In an interview with “Halo 5: Guardians” Jen Taylor on Wednesday, who voices Dr. Catherine Halsey and the A.I. Cortana, gave some great insight into her experience as voice over actor in the “Halo” franchise and her historical accounts of what led up to her role in the console gaming hit phenomena. In celebration of “Back to the Future” Day, Taylor gave mention about the movie and where the world is when it comes to technology in real life as opposed to the film.
Taylor will be in attendance at the 2050 Daytona Beach event throughout the three day Halloween weekend to meet with the fans and sign autographs along side Master Chief’s Steve Downes.
Examiner: Now it is Oct. 21 of this year, do you know what day this is?
Taylor: Tell me, oh wait, are we talking about “Back to the Future”?
Examiner: That’s right!
Taylor: (laughs): Someone was saying today that everything from the movies, all of those movies today on, is in the past. Which is so sad!
Examiner: Well, of course we may not have flying cars that run on garbage, but we do have Cortana!
Taylor: Oh, and we’ve got the internet! They didn’t have the internet. Couldn’t even conceive of that!
Examiner: So how did you get your start in video game voice over work. I mean, how did that lead you to “Halo” in the first place?
Taylor: Well, I’m an actor. I studied stage work. I’m a theater actor and I fell into voice over in Seattle, then video games came along so that’s what was being cast here. I auditioned for “Halo” and it was just like any other gig that I auditioned for at the time.
Everybody, all the voice over actors in Seattle came out to audition for it. At the time it wasn’t a big deal. It’s like, Oh, it’s just like another audition. That fateful day!
Examiner: Have you done voice over work of any other video games? I heard you’ve done some work for the “Mario” franchise, too.
Taylor: Yeah, I used to voice Peach and Toad.
Examiner: Now did that sound a bit different from Cortana?
Taylor: Slightly different. Just a little bit.
Examiner: Now why did they think that you made the perfect voice for Cortana? Do you carry the right tone or pitch?
Taylor: I don’t know, it depends on who you talk to. I was just talking to Jay who is the sound guy for Bungie and he said, “Oh yeah, it was between you and another woman and frankly I could’ve gone either way. That was his response! (laughs). So I don’t know, apparently it was just whimsy.
They never told me the reason, but I know they were looking for their notion was a woman that sounded like the girl next door.
Examiner: Now did you start the franchise all the way from “Halo 1” or somewhere from part two or three?
Taylor: No, I voiced through them all.
Examiner: When the franchised changed over to 343 Industries, did you have any further expectations placed upon you that was noticeably different from Bungie?
Taylor: Well, that was for Doctor Halsey, that was the first time I got to do motion capture. That’s a very different process. Cortana in particular had a much more emotionally fraught journey than she ever had before, so the acting challenge was a little different.
Examiner: Now other than Princess Peach and the “Mario” franchise, have you done any comical sounding characters that was “cartoony” in nature in the lieu of “Sponge Bob” or “South Park” sounding characters.
Taylor: I haven’t done any cartoons, but I have done games where I played little kids. I think the very first computer game, which was for children. I think that the first character I played was a baseball glove. I think that’s how I broke into it.
Examiner: A baseball glove with a face on it?
Taylor: No, it had no face. I don’t think it had a face, but it spoke, so I didn’t know where I was coming from.
Examiner: What cartoon character would you say you enjoyed yourself personally? Something that you were most inspired by from your childhood?
Taylor: Well, I always loved “The Simpsons” growing up. I liked Lisa. I think it’s because I felt some sort of kinship with Lisa. The nerdy, smart girl. I remember when my friend, because I sort of stumbled into voice over. My best friend said, “I think you should do this!”, and I don’t really know what that is and she said, “The Simpsons!”
Examiner: Now correct me if I am wrong, is Bart Simpson played by a woman? For a while, I didn’t know it was a woman and that I actually thought it was a young kid.
Taylor: I remember listening to an interview with the cast of the Simpsons, talking about voice overs and saying that people have no idea what what we do and think that anybody can do it. I remember listening, right when I was getting into voice over, the woman that plays Bart saying that it’s kind of insulting when people talk about voice over because they don’t have any respect for it. They think anybody can do it. I remember starting off my career hearing that interview.
Examiner: How many years have you been doing it?
Taylor: 20 now, yeah, 20 years.
Examiner: Are you the same voice of Cortana for Windows 10 as the one from “Halo”?
Taylor: That’s me!
Examiner: How did that work?
Taylor: I had to audition. I had to audition to see if my voice was suitable for the program. But do you mean technically how does it work?
Examiner: Yes, like when voicing lines which would be in response to certain queries, how does that work? I mean you can say only so much depending on who speaks it into the computer.
Taylor: Well, there’s a lot of lines that I record directly. There are a lot of lines where they are just trying to get the sound. Just thousands and thousands of random sentences that they’re just trying to record. That, we as American speaking speakers, make.
There are some direct sentences, I sing a lot of songs, I tell jokes, I tell you what’s going on today, which are all directly recorded.
Examiner: Are there any film actors that inspire you.
Taylor: Well, there are a million actors that inspire me. I really like the Brits and the Australians. I love Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. I really like the British sense of humor, so there are a lot of British actors who I like a lot. Clive Owen is a favorite.
Examiner: Have you done any motion capture in “Halo”?
Taylor: Yes, for “Halo 4” I did the motion capture for Dr. Halsey. For “Halo 5” I did the motion capture for Dr. Halsey as well.
Examiner: How did you enjoy doing that?
Taylor: I love it! It’s so fun. It’s challenging in a different sort of way in voice over. It’s extremely technical.
Examiner: She has a missing arm. Do you know what the story is behind the missing arm?
Taylor: Yeah, in “Spartan Ops” Palmer shot it right off the shoulder and then they cut it off.
Examiner: I think she’d look better with an eye patch.
Taylor: (laughing) An eye patch and pirates hat.
That being said, since it is Halloween weekend after all, it would make sense to dress “Halo” that day or even with pirate attire. Also, there will be tons of cosplay, video game events, comic books, film, and a whole lot more.
Most notably will be the eSports tournament featuring the new “Halo 5: Guardians” which is due out next Tuesday, Oct. 27. There will be a $15,000 prize pool up for grabs as well as a free-for-all “Halo 5: Guardians” tournament with a base prize of $250.
There also be a challenge room for the classic gamer, panels, workshops, film screenings, and more. 2050 has brought on board over 40 celebrities, entertainers, and musicians, too.
The 2050 Daytona Beach even occurs between Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. Tickets to 2050 Daytona Beach can be purchased at the 2050 Events site and students ages 13 and up receive a 50 percent discount. Children 12 and under are get free admission when accompanied by a paying adult.