To celebrate the New Year and the birthdays of Final Fantasy and Square Insider, Kari Wahlgren graciously agreed to an interview! Most recently, Kari has been behind the voice behind Princess Ashe of Final Fantasy XII, as well as Shelke from Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. Ms. Wahlgren reflected on Final Fantasy, her profession, and a battle of the strong willed women!
SI: Ms Wahlgren, thank you for speaking with us at Square Insider today!
KW: You're welcome! It's always great to touch base with the Final Fantasy fans!
SI: Final Fantasy turns twenty this year; how does it feel to have contributed so greatly to such a well-established franchise?
KW: Final Fantasy was a franchise I specifically wanted to work on sometime during my career, so it feels great to be a part of it!
SI: Final Fantasy XII has been received as one of the few entrants that has redirected, if not redefined, the experience of an RPG. In your capacity as the lead female voice for the game, how was the experience different from the previous games you've done? Was there more pressure on you while you voiced Ashe than, say, when you were voicing Shelke?
KW: Ashe was one of my favorite characters to play! I see her as such a strong female character: she's a strong political leader, she's classy, and she can kick butt and look good doing it! I'd like to see more characters like her in video games...I think we need to get away from the stereotypical 'damsel-in-distress' role. The thing I like so much about Ashe--and Shelke, for that matter--is that, even though they are helped by the characters around them, they are strong, interesting characters on their own. Shelke was the harder of the two; a very difficult character to play. The clients and director kept telling me "Do less! Less emotion!" They wanted her very flat, almost robotic...since she had been controlled and brainwashed for so long. So it was tricky to convey that coldness and still get across all of the pain she was feeling inside....very challenging...
SI: Assuming that you've seen what each of these three prominent females looks like, which is your favorite visually?
KW: I LOVE the character design for Shelke!! She looks amazing visually; I'd like to eventually get a piece of artwork of Shelke and frame it! It's such a striking character.
SI: In a post-mortem way, what are your feelings or reflections on the characters now that you've voiced and passed on from them? Is there anything you would have done differently for them, now that you look back on it?
KW: I'm uber-critical of my work, so I try not to think about projects too much after they're done, or I'll drive myself crazy! I've seen a few clips of the games on-line...there are a couple of moments in there that turned out pretty well, I think....
SI: What do you find most intriguing about voicing video-game characters? Do you prefer them to the myriad of anime and cartoon voices that you have provided, or do anime and cartoons come out on top?
KW: That's like asking a parent if they have a favorite child!!! I think I tend to connect to certain projects more than others--whether it's a game, a cartoon or anime show...I love my work, and any day that I'm doing what I love is a good day....but, of course, there are certain roles that come along that are especially memorable. Some of them are game characters, some of them are cartoon or anime roles.... How's that for an ambiguous answer?! (laughing)
SI: Final Fantasy XII was officially announced in the fall of 2003, so fans were waiting three years for it in North America. To give us a sense of how your industry works, could you tell us when work began (on FF12), when it ended, and what was different or notable about working with Square Enix as opposed to other producers you've worked with?
KW: I'm not sure when work started on the FF games, as there's a lot of work that goes on long before my part comes in. But once I was cast, I think we recorded over the span of three weeks. After that, it can take months for the editing, mixing, packaging, etc. to be completed.
The Square Enix guys were great; I worked with a couple of them during the recording sessions. They were just wonderful guys--very passionate about putting together a great FF project!!
SI: Do you have any ambitions to go into live action cinema, either in the near or distant future? Might we be seeing Kari Wahlgren herself starring as a female lead one of these days?
KW: I've done commercials and indie films here and there...I'm not against doing more in the future, but I'd never want to stop voiceovers. I really love the work I do now. I'm currently doing a play in L.A. also, so I don't think I'll ever shake my stage roots either....I don't know. Life is exciting and unpredictable; I'm open to new acting experiences...
SI: A question that I'm sure you've been asked before is how you got involved with voice acting; but for every person it's so rare and unique that I feel I should harass you and hear it from you myself: How did you get into voice acting, and is there any other job you'd trade it for?
KW: No, I wouldn't trade it; I really do love it. I started doing radio spots in Kansas City after getting a theatre degree at the University of Kansas. Then I moved to L.A. and started auditioning and hitting the pavement...training is important, and I always caution people to take a class and do their homework before forking over a lot of money on a fancy demo. Study, ask around, learn as much as you can....
SI: You, Shelke and Ashe get locked in a room together. What happens?
KW: Woh...you officially get the award for asking the most interesting interview question ever!! Well, hopefully Shelke would not be hooked up to her laser-zapper gear or there probably wouldn't be much interaction there....I'd probably eventually ask Ashe if her shoes are REALLY all that comfortable and whether she plans to continue hanging out with any of her FF12 co-horts.....Shelke could probably use a hug, man...
SI: Kari, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! As a representative for a lifeless bunch of clamoring fans, let me applaud you on your excellent work! We wish you the best of luck, and hope to hear you in future Final Fantasy games! Besides, I hear there's a sequel in the works for Final Fantasy XII…
KW: Thanks you guys! It's been a fun interview! I always appreciate hearing from the fans, so feel free to drop by my website at www.kariwahlgren.net.
You can learn more about at the works and career Kari Wahlgren at the following pages:
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