While at MomoCon 2018, we were lucky enough to be part of a panel interview with the talented Chloé Hollings from Overwatch fame. Here’s what Chloé shared with us and the rest of the audience.
Would you mind giving us a brief introduction, name a few of your most notable roles?
I'm currently doing Widowmaker in Overwatch. Recently I've also been in an indie mobile game which has won various awards and nominations called "Bury Me, My Love". It's an interactive game that I love. Voice acting-wise, I live in Paris, France for those of you who don't know that, so the industry is a little different over there than in L.A., and what I do mostly as a voice actor is commercials and documentaries, a couple cartoons, and a bit of dubbing; living in a country where most movies are in English and they need to be dubbed into French. Yeah! So that's for the voice acting. And I write and do other things.
First, I just wanted to thank you for coming out. What was it that first made you take an interest in acting?
Acting... Just acting? So, when I decided to become an actor, I was undecided between studying psychology and studying acting. And basically I wanted to explore these two fields for the same reason: I'm fascinated by human behavior and human beings. And I decided to go into acting because I felt it was the best way for me, given my personality and the way I like to experience thing, the best way for me to explore humanity in the most precise way.
Now, how did you get into voice acting?
Well, I didn't get into voice acting from there, I actually started as a child. I was voice acting, so my father's French and my mother's English, and I was born in Paris, and I speak both languages. So as a child I was recording since the age of like 8 or 9, I use to record educational methods for people learning English. So that was just a fun little hobby thing to do as a kid, and a little money, it was fun! I had no intention at the time to turn it into a great career thing. But when I think about it now I realize that doing that was like the best training ever. Cause most of the time these educational things, they don't have huge budgets, so they'll hire like 4 or 5 actors who are meant to play like dozens of characters. So rapidly I was expected to at a very young age change my voice tone, do little girls and little boys, and teenage girls, and sometimes like older women and sometimes fictional characters and animals and stuff and as the years went by I just got better and better at it, which you would if you were doing this all the time, and I decided to become an actor it just felt natural to continue developing in the voice acting industry.
When you got the role for Widowmaker, was it for English or French? Because I know you do both.
I do both. But when I auditioned, it was for the English version. And then... I could have actually not got the French, I had to audition for French as well, even once Blizzard approved me in English. Yeah, I started in English. The only reason they came all the way to Paris to find Widowmaker was because they were looking for someone whose French was spotless.
Has your approach to voicing Widowmaker changed at all since the game's release, and do you have a favorite line that you do for Widowmaker?
Interesting question! I don't think my... you mean, since it was released? like what could have changed?
Like for voicing different skins or updates has your approach to voicing Widowmaker changed at all?
No, I think it's just got much more fun. Because I use to be very very self-conscious. When I started acting [as] Widowmaker, basically when I auditioned, I felt like this was not a character that I was able to play at all because I just couldn't see myself as... I'm a warm, bubbly person! I didn't see myself as pulling this off, I didn't see myself as this confident woman. So I was really like, I felt like I was really trying really hard to pretend. It was like, you know, when little girls wear their mum's shoes or something. And since the game was released and there have been more and more recording sessions, I just now feel comfortable that 'Oh! Ok, she's there.' And I can just have fun recording her.
So when you're given a character how do you approach to voice that character?
So to me, whenever someone asks like advice for voice actors, I always say train as an actor. And so I do exactly what I would do if I was on a film or in a theater play. I just concentrate on all the information that is given to me on a character and I rely a lot on the text. One of the things I love about Overwatch is that the writing is exceptional. In just these little bits of texts you get so much personality, and so much about everything that's going and everything that, it comes from somewhere so deep in the character that it's very very helpful. So basically yeah, I rely on the text. And then there's a lot of physicality going on so it's not the same as shooting a film because no one sees me which is really liberating. Like at first you know I was saying I didn't feel confident enough to be Widowmaker in my sneakers, so I would actually come with my high heels and try to, like I could never be seated in recordings, I was always standing like just to get this punch, this thing that she has I thought I lacked.
I was wondering, when you voice Widowmaker between English and French, do you have any differences in the way you do her? Like with inflection or tone based on language differences?
Well, that's actually tricky, so... When I record the English version, I record it from scratch. I just basically have the Blizzard team on the line and we have a whole conversation about what's going on and then I deliver the line, and so sometimes that takes like several, several, several takes. When I'm doing the French one, I just hear what has been approved by Blizzard and then I straight away go into it and try to recreate the energy. So, sometimes I'll hear myself with a certain inflection in English but in French, if you do that same inflection it doesn't mean the same thing, like the dynamic of the line doesn't come through, so that can be tricky. The other difference is mainly that when I do her in English I have to put on a French accent and when I do her in French, I just speak French. So I'd say maybe French Widowmaker is closer to Chloe's voice, whereas English speaking Widowmaker, there's a difference.
