... and, of course, the good ol' Aussie accent came up.
Overwatch voice actors Carolina Ravassa (Sombra; above left) and Anjali Bhimani (Symmetra; above right) are currently in Australia attending Supanova, and we sat down with the pair in Melbourne over the weekend to discuss their characters, inclusivity and Overwatch in general.
Steve Wright, Stevivor: Now I know I’m wrong but I would like to assume that you guys basically just get to travel around the world, meet up with fans, arm wrestle with Chris Hemsworth, and that’s basically your lives now. How much of that is actually true?
Anjali Bhimani (Symmetra): I mean that’s a good portion of it. I basically arm wrestle Chris Hemsworth once every week just to keep me in shape. Yep!
Stevivor: Well, and for no other reason whatsoever.
Anjali: I wish we could do that but we do travel a lot together to different conventions, and we’re seeing the world and meeting a rich community all over the world is really special.
Stevivor: You’ve both got extensive experience across film and TV, theatre, and of course video game voice overs what do you guys both prefer to actually do as actors? Are voice overs far better than acting because you can potentially do it in your sweatpants?
Carolina Ravassa (Sombra): Yes. Well you can. You can if you feel like it. I’m too vain to do it in sweatpants though. For me, personally, I can’t pick one. Which is why I don’t.
Anjali: Yeah. There are pros and cons to each different version of how you tell the story. And it’s precisely having the variety of ways that you can tell the story that makes life interesting. I get too easily bored with one particular medium at a time to just pick one all the time. It also keeps you the same way if you cross train as an athlete or someone who’s a fitness enthusiast, it’s kind of the same thing.
Carolina: You want to keep your instrument honed by doing a whole lot of different things. And I just think that the change is fun sometimes. You’re doing the film and TV and then it’s just nice to walk into the studio and not worry about, all these lines or how you look or whatever. It really just is communicating through your voice. I think they are all different and cool in their own ways and I like to keep it varied.
Anjali: And it’s all just storytelling at it’s core. Ultimately that’s what you’re trying to do with any of these. So which ever way you can get the story across best, that’s the way you choose.
Stevivor: Nice. Is it fair to say that voice acting is a give and take? You obviously have a limit to how you can portray a character in that you’re kind of limited to your voice. But on the other hand you avoid things like being type cast to your ethnicity or your height or that kind of thing?
Carolina: Exactly. I wouldn’t say that it’s limited to your voice. I would say that the voice frees it, in order for you to be able to actually play characters that you’d never play on television. You know? So it’s really cool. We can play young, old, different genders. I think it opens up the possibilities.
Stevivor: Now, you obviously can’t help but bring a little bit of yourself into every character that you portray. How much of that do you guys think that you do with your own characters to begin with and how much has Blizzard allowed you to bring in in terms of your Overwatch characters?
Anjali: For me, it’s interesting because Symmetra and I are very very different but she has aspects of my experience that I feel like I can draw from. And certain, even though she’s not very much like me in real life, I’m just a lot goofier and a lot less elegant than she is. I think it’s less about bringing more of myself to the character than bringing certain experiences and understandings of certain experiences to it.
Blizzard was very open to us having different interpretations of the character of course, and ultimately they make the final artistic decisions, but they definitely were collaborative once they brought us on board. I think that Carolina definitely has more characteristics that are similar to Sombra because she’s such a bad-ass.
Carolina: Thank you! I think that we’ll always bring a little bit of ourselves into a character and then even if they’re very different to us, essentially there’s gotta be something that connects us to them. I just haven’t told Blizzard how much of me I bring into Sombra. No.
Anjali: They don’t need to know that you’re that talented in real life.
Carolina: [In character] I am Sombra.
Stevivor: Now I’ll try to keep these questions to both of you but Carolina, this one is geared at you. You were a newbie compared to the original core acting group. Were you ever treated like a newbie? Or did you kind of slide in very easily with the rest?
Carolina: You know, I thought I was a newbie. But then the first time that they got all the voice actors together at an event at Blizzard it was the first time they were all meeting. So I thought I was gonna meet them and be like the newbie, but then it was literally the first time they were meeting too.
