Katy Townsend Interview
Suvi Anwar in Mass Effect: Andromeda
How did the opportunity come about for working on Mass Effect: Andromeda?
KATY: It kind of came from the beautiful abyss! The audition for Suvi - then only referred to as enigmatic ‘Science Officer’ - came through my agent. Many months passed after we’d submitted and I’d forgotten all about it - then the job offer came out of nowhere! In development, video games operate under secret names and you often don’t find out what the project is till you accept the role (crazy, I know!) I didn’t actually find out what the game was till I showed up for my first VO session! When I discovered it was ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’, I was freaking out! Especially when I started getting to know my character, Suvi. She’s a true gem.
What is one of your favorite moments as Suvi Anwar, if you had to pick?
KATY: Ohhh – Just one? Too many to choose from! For me, Suvi possesses all the nuances of a beautifully complex soul. Her quirks and subtle reactions to uncertain situations breed some of the most adorable moments scattered throughout the game. There’s a real purity to her character that’s incredibly endearing. Suvi approaches everything with the most honorable and sweetest of intentions and as a logical, intellectual thinker, she often takes things literally and misses the odd joke or two… It’s pretty cute! All of her awkward, flirty exchanges with Sara are precious, her legendary rock-licking reveal is particularly memorable to me, along with all the playful banter between Kallo and Suvi! That stuff totally cracks me up. Their offbeat friendship’s one of my favorite things in the game.
What aspects of your character, Suvi, do you also have in common personally?
KATY: Suvi takes in her surroundings with such childlike curiosity. She thrives through discovery and is enamored by the intricacies of the universe around her, never taking her existence for granted. I’m very much that way myself – a curious soul, forever seeking deeper meaning in simplicity and a greater sense of purpose. I’m a bit of an explorer and have traveled around a lot. I relate to Suvi’s appetite for knowledge, along with her blazing desire to burst out of her small bubble into adventure! I left my wee ‘bubble’ in Scotland to explore something greater than myself, as did Suvi. She’s wildly passionate and science is her raison d'être. My own creative passions ignite my soul in a way that gives me something to hope for – and ultimately exist for. For me, creation is fundamental to existence. For Suvi, the science of her creative existence essentially leads her to a higher power. She describes her God as an ‘artist’ and ‘inventor’ – and although I’m not religious myself, those reflections speak to me somehow. When she falls for Sara, she falls hard! Just like Suvi, I’m a hopelessly hopeful romantic! All that gooey, mushy stuff gets me going. Haha.
What was one of the toughest parts of becoming this character?
KATY: Suvi’s highly academic and an expert in Science – I’m not exactly that. Haha. Wrapping my tongue around all of that delicious scientific jardon was a challenge for sure, particularly because it was a cold read and we didn’t get to see the script in advance! Parts of Suvi were emotionally confronting - she misses her family very much and her pain in parting with them resonated deeply within me which was challenging in a different way. I left my entire family behind to start a new life for myself in America, not too dissimilar from Suvi’s journey to Andromeda. We both made harrowing sacrifices for our greatest passions. I felt really connected to Suvi in those vulnerable moments - a credit to the writing of Sheryl Chee who did a phenomenal job creating this character. Those raw glimpses of absolute authenticity are some of the many reasons that Suvi is so special to me.
How hard was it to keep this role a secret while working on Andromeda?
KATY: Ha – tricky indeed! As with every cool new project, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, whisky in hand! I’m so proud of the projects I’ve worked on so it’s hard to keep it zipped, but you get used to it. It’s just part of the job. I often do a wee happy dance behind closed doors and pour myself a quiet scotch to celebrate! That usually suffices until I can spill the beans.
Photo Credit: Dana Patrick
How did this role in Andromeda compare to some of the other voice over work you have done?
(Fallout 4, Ingress, Adr1ft...)
