From her work on Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales to her recent appearance in American Horror Story, Jacqueline Piñol has had an exciting career in both acting and voice acting. She can be seen on countless television shows, along with many games we all know and love.
With her most recent appearance on American Horror Story: Double Feature, CGMagazine got the chance to chat remotely with the renowned actress about her work. Discussing everything from how COVID has changed how film sets shoot, to her enjoyment in the process of motion capture and voice acting, Jacqueline Piñol gives us a taste of what it is like to bring the characters we know and love to life in new and exciting ways.
CGMagazine: What drew you to American Horror Story, and were you a fan of the show before being on it?
Jacqueline Piñol: I was a huge fan of the show, I’ve been a fan of the show since season one. As an actor, it’s one of those things that you have your pocket full of favourite shows, and it’s a dream to ever be on them. But if I’m not, then you just continue to be a fan of the show. So, when the opportunity came to audition, obviously I was excited. I can’t watch every show because there’s so much but if I could, I guarantee you I would maybe book more of the roles that I auditioned for because I really connected to the material, you’re only privy to the scenes you’re auditioning with.
American Horror Story is very top secret, we’re signing NDAs, and can’t talk about it at all, so I knew that and that was fine, but I felt very connected to the material. The funny thing is I see a lot of actors posting now because auditions on tape is what we’re doing for COVID safety.
I remember after this one, I was uploading it, and I’m sitting at my computer, and it’s taking a long time. And I decided to just post this little blurb about just auditioning for one of my favourite shows, and I’m just sitting here waiting, uploading. I explained to my followers and fans that, as a mom now because I have a five-year-old son, I have to do auditions at night. So, after everybody’s gone to bed, I’m doing my hair, putting makeup on, getting into wardrobe, learning lines. It’s almost like the whole day is beginning for me again, because I have these evening hours to record.
And I put that little post out and that was about that audition, but nobody knew. When I booked it a few weeks later, I was ecstatic, I absolutely love American Horror Story. I think the writing is brilliant, I think it has a lot of very smart and relevant social commentary. Then of course, we love the scary and the gore, and I just think it’s fantastic. I just finished watching the 1984 season, so I just couldn’t be happier to have been even just a guest star on the show.
CGMagazine: Fantastic. Now, are you a fan of horror or genre films and series’? Is that a genre you enjoy jumping into?
Jacqueline Piñol: It hasn’t naturally been, but my husband is. I mean, there’s no night when I’m not like walking by the TV, and I’m just like “Ah, what is that?” And then he’s like, “Oh my gosh, you have to see this show,” and he starts explaining it. Then as he starts to explain it, I’m like “Alright, don’t spoil it, I’ll get to it,” and eventually we end up watching these wonderful shows together.
There’s a lot of them that I probably wouldn’t have seen had he not forced me to in a way; one of them being Game of Thrones for example. I thought Game of Thrones was just a little too much in the beginning of the first season, I would turn away from the screen. Eventually, one year, I got the flu and watched 13 hours of Game of Thrones straight. It was fantastic, and I caught up. So that’s sort of what happens to me, I don’t jump on it right away, but when I do, it’s all in.
CGMagazine: Now you also made a name for yourself in a lot of voice acting roles, and you’ve done a lot of video games. How did you get started in that realm of things, and how is that different from doing either an animated series or even just a live action series or movie?
Jacqueline Piñol: I love voicing video games. I think it just sort of happened because here’s the thing, when you audition for them, it’s like auditioning for a film. The scripts are very detailed, the characters are very rich and super well-written. There are these huge fantasy worlds a lot of times, so you’re not just voicing a character, you’re really embodying that entire being and the universe that it lives in. So, for me, it’s like an extension of auditioning for a film.
When I started auditioning for those video games years ago, and booked my first one, it was like shooting a movie. I think that’s why I sort of grew enamoured by the medium. As I started moving forward and more auditions got thrown my way, even if I’m not the likeness, or the image of the character, I still use the same methodology. I’m still embodying that and using my whole body, my being, my history, doing my homework to create what gives life to this voice. So, I absolutely love the way that video games are so movie-like these days.
CGMagazine: Now are you a gamer personally, do you jump into any of the games you might have been a part of?
Jacqueline Piñol: Same thing, so I wasn’t, and then of course I’m in them, so I have to buy the Xbox or the PlayStation, the Nintendo or whatever it is that’s going on out there that I’m voicing. So now we have every console in my house, and of course I’ve played the games, and I’ve gotten into them. And now I have a five-year-old son who has just started to realize what it’s like to play these games. So, although we guard him against violent ones, we do love that he’s into it, and then to him, it’s just mommy on the screen.
He’s never excited about mommy’s character; he’s always excited about everybody else. All the heroes and the villains that are not mommy, but it’s pretty fun, and my husband loves it. I couldn’t not be a supporter playing video games in my home; the boys wouldn’t take for that.
