Where would we be without Colonel Roy Campbell? Not only did he make those seemingly lengthy Codec conversations are the more bearable but we sort of actually welcomed his aural intrusions; a disciplined, affable and often times insightful companion to everyone’s favourite bandana wearing cardboard box squatting stealth operative, Solid Snake.
TGL caught up with the man who defined the voice of those Codec conversations, a man who, long before he joined the voice cast of Metal Gear Solid had already established himself in the voice over community as an eminent talent, versatile performer and distinguished gentleman. TGL had the honour of speaking with Paul Eiding and here’s how we got on…..
Paul Eiding: Very happy to be with you TGL. A little bit about me? Ok. I was born a poor black child…uh, no…sorry. That was Steve Martin, in THE JERK.
I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, a town situated on Lake Erie, whose motto was, “The Best Location In The Nation”. Well, years ago, after the Cuyahoga river that runs through our downtown area caught fire……yes, the river WAS ON FIRE…..the motto was unofficially changed to, THE MISTAKE ON THE LAKE.
I went to school as a music major. I played the string bass. My dream was to play with a major symphony orchestra. Unfortunately…or fortunately as it turned out, the music program at college was not very inspiring, so I left and joined the military. I was stationed in Germany and was lucky enough to be asked to audition for the Army chorus as a singer and bassist. I got in and about 7 months later I became the director of the group. Also in the chorus were other musicians and a few professional actors. Some of us would read plays during our spare time. Now, I had done some plays in high school and one at university, but not with “professionals”. I found that I REALLY loved the acting thing, so when I went back to the States, theatre became my Major. I performed in several community theatre plays, but started my professional acting career in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which had a wonderfully creative and supportive arts community. I started out doing improv, graduated to musical theatre, and had a great time performing both in contemporary and Shakespeare plays.
Most of my work was on stage, but I also did a lot of television and radio commercials to help pay the bills. Moving to Los Angeles was an adventure, as I had only one friend who was “in the business” there. Luckily, I got an agent pretty quickly and started booking commercials right away. I’ve been very lucky. Since making the commitment to be a professional, I’ve never had to work any other job and have never been on the dole. I always tell young actors to learn it all. When television work was slow, there was stage. When film roles weren’t happening, there was voice over. I believe, the more you CAN do, the more you WILL do.
TGL: You’re a bit of a seasoned veteran of the voice over scene at this stage; an established voice actor with over a hundred credits to your name. But can you tell us how you first got into voice acting? What was the appeal? Did you always aspire to become a voice over?
PE: Like most actors, I had a vivid imagination when I was a kid, and liked to play cops and robbers or cowboys and indians. Well, I’d become those guys. I loved pretending. It was just who I was. I never thought of myself doing different voices. See, I was becoming different people, who had to sound different from one another. This way, I could carry on conversations with myself, without being locked up as a Looney-tune. To this day, I try not to think of myself doing voices, but instead, becoming a character who sounds a certain way.
While living in Minneapolis, I got to do voiceovers for training films, and radio adverts. I also voiced a couple of animated characters as part of commercial campaigns, but the VO career really started in L.A. I was performing in a marvelous play called ‘Cloud Nine’. Each actor played more than one character. I played an African man-servant, a Cockney soldier, and a 5 year old girl. And yes, I was the ugliest little girl you can imagine. Well, Gordon Hunt, who at the time was the voice director at Hanna-Barbera, came to see the show. He liked my performance, thought I was pretty versatile, contacted my agent, and brought me in for a general audition. That was the beginning of my animation career. From that audition, I went on to do many H-B shows. It was very cool, because I got to work with folks I’d grown up with. I got to guest on shows like Smurps, Jetsons and Yogi Bear. I worked on several series like, Challenge of the Gobots, Pirates of The Dark Water, Sky Commanders, and many others. At other studios I did The Littles, Toxic Crusaders, and the original Transformers as Perceptor. The rest, as they say, is history.
