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At the UFFSite Network were always trying to get ourselves great exclusives for our users to enjoy. This latest special article is a joint venture between UFFSite (Unofficial Final Fantasy Site) and RPGSite (Role Playing Games Site.) We had the fantastic chance to interview Kari Wahlgren, a voice actress who has been involved with not just one, but two Final Fantasy titles FF12 and Dirge of Cerberus.

In Final Fantasy XII, Kari plays the female lead Ashe, while she features in Dirge of Cerberus as the mysterious Shelke. All the questions in this interview have come from the UFFSite/RPGSite Staff, or people from our message boards. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions. Please refrain from reproducing this interview or any of its content without our written consent. Enjoy the interview!

Kari Wahlgren

UFFSite Hey Kari. Is there anything youd like to say to our readers?
Kari First of all, I want to take a minute to personally tell all of the fans who submitted questions: THANK YOU!! I was blown away by the great things you asked! It means a lot to me that you all like the Final Fantasy games so much - its people like you that make my job so wonderful!
UFFSite First off, I suppose it would be best to start where it all began how did you get the job of voice acting for the two Final Fantasy games? Did you apply for the job, or did Square contact you?
Kari I auditioned for both games through my agent's office. When they called and said that I had booked the Final Fantasy game, I was really excited! Then they called the next day and said, Congratulations! You booked the Final Fantasy game!" I told them that they had already called me and there was a pause....."Oh. This is another Final Fantasy game. You booked two." So it was pretty surreal!


"Final Fantasy is one of the "holy grails" of video game acting, in my opinion."
UFFSite Do you play videogames? Do you have any favorite games or series'?
Kari I'm actually not a gamer myself. I stopped at Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt! But I do try to follow what's going on in the gaming world, and my nephews love the fact that I give them free copies of my games!
UFFSite Had you heard of or played Final Fantasy before your involvement with the series?
Kari Oh definitely. Final Fantasy is one of the "holy grails" of video game acting, in my opinion. It was one of the franchises that I specifically wanted to work on in my career. I'd auditioned for a few other FF games and movies, but hadn't worked on one until now.
UFFSite Since your involvement with Final Fantasy, have you been inclined to play the games at all?
Kari I'd actually like to sit in a room with someone who's really awesome at playing the games and just watch them tackle it....I'd love to watch the whole thing like a long movie....if I tried to get through the game myself, it would take forever. I suck.
UFFSite Final Fantasy is the third best selling videogame series in the world. How does it feel to be part of that legacy?
Kari It feels great! Like I said before, it was one of the franchises I really wanted to work on one day. I didn't take it lightly! I'm really honored to have worked on a couple of the games.
UFFSite Final Fantasy XII has a small connection to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Dirge of Cerberus is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy VII. Did you learn about previous titles in the series to help you understand or get into the roles?
Kari I didn't have that luxury, unfortunately. But the clients and directors were able to give me some background on the world and its characters.

Ashe Shelke

UFFSite How did you record the voicing for the games? Were you given the script some time prior to the actual recording, or on the day? Did you watch the actual in-game scenes beforehand, or did you perform 'blind'? Was there any professional voice direction, or were you left to decide just how lines should be performed on your own?
Kari I didn't get the scripts beforehand, but I spent a lot of time in the first couple of sessions getting to know the characters and back-story. The games had two amazing directors: Jack Fletcher and Bob Bucholtz...they really did an excellent job in the studio! And since Final Fantasy was originally a Japanese game, we were able to see most of the in-game scenes as we recorded them.
UFFSite Did you record your lines live with the other actors in the same studio? A lot of people are impressed with the chemistry between the characters in the acting.
Kari Wow, that's cool! I guess we must've done okay then! We actually don't record together on video games, though, which is a challenge sometimes. There was actually a running joke between myself and another actor, because we had worked on dozens of projects together but we'd NEVER MET EACH OTHER!! In fact, we still never met during the FF recordings...it was only months later that we ran into each other at a recording studio. It was like, "Hey, nice to finally meet you after working together the last few years!"
UFFSite Ashe is fairly normal sounding, whereas Shelke is colder. Do you have any special methods for getting into character?
Kari This is definitely where a good director comes in handy; because they can be instrumental in helping you find the character. But other than that, I prepare differently for different characters.

