In my opinion, not since Alyx Vance in Half Life 2 has there been such a great, strong female role as Faridah Malik in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. While thanks must be paid to Eidos Monreal, most of the appreciation should be directed at Paual Jean Hixson, the voice behind the character. I recently had the opportunity to interview Paula regarding her movie career, Deus Ex, her motivations, and what the future holds for her. Enjoy. Thanks Paula!
Retroplayer- Welcome to TGL Paula. First off, for our readers who aren’t familiar with you and your work, give us a quick run-down on who you are.
Paula- Hi! Well, I’ve been an actor in Canada for about 17 years. I graduated from the Theatre Performance program at Concordia University here in Montreal and I work in theatre, film, television, and voice. I’ve also done a bit of teaching and coaching and am starting to dip my toes into writing.
Retroplayer- Was acting always in your blood even from a very early age?
Paula- In the very early years, it was mostly about acting things out with toys and dolls, like every little kid. My family moved around a lot when I was young, so I was always the ‘new kid’ at school, trying not to draw too much attention to myself. My first audition was in grade 7 for a choir that performed in public and in competitions. When I got in, I think that was the bug that first bit me. I also started taking drama class that same year. In high school, sports overshadowed the stage for me, but a few years later, I found my way back.
Retroplayer- Tell us about your work ethic. How do you approach your work in general?
Paula- It really depends on the project and the medium. I’m very story orientated – I like to determine how my character serves the big picture. Then it’s a process of extracting all the information I can from the script about my character – relationships to other characters, speech patterns and rhythms, where the character succeeds and fails at getting what they want and how they deal with it, etc. – then I go about filling in the blanks, ideally with the help of the director and/or writer.
Retroplayer- Some of your early on-screen work included Obsessed, Kart Racer, and A Silent Love. Give us an insight into how you found securing some of these roles. Does it become easier to get roles once you have work behind you, or is it always somewhat of an uphill struggle?
Paula- Well, I’d say it’s always an uphill struggle, especially for women. I heard a statistic recently – I can’t remember the exact numbers – but suffice to say that there are MANY more female actors than male, yet there are almost infinitely more male roles than female ones. People say it’s changing, and it might be, but it’s very slow going. That said, a big part of the job for every actor, regardless of gender, is to find your own way of accepting and dealing with the struggle. As you go along and you start learning about the ins and outs of the business, seeing what happens on the production end, you stop taking rejection so personally. But also, as people get to know you and your work ethic, the work-begets-work adage does start to kick in. There is so much involved in making any production happen, and people want to work with good actors that they know they can count on and with whom they have a good rapport.
Retroplayer- Was videogame voice-over always something you wanted to get into, or did you just happen upon it?
Paula- I started (and continue to do) voice work in commercials for radio and television, and yes, when the video game production scene started to take root here, I definitely wanted to be involved. I was very excited when I started being called in to audition for video games.
Retroplayer- Your first role in a videogame was playing Amelia in Assassin’s Creed II. How did you find your introduction to the voice over world?
Paula- I loved it. The range of roles you can play in voice is so much more expansive than what you would ever be considered for in film, tv, or even on stage. Though I love working in all of those formats, I really enjoy the challenge of giving life to a character, to the story, using just my voice. Also, it’s a lot of fun to work with accents.
Retroplayer- Does voice acting take a similar discipline as acting on screen, or is it a different animal entirely?
Paula- I’d say it requires the same kind of discipline, but maybe applied in a different way. On screen, you get to express your character physically as well as vocally. In the recording studio, you still need to be able to express the idea of your character’s physicality through your voice, but without moving. Also, even the slightest little hint of a cold or flu will show up in your voice, so, especially if that’s your only performance tool you have for the character, you better stay healthy! Of course, with all the cinematic advancements and full performance capture technology happening in video games now, it’s really becoming more and more like film in terms of the actors’ skill requirements.
Retroplayer- Two big budget films you worked on in recent years were Source Code and Whiteout, Paula. Tell us about your experiences working on them, and do you prefer to work on big productions or smaller ones?
