We have all seen a dubbing of a project or game in our lifetime. To be more precise: we’ve heard it. This is thanks to the actors of each country who lend their voice to the various characters we see on screen through voice-over. So we had the opportunity to talk to Iris Tsimbri, who voiced Abby from The Last of Us 2. We talked to Iris and she gave us a lot of information about dubbing in games, movies, and on why not many games get translated. But let’s take a closer look at what she said.
Some information about Iris
- Hello Iris
- Tell us some things about yourself, Iris. What do you do besides Voice Acting?
“I am an actor. I graduated from the Greek department of Philosophy and at the same time I graduated from the Drama School, Athenian Stage. At the moment I work as an actor in television and theater and as a voice actor in dubbing.”
- Have you ever done voice-over for a video game? We would like to know what your experience was with the recording conditions.
“My first job was The Last Of Us 2. Great production and a game that everyone was looking forward to. So as you can see I started from very deep! I did the role of Abby. I really enjoyed going to this job and I had a lot of fun, although voice-over for a role with so many battle scenes and intensity is quite demanding. We did the dubbing at Studio Sierra and with our director, Giannis Katsaros, we worked very well and I think we managed to make something good. And I thank him because he was the one who “introduced” me to the world of Voice acting and I’m happy to work with him.”
- Apart from video games, have you done or would you like to voice-over other projects? (eg television, cinema)
“I’ve done voice-over for cartoons as well. This summer, in fact, the Disney movie Raya and the Last Dragon was released, where I did Namaari. Tell you what, I love animation too: it’s fun. In the past I also did documentaries. Each of these genres has its own requirements, but they are just as good.”
A few words about the production
- What is the procedure you follow in voice-over? There is definitely a pre-production process. Are there any guidelines from the directors that you are invited to follow?
“Of course there is the director, who will initially put you in the ‘mood’ of the project and tell you what you need to know about the character you are dubbing. Something that people may not know, is that the actors don’t get to read the text before-hand, so we basically see it prima vista at the time of the recording. The collaboration with the director and the information he gives you are very important. He will give the guidelines and the mood of your character every time. Beyond that, the part of the acting, the performance, the style and the emotional state of the hero, that is the work of the voice actor.”
- But in general, what is the most difficult part of a voice-over? Is the performance of each character difficult or easy for you? Because I think this is in the hands of the actor in relation to the character.
“It depends on what you dubb each time. Is it for example a kids animation, is it a video game, is it a movie? Etc. Each has its own peculiarities. There were battle scenes in, say, The Last Of Us 2 that were very demanding. They had screams, sounds of wrestling or drowning, for example, that had to be heard realistically, but without the actor being able to make the corresponding movements in the studio. Of course, all this must be done within a certain time. Or ‘pick up’ your phrase to match the hero’s time and movements. For this reason, the experience you gain every day you do this job is valuable.”
The Last of us 2
- Now I would like to ask you a few things about The Last of Us 2, which is one of the biggest titles of 2020. The Last of Us Part II lasts about 25-30 hours, which is quite long in duration. Therefore, there would be a large number of “lines” that you would have to record during voice-over. Did the process make you tired or did it help you get used to the character you play?
“Indeed, it was a project long enough in duration, if I remember correctly the recordings must have lasted about 10 to 12 months. Look, I think the more time you have with a role, the better you can learn it and perform it. I want to say that from time to time, I came closer and closer to Abby and with each recording that ended I thought about what I should fix or do differently for the next one. And as time went on I felt more and more confident about how I should do it.”
- This is a shocking game with an intense script that plays with the player’s psychology. Was it difficult for you to render the dark themes of the script?
“This is exactly what excited me about the script of this game. The fact that it forces you to take the place of the other. From the beginning I felt sympathy for Abby, because I understood the reasons behind her every move. Someone who had identified with Ellie’s side, for example, may have seemed like the bad guy in the case, but she was right. Justified.”
The intense image of the game …
- We see intense realism in the game. You are often called upon to kill people rather than monsters, who in fact play an important role in the plot. Abby is one of the main characters. How did the brutality of the game affect you? Were there any scenes that “bothered” you or were they difficult to render?