Did you expect the Overwatch community to be as big as it was? (Chloe: NO.) Because I know you've done skits with Sombra's voice actor that have like millions of views and outside the game itself people still are loving the voice actors, what was your reaction to that?
So my reaction is wonderment... I'm not a gamer, I've never been except when I was like a teenager and I'd play a bit of Crash Bandicoot and stuff like that. But I've never really been into this community so first of all, I discovered this whole community. As a professional actress, you feel very humbled and grateful that 'Wow! All these people are taking interest in one of the projects you're actually in!' But it's also allowed me to discover a lot more about this community. I mean, to be completely honest I was probably one of these people that use to think ' You know kids should be outside more' and things like that. I didn't really get it but what I have come to understand through discovering the Overwatch community is that people can connect in a way through this game that is very very real, very authentic, that they have this space where they can completely be themselves. They build friendships that are like for life, and so yeah, it's made me open my eyes to things I thought I knew but didn't.
What would you say has had the biggest impact on your career? Support-wise or influence.
So I'd say, that's an interesting question... I'd say there's someone who's become a really good friend of mine but before was an acting teacher that I met when I was 19, and he's always been there and I love his teaching and I love his method, and I've assisted him in several of his shows when he was directing and yeah, his name is Jordan Beswich. His presence throughout all these years in my professional and my personal life has kind of really really helped me. But a person that I really look up to a lot but that is actually an artist who is dead now is Niki de Saint Phalle, I don't know if anyone knows her, she was a woman artist in like the 60's and 70's in France, she's half American and she does art that has no limit, she was always making these huge pieces of art, sculpting and everything, and she helped me a lot at a time when I was, without noticing, limiting myself and making myself small and yeah, her work encouraged me to like break walls and go as far as I could.
What advice would you give to other actors or those who want to get into voice acting or that field of work?
So, take good acting classes. I think that's the basis of it all. In a way, I think it's more important than voice itself. I think the voice will always follow if the energy is there, um, I feel like once you connect the right dots something just, I don't know, comes out of you. I'd also recommend using the tools that we have at our disposal today which we didn't when I started as a voice actor which is like the internet, and vlogging, and Instagram, and all these things, you can actually just promote yourself and get people to hear what you do. I remember seeing an interview of Elizabeth Gilbert a few years back; she's the author of a book called Eat Pray Love, and she was saying "You always hear of people who want to become writers but are so afraid that anyone will read what they're writing, like they don't want anyone to read it. And it's like no, if you want to write, you HAVE to make sure everyone reads what you write. Even if you're not 'there' yet." And I'd say the same thing, if you wanna be a voice actor, the number one thing is you're going to be heard. So put yourself out there.
So would you rather do voice acting in English or French?
Oh! I'd say it's the same to me. Generally speaking, I prefer acting in English because the language itself is much more physical I'd say. French is a very intellectual language, I don't know how to explain it otherwise. But you can feel it, I don't know. But it's shorter, punchier, you can get a lot said with very few words in English, which is not something that is possible in French. In French, you have to have like long words and long sentences and so, I don't know, it's less dramatic.
If you could voice any other hero in Overwatch, who would it be?
* Laughs * Ok, um, so this is probably just a fantasy, so I'm not saying I can actually do the voice, I will state that I believe that every actor in Overwatch is the best actor for their character but I would like to say [Zarya voice] "I am the strongest woman in the world". I could do Zarya.
What's something you're passionate about outside of acting?
I guess I'd have to say, I'm passionate about food! I love food. And I'm passionate about writing, which is another part of my career. But basically, it all sums up I'm passionate about people. I love people, I love talking to people, I love reading about people, I love reading their stories and journeys, yeah.
What are the major, if any, differences in voice acting in French and in English, not just language-wise...
Most of the great, great cartoons and like.... are American companies based in America or in London and even in the movie business... Basically, you have a wider range of interesting projects in the US and the UK which you don't have in France. I'd say that's the only difference cause then, well I mean no, it is the only difference but then you have a lot of consequences because it means in the US and UK you have a lot more actors than in France. So when I'm in France I think I have a lot less competition, for example, than I would if I were living in an English speaking country. But then I also have less opportunity to be like, in a Blizzard game, which was a complete accident. Had they not written a French character I would never have been working for Blizzard. And it wasn't even something I could put on a wishlist because it's not around in France.