The appeal of voice acting is a simple one for me, and it’s this: No matter my actual size, shape, age, or looks, I can be ANYTHING in the world…or out of it. I can be a giant, a dwarf, 700 years old or a young man, a wizard or a dopey assistant, a heroic character or the world’s worst villain. I know I’m being hired for my ability, not what I look like. I’m only limited by my talent…or lack of it. It’s incredibly liberating for an actor. I LOVE IT! To be honest, my first love is live theatre, probably because that’s where it all began. I didn’t aspire to become a VO actor, but I’m thrilled it’s become part of my repertoire.
TGL: Thinking back, what was your first voice over role?
PE: My first VO role was of a little man that lived in peoples attics and explained the importance of proper insulation for your home. He became the spokesman for Northern States Power Company in Minnesota. Exciting stuff! This was when I was still living in Minneapolis. Actually, it was great fun and taught me a lot about using my voice in front of a microphone instead of on stage.
TGL: So if you were to look back at your career, which characters would you say have been your favourite to play?
PE: Some of my favorites weren’t necessarily in well known shows. For example, I simply loved doing a character called Nozone in the show Toxic Crusaders. Perceptor from Generation One of Transformers has been with me for the longest. I like Grandpa Max, in Ben 10…a lot. I’m having a ton of fun voicing Zephyr in the Ratchet & Clank, series. Hojo in Final Fantasy VII is such an irritating and evil dude, and that’s always fun to do. And of course, Roy Campbell from Metal Gear is very close to my heart.
TGL: Of course your voice work isn’t just limited to videogames; you’ve also worked extensively in TV and film, in animated series and animated features. Is there much of a difference between recording a voice for a game and recording for an animated show?
PE: I approach them the same way. Acting is acting, whether on the big screen or games. And nowadays, games are so very sophisticated and well written, they’re often just like features. And I daresay, sometimes much better. A practical difference is the fact that most of the time, when recording a game; you’re in the studio alone. When we record Ben 10, for instance, the actors are in studio together. I’ve been lucky enough to work on several Pixar films. Sometimes I solo, but often it’s been with other actors. My preference!
TGL: Of course gamers everywhere will recognize you as Colonel Roy Campbell in the acclaimed Metal Gear Solid franchise. Tell us a little bit about how you landed the role. What did your audition entail?
PE: It was pretty straight forward actually. I was contacted by the voice director, Kris Zimmerman-Salter, who I’ve known and worked with since her days as assistant to Gordon Hunt, at H-B. She said she had a very exciting project she was working on that would require several days of recording. I’m one of those guys who come alive in a rehearsal hall, on a sound stage, or behind a microphone, so several days sounded excellent.
When I got to the studio to audition, Kris told me a little about Campbell, played me a bit of the original Japanese voice actor, and I believe, she showed me a drawing of the Colonel. From that, I gave her a few reads from which to choose. She made some tweaks. She loved the gravel in the voice. The auditions were sent to Japan and, I guess, Mr. Kojima liked what he heard.
TGL: Did you have any idea at the time you signed up to MGS just how big of a deal the franchise would become?
PE: Oh, yeah…sure, I predicted it would become the phenomenon it is. I think my actual words were, “We’re going to be doing this game for 10 or 12 years. There will be at least 4 incarnations.” Now, if you believe that, I have some ocean front property to sell you in Tullamore!
To be totally honest, we knew we were working on something VERY special. And to his credit, David Hayter was more on top of it than most of the rest of us. But no, I had no idea it would be so amazing or have the staying power that it’s had.
PE: Roy Campbell knows what being a soldier is all about. He follows orders. He understands the importance of secrecy when the success of a mission is at stake, even if it means he might lose those he loves. He’s an honorable man. Yes, he’s made some serious mistakes in his life, (like sleeping with his brother’s wife) but bottom line; he truly cares about doing what is right. He admires respects and cares about Snake, his friend. And when the world is on the brink, he’s strong enough to take things in his own hands and make the tough decisions. Even with his physical limitations due to injuries, he is a man’s man. The world could use more men like Colonel Roy Campbell.
