From Returnal to Hitman – The Many Voices of Jane Perry

| April 4, 2022
From Returnal to Hitman - The Many Voices of Jane Perry 1

Jane Perry has made a name for herself in voice acting. From Diana Burnwood in Hitman, to Selene in Returnal, the characters she has played are iconic and part of the identity of those franchises. It is hard to imagine those games, especially Returnal, without her voice, and that is part of what makes voice acting so vital for storytelling.

Even beyond those franchises, she has made a career that spans countless games, movies, and TV series.  Classically trained and has worked on stage in both the UK and Canada, and has 87 acting credits to her name on IMDB, many of which are iconic gaming titles we all know and love.

From the upcoming Squadron 42, Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, to Need for Speed: Rivals, if you have played one of many AAA titles over the past few years, you would have heard her voice. With Returnal nominated in many categories for this year’s game awards, it felt like the perfect time to talk to Jane Perry about her career, voice acting and her place in Video Game history

From Returnal To Hitman – The Many Voices Of Jane Perry
Returnal

CGMagazine: You have done a lot of video game voice work, including Returnal. How did you get into that field, and what is it like compared to traditional acting?

Jane Perry: Well, to answer the first part of your question, essentially, when I arrived in London, I got myself a theatrical agent, which is the agent who takes care of work on screen and on stage. And then I also got myself a voice agent. It is great as an actor to have two different agents, because these agents have relationships with people who are very specific in the industry and who can help actors get work in any given field. So, a voice agent is going to have all these relationships with all the people who hire voice actors.

Basically, I just started waiting for my voice agent to get me auditions. One day, Side Global, which was back then called Side UK, which is a studio here in London, asked me if I would audition for Legends 007, which was obviously a James Bond game. This was quite a long time ago. I auditioned for it and I got the part and that is where I started this creative relationship that I had with Side and started my video game career here in the UK. So, that is basically how I got into it.

It was really just via auditioning from my voice agent. And then, in terms of how it is different from other mediums, I think it is a really interesting question, because a lot of actors say “acting is acting, it does not matter if you are on stage or in front of the camera or in front of the microphone,” and to a certain extent, I think it is true.

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Hitman

Acting is kind of the same across-the-board, but then you have got skills on top of that. For example, some skills would be considered stagecraft or stage skills, camera skills, and technique. You have these other skills that are more finely tuned, according to the medium in which you are working. And that, in a nutshell, sums up the global differences.

More specifically, I think, when you are acting in video games, you have to engage your imagination, so much. It is the only thing you have got to work on. You do not have a scene partner, you do not have props, you do not have a set, you do not have a costume, you do not even have a script, because they send you a script the night before.

So, you do not have anything to work with. You will have a director, you will have a client, in other words, the game developer, who will be there setting the scene for you, but you have to fill in all those blanks. Whereas if you and I were acting on a TV set or film set, we have each other to work off, you have your costume, I have mine, the set and everything and all these things fill in the blanks for you in a way, and it makes it easier as an actor.

You do not have to manifest so much in your mind’s eye. So that is one of the big key differences. I think acting in games is an investment for me in the imaginary circumstances to come up with.

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Hitman

CGMagazine: You have become the voice of the Hitman series. How does that feel?

Jane Perry: Yeah, you know what, it is such an honour. I mean, I love it. It is so nice to have, A, that relationship with a character in a video game and B, that relationship with a game developer, IO Interactive. Also, a good working relationship with the handful of actors that I get to work with, David Bateson being obviously top of the list there. It is a real honour because I have done 30 or 40 video games. Many of those are kind of one-offs.

You are going to do your thing and that is it. That is done and dusted, and you move on to the next one. But this one, it has been such a pleasure to keep revisiting it, and it gives you the chance to go deeper and deeper into the characters. And I think, across the board, we have gone deeper into their stories, and Hitman 3, I think, is a great example of that.

CGMagazine: With being part of so many franchises, including Returnal, do you take any ownership of the characters you play thanks to the fanbase or how people connect to the games?

Jane Perry: Yeah, that is a really interesting question. Because I think it can be very disconnecting. But you know, the thing that does keep me connected is actually the fan base. So, those little messages you get on Twitter and Instagram, and just people reaching out saying, “Oh, my gosh, I just played this and that scene was amazing” and that keeps me connected to the Returnal in a really beautiful way. Otherwise, you go into the studio, as I said, you sort of by yourself, really, you do your thing, and then you leave and then that is it.

You do not go to the pub afterwards with the people you are working with because, in Hitman’s case, I am in London, and they are in Copenhagen, and that is not going to happen. So it is, really the fans and having chats like this, that keep us all connected to these amazing games, which is lovely.