Paula- It’s funny you mention those two films together. Both of them were shot in studio in very tight-quartered environments – one on a train car and the other in an arctic lab facility. Patience is always required on set, but working in spaces like those with lots of people really puts everyone to the test. But everyone is in the same boat, so to speak, so there’s also a wonderful camaraderie that develops in fairly short order. It’s amazing to be a part of big productions, where the budget allows for the creation of an entire other world and you get to see what’s possible, technologically and cinematically. It’s also always a great learning experience seeing how people work at that level. In smaller productions, there’s a different kind of buzz. There’s an excitement and a let’s-make-this-happen energy that is infectious and inspiring. They also often offer the opportunity for the actor to be more involved creatively. As for preference…honestly, I just like to work!
Retroplayer- Most recently in the gaming world you voiced Faridah Malik in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. How did you approach her voice?
Paula- Faridah is a smart, direct, loyal, self-reliant, no-bs kind of woman with a spark of daredevil in her. She doesn’t play mind games; she’s not duplicitous, and she has a very strong sense of and need for justice. That’s what I tried to portray vocally.
Retroplayer- Were you given free reign with her portrayal, or did Eidos Montreal steer her in a certain direction?
Paula- Eidos had already developed a very strong, interesting character when I went in to audition. They made it pretty easy to dial in to what this woman was about and what purpose she serves in the game.
Retroplayer- I felt that Malik was a great, strong female character in an industry where the portrayal of women still isn’t’ the best. How do you personally view her as a character?
Paula- It’s really nice to hear that. I think Faridah is such a great person. She’s at the top of her game and loves what she does, she is fiercely loyal to the people she cares about, she’s not manipulative or catty, and she believes in and fights for what she truly feels is right. I’d certainly want her to have my back. With more women getting involved in game writing and development, I’m looking forward to there being more characters like Faridah.
Retroplayer- With Assassins Creed II and Deus Ex: Human Revolution behind you now, are you currently seeking to do more voice over? If so, what do you find appealing about it from an acting perspective?
Paula- I would love to do more work in video games. They are getting ever more cinematic and reaching such a huge audience. It’s no wonder that more and more Hollywood stars are getting involved with them. It’s a fascinating, evolving, creative playground. And as story lines get richer and more complex…what actor wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Retroplayer- At this point in your life what is your main source of inspiration, Paula?
Paula- Hmm…I’d say my relationships. I’m lucky to have a huge circle of creative friends and colleagues. I get a lot of perspectives on and interpretations of what’s going on in the world, what the future is bringing, what holds meaning and what doesn’t, what touches the heart and what breaks it. We’re storytellers, and there are lots of stories to tell and ways to tell them, and that’s inspiring.
Retroplayer- Favourite role you’ve ever done in your career?
Paula- Wow – tough one! Well, if I’m going to give only one, I’d say Roberta in the John Patrick Shanley play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. It’s about two people who are so broken, but try to somehow fit their pieces together into some kind of hope. When it ends, you’re not really sure how it works out for them. It was a small, independent, black-box production and the whole team was just brilliant. Truly one of the most special projects I’ve ever been a part of.
Retroplayer- How do you want your portrayal of Malik to be remembered?
Paula- Funnily enough, the word that comes to mind is ‘true’. I suppose that might be interpreted as ‘honest’, but that doesn’t quite hit the mark. I guess I see her as someone who pursues truth, and I hope that I succeeded in imbuing her with that essence.
Retroplayer- What’s next for Paula Jean Hixson?
Paula- I recently played a role on season 3 of the series Being Human (North American version), and I’m going to be on an actors’ panel at the EB Games Fan Expo in Toronto coming up August 25th and 26th.
Retroplayer- And finally, do you have a message for all your fans here on TGL?
Paula- It’s such a privilege to portray strong, interesting characters that the fans and players can connect with and respond to, so a huge THANK YOU to all of you for playing!!