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In the four years since Felicia Day launched The Guild, the hit web series about online gaming, she’s cemented her reign over geek culture by starring in the last several episodes of Eureka, writing Guild comic-book tie-ins, and acting as an Interactive keynote speaker at SXSW 2011. While the average schmoe might not recognize her, Day has worked on more dream projects than most high-profile actors. Her most recent is Dragon Age: Redemption, a web series based on the role-playing game. In the meantime, the fifth season of The Guild just wrapped up on October 11, and Day is making frequent stops at comic conventions across the country. Before heading to New York Comic Con, Day sat down with The A.V. Club to talk about voiceover work for videogames, onscreen stabbing, and The Guild’s recent guest stars.
The A.V. Club: When EA approached you about collaborating, did you already have the idea for Dragon Age: Redemption in your pocket?
Felicia Day: Actually, EA approached me about working together on a project, but nothing specific. When I learned the Dragon Age universe could be available, I lobbied hard for that to be the property I would work in. It’s one of my favorite games.
In the past, I had the idea to do an assassin-type female character as the lead in a fantasy novel, but when I was allowed to work in the Dragon Age universe, I threw all my preconceived notions away. I went back and studied the world, the types of companion characters they’d created, every drop of lore they’ve shared, and I took my inspiration from there. I wanted to make sure anything I brought to the project was faithful to what they’d established, because it’s one of the richest fantasy worlds out there now.
AVC: Was the initial offer for both writing and acting?
FD: The arrangement was always for me to create a web series from scratch using the universe, writing and producing and acting as I do on The Guild. The downloadable-content portion they created, which became Mark Of The Assassin, was always part of it as well. To me, it was an amazing opportunity to tell the story of a character between media in a way that hadn’t been done before. I would use the word “transmedia,” but it’s become co-opted as a catchphrase word that irritates me, so I won’t.
AVC: How does writing roles for yourself, like Codex in The Guild and Tallis in Dragon Age, differ from writing roles for co-stars?
FD: It’s always hardest for me to separate myself as a writer from myself as an actress. With The Guild, Codex is always the character I have to rewrite the most. Luckily, I got some key backstory from the game team, and that informed how Tallis was defined, and allowed me to treat her very third-person. It was a really great experience. Creating the secondary characters is always my favorite part of writing. Each step of the way with this project, I asked myself, “Is this a character I would want in my game party?” If the answer was yes, I knew I was on the right track.
AVC: You’ve mentioned that this series will be something the web hasn’t really seen before. In what ways, exactly?
FD: Well, there aren’t a lot of properties based in fantasy worlds. On web-series budgets, it’s very challenging to build a world from scratch. We had a limited budget on this project as well, but the script attracted some key crew to pitch in, like our DP John Bartley, production designer Greg Aronowitz, Flash Film Works [an L.A. visual-effects company], and director Peter Winther. They all have enormous résumés and experience, so it made taking my impossible script and making it possible. We did everything we could on our budget to bring the world to life. I’m very excited for people to see it. It was an 18-month process, and I put my heart and my soul into it.
AVC: The last time you spoke with The A.V. Club, you said you would love to do something where you get to kick people in the face. Did you give your character any face-kicking in Dragon Age?
FD: I do more stabbing than anything. But that’s funny you should mention that, because it was a goal of mine, and here we are. Four months of fight training and working out taught me a lot about what action heroes do, and boy, do I admire them more now. I did get hit full-on in the face with the butt of a sword the week before we started shooting, so if it looks like I got my lip done, I did. Just the hard way.
AVC: You star in an independent film called Rock Jocks due out next year. With a majority of your résumé being in television and the web, was it difficult to adjust to a lead role in a feature?
FD: Every single job is a challenge. You are walking into a new set, a new character, creating a world and trying to get comfortable to do your best work. Luckily, I’d worked with a lot of people on Rock Jocks’ crew before, so it was a comfortable transition. The movie was actually shot on the stages we used for Dragon Age. It being a lower-budget movie, I didn’t find the pace we were shooting much different from the web projects I do. It was just a bit more relaxing to know I could just act and not worry if we were running behind on the day, or if craft-service delivery was late.
AVC: You’ve talked about horrible rejections from casting directors, which motivated you to just write your own parts. With people coming to you with projects like Dragon Age and Rock Jocks, which was written with you in mind, do you think you’re passed that point of having to create your own jobs?
FD: I believe you are never past the point of creating opportunities for yourself. Right now, people are aware of me, and writing parts for me, like on Eureka, which is an absolute dream come true. But who knows? In two years, everyone could have forgotten about me. Moved on. I have little control over that. This is a very fickle business, especially for women. At the end of the day, I know if I continue to make my own opportunities, then I’ll be fulfilled. I don’t need millions of dollars. I need to know that what I’m doing with my life is expressing who I am, and maybe making people happy. This is all we get. Make the most of it.
AVC: You recently did voice work for Guild Wars 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. How does voice acting in a game compare to live-action work?
FD: Voice acting is very different from live-action. You only have one tool to convey emotion. You can’t sell a line with a look. It’s all about your vocal instrument. The subtleties of really great voice actors are hard to appreciate until you get thrown in and do it yourself. Also, the actors don’t memorize the lines, they read them, because there are 900 of them to do in two hours, so the skill of reading and acting is an interesting one to balance. But I loved my experiences with those and Dragon Age. Doing voice work is also great because you don’t have to get your hair done, which I despise, which explains a lot of my Facebook tagged photos.
AVC: This season of The Guild has seen exciting cameos, like Doug Jones, Neil Gaiman, and Stan Lee. Was it difficult to land any of these big names? Were there any you couldn’t get?
FD: I only had two scheduling problems with people I reached out to, but no one turned me down. It was a happy accident that Neil Gaiman happened to be in L.A. the weekend we were shooting, and overall, everyone was extremely enthusiastic to show up to the set. I was hyper-conscious of shooting their parts quickly and letting them go early, but no one ever complained. They all were gung-ho to be in the show. We’ve come a long way over four years, from my garage to Stan Lee. Wow.
AVC: Do you already have ideas for future seasons?
FD: I always start each season thinking it will be the last, dealing with writer’s block, self-loathing and tears, etc. But when I finally get to the last scene of the last episode of every season, something always comes to me that could possibly continue the story in a new and interesting way. It’s the same with this season. So if we get picked up again, I do have a season six. Just not season seven. Not yet.