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Interview: Melinda Cohen (Voice actor, Velvet Assassin)

Melinda Cohen, the voice of Violette Summer

At the 2009 New York Comic Con, I was able to ask a few questions of Melinda Y. Cohen, the voice actor and promotional model for the main character of the Xbox 360/PC game Velvet Assassin, Violette Summer. Here’s a synopsis of the game, courtesy of SouthPeak rep Aubrey Norris: “Velvet Assassin is a hardcore stealth-action game set in World War II. It’s about a female British agent who is sent out to run various missions to undermine the Nazi regime. The game is based on the true story of a real ‘velvet assassin’ from World War II.”

To begin, how did you first get into acting, and how did your career lead to this job on Velvet Assassin?

Wow, that’s a good question. I’ve been acting for pretty much my entire life. I went to a private school where we concentrated a lot on the arts and theatre and that kind of stuff. So, I’ve been acting ever since I can remember, really. In terms of this job, I moved to L.A. about a year and a half ago and my manager actually got me an audition for this. Originally it was just to represent the character at conventions and to do some actual live footage – we did a day of shooting for promotional purposes – and then I sort of ended up doing the voiceover work for it as well. It was really exciting for me because I got to do it in English and in German.

Is this your first work as a lead on a video game?

It is the first time I’m represented in any sort of video game, yes.

How does voice acting differ from traditional acting?

I mean, voice acting is different because you have a lot less to work with in order to communicate something that the character is trying to communicate. If it’s an emotion or a thought, you have your voice as opposed to using your whole body or your face. So you’re in a sound booth and you’re just implementing what you can do with your voice to emit those feelings.

You’ve been playing some of the early builds of Velvet Assassin here at Comic Con. How does it feel to play as yourself in a video game?

It’s really strange actually, because I’ll hear myself and for some reason it doesn’t sound like me. I mean first off, it’s a British accent and I’m American, so I obviously had to put some work into being able to do that properly. And since I haven’t spoken in a British accent in so many months since I’ve done the recording, it seems almost like its someone else, but at the same time it’s me. It’s all very strange – but kind of cool, too, and I really like playing the game. I just wish I was better at it.

Do you play video games at all yourself, or is it strictly business?

Honestly, I used to play video games when I was a teenager, but I don’t play as much now – it’s mainly a time thing. But it’s been really cool being involved with Velvet Assassin. It’s rekindled my interest in the gaming world.

Do you have any plans for more video game roles in the future?

Yeah, I mean, whatever comes along. I think it’s definitely a market that’s going to be huge. It’s up and coming and people are using video games as a medium in a lot of different ways. I think it’s extremely fascinating to be involved in that.

On that note, right now video game acting isn’t really its own distinct profession, and often gaming roles are filled by stage and film actors. Do you think that as video games struggle to be accepted as an art form, video game acting can separate itself from stage and film as a distinct art?

Yeah, I mean it’s very different. Obviously, video games are animated, so as an actor, there aren’t really that many things you can do besides doing voice work and motion capture work and that kind of stuff. I think it’s really cool when they mix live-action stuff with parts from the game, so you can get a little bit of both. But I feel that a lot of hardcore gamers don’t like that. They like it to be purely animated, purely video game.

What has been your favorite experience in working on Velvet Assassin?

Well, the traveling has been great. I was fortunate enough to go to Germany with Velvet Assassin for a convention in Germany and to Seattle and now obviously to Comic Con. So that’s been really exciting, just meeting all these people. It’s this enthusiasm about games and people showing up in these crazy costumes. I’m not generally exposed to that world at all.

For the benefit of the readers: She showed up in a crazy costume too, but then again that’s her job.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s funny because when I walk to the convention, I wear the costume, and I know that people are looking at me and thinking, “Oh God she’s one of those gaming people!” [laughs]

And finally, what tips would you give to aspiring video game voice actors?

Oh, what tips would I give? Don’t give up, in anything you do really. And yeah, if you want to do it, then stick to it, and it’ll happen sooner or later.

Thank you very much for your time Ms. Cohen. Best of luck with the release of Velvet Assassin this April.

Thank you very much.

EDIT: I accidentally wrote March as the game’s release date instead of April. Sorry.

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