The most beautiful and sophisticated black mage, Final Fantasy X’s Lulu is long considered Tetsuya Nomura’s greatest contemporary Final Fantasy character creation. From her irrevocable beauty, to her projectile moogles, that fantastic dress and sultry subtle intense tones, Lulu is Final Fantasy character design at its finest.
But what of that voice, the voice that reinforces Lulu’s protective guardian spirit and unadulterated sexiness? Paula Tiso is the woman to thank, a prolific and talented actress who has left her stamp on the videogame voice actor circuit with her unique interpretations of any number of distinctive and sometimes ‘out-there’ characters.
TGL caught up with Paula and asked her about her career, her experiences working on Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid and what it’s like being married to Leon Kennedy. Some zombie hunters get all the girls…..
Here we go….
Paula Tiso: Greetings TGL! I’m originally from Long Island, New York but having lived in Los Angeles for as long as I have, I now consider myself an Angelena. I am a voiceover actress exclusively and I LOVE the craft of voiceover. My current agents at Atlas Talent Agency are dynamic and the best in the business. I am always ready for a new voice acting challenge and do work in many different areas of voiceover, promo, affiliate television , radio imaging, television and radio commercials, narration, and of course….video games. I’m married to Paul Mercier another voice actor you may have heard of, and we have three amazing children.
TGL: You’ve probably answered this question a million times before, but was a career in voice acting something you always aspired to? Did you always want to be a voice actor?
PT: I discovered my love of performing in High School. It was a natural transition in college to pursue a BFA in Theatre. Once I moved to Los Angeles, I discovered voiceover and knew that was what I wanted to focus on. So in answer to your question, I did not start out knowing I wanted to be a voiceover but knew immediately that was what I wanted to do as soon as I tried it! Voiceover can seem to be easy to someone who has never tried it but the channelling of all your energy into just your voice to convey your intentions, whether it is to hawk a product or a new TV show, or to bring a character to life, takes skill and devotion.
TGL: You’ve done quite a bit of voice over work for TV and Radio commercials but now, videogame voice credits seem to be taking up more room on your résumé. Was the transition from TV/Radio to animation and then videogames a natural and obvious transition for you?
PT: Over the years I have made many friends on all sides of the voiceover industry. I would have to credit one friend in particular Kris Zimmerman for my continued interest in video game work, she is a casting director and voice director she has always demanded that I stretch and try different characters. She is responsible for some of my best performances in video games. If I offer any resistance, she beats me up and I rely on her for that
TGL: Gamers will probably know you best as Lulu in Final Fantasy X and X-2. Can you describe her character for us?
PT: First of all, I LOVE the way Lulu looks. Her costume is fabulous! She is serious about what she does and knows the result that she is aiming for always. She was very fun to get into the mindset of, as I recall I watched the segments that I was to voice right before we recorded each section and after I watched her, it was easy to channel how she would relate to people. The voice director on this game, Jack Fletcher, is fantastic and very exacting, yet extremely laid back at the same time.
TGL: Lulu is quite an intense, concentrated and downplayed character. It seems to me like she’s probably not the easiest character to actually put a voice too. Was she a difficult character to play? You’re not that intense in real life, right?
PT: Lulu was a challenging character for me as I tend to come across as bubbly and dare I say, smiley, in my commercial work. Lulu is the exact opposite of bubbly and smiley and she was one of my first larger roles in video games. I usually stand in front of the microphone for all my work but for Lulu I had a chair brought in and sat as that cantered my energy into the focussed and intense character that Lulu is.
TGL: Lulu has been one of the most well received Final Fantasy characters over the last number of instalments. How does it feel to be the voice of such a well received character, considered by many to be one of the sexiest Final Fantasy characters of all time?
PT: I feels just wonderful! I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I have had in my voiceover career and I am proud and honoured that I was given the gift of voicing Lulu. At the time that I was recording Lulu I of course did not know how well she was going to be received and that has been so much fun over the years. I have heard from many of my fans that they consider me to be the voice of the sexy video game characters and I love that.
PT: Jihl was a very fun character. I only wish she had lasted longer. I absolutely prefer the more villainous characters, they are terrific fun and as an actress something to really sink your teeth into whether the character is a subtle type of underplayed evil or hugely diabolical. The more evil the better as far as I am concerned; I do a fantastic evil laugh! That being said, one the most fun video game series I worked on was “Destroy all Humans”. I loved all the campy over the top characters I played in these games, the 50′s housewife was hysterical and some of lines I got to say were completely outrageous!
TGL: I have to ask you about Laughing Octopus in Metal Gear Solid 4. So what happened when you walked in for the audition and they told you to start laughing and wailing? Is it one of the more random auditions you’ve ever done?
PT: Interesting that you should ask. I walked into the studio to audition for the role and was handed the script and my first thought was, “you have got to be kidding…?” Then I was walked up to the recording area and I could hear the actress auditioning before me – through the door!!! And I determined at that point I was going to go in there and kick some vocal ass…. evidently I must have done something right as I booked the job and also it helped that Kris Zimmerman was there to kick MY ass if I didn’t live up to her expectations and her amazing direction.
PT: As I recall, they seemed to know exactly what they wanted. Laughing Octopus is two voices melded together, “beauty” and a “beast” and when I went into record Laughing Octopus they had already recorded the “beast” voice. They played his voice in my earphones before, and I think also as I recorded. I had to match that actor’s breathe and pacing which turned out to be challenging as he is a large man with a huge barrel chest and a set of lungs to match – I was hyper-ventilating to keep up but it turned out beautifully – I am very proud of that performance, Laughing Octopus was a very emotional and sad character.
TGL: What are you working on at the moment Paula? Anything you can tell us about?
PT: I am under strict orders to not share, tweet, or blog, about what I am currently working on… but you knew I was going to say that didn’t you.
TGL: Your married to Leon Kennedy (Voice actor Paul Mercier)…..so I take it that there’s ever a zombie attack over at your house then you’ll be safe and well looked after?
PT: Leon and Lulu would make a nice couple too- don’t you think? If there were ever a zombie attack I think my chances would be pretty good.
TGL: Finally, can I ask you, have you actually sat down and played any of the games you’ve contributed your voice talents to? Are you a gamer?
PT: I am not really a gamer but there are a few gamers in my household that support the industry with a several different gaming platforms and many, many purchases of video games. My son Cole, has taken me through some of the games I have voiced to see how it looks from a gamers’ prospective, very interesting stuff. I think partly as a result of our video game work – our son Cole wants to be a character designer for video games- he is very talented and attends an Arts High School with a major in visual arts- he already has a whole stable of characters he has created!