Because you've started to work with Blizzard, has it opened any doors for you like in terms of being in the video game industry or working in the industry in America?
Not yet... yes... well, actually it has and it hasn't. On a personal level, it has opened so many doors, right? I'm here today! I've been traveling, and every time you travel to a convention you meet someone and everytime you meet someone there's always an opportunity for growth, whether it be on a personal or professional level. So it's been great in that aspect.
I think it would open many doors like if I decided to live in LA, actually, I'm sure it would. But for the moment it hasn't. It's just given me this great, great opportunity to travel a lot, meet a lot of my fans, and all that.
You mentioned that you're a writer, what type of books do you write?
So I've written, I've published a body-positive memoir and it came out in 2016. And it's called, it's written in French, "Fuck les Régimes!" which translated to... 'screw' diets. And it's about everything that happened after I decided to stop dieting and wanting to be thin.
A question I like to ask all the Overwatch actors and actresses is, how have you been able to be a hero outside of your voice?
Aw! Well, by writing a book haha! I get a lot of fan mail from women who've experienced, who've had very bad experiences with their bodies and feel very self-conscious and harmed by the look that society has over them. Yeah, I guess... But also just being in Overwatch, kinda makes you a hero because you get to hear all these stories every day of people who look up to you in times when things are difficult for them, which is very satisfying. One of the great experiences I've had regarding Overwatch was when I went to Blizzcon in 2017 and we went, the whole gang, met a Make a Wish child, and it was just, mindblowing to realize the impact that this game had on this child's life who had been in hospitals a lot and just on his own and struggling through cancer and, yeah it's extremely humbling and kind of... I don’t know, it was an amazing event.
So I know Carolina has a channel where she uploads skits, would you consider doing that as well? going outside of your comfort zone? I know you like to write, but, would you consider doing more for the Overwatch community?
How can I answer that question... for the moment, it hasn't, it doesn't feel natural to me. It doesn't feel natural to me so I hadn't really considered it. But I might! Who knows.
What is your favorite part of the Overwatch community? What's your favorite thing about it?
Community... yeah. Another thing I've discovered at these conventions and meeting the community, other than everything I've already said, is again, I wrote a whole book on 'Hey, I'm allowed to be whatever I want to be and I don't need to fit into this tiny square!' What I LOVE at conventions is I will meet people who just, cosplayers? I am just fascinated with cosplayers! People who just love a character so much they will just dress as this character, just be it, and I find that amazing the way that, yeah, fans are just people who have a lot of love and I really like these people who let themselves be truly vulnerable in front of us. I always smile to myself when I see someone and you can tell all they want to do is come and speak to me and at the same time all they want to do is run away from me because it's creating all of this emotion and everything and that's really brave! All these people from the community are just very, very brave people.
I know Widowmaker has been in a bunch of animations, is it different voicing for just the animation as opposed to the game?
Well, it always is when you're telling a story rather than a situation like the in-game voice lines. Just, you have to get the energy of what is going on in that specific moment. It's more like film when you're doing like a short. But it's always the same components. 'Ok, who am I, who am I speaking to in that specific moment.' so yeah it's different and it's similar.
How did you find your Widowmaker voice? because I know you mentioned the high heels and standing and stuff, and did you have inspiration from someone?
So when I started doing Widowmaker I was doing a bit of commercial work at the time as well. And I remember I was looking for the voice I would need to do luxury perfumes. I had this idea in my mind that if I wanted to do luxury perfumes I would have to go like the, be like [sultry French voice] 'Dior’, so when I was asked to audition for Widowmaker, I went straight to that, like, what if this were a perfume ad? And then one thing that helps a lot, [whispers] this is stupid... when I do Widowmaker is that, I see her like a cat, sometimes, when she's like [sing-song voice] ‘I see you' when she's like ready to jump. So, there's the high heels, the cat, yeah, and then the luxury perfume, and then it all kinda like blended into the voice.
Despite playing such a powerful femme fatale, Chloe Hollings exudes a kindness and warmth that settles eager fans' beating hearts. Some questions she seemed quite ready for but the smile that would appear on her face when being posed a question she hadn't considered was quite charming. As a treat for fans, she posed with nearby voice actor Chris Parson to throw a few lines out before posing for pictures. She seems to delight in talking with her fans and while not a huge gaming nerd herself, very much appreciates the community supporting her.