During MomoCon, we got the chance to sit down with Jennifer Hale, the voice actress behind Mass Effect, Halo 4, Avengers, Spiderman and Cinderella, and chatted with about her love of decorating houses, being outside, and singing.
Welcome back to the South.
Thank you, it’s really good to be here.
You’re from Alabama?
I grew up in Alabama, actually. Originally, I was born in Canada. I went from Labrador to Massachusetts, to Montgomery, Birmingham, Montgomery, Cincinnati Ohio, back to Birmingham, back and forth to Atlanta, and then out to LA.
We have a question that we ask in every interview we do, so we’ll start with that one. The term “geek” has kind of expanded to any hobby, any behavior that you just absolutely go crazy about. What’s your geek?
My geek is being outside; my geek is rock climbing; my geek is horseback riding, travel, and human and brain development. Those are my geeks.
That’s fantastic! The other question we ask all the time, because we always get weird and interesting answers – are there any projects outside of what you’re doing, that you would love to do – write, direct, produce?
Gosh, you know it’s funny, I think I would have been an architect had I not done this, because I love redoing houses and I love tearing them apart. My favorite house is the worst house on a decent block. My first house, friends of mine went into apparently before me, I found this out later, and told their realtor that if she ever showed them a house like that again, she was fired. And I walked into that house and said “I love it!” So, my thing is outside the business a little bit. But I love singing; singing is my number one passion actually.
You’ve done soundtracks on six of the projects you’ve worked on, or something like that?
Probably, yeah. I just got to record some songs with Weird Al Yankovic for a project that I’m working on. I can’t say what it is, but it was really fun.
That sounds like a lot of fun. You went to school and majored in the arts?
Birmingham. I went to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham.
Was the intent to act or to sing?
I was in the theatre department. But in 10th grade, I got into a rock band, and that was my passion, that’s really all I wanted to do. On a practical level though, I started doing voice-over to pay for life and a PA system and everything else, and ended up that just sort of took over, acting took over. I’ve been actually starting to pick up my guitar again and write – I don’t play guitar, I just use it to write – but I love and miss singing so much.
It’s personal creative stuff, and that’s always different than someone else’s creative stuff. You say you work on houses? What’s your process in that?
I’m not a finish carpenter by any stretch; I’m a really not-so-great basic carpenter. My thing is space design. I can walk into a space and see how to break it down instantly and I optimize every square millimeter of a space for what I feel is best function and best livability. And I love materials, I love interesting materials. My little indulgence that I get every few months is a copy of Dwell magazine. I look at every single page – the paper one, not the one online.
And this was originally intended to be regarding the voice acting, but after hearing all this, just as wide open as you want to go – what’s the most fun project you’ve ever worked on?
You know, I have to say my voice stuff is pretty danged incredible. There was a series that didn’t go too far, it was called Class of 3000, it starred André Benjamin, who’s based out of here [Atlanta]. We got to sing a song every week. And I was in there with Phil Lamar, and we got to sing a new song every week. My character, she was Southern and sweet and fun. There’s this little book I found by Edward Monkton called The Pig of Happiness – it’s a great little book – and Madison, my character, was the Pig of Happiness. She was just always spreading the happy wherever she went. It was great. That was fun, and you know, I also love the super-intense stuff, the Mass Effect, and the classics, the Cinderella. Being Cinderella is pretty amazing. As far as the most incredible thing – I volunteer on a team back out in LA. We go in in advance of, well sometimes not very far in advance of brush fires, and we pull horses out of brush fire areas. I love that. I’m always the crazy person going “I want to be on the trailer team, I want to go in, I don’t care how many sparks there are, let’s go!” I love doing that. And I love travel. I’ve been to some incredible places and I want to get back out into the rest of the world again soon.
Alright, this was not on the list, but – any other pets?
Oh yeah. I’ve got a horse, got a dog, got two cats, and I think that’s it right now. Yeah, that’s our count right now.
After the light in your eyes when you said horses, I knew where we were going from there.
When I was kid, I didn’t really have friends. I was one of those kids – I was a geek way way before it was chic – And I used to just read all the time. I’d go outside with my dog into whatever woods I could find nearby and hang out with my dog. That was my thing.
What kind of dog?
We don’t know what she was, she was a pound dog. She was something like a basset hound and a border collie got together, so it was a really scary looking combination, but she was really sweet and really awesome.
This is my favorite question we always ask – what’s your worst habit?
Doubting myself, that’s my worst habit – second-guessing myself.
Alright, fair enough. And the softball question that you gotta ask everybody. Who’s the biggest influence on your career?
Well my peers, number one. My peers are incredible – Dee Baker, Frank Welker, Grey DeLisle , Tress MacNeille, Kath Soucie, all these incredible people I got to learn from, April Winchell – brilliant. And, you know, people like Phil, people that I do shows with all the time, just absolutely brilliant. That’s probably my number one influence. And then behind that, some of the actors and projects that I admire the most, like Battlestar Galactaca, the reboot, has really helped me update and modernize my approach to acting to just take it to the next level. Shows like that and actors like that – Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, just the work that was done on there. Of course, I love Judy Dench, and there are so many amazing people out there to aspire to that level.
And I just want to say thank you to everybody out there, to all the fans out there, and to you guys.
And thank you for talking to us. It was an absolute pleasure.
You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, and be sure to check out her work in some of your favorite video games and TV shows!