It was cool because we got to all meet together at the same time. And then from their different relationships and friendships got going. Anjali’s been awesome — she invites people over to her apartment in LA all the time and it’s just like this fabulous family get together and we bond even more. And the more we do conventions with different voice actors then we get to know them better and it’s really cool. Because new friendships are starting or growing I guess.
And it’s also it’s a testament of Blizzard and how much they want to create an environment where we’re all feeling like a family. Because they were the ones who ultimately brought us together in an event and that’s where we all met. It wasn’t like we worked together. When we record, you know, we all record individually.
So they were responsible for creating a cast gathering the first year after the game came out, right after BlizzCon. And that’s ultimately what set the stage for all of us to be closer and have these relationships.
Stevivor: So you kind of avoided that. But did you get to kind of pay it forward as new characters have been introduced or are you guys being very welcoming?
Carolina: We’re trying to figure out when we’re going to be able to get out there to meet Matilda [Smedius, who plays Bridgette]. No, we definitely have so much fun embracing — not just embracing new actors but embracing every member of this community. Because the community itself is so embracing. I mean it’s a game that was built on the concept of inclusivity and it only makes sense that we would be the same way with each other and with the entire community. Otherwise it would be completely counter intuitive to the reason the game exists.
Stevivor: Nice — and that’s a crazy segue. My question for Anjali follow this; obviously the game is super representative and very inclusive — Symmetra is on the autism spectrum and I personally identify with Tracer as queer. Well, I’m not so much exactly as Tracer — don’t tell my husband I’m a lesbian — but how important is that to you guys?
Carolina: Ha, yes!
Anjali: Your secret is safe with us. [Laughter]
Inclusivity is wildly important. Jeff Kaplan said something early on. He said, “The only people we want to exclude from playing this game are people who exclude other people.” And that right there is a perfect statement because this game is about people with very complex humanities.
That Symmetra being on the Autism spectrum or being Indian, each one of those things is just one aspect of who she is. Sombra being Latina and being a lone wolf, all of these things are just individual characteristics that combine to makeup a character. There’s no one defining characteristic. So when Jeff confirmed that Symmetra was on the Autism spectrum it was just another testament to it. Everybody on the spectrum has a different experience, everybody on the spectrum has different challenges, has different skills. And to pretend one person would represent an entire group of people would be untrue. You know?
Carolina: It wouldn’t make sense in the real world. This like feel that Blizzard has with Overwatch and how we just love that every character has their very unique characteristics and the more diverse the group is, the better. And we embrace all of that with huge open arms.
Stevivor: Now you guys work across a variety of different media. Do you think that gaming is on the forefront of this inclusiveness? Or is this something that’s more of an Overwatch thing or are you seeing this across TV and film? Is this where we are headed or do we have a lot more work ahead of us?
Anjali: There’s always more work to be done because the world is a huge place, right? But I do think that gaming is uniquely suited to be at the forefront of that precisely because the people who are playing the game have agency. They are telling the story as the character as they play the game as opposed to sitting back and watching something on TV or watching something on the stage. They are part of the experience and when you’re part of the experience and you have that agency and you have that power you… you start to see the story in your own world. You start to create more stories. You start to feel more… like the world isn’t as big and scary a place as it might be.
Carolina: Lately I’ve auditioned for a tonne of video games where all the female characters are super interesting. Just the fact that they are female characters is a big thing already because for the most part it’s always male characters. I love that they are realising that a game like Overwatch should change the game and all of a sudden there are all of these fascinating characters that are male and female.
Anjali: And we’ve got Winston, we’ve got a space gorilla. Again with gaming and with animation too, but especially with gaming, there’s the opportunity to create characters that we can identify with that aren’t even human. And that too, even though it’s a fantasy element, that too creates a stability for everyone to have something to identify with. And when everyone sees their story being told, one way or the other, if everybody can identify with the story being told, then everybody is a little bit closer in the world and everybody feels represented because they’re part of the story.