KATY: All the projects I’ve been lucky enough to work on have been pretty diverse. Keeps things fresh! Andromeda is unlike anything I’ve experienced before and Suvi is unique to any character I’ve voiced before. I adore her, she’s definitely one of my favorites. I’m drawn to characters with great depth and there are certain similarities between roles: Suvi and Cait (Fallout 4) are almost the antithesis of one another. However, both are strong, fearless women and empowering in different ways. Suvi possesses intellectual strength, emotional courage and philosophical grounding. Cait is a fierce, dauntless fighter who has been hardened by her struggles and battles with her past, but those things ground her. I had to access different sides of myself for both those roles. Adr1ft was my first experience with VR so that was pretty cool. It’s this melancholic journey of isolation and self-discovery. Really beautiful. Ingress is its own animal – totally different to everything else I’ve done. Much of its content comes from guerrilla style recording on the go versus traditional booth work on games like Andromeda and Fallout 4. And now I’m branching out into animation - that’s a whole new adventure. Never a dull moment and I hope to keep it that way! :D
Photo Credit: Dana Patrick
What did you think of the new Mass Effect universe that you were brought into?
KATY: Woah! It was a wee bit overwhelming and totally thrilling – a compelling next chapter to the original series. Who doesn’t want to be part of a new adventure into the unknown? This universe is completely unfamiliar, uniquely fascinating and undeniably flawed – but that’s part of the charm for me. The experimental aspects of the game add to the excitement and are something to build from. Although there’s gigantic boots to fill, I think there’s a lot of potential for this new series. It’s a crisp canvas - there’s tons to do and much to be developed. We follow atypical heroes who are inexperienced and flawed - they have a long way to go, with an entire cast of new pals to build relationships with, each with their own distinct challenges. Choice plays more of a significant role in this game, often with repercussions. Also, there seems to be a broader emotional spectrum in this new chapter – I love that. Some of the content is lighter than in previous games so in certain ways, it feels like the most human of the Mass Effect series. I’m excited to watch it all unfold.
Did you play some of the series previously and/or after landing the role in ME: Andromeda?
KATY: Absolutely! The original series is legendary! Just brilliant. After I was cast, I jumped into ME 2 & 3 right away and fell in love with the Universe. I’m not skilled at shooters so it’s taking me a wee while to learn the ropes – haha – but it’s fun as hell. Several characters in the original games stole my heart along the way – I found myself drawn to Jack’s sexy, brooding darkness and captured by Liara’s other worldly allure. The storylines and characters have always been the most gratifying part of these games for me and BioWare always seems to excel with its progressive character development, impressive writing and stellar voice acting. I’m definitely a fan and it’s wild to be part of this new chapter. But yeah, the stakes are pretty high!
Photo Credit: Dana Patrick
How did you originally get involved with voice acting for video games?
KATY: Well, gaming was a huge part of my life as a wee lass – so there was an interest there to begin with. But things have come a long way since my hand-me-down Sega Master System days! :D When a friend brought me along to E3 Convention about five years ago, my mind was blown and I got swept up in the mad passion of it all! Shortly after that, I got lucky with a game called Ingress and there was quite a bit of voice work involved in that project. It’s an ARG - not your typical gaming experience and was an unusual way to enter this niche. A lot of our work was done on location at ‘XM Anomaly’ events and combined both live action and VO. After an unconventional start in gaming, I gradually I began doing radio commercials, audio books, weird little art projects and more games! I love to dabble! With creative stuff, experimenting is just so important – that’s often where you find the magic. For me, passion projects are just as important as those bigger gigs that pay the bills.
What other projects can we look forward to seeing (and hearing) your work in? (That you are able to talk about.)
KATY: You know, unfortunately those NDAs have me sworn me to secrecy on most things! But I’m juggling a few really cool projects right now - games, pilots, films and suchlike. A wee bit of Virtual Reality stuff too. My character Silvi Timberwolf just debuted in the new ‘Monster High: Electrified’ movie - that was exciting as it’s my first role in an animated film. I usually keep my social pages up to date with news – if folk fancy keeping up with me on there, they’ll be the first to know! I’d love to connect!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KATY: I’d just like to take a wee moment to thank the Mass Effect community for embracing me into their family. It’s honestly been so lovely and unexpected. I feel ridiculously inspired by my gamer pals – truly some of the funniest, kindest and most brilliant people I’ve ever met. That kind of enthusiasm is electric – it’s infectious and incredibly uplifting. This whole thing has been surreal! I’ve suddenly found myself with more friends to nerd out with than I could have ever imagined! It’s a mad adventure and I love being part of it.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us!
KATY: Likewise! I really love what you guys are doing – and thanks so much for taking a wee interest in me. I’m so grateful. Hope our paths cross again soon! ☺
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