“Indeed, some of the game’s main characters were killed suddenly, and that kept you anxious about the fate of the heroes throughout the game. On the other hand, this would unfortunately happen in reality in war. Violence in these games is always intense and the truth is that there were scenes that I shivered while we were compiling them. There were also emotional scenes that were very moving, between Abby and Owen or Lev for example. You enter the world of the game and sympathize with the hero when he sees a loved one dead. You have to express this emotion in your voice as well. The Last Of Us was a game with many such emotionally charged scenes.”
… the bold characters …
- The Last of Us Part II is distinguished by intense internal battles of the characters and for its emotional script. Do you think that the decisions and actions of the characters are rendered correctly through the script? Were there times when you disagreed with Abby’s actions?
“As I told you before, when I started learning about Abby and her story, the reasons that led her to make the decisions and the path she took were clear to me. I think if we look at things from her side, we will understand that It feels like someone has unjustly lost a loved one and why he is seeking revenge.The nice thing about the game is that the stories of the two protagonists are almost the same. They both lost a beloved paternal figure, they both seek revenge, while at the same time they both develop love and friendship relationships with people around them.
Like all of us, that is, they have their dark and light sides. The pain that leads them to battle and their need to protect the people they love. And Abby does that. She chooses to help even people from the opposing team (Lev and Yara), ties with them and protects them until the end. So I think it’s a really complete role, it reminds us that we all have good and bad in us, and we have to decide how to handle it.”
… and identification with the world …
- This particular game builds a (largely) complete world. Do you think that you can achieve, through Abby, that you are part of the world portrayed in The Last of Us Part II? Did you identify with the character you play?
“Yes, and the fact that the recordings lasted a long time also helped. And let me tell you – as time went on I liked her more and more (haha, I know some people will not agree with me). Sometimes I even saw her in my sleep. You really become part of a whole world, and that shows how well designed the game is.”
… provoke strong reactions!
- The Last of Us Part II was definitely a controversial title. Most fans did not appreciate especially Abby’s character and her role in the plot. For this reason, Naughty Dog and lead director Neil Druckmann received strong criticism. Were you somewhat affected by the negative reception of the game by the fans? Do you think the criticism had any basis or was it unfair?
“Look, as I said before, the point is to have the composure to see the story through the eyes of each hero. That’s why I think The Last Of Us 2 is quite different from other post-apocalyptic games. It reminds us that in the end there is no good and bad, but people who hurt, love, hate and try to do things as best they can. It is very easy to say ‘oh, I’m with them or the others’ and split into camps. But in real life it is not so. Everyone has their own story and which ‘team’ you will be in is random. And I think that was what put some players in a ‘difficult’ position, in the sense that they had loved and identified with one side in the first TLoU, and now they were called to see the story through the eyes of the opponent (Abby).”
“This is not easy, because we humans generally feel better when we belong somewhere, in a group, on a ‘side’. For some, grouping is even a way to gain an identity. So admitting that in the end there are no good and bad, but everyone has their reasons for what they do, disproves many of your views. Of course, the extreme events of some gamers, especially in America, who went so far as to send offensive and threatening messages to the actress who played Abby, I consider to be unjustified. They just show that some people are not able to understand the meaning of the game and prefer to be fanatical.”
Raya and the last dragon
- At this point I would like to ask you about the side of cinema. You recently had a voice-over in the Disney movie, Raya and the Last Dragon. How was your experience during the compilation?
“Raya also was recorded in Studio Sierra and the director was Maria Plakidi. Maria is an experienced director, and we worked very well together. Kid animations are something totally different. The strange thing is that here too we had two female protagonists fighting with each other, each trying to defend her family and her kingdom. Reminds you of something;”
- You were again one of the main characters, Namaari. Do you think that you have succeeded in rendering the character correctly? Was it more difficult for you to portray a character in a movie that is aimed mainly at children?