Carolina: And also we’re showing them in a positive light. I went to Argentina and I met so many Latinos — and on Twitter, so many Latin American and Latinos in the US are saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the first time I’m being represented and not in a totally negative way.’ I know Talon is a little bit dark, but it’s just so bad-ass. She’s not just this stereotypical portrayal of a Latino that in a lot of media is negative. I love that people feel represented.
Stevivor: With Retribution, we’ve seen the game’s first batch of story based, cut-scene driven content in a long long while. Are you guys excited about the possibility to potentially expand your own characters in that end game setting rather than seeing evolution through a comic or something like that?
Anjali: One of the greatest things about this game is that there are so many different ways into it. Whether it’s the story, whether it’s playing the game, or whether it’s the story being told within the game. Anything, especially as an actor, and as someone enjoying the game themselves, the more complexity each one of these characters have, the more fun it is. The more we know about their story, the more excited we are to be a part of it.
Stevivor: Do you have a lot of backstory that you know unofficially at this point that we aren’t introduced to yet?
Carolina: No, we wish. Not really. They’ve been very smart about telling us things on a need to know basis. So we can’t spill anything by mistake.
Anjali: We find out about a lot of things the same way that a lot of the players find out about thing and how the community finds out about things. There’s not a lot of headway between when something comes out and when we know about it.
Stevivor: I guess it’s good for you guys ’cause you’re not spoiled ahead of time. You get to know as the community falls into it as well.
Anjali: It’s very exciting. It’s really exciting that way. I essentially found out that Symmetra was on the spectrum when Jeff announced it.
Even those things. And it made perfect sense based on the portrayal they had asked for. The fact that we find the things out about our own characters along with everybody else makes it as exciting for us for them.
Stevivor: Let’s finish up with a little fun. You can’t pick your character, you can’t pick each other’s characters — but if you had to pick another Overwatch character that you could take over the voice acting for, who would it be and why?
Anjali: I’ve gotten a similar question before and I have to ask one thing. Does it have to be with the voice that we actually have in real life? Or with any dream voice that we could have, across the board, male female…
Stevivor: You’ve got carte blanche. You can do whatever you want.
Carolina: Mine changes. It used to be Widowmaker. Then it used to be freakin’ Zarya. And now, I met Junkrat [voiced by Chris Parson] and his character is so insane.
Carolina: And I love the Australian accent. I would love to just be him. I think also because we are here and I love the Aussie accent and I’m trying to learn it and I’m terrible. So that would be a dream.
Anjali: At least you are making an attempt. I’m so bad at it I can’t even try.
Stevivor: I would love to hear your Australian accents. I will also play along if you want. I’ve been here for like 16 years?
Carolina: Wada [water], you know? That’s all I got.
Stevivor: Wada is perfect. W A D A. Wada.
Anjali: See? I’m going to stick to Indian.
Carolina: Wait, what’s your-
Anjali: Actually I was going to say Junkrat, but right next to Junkrat, I would say Reinhardt. Because [voice actor] Darin De Paul — the way that that character is so fiercely … I love the fact that he’s a combination of completely eccentric and this total protector of everyone. I love this, [in character], ‘I am your shield! Reinhardt! Reinhardt! Reinhardt!’
Carolina: [Also in character] ‘Hammer down!’
Anjali: [Again, in character] ‘Hammer down!’ There’s so much joy at the same time that he’s such a powerful character. I really really really I feel like that would just be a joyous thing to do right now. But Junkrat is definitely so much fun.
Carolina: Holy cow.
Anjali: So much fun. Just his laugh makes me laugh!
Carolina: Oh my god, right?
Anjali: That laugh just makes me happy.
Stevivor: Thank you both, so much, for your time. I appreciate it immensely. Enjoy the rest of your time here in Australia!
Anjali: Thank you so much.
Carolina: Good on ya!
Stevivor: Good on ya, mates.
Both Bhimani and Ravassa will be in attendance at Supanova’s Gold Coast stop this coming weekend.
Overwatch is currently available on Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4.