A little while back, we had Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth, in our studio to record some new lines for BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two. We managed to take a few minutes of her time after recording to answer some questions directly from our fans.
Q: Which Liz did you enjoy voicing more – the happy, cheerful Elizabeth of BioShock Infinite or the dark, cold Elizabeth in Burial at Sea?
A: I think the really cool thing about playing Elizabeth is that just through her character arc, she has a lot of different personality types. So I wouldn’t say I enjoyed one version of Liz any more than the other, I just think that Liz as a whole and being able to play a sweet happy-go-lucky naive Liz, and then playing the eventual Liz you see in Burial at Sea, and the changes she goes through in BioShock Infinite. Being able to just have all those dynamics as an actor is fun, because you’re not stuck in one attitude for too long. I love all aspects of Elizabeth.
Q: Elizabeth was so human, so real at times. If the character could exist in the real world, would it be a good idea?
A: That’s a really interesting question. I think the whole point of creating Elizabeth the way that she was created was to make her very identifiable and to make her very genuine and to take aspects of her human-like qualities from the real world. I think in a sense, she does exist was created in the real-world.
As far as her ability to open tears and her powers, I think that would be too much power to put in one person’s hands and that’s a scary thing to think about. You would hope that that person is human enough to be able to identify true issues and be able to act according with human values, but not human enough to be prone to error. Might be too much power for one person…
Q: Since Elizabeth is becoming a playable character in Episode 2 of Burial at Sea, I imagine you had to record a bunch of stuff like grunts and yells that the player character in FPS games usually makes if they jump or are injured. What was that like?
A: We call them “effort noises”, and it’s interesting because I had to do a lot of that in BioShock Infinite even though Liz wasn’t a playable character in that game. There were still a lot of companion character noises, such as throwing you ammo, using a Sky-Hook, or jumping on Sky-Lines so I got to do a lot in BioShock Infinite.
It’s funny because it feels a little awkward in the beginning to just stand behind a mic and make grunting noises, since you want to make them sound believable. It’s hard to pretend that you’re jumping into the air and hooking on the Sky-Line. It starts to kind of sound like sex noises, which is kind of awkward, but true. You just have to be comfortable and put it all out there and hope that it sounds good in the end, and to trust the people you’re working with to not judge you.
Q: From the original Infinite story line through to Burial at Sea we noticed a massive change in Elizabeth’s personality. We do not yet know why this is. Did you find voicing Elizabeth in this way a challenge given how she started?
A: I think it is challenging because the character arc of Elizabeth does go from one extreme to the other. What’s challenging is making sure you have enough dynamics to make that arc believable and that people really feel and sense that change in Liz that she really is a different version of herself. It’s also about making sure there’s enough true real Liz that’s a constant throughout, so that when people see Burial at Sea Liz, they still recognize and identify and love her for being Elizabeth. She can’t be too different where people feel like she’s a stranger. You want the players to feel like they can connect with her, no matter where she’s at in her story arc.
Q: Which did you choose – The Bird or The Cage?
A: I played it both ways. The way that I played is usually I’ll go through a certain level, then my boyfriend will also want to play, so we’ll re-do the same levels.
Initially I was drawn to the Bird, because it represents Elizabeth’s freedom and her free-spiritedness. I also think the cage is an interesting choice too, because even though you want her to be free, that represents everything that she’s comfortable with and she knows about; she feels safe there. Depending on my mood, I’ll certainly choose differently.
Q: Is there any process you go through before you get into character?
A: When we were recording the BioShock Infinite DLC’s, a lot of it is very hush-hush, so I don’t really get the scripts beforehand, even though a lot of people assume I would. It’s kind of cool, because I get the same experience similar to how a gamer would, where the story is unfolding little by little and I get these bits of information at a time. I don’t really have that much time to over think and analyze how I would want to act out Liz’s character, but I think that’s cool. I like being able to see things on a page and just jump right into it. It’s how I work best and I think it brings a sense of genuine sort of emotion and nothing is over thought. It’s just moment to moment, and it adds to why and how people connect with the game and Elizabeth so much.
Q: Can you comment on what working with Ken Levine, Troy Baker and the guys and gals at Irrational was like?
A: It’s just horrible torture, they’re all terrible people. [laughs] Just kidding of course.
I love working with everyone at Irrational Games. I just feel so lucky to have been able to work with Ken on such a game that really I think is helping to change the industry and move forward. I think he’s brilliant.
Working with Troy was also amazing because I hadn’t worked that much in games before and Troy was incredible in taking me under his wing and showing me the ropes. I was talking to Oliver Vaquer, who played Robert Lutece about this, and how he got to work with Jennifer Hale (Roaslind Lutece). It’s amazing that on one of our first big games for both of us, we got to work with some of the best people in the industry, and that just doesn’t happen that often.
It’s a really cool group of people and it made me fall in love with the gaming industry. You can’t ask for a better gig than that.
Q: Other than Elizabeth, who is your favorite character in BioShock Infinite, and why?
A: That’s a hard one. I think Booker is really interesting and complex, and not to spoil anything, but the transformation of Comstock, and what that feels like as a player is really amazing and a unique experience. And I think that the Luteces are really cool, I mean just the way that they go back and forth with each other. They’re so different and so interesting, and I think Ken does an amazing job of creating interesting characters that breaks the mold and make you think in different ways, and that’s what makes the gaming experience so incredible in terms of its narrative and its storytelling.
I also really like Songbird, too! I have a lot of love in my heart for Songbird.