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Returnal

CGMagazine: Since Returnal launched, it has really caught on with fans and critics. But, also because of such a deep character study of a game. How does that in comparison to Hitman to capture the concept of the character and bring her to life?

Jane Perry: Well, I think perhaps the biggest difference is that in Returnal, Selene—she is it. Apart from the lovely lad who plays my little boy, Helios. She is the only character in the game. Her journey is huge, and I had to, as an actor, go on that journey with Selene. Diana’s journey in Hitman is also quite a big arc, but the arc happens over a number of years, and it happens with others in relation to this, where in Returnal Selene is just, it is her.

Her journey is physical. She has got a lot of physical stuff to do. She is battling it out at a moment. But it is also psychological. So, it was challenging. A lot of times when I was in the booth, thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I think I might pass out” because you have to make the noise of all the movements and the jumps and everything that you do, you have to give voice to it or breath to it, and she runs a lot.

I used to joke with them, Greg Loudon at Housemarques and my performance director here in London, whose name is Damien Goodwin, I used to say, “Gosh, you know, Selene, she is so much more fit than I am and this is hard.” Oh, God. So yeah, it was tough sometimes, and afterwards, I would feel mentally exhausted, more than anything.

CGMagazine: Now, I see you are a part of Squadron 42 as Dr. Spenser Gallo. How was working on that project, and what should fans expect from your performance when that game finally hits some home shelves?

Jane Perry: That is a really good thing. Here is one thing I will say about that. The character, as you might tell by the name that is listed on IMDb, is meant to be a man.

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Returnal

CGMagazine:  Really?

Jane Perry: Yeah! I suppose the first thing that people might expect is that I am not a man, and I do not play a man in it. So, Spenser is a gal. I do not know if they are going to change the name at some point. That was a really interesting and fun experience.

I do not know how much I can talk about it, because it has not been released yet and it has been a very long time in the making. But I will say that I did motion capture for that. And, when I walked on set, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to act with that actor and that actor,” like there are ordinary actors on set. You might not know this.

When you are on set, you get a call sheet, which is basically just a list of all the shots that are going to happen that day and a list of all the actors who were involved. But, when you get really big-name actors, they do not put their name on the call sheet, they will put an alias there in case the call sheet gets into the hands of a fan or whatever, and it is just a way of maintaining secrecy about who is in it and what they are doing.

So, I did not know who was going to be in this thing. I just got my call sheet. And I turned to log on to the set and when you are doing motion capture, it is not glamorous, you are wearing, essentially, what is a neoprene suit with dots all over and dots all over your face. And then there are these big movie stars. And I am like, “Oh, okay, I am just going to recollect myself here and try to come back down to earth and not get too starstruck by some of the people.” So, that is what I will say about that game. There is a fantastic cast.

CGMagazine: Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, John Rhys-Davies, Mark Strong—that is a fantastic cast, just looking at the first few names.

Jane Perry: Totally. Isn’t it? Great. Yeah. So good.

CGMagazine: How does it feel as an actor that has done TV, and movies and video games to have such a range of different characters you have played from vastly different projects?

Jane Perry: Well, I think it feels great in a word. It feels great. Well, it used to be the case that actors would only sort of do one thing, but now, it has changed. I think most actors are really keen to diversify and do it all, and I have had the opportunity to do, if not all of it, an awful lot of it over the years. I started out in Canada on the stage basically and did a bit of film and TV there, but really, my career there was on the stage.

Then when I moved to the UK, it sort of shifted into film, TV, and more voice work. And it is great to exercise your acting muscles in all these different mediums, because you get to play so many different characters. The characters I play on stage would be really different from the ones I play on film and TV and then the characters that I play in video games are really different from the ones that play elsewhere.

Case in point, Selene being so fit that I can hardly look like it or act out the things she does. I could not be somebody who could run up a mountain or jump, or all the other stuff she does. So it is a wonderful thing. I feel so honoured and really lucky.

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Hitman

CGMagazine: How does it feel to have your name on so many award-winning and fan-favourite titles, and how do you view the gaming fan base compared to TV or movies?

Jane Perry: Well, it is really lovely to be sort of consistently invited back into the world of video games. Because there is a community there, and I think community is really important, and I am sure you feel this too, with your fan base. You have got these people that follow you and are really engaged with what you do, and I think that is incredibly special and really important to me. So, video games have really allowed for that sense of community for me, much more so than film and TV.

With games, it is global, and the fan base is very present. Every single day, I get a little message from someone or even something in the post, which is so nice too, like the old-fashioned snail mail. There is a little letter from someone asking me to sign something, a picture of Diana or Selena or whatever. Sometimes Karen Bowman from [Ghost Recon] Wildlands. She is a great character as well. So it is all very nice.

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