“Yes, they gave me the ‘bully’ again. I do not know if they want to tell me something! More or less, the ‘difficulties’ are the same for all the roles, as I said before. Just yes, when it comes to children’s movies, they definitely want more liveliness, more color in the voice, etc.”
But the plot?
- Raya’s plot, style and general character, however, differ greatly from that of The Last of Us Part II. Would you rather work on a lighter Disney script, or a darker Naughty Dog? The transition of voice-over I imagine would have some difficulty …
“Raya’s recordings were made much later than TLοU 2, so there was no problem with the transition. I was very happy with both projects. Each one gave me different things.”
- In contrast to the compilation of video games, the Greek compilation in the cinema is much more widespread. Which of the two projects do you think had the greatest difficulty and which one did you perform best? Which of the two offered the best experience for you?
“To which did I perform best… In both, I hope! However, in both I was lucky to work with experienced directors, with many years of work behind them, so I learned a lot. The truth is that voice-over, is a job that is learned in practice just like the theater, after all.”
The future of dubbing
- With the globalization and spread of English, there are fewer and fewer people interested in Greek translations. What do you think is the future of Greek translations and voice-over? Do you think that the quality bar has been raised, and in relation to that, how are the salaries?
“Since the work is done by actors who have the sense of interpreting a role, the quality is good. In general, in Greece I believe that voice actors do a very good job. Now, as far as how many people are asking for dubbs, I think this need especially for children’s projects will not cease to exist, and this is happening for many reasons. And practical, let’s say children can not so easily watch the project reading subtitles. Also, it is beneficial for children to listen and learn their language through the fun experience of dubbing. I honestly learned words as a child that I still remember through the Notre Dame de Paris and Hercules kids movies! So it is good to hear Greek at these ages. And it is even easier for them to identify with a hero who speaks their language.”
Dubbing and why we do not see more of it
“But I want to dwell on the part of finance that you ask me, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to say something very important that has been happening for some months now. Today, with on-demand online platforms growing and promoting compiled movies and series, the issue of the performance of online rights has arisen. What is happening is that foreign production companies do not accept a legal right of compilers. In other words, they are not given an amount as a right for the online distribution and screening of the movies and series, which they have compiled. This of course does not only happen with voice actors, but also with musicians and artists in general whose work is sold by production companies on online platforms.”
“For almost a year now, Dionysos (Organization for the Collective Management of the Rights of Greek Actors) has been in the process of negotiating with the production companies. The goal is to secure our online right to anything compiled that goes up on these platforms. However, this process is not easy, as some production companies refuse to recognize this right of ours.”
“For this reason, the Union of Greek Translators (ENEM) abstains from the recordings until the request for the return of our rights is satisfied. This is something that needs to be made known to the world. Many voice actors, who for years gave their voices to heroes we loved, have been forced to stay out of work for a very long time. In fact, in times where it was harder, in order to defend a right which in the future will become more and more imperative, since streaming platforms seem to be gaining significant ground.”
“You understand that voice-over is something we love, we who do it and try hard to improve it every day, but also those viewers who enjoy it. This should not be done to the detriment of artists and their rights.”
- If you were given the opportunity to do another voice-over, would they accept? Are you working on something else at the moment?
“Dubbing and voice-over is something I love very much and I hope I can continue to do it. Last summer I was playing in a show in Athens, and now that the new season has started I continue for the second year the radio show “Unboxing” that I have with my friend and colleague Marianna Rappou, on La Vita Radio. Radio is also something I love and one project that I would be very interested in is starting a podcast.”
- Iris, we would like to thank you for this information and for being able to see inside some things about the games we play. We wish you only success.
“Thank you guys!”
It was a very interesting interview about the world of voice-over which apparently is not very rosy. In addition to the originality that a game can have in the language which it was created, translations also play a role of compatibility with younger audiences. In the end, everyone simply plays in the language that they want. It is even better though, if people want and can enjoy it in their mother tongue. May the problems of the actors be solved and may we have many more translations in small and big games.
You can find Iris on the following socials:
Writing questions: Kostas Nikolaou, Greta Giatsou
Edited by: George Makridis