With Ashe, I remember starting a Shakespeare class after the first recording session. When I came back for the next session, the director said, "That's it! You've nailed something 'regal' in Ashe that she didn't have last time." We ended up re-recording a number of lines. I'm always amazed at how much classical theatre training helps in video games!
UFFSite Was working with Square-Enix a different experience than working on Witch Hunter Robin or other anime titles? Or even Tales of Symphonia? Did Square do anything "special" to help your performance?
Kari Each project is different...the company doesn't change things as much as the people you're working with on the project...and the type of project....Recording video games is a much different format than doing anime or original animation...
UFFSite What did you think of Ashe's character development? Do you like the character much?
Kari I absolutely LOVED playing Ashe. She's one of those characters that I would be proud to have my niece look up to...or any girl for that matter. So often, female characters are portrayed as silly or stupid or weak.

Ashe is intelligent, diplomatic, and can kick ass and look good doing it, thank you very much!
UFFSite Can you relate to Ashe at all, and do you think she could do the same to you?
Kari Well, we're both blondes! And I like to think we're both the 'smart and sensitive' types...
UFFSite Do you have a favorite character in either of the two games?
Kari Ashe...definitely Ashe...
UFFSite Do you have a favorite phrase or line from either of the games?
Kari Not really, although a few of Shelke's lines about her being human/not human were really chilling and sad.
UFFSite Did any particular aspect of the game or character design impress you? If so, in what way?
Kari The overall artwork of Final Fantasy is just incredible! The two games I worked on couldn't have been more different, but they were both visually stunning in their own way. I thought Shelke's character design, in particular, was so striking!
UFFSite In terms of fun and general job satisfaction, how does your work with the Final Fantasy series rate compared to the rest of your career?
Kari I really enjoyed working on the Final Fantasy games. We were recording both of the games at the same time, so the schedule got a little bit grueling at times, but I'm so glad I had the chance to do it!

UFFSite Were there any real challenges or problems in the production?
Kari The character of Shelke was especially challenging. There was so much going on inside of her, but they wanted her to be very, very cold. Practically emotionless. So it took awhile to find her character; the clients and director kept saying, "Do less! Less! Feel less! Less Emotion!" So it was difficult. But I think it turned out pretty well; she was a cold character but so sympathetic...
Shelke Ashe

UFFSite What is your favourite aspect of the game in general?
Kari The artwork and character designs, definitely. The games are just beautiful to look at!
UFFSite Is there anything you didn't like about the games?
Kari I would've liked a little more resolution on a couple of storylines...
UFFSite Oh? Can you elaborate at all?
Kari I just thought they ended Ashe's storyline very abruptly. They didn't really say what was going to happen to her and the other characters... I would have liked a little more closure.
UFFSite How did you get on with the rest of the staff? Was there anybody you considered to be your 'best friend' during production?
Kari Yes. My microphone. We were trapped together alone in a dark room for hours at a time. We grew very close.
UFFSite Was there anybody you didn't get on too well with?
Kari Not really. One nice thing about voiceovers: you meet great people. I've met very, very few people in this business that I don't get along with. Everyone involved on these two games was just wonderful!
UFFSite I don't know if you're aware of this, but Final Fantasy XII is getting a sequel on Nintendo DS. Any voice work on the DS is a rarity due to size restrictions, but have you been made aware of the game? Has Square indicated if your services would be required for the title?
Kari Hmmm... no, I haven't heard about the sequel...but maybe if there's a fan uprising, they'll bring me back!! Let's plan a coup! Hooray!
UFFSite Did you hear about any other Square-Enix games that are in production while you were working on the games? If so, can you fill us in?
Kari No. They were pretty focused on the Final Fantasy games during recording...
UFFSite Did you meet or talk with any of the executives at Square-Enix?
Kari Only the clients working on my specific games. GREAT guys!! Just the coolest people you could hope to work with! And they really know their stuff; you can rest easy knowing that these folks sincerely cared about putting together the best FF product possible!
Kari


Oh, yeah I'd work with Square again... definitely.
UFFSite Do you have any more jobs with Square lined up?
Kari Not at the moment...working on games with Sega, EA and Bandai...among other kinds of v/o work...
UFFSite Do you have any final messages for our readers? Anything youd like to plug?
Kari For those of you who have dropped me e-mails, thank you!! For those of you who WANT to drop me an e-mail, you can through my site: www.kariwahlgren.net I try to answer all of my mail at least once, so bear with me if I haven't gotten to you yet...I will!

Finally, a few of you have requested autographed pictures or have Final Fantasy things you want signed. You can send them to me at my agent's address listed on the Contact page of my website. Just put "Attn: Kari Wahlgren" on the front and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (Be sure to put enough postage on!) I'd be more than happy to do it for you!
UFFSite Finally, do you see yourself working with Square or Final Fantasy again?
Kari Oh, yeah I'd work with Square again; I definitely hope to!
UFFSite Thanks a lot Kari, its been great. Do let us know if youre working on any more RPGs or Square games!
Kari I guess thats it! Thanks again for your questions and take care!