Note: This is an email interview I conducted in November 2014 with Kezia Burrows, who provided her likeness and motion capture for Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation. This has only been published on the Perfect Organism Podcast official Tumblr.
P: How did you first hear about the game, and what was the audition process like? What interested you in the game?
K: I was called in for an audition through the same company, Side, that had previously cast me in Remember Me. Auditioning for video games is the same process as any other acting audition. Kate Saxon, the director of Alien: Isolation, is a highly respected theatre director as well as vast experience with games, so she manages the audition process with a great balance between the very real character & the skill of the physical embodiment that motion capture requires. I read some scene, talked about the character and worked on the pieces with Kate and Cheryl from SIDE. It was a very cool audition looking back; it’s always nice going in for something that is bucket list material and that you feel fits in with whom you would like to portray….not that I’ve been in the presence of that many Aliens to know how much i’d enjoy that aspect ;)
P: You mentioned briefly that you primarily did the motion capture for Amanda, but also did minor voice roles, with the majority being handled by an American voice actress. What were your recorded dialogues like?
K: When I was initially cast I was voice, along with likeness/motion capture/expression and it was a gift to be all of it through the filming… Much like a film, we did a table read with all cast and crew followed by rehearsals then filming. Much later in the process, after I had wrapped on recording, an American actress was brought in for authenticity. In terms of my voice, I do breathing and painful sounds, as far as I’m aware. I’m gonna have to play the game to find out. One of the trailers I worked on was a lot of fun, adding the breaths and anguish. I’ll have to record my own Welsh / British accent ;)
P: Have you met Sigourney Weaver or any of the original cast? If so, did they offer any advice to you?
K: It was great working with William Hope (Ed. note, the actor who played Gorman in Aliens worked on Isolation as Marshal Waits.) He is a different character to the one he plays in the film for obvious reasons. He was great, not only as an actor but relayed some anecdotes of his time filming Aliens. I Have yet to meet the other actors, much like Amanda Ripley. Maybe Sigourney will leave me a voice note one day, so art and reality blur.