An Interview with Actor & Musician Hayley Sales
If you’ve played Deserts of Kharak, then you were likely as riveted as I was by the incredible cinematics and voice acting. The ‘star of the show’, Rachel S’Jet, was brought to life by the multi-talented Hayley Sales, and I was excited to interview her and learn more about the experience of bringing Rachel to life, directly from the source!
How long have you been acting, and how did you get your start as an actor?
I fell in love with acting right around the time I started walking and talking. My older brothers would often sit me down to watch Star Wars, or The Goonies long before I probably should have and I loved every single movie I watched.
Before really knowing what acting really was, I started make-believing in our backyard in Washington D.C. Whether it be fighting off dragons, pretending I was lost in The Princess Bride or reenacting an I Love Lucy episode word for word, I just couldn’t stop. I loved diving into stories and into other worlds so much.
I started participating in theatrical productions in elementary school and began studying acting professionally in middle school on through high school at The Northwest Academy in Portland, Oregon. I really owe whatever happens with my career to my amazing parents, though. Without ever pushing me to do anything, they supported my drive, my passion. Driving me to every rehearsal, every class, every audition. I knew what I wanted from a very young age, and am so grateful they encouraged me.
Have you ever acted and/or voice acted for a video game before, and how is it different than acting for television?
I haven’t! This was my first time and I really loved it. I am a musician as well as an actress, so I’m quite used to being in the recording studio, but this was a very different experience.
I’d say the main difference is you aren’t working off other actors. When you’re filming a conversation for TV or film, you get swept away by the story, by the actor in front of you and by what is happening. When you’re working on a video game, you are asked to dive into each line and breathe life into it [while you’re] in a small booth with headphones on, looking at lines on a screen.
Another of the big differences is how much emphasis is placed on the tone of your voice. The slightest shift in the way you say a line can change the audience’s experience!
It was a different medium to play in and I really loved it. It wouldn’t have been possibly without the amazing direction of Rob, our director. He could answer every question I had about every scene and often play the footage of the game for me so I could understand the mood as we went along.
What are your thoughts on the Homeworld story and universe? How much did you learn about the game’s story before recording and filming?
I’m sure I know nothing in comparison to anyone who has played the games! But I did get to learn quite a bit while we were recording.
The world is so intricate and so fascinating, I’d love to know more. I feel like there is something to learn about the Homeworld story around every single corner. I’ve been a fan of sci-fi and fantasy my whole life, so the opportunity to be a part of this was really amazing.
Your scenes and dialogue are often very poignant, thanks in no small part to your acting skill! Can you tell us about the process of bringing Rachel to life, and how you were able to convey so much emotion into both the dialogue and the animatics?
I feel a bit like a broken record, so forgive me, but I owe so much to the director [Rob Cunningham]. He had such a clear idea of Rachel and who she was, her history, her story. He’d really thought her into a three dimensional, breathing person. It made my job incredibly easy really!
I would often close my eyes after I’d recited the lines of dialogue for the scene and picture myself in Rachel’s situation, whatever that might be. I’d let my imagination run wild, making sure I had a very clear idea what the stakes were, who I was talking to, what I needed to happen.
I guess it really wasn’t all that different from acting in a film…except I could show up in sweat pants with messy hair. Which was awesome!
Would you describe who Rachel is to you?
To me, Rachel is an incredibly smart, incredibly passionate woman who, despite being hardened by the world she lives in, retains an optimism and sensitivity, a sense of humor…and a whole lot of heart. She has an almost a childlike admiration for science and the world around her and never gives up, whether it be a resolve to find a solution, or a resolve to win.
I loved getting the opportunity to play her for these reasons. She was strong and vulnerable, scientific and sensitive, all these things at once. I guess that’s what makes a character real and not just a character. To me, at least.
Can you tell us about the filming of the animatic scenes and the recording sessions? We’d love to know both your thoughts on the experience and any details you’d like to share about the process, who was involved, etc!
For the recording sessions, we’d often be in the studio for three to four hours at a time. They’d have the conversations with my dialogue highlighted and either printed out or on a big screen in front of me. I’d go into a room and put on my headphones while the director and engineer would be on the other side of the glass window giving me feedback and filling me in on the story, and what was happening. A lot of the time, they’d had some footage of the game for even more context. Then we’d just go through the pages of dialogue, sometimes going over the lines multiple times, sometimes moving along really quickly!
For the animated sequences, we filmed them in one night at BBI’s studio with the whole team. They’d have the particular moments that they wanted to capture and we would really hone in on specific movements. It was exciting to finally get to use my expressions and body language to convey some of the story, some of what I think Rachel was going through! And, I couldn’t believe how amazing the animation looked. They had even started working on animating my face and features during the filming process and I got to take a peak. Such amazing artists working for that company [BlackBird Interactive]. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
What was it like working with the BBI crew? Would you be interested in participating in future Homeworld projects, either official or fan created?
Absolutely fantastic. Everyone was incredibly creative, talented and supportive. They created such a vivid world, it felt easy sliding into Rachel’s shoes. The director, Rob, was in the studio with me every session, and I had the best time picking his brain about the details and story.
And yes, most definitely. I would work with the BBI crew again in a heartbeat. And I found the world so fascinating I’d be more than open to participating in other Homeworld projects!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about either yourself or your work?
I will be releasing my next album later this year! Keep an eye out for it! Otherwise, I’ll be popping up in films and TV here and there throughout the next couple months. I always post about them on my Twitter or Instagram. Most importantly, thank you so much for the interview. Really great questions. And thanks for enjoying and playing Homeworld. So happy I could bring Rachel to life for all of you.
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