After having spoken with Kira Buckland, the voice of 2B in NieR: Automata, I had the opportunity to talk with Kyle McCarley, who had work in NieR: Automata as well. Kyle is the voice actor behind 9S from Automata and Alm, from Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, two of the greatest games of the last year. You can also known him to be the voice of Shigeo Kageyama in Mob Psycho 100 or Shinji Mato in Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works.
Here’s our interview. You can read it in spanish here.
In your last works you have had the opportunity to play Alm from Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and 9S, from NieR: Automata. Was difficult to play such different two characters? Wich one was harder to play?
In terms of the vocal placement, both characters sit basically in my natural speaking range, which is kind of the trend lately, particularly in video games: natural voices. So from a technical standpoint, the voices were easy, because I wasn’t putting on any sort of character voice or dialect or anything.
From a creative standpoint, getting into the shoes of the characters and bringing them to life, this may surprise people, but I’d say Alm was probably the more challenging of the two. 9S goes through absolute hell throughout the course of NieR: Automata, and there were sessions that were vocally stressful (one took me out of commission for a couple days) from the primal rage he expresses late in the game, and he goes on an emotional roller coaster that kind of took me all over the place, but from the start of the very first session, I just got Nines.
His personality was incredibly easy to slip into, because it was so similar to my own in so many ways. Happy and quirky and kind of joking around — that’s me most days. And then, obviously, later on, you take that personality and all of the horrible things he’s uncovering and the loss he’s experiencing and he transforms into something else entirely, but that transformation, from an actor’s point of view, is also easy to tackle because you get it. It makes sense.
Now, for Alm, I struggled a little bit in the early goings, because I wanted to throw a little bit of that cocky swagger in, the quirky jokester, and Wendee Lee (our director) and John Ricciardi (one of the localization writers on both of these games) had to reel me in and tell me, “That’s not Alm.” Alm’s a hero; he’s not the kind of guy to joke around or brag about the fact that he’s winning a fight, he’s pure hero. There are plenty of other characters in Echoes that’ll crack jokes, but that’s not Alm. So I had to wrap my head around that in the first half-hour or so of that first session and make sure that we were getting the stoic hero in the recording and that all the quirky jokes only happened between takes.
In both games we found two important relationship. Alm and Celica in Shadows of Valentia and 2B and 9S in NieR: Automata. Could you see they paired with someone else?
Alm and Celica, to me, are like Robin Hood and Maid Marian. That relationship is unwavering. I know in some other Fire Emblem games, the player kind of gets to decide who to pair up, but with these characters, there’s no way they could’ve done that and have it make any sense. Alm and Celica Forever.
2B and 9S’s relationship is obviously a lot more complicated. I don’t think either one would ever hold another… uh… android… in any higher esteem than they hold each other, but it doesn’t seem, to me, like their relationship is a romantic one. Not yet, anyway. I think on a certain level, they’re still too young, mentally speaking, to really understand that form of love. They obviously love each other very deeply, but I think they’d need to be able to just hang out with each other for a good long while without running around killing machines or having their memories erased before they could grow up enough to develop a romantic kind of love. I doubt I could get behind them pairing up with anybody else, either, but they’re not really paired with each other in that way yet. It might be fun to see what’d happen if they ever got the chance, though.
In your career you have dubbed a large number of characters, both in video games and anime, what is your favorite type of character?
That’s a pretty tough question to answer, because variety is the spice of life. Being able to play a whole lot of different types of characters is what makes it fun. I love when I get to play a really twisted villain, but if that’s all I did, it’d get boring really fast. Same thing with an altruistic hero. And, of course, I love when I get the chance to do zany character-y characters, that are just really cartoony and wacky, but if that’s all I’m doing and I never get into the gritty realistic stuff of substance, I’m gonna end up pulling my hair out.
So my favorite’s probably whatever’s different from the last thing I did. If I had to pick something specific for you, I think I’d say the most entertaining stuff is somewhere in the grey area; characters that are three-dimensional, well-developed, and either they’re a “bad guy” that you completely understand their reasoning for doing the terrible things they do or they’re a protagonist with lots of baggage to unpack or something. And no matter what kind of character I’m playing, if they serve a purpose in a great story, I’m happy.
Speaking of this, is it very different to put voice in anime or video games? In which of the two media do you prefer to work?
Anime and video games are often very similar, thematically. From a technical aspect, they’re a little different, because anime you’re always trying to match the “flaps” (mouth movements) and making sure what you’re saying fits what’s already been animated, and with video games it’s almost always recorded “wild” (without any video to match) and the character’s movements are made to fit around your voice.
Thematically, though, compared to western animation, which is basically either made for a young audience or slapstick comedy for grown-ups, anime and video games both play in a wide variety of spaces for a wide variety of audiences. Some of it’s really dark and definitely not for kids, some of it’s light and goofy, some of it’s slice of life drama, some of it’s romantic, some of it’s action-packed, it kind of goes all over the place. So I like working in both mediums. I’d say the projects I get the most excited about are the ones that I know I’m going to enjoy as a viewer or a player. Everybody’s got their own tastes, their own genres they like to watch or play through, and I’m no different, so I’m most excited about getting to work on the kinds of shows I like to watch or the kinds of games I like to play.
I’ve been following you on Youtube and Twitch for a long time, you do such an amazing job there. It’s amazing to see a voice actor playing his own games, you even dubbed the NieR concert with Kira! What do you think that bring this type of videos to the players? Do you plan to continue doing it with your future projects?
Twitch has been a lot of fun for me. I like being able to interact with fans, especially with a game as special as NieR. I actually just got done taking a little break from it, though, because it got to feel a little too much like a second job, and sticking to a schedule with my broadcasts was taking away from the fun of it. I’m back on there now, but the approach I’m taking is going to be a lot less structured.
It’s just going to be, “Oh, hey, I have nothing going on tonight, I’m gonna jump on Twitch and play a game I feel like playing,” instead of, “this Tuesday night, tune in for me to play more Fire Emblem,” because sometimes I don’t feel like playing Fire Emblem, I feel like playing Overwatch or something. It’s been a trip playing through games I’m in while fans watch and chat with me, but now I’m kind of transitioning into just playing games I feel like playing, and the community that’s formed can still hang around and keep me company while I do that. I’m sure I’ll still play through some of the games I’m in on there, because I’m a terrible narcissist and I want to see how my work turns out, but that’s no longer the driving force behind the Twitch channel for me. And the YouTube is basically just there for people who have an aversion to Twitch who want to watch the stuff after it happens live.
I kind of feel like I already addressed this one in my answer to the first question, so I’m gonna go on a bit of a tangent instead. I could tell NieR was something pretty special when we were working on it, and I felt warm fuzzies after every session (even the ones that wrecked me emotionally). But I had no idea it would become as big of a phenomenon as it did. I don’t think anyone expected that, really. John told us he thought it’d be pretty big, just based on the cult following Yoko Taro already had and the addition of Platinum Games, but I don’t think even he knew just how many people would end up falling in love with the game. And it fills me with so many more of those warm fuzzies knowing that I got to be a part of something so beloved, and that I got to help tell a story that was so beautiful.