but I gravitate more towards animation, I think. The work is typically kinder to my voice, which is not a small consideration, and there’s something about seeing your work broadcast in episodic form that just appeals to me. But I have to admit there have been some really interesting games I’ve been happy to be a part of. And the more games grow, the more interesting the medium becomes. so, it’s a close call.
Retroplayer- At this point in your life what is your main source of inspiration, Chris?
Chris- Life itself, I suppose. If you want to create, you have to feed yourself experiences and that’s everything from watching certain shows and movies to engaging in all kinds of activities. I, for one, find people endlessly fascinating. I love going into the agency’s office and auditioning, not just because I can work with the engineers there but also because I get to sit and hang out and shoot the breeze with other actors. It’s very nourishing to hang out with other creative types. But you can’t just be around actors. You have to be of the world in general. Travel, try new things (as a creature of habit I have to remind myself to do this sometimes), etc. Everyone, from any walk of life, has a story to tell, and they find it just as important as yours. And if you can connect with them, even if just through a five second interaction on the street sometimes, it’s what life is all about. And that shows up in what you create.
Retroplayer- What advice would you give to any young people who wish to become a voice actor who are reading this right now?
Chris- Not to be cliché, but go for it. No reason not to, is there? Commit to it and learn the craft, learn acting, learn stories, learn life. It all goes into making an artist. Of course, you might be afraid that you’ll be rejected by the business. Everyone is. But hey, I get rejected for 95% of what I audition for. Maybe even more than that. and I’ve been more successful than I could have hoped.
I remember once, I was visiting my dad in Texas about a dozen years ago and I still hadn’t broken into voice over in Los Angeles yet. I was travelling, in the middle of a stand-up run of gigs, and just barely making ends meet. He knew I was struggling, and he asked me if I would ever consider doing anything else. He was just helping me see that there were easier ways to make a buck and not torture myself with this show business thing. And my response was immediate and unequivocal: Nope! I just told him calmly that this was what I did. He never asked me again. I guess he saw that I really was committed to it and so there was no reason to bring it up again. I don’t know if I really understood how lucky I’ve been in that regard. Not just because I finally found some success – because that can disappear as quickly as it comes – but that once I tasted the business, I knew that that’s what I was going to do. Sink or swim, I knew that’s who I was. And if there are people out there reading this knowing that they are creative, and they get fulfilment from performing and creating, whether it’s voice over or anything, then they absolutely owe it to themselves to pursue it. It’ll hurt worse not to try. maybe not right away, but down the line it will.
Retroplayer- Cid Highwind is an extremely memorable character, Chris, and the perfect example of a character with a rough exterior but with a heart of gold. How do you want him to be remembered?
Chris- Actually, the way you just described him would be perfect.
Retroplayer- What’s next for Chris Edgerly?
Chris-I’m recording a series right now that I unfortunately cannot discuss yet, but trust me, you’ll hear about it when it airs next year. And the usual bit of commercials and video games here and there, of course. Plus, there’s “the outback”, an Australian feature that should be out next year, I believe. and look for “Top Cat” as well.
Retroplayer- And finally, do you have a message for all your fans here on TGL?
Chris- Thanks for your support, everybody!