TGL: Thinking back to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty specifically, honestly Paul, did you have any idea what was actually going on when you read the script for the first time? Your A.I dialogue included memorable lines and quotes relating to Purple Stuffed Worms, North American Fall Webworms, how anemone and clematis plant juice can cause a rash and glowing objects in the sky…..
PE: No idea whatsoever! We were near the end of the session and Kris handed me a sheet of paper with several nonsensical lines and told me to just read them any way I wanted. She said all would become clear once the game was released. I can’t tell you how many times, guys have told me they were freaked out when the Colonel told them to “turn off the game console”…so they did. The innovations in MGS were staggering. Then when the game was released, I was blown away when I realized what the hell was going on.
Oh, by the way…I NEED SCISSORS, 61!
TGL: What’s it like working with the Kojima Productions team on MGS?
PE: Very smooth on my end. Everyone knows what they’re doing and have their respective acts together. One of Kris Zimmerman-Salter’s strong points is this; if there happens to be any problems on the production end, she insulates her actors from all of it, so that we are allowed to be free and creative. She acts as buffer.
TGL: How close is Roy’s voice to your own ‘real life’ voice?
PE: To be honest, Roy’s is closest to mine when I first get up in the morning, before any warm-up exercises. He’s near the bottom of my range. About a year ago, I had a bit of a cold. I stopped at a fast food restaurant with my daughter. A young man was standing outside, taking orders for food. When I told him what we wanted, he said, “Wow, it’s amazing how much you sound like a character in a game I play.” I asked what game, and he replied, “Metal Gear Solid”. When I told him it was me, he thought I was joking…until my daughter confirmed I was telling the truth. He then asked for my autograph and also asked me to say, “Snake? SNAKE! SNAAAAAKE!!” which, of course, I did.
TGL: Do you think we’ve seen the end of Roy Campbell? Metal Gear Solid 4 was a bit of a swan song for everyone. Is there anything to be said for Roy returning in the next Metal Gear game; Metal Gear Rising?
PE: Not sure if that’s the end. Possibly. It’s my understanding there’s no Campbell in Rising. If it’s over, I’m going to miss Roy…and Snake.
TGL: What’s next for you Paul? Any projects in the pipeline?
PE: I just started a new season of Ben 10, which I’m excited about. Ben moves in with Grandpa Max. I’m presently working on several games that, because of confidentiality, I cannot confirm nor deny their existence. At the moment, and I mean this exact moment, I’m in the green room while performing in, G.B. Shaw’s, The Doctor’s Dilemma. I’m heading to Toronto in a couple of weeks, to meet Transformers fans at TF CON. In October, I’m off to do the same in Melbourne Australia and Auckland New Zealand. I love meeting fans of the cartoons and games I’m lucky enough to have been a part of. If anyone’s interested, I’m on Facebook. I’m happy to be FB friends.
TGL: And finally Paul, we have to ask, have you ever sat down and actually played any of the Metal Gear games you appear in?
PE: Every one of them, along with all 3 God of Wars, Diablo, both Starcraft’s, Fallout 3, Halo Reach, Avatar, all Ninja Gaiden’s, Ratchet & Clank, and the list goes on and on. I’ve defeated every game…several times over!
And if you believe THAT…I’d like to sell you the Statue of Liberty to place on your ocean front property at Tullamore. Geez, why can’t I just give a straight answer!?
Here’s the deal, I haven’t played any of the games, all the way through. I get too incredibly frustrated with my inability to use the action buttons. Also, I can’t spend the time it would take me to complete a mission. I’m killer at Donkey Kong and Ms Pacman, but I suck when I have to think and shot at the same time. I relate very well to Dara Ó Briain’s hilarious comedy routine about playing MGS. I’m just pathetic.
One last thing, if I may. I’d like to give a shout out to my second family in Killarney. The O’Sullivans of Lios Na Manach. They’ve been like family since my first time over in 1980. Also to Brian O’Leary, and the boys of the Killarney RFC. Someday, I’ll get to see them play, in person.