The Voice of John Slade: Interview with Sean Crisden, Voice Actor
John Slade has been a fan favourite since his first sci-fi adventure, Shadowgun, was released eight years ago. I spoke to the man who gave the cult hero his distinctive voice…
LA: Could you please introduce yourself to our community?
SC: Sure, my name is Sean Crisden and I’m a voice actor. I’ve been at it full time for ten years, and despite what I think about my ability I’ve won numerous awards, and love pretty much every second of the job. I’ve also done a fair amount of on-camera work, lots of commercials, a few indie films, and one not-so-indie film that a few people may have heard of: The Last Airbender.
LA: You mention in your profile that you’ve always had a talent for voice work. Can you tell us more about some of your early experiences or performances?
SC: I played guitar and sang in the rock band Divided Sky for a number of years, so I was already familiar with using my voice as a tool and an instrument. When the band dissolved I needed an outlet for my creative energies, found voice acting, and fell in love. Largely because I’m lazy and would much rather have a script in front of me than memorize pages of dialogue, such as one would need for on-camera or stage acting. Also, working largely from my own studio, I rarely need to put on pants! This has led to a few panic moments when I need to work in a different studio because, as you know, old habits die hard.
LA: Tell us something about your time with Divided Sky. Can people find your music somewhere?
SC: Ah, they were good times! There are still some links floating around for Divided Sky. You can also find a later solo project I did called Funkmouf Brown. That and Divided Sky are two very, very different musical explorations.
My musical career took a back seat to voice acting in terms of priorities in my life. Again, since I’m lazy, being a voice talent is easier than riding in the van and playing small dive bars for two drunks and your girlfriend. We had some great gigs too, particularly when we started playing theatres and festivals. I’m still in touch with my former bandmates and I still have a ton of music bouncing around in my head these days. It’ll find its way out eventually, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…
LA: So you made an appearance in The Last Airbender. What was your role? What was it like working with M. Night Shyamalan? Any juicy stories?
SC: I’m a martial artist and was cast as a Fire Nation Soldier. We basically ran through fight choreo and light stunt work in the background of every scene while the leads pronounced names wrong and CGI’d their way through the film! All kidding aside, it was a great time.
I almost impaled M. Night with a guandao during one scene on the boat. In the scene, three of us were to run along a narrow corridor past the camera to reach the bow of the boat. The floors were wet, the costume helmets limited vision severely, and our boots had no treads on them. Suffice to say, there was zero traction.
The production had just run out of rubber weapons, and since I was lumped in with the “special skills stunt/extra” crew, they gave us all metal weapons for the close-up work — dull-edged, of course. They still had a decent point, however. In any event, we’re shooting the scene and on the first few takes the guy in front of me kept falling down. We were told to just keep going no matter what. So I was expected to leap over him, still pointing my weapon, and keep running. So, me being a good listener, that’s exactly what I did. On the next take, the guy went down again and I hopped right over him and charged ahead, weapon down and forward. Unbeknownst to me, M. Night decided to step out from beside the camera while we were still shooting, presumably to get a better look at the poor guy who was now face down on the deck. Well, in that narrow corridor with no visibility and no traction, let’s just say that I nearly gave the film a twist ending that nobody was expecting! Yep, fun stuff…
LA: Your first audiobook was M/M erotica. How did that come about and how did you get yourself “in the mood” for the sexy stuff?
SC: It was initially a strange thing. I’m no stranger to sex, erotica or good fun adult sexy time, and as a hetero male I’m not put off by any act of consensual love between adults. I auditioned for the audiobook and was shocked when I booked the gig. It was my first actual legitimate job after I decided to pursue voice acting so it holds a special place in my heart, despite the fact that my performance definitely needed work.
At first, narrating the sex scenes was uncomfortable. I felt that it was something private, and how could I basically give “good aural” to listeners when I was still trying to learn my craft? It took a good deal of practice, learning and experience to get to the point where I feel not only comfortable but confident in my performances. Also, I did mention that I rarely wear pants, right?
LA: Are there any accents or dialects that you particularly struggle with? Or can you give anything a decent bash?
SC: I’ll try anything under my tongue for sure. I have a process that I use to get general approximations of specific accents and dialects so that I can at least perform the character with a solid attempt at delivery. That’s not to say that they’re all good, but I give anything a shot. It’s a valuable mindset for any voice actor — you have to be willing to play, experiment, and best of all have fun. I can’t tell you how many sessions I’ve been in where the client decides to do something totally different from what I had prepared for. “Hey, we know this character was supposed to be a 25-year-old surfer from Southern California, but now we’re thinking they need to be a 50-year-old woman from Dublin who has smoked all her life. You can do that, right?” You want to have many items in your toolbox and say yes as often as possible, as well as having a good time doing it. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t take a quick break and run into the bathroom to Google the crap out of something for a reference.
LA: You’re a regular collaborator with MFG, best known to our community as the voice of John Slade. What do you like about working with MFG?
SC: MFG is such a great team to work with and, of course, the games are fantastic. Here’s a piece of trivia for you: the first bit of voice work I did for MFG was actually the Samurai II: Vengeance trailer: “He was a legendary warrior…” Shadowgun followed shortly thereafter.
LA: Have you contributed any other voices to MADFINGER games? If so, which ones?
SC: Sure, aside from Shadowgun — I think I did all the male characters in that one and directed the other talent — I also did Unkilled, Dead Trigger 2 and the other games in the Shadowgun series. I still remember playing through the original Shadowgun and being amazed at what the team did for a mobile game. That engine still looks and plays great to this day if you ask me.
LA: So you direct the other voice actors — can you tell us a bit more about that process?
SC: I have a network of voice talent that I work with and send out general casting notices when a project calls for additional voices. Contrary to popular belief, I can’t do it all despite my best efforts! Since I work out of a full studio, I either bring the talent in or direct and record remotely. Sometimes I’m given free rein on casting within character specs and other times it’s a process that requires final approval higher up from the initial talent auditions.
LA: Is there any difference in how you approach a video game assignment compared to an audiobook one?
SC: Yes, to an extent. Ultimately it all involves acting and performance that is appropriate for the material and the intended audience. Audiobooks still pull from the same acting chops but utilize a different skill set, because long-form narration is more of a marathon and video games generally tend to be a shorter session, but often more intense and vocally stressful. Ultimately both result in me in front of the mic, interpreting and breathing life into the printed words in front of me. That’s the grand unifier and where both the fun and the magic happen…
LA: Have you got any parting words or advice for the readers out there?
SC: I’m often asked by folks how to get started in voice acting and what they need to prepare for a career in the industry. It’s not a very short or easy answer so usually I tell folks to drop me a line and I can provide a few tips and resources. I get a fair amount of fan mail regarding that and eventually answer them all between work, naps and eating. Lots of eating. I always enjoy the interactions. My usual parting words to folks are: Be good and do good. Cultivate and share happiness!
Sean can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, or you can contact him through his website.
Sean Crisden and his crack team of talented voice actors will return in Shadowgun War Games! Beta is now open with limited spaces available — to avoid disappointment, sign up here.