CGMagazine: Now, I recently interviewed Yuri Lowenthal, who plays Peter Parker.
Jacqueline Piñol: Yuri Lowenthal, yes. I love him.
CGMagazine: I am curious, especially due to COVID, how does voice acting work, especially in games? We do have motion capture, how does all that work with the new restrictions, and how do you play off each other for these voice roles?
Jacqueline Piñol: There are two things, for the voice-over part, it was so easy to be remote, and to stay safe in that direction. A lot of the mo-cap was saved for after vaccines were available. Now I think everyone is vaccinated, at least if we want to work as actors and be in the industry. Of course, a proponent of safety first. I absolutely feel comfortable because productions are making it so that if I’m vaccinated, I know everyone else there’s vaccinated, and we wear masks.
Even on American Horror Story, we wear masks up until the moment that just the actors in the scene are filming. And we get tested on set each day or the day prior to. I feel like the productions are taking those precautions and I feel completely safe to unmask and be around a small group of actors while the crew still remains with all of their masks and even goggles protecting themselves while we’re shooting. It’s good, I’m glad that they’re making it possible, so we can continue to audition and get some work.
CGMagazine: Jumping back to the mo-cap, how does the process work? Do you have everyone in the room together? Is it just you doing your parts? How do you play off things that the other actors might be doing to kind of make it seem natural?
Jacqueline Piñol: The mo-cap is a very challenging part. For me, it was the most challenging as I learned. You know, now I feel I’m a little more seasoned after three-four games under my belt. But the equipment is heavy, it’s cumbersome, you have to be very aware of your perimeter, like know your peripheral vision and everything. But you’re on set with the other actors acting, and we have to have huge imaginations. And that’s the thing that I love about video games is that we are creating everything. What we see, and how we’re interacting with physical objects because everything isn’t really there. But we’re there for each other, and I think that’s what feels the same.
I especially felt that way with the Spider-Man: Miles Morales game. There were so many scenes where the material, the writing, brought a lot of story, and a lot of key points that gamers needed to listen to. And in those moments, we were so connected as actors that it’s almost like you don’t feel like you have all these cameras on your head and on your body. That’s the wonderful part of the job that I think I enjoy, like I’m always playing, I feel like I’m playing.
CGMagazine: You were a part of Quantum Break, which was a unique thing where it did have a game and a series kind of tied together. How was that? It is a big sprawling universal game, with a full series that kind of ties into it, and you have to kind of carry that character over to both universes. What was it like and was the process a lot different from other things you’ve worked on?
Jacqueline Piñol: Yes, that was the most challenging. Because like you just mentioned, we’re shooting months at a time, and then we’re shooting the show part in Atlanta, which we did at the time, and then you’re doing voice-overs back in L.A. We flew to Finland where the gaming company had studios, and we did a lot of motion capture and voice there.
Months go by between scenes or between recording and the most important part, it’s almost like I said filming a movie, you have to remember where you left off. You have to remember the emotional through line of your character, what you’ve given your character, the smallest nuances. You have to recall that. I used to keep journals for Quantum Break because there were so many months in between sometimes that I had to remember what I’d already shot because we also shoot out of order.
But filming the live action part of that show was thrilling. The actors I got to work with, you know, Lance Reddick and Aiden Gillen from The Wire and Game of Thrones. I mean, just fantastic to work opposite these Thespian veteran actors that I admire so much. It really made me feel like I had to up my game, and it kept me on my toes, which I just love.
CGMagazine: Are there any roles or type of roles that you really want to do that you haven’t done yet? And if there’s something you really did love, and you want to do that again, what was that?
Jacqueline Piñol: I think the types of roles that I would like are something more grounded in reality, but a real character, like the recent one that Nicole Kidman played in this series on Hulu, Nine Perfect Strangers. Characters like that I just love because you don’t really know what you’re getting. And there are all these layers to this human being that could very well be someone you see at the post office, but you have no idea what’s really going on.
I really love that kind of mystery, and there’s a lot of reality in those characters. I hope to be able to play that in a series one day. That would be the most challenging but exciting to me. And the types of characters I have already played that I love. I hadn’t thought about that one though, but I do like to play detective roles. I find that there is a natural curiosity in playing those in relation to real detectives.
When I was on Bosch for example, I was an RHD robbery homicide detective. We had actual RHDs on set guiding us, teaching us. So, anywhere where you have these consultants from real-life professionals that come in to teach us, I love because we take those skills with us in life. And that’s a really cool thing, so I do love to play detectives.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much. For people who would want to jump in and see your work, would American Horror Story be the best place to start or anything else you might want to suggest?
Jacqueline Piñol: Well American Horror Story was just a fun, quick little episode but would be a really good place, but I think also with Miles Morales there’s so much out there, people can look up of the Spider- Man: Miles Morales game. Because if you don’t play certain areas of the game, you don’t see it all, you have to get to it all. Even I hadn’t seen some of it, and I kept discovering new scenes that we’d shot.