You might be more familiar with her work in Overwatch, voicing Mei, the chirpy cutie-pie with the irritating icewalls and ice-blaster, constantly telling you not to run away in mandarin. We had the opportunity to speak with her at GameStart 2018. Similar to the persona that she voices in Overwatch, Elise is very bubbly and get this, she’s a huge foodie! As you can tell from the video above, she totally has a fun side and was very accommodating with our requests. Check out our interview with her below!
I understand that you majored in chemical engineering. Voice acting is quite the departure from that. What attracted you to pursue this line of work and how did you get into it?
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was in college and was searching for some (voice acting) training course. I took a course and my mentor likes me a lot, He thought that I had some potential and gave me a lot of opportunities. After I graduated and got my master’s degree in chemical technology, I became a voice actor after that. For Overwatch, that came about through collaboration. My company works with Blizzard a lot so I’ve been in World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard felt that they needed a voice actor that could speak both english and mandarin. They figured that since I have a master’s degree, I would know how to speak english. They asked me to come for the audition where they had 5 or 6 other girls and I got the part. I’m so lucky because Blizzard created a character that was just like me. If I had auditioned for a character with a different personality, I might not have gotten the part.
Do you play Overwatch and is Mei your first pick?
Yeah, I play Overwatch like 3 times a year (laughs)! I didn’t really play video games before getting the part in Overwatch because I’m so bad at playing games. I keep dying so I didn’t enjoy it (laughs). I had some requests from my fans in China, to stream myself playing Overwatch, which I did it a couple of times. At first I played as Mei but it didn’t go well because when I’m shooting, I like to go forwards and backwards like this (rocks back and forth) and then ack, I’m dead (laughs). Sometimes I play Lucio because I can just fly all around the place, don’t do nothing and just play around. That’s better (laughs). I also play Junkrat because I don’t have to aim. I just throw all the bombs out there. Mei, not so good (laughs).
Do you find it weird hearing your own voice when you’re playing Overwatch while using Mei?
Not really because you kind of get used to it. When I watch TV, I get to hear my voice as well so I’ve gotten used to it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered while voice acting the part for Mei?
There are some words that I have trouble with like ‘Antarctica’ and ‘Objective’ (laughs). I remember having to do like 20 tries just to get 1 good take.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve had while voicing Mei?
That would be the time when I was doing the “Rise and Shine” cinematic because it was so emotional. My recording sessions often begins at 9 am because of the time difference between Shanghai with US. I do my recordings in Shanghai. It’s kind of early and I just woke up, so I normally get myself into character by cheering myself up. On that day when I was recording the cinematic, I went into the booth, it was all so really sad, it was a surprise for me. I actually practiced how to cry at home but it turns out I didn’t need to cry so much because Mei is a brave and optimistic girl. I love that cinematic. Thank you Blizzard!
How was the journey for you like, in getting the part for Mei?
I had to go through 2 rounds of auditions. For the first one Blizzard told me that she is a scientist, she is happy most of the time and is curious about everything. We didn’t have an image of Mei so we didn’t know what she looks like. They gave me a paragraph of a little story in english. We read that paragraph, recorded it and sent it back to the US. They then picked some of the girls to call back. At the 2nd round of auditions, I was competing with another girl from another country. I got the part because Mei’s personality is just like mine. I didn’t have to change my voice or do anything that wasn’t already natural for me. I can’t say that it was a tough job for me except for the english part.
What do you think is the biggest difference between voice acting for games and voice acting for movies?
For voice acting in movies, you have to be as natural as you can be. You don’t want people to think that you’re acting. For video games you need to exaggerate a little.
Has your work in Overwatch created more opportunities for you career-wise?
Yeah I think so, especially in China. For english voice acting, I don’t think I can do many characters because Mei is a chinese hero. My english is not good enough. In China, some producers want voice actors who are famous to help their games. Because of Overwatch, I’ve managed to get a lot of opportunities like that. I’ve also gotten a lot of opportunities for english voice acting in China. I don’t know why, but they seem to view me as someone that can speak fluent english, but I’m not. There are also some game companies that have a hero that do the whole freezing thing and they want me to voice that.
Any tips you’d like to share for people who are aspiring to be professional voice actors?
I didn’t have formal training on how to voice act in school so I don’t know actual theory, but my mentor told me that you have to observe the people around you. All kinds of people. Observe how they talk, how they react to any action and remember that feeling. Also to observe and remember how you act or react in real life, like the way you laugh, cry, etc. Remember those feelings and use it in your auditions and recordings. That will help a lot. Sometimes when I’m crying, I’ll suddenly go, “Oh! That’s how i cry. ok ok…” and then I’m not sad anymore (laughs). You have to learn from real life. You can also observe by watching the best cartoons, the best movies to learn how those characters talk and react. That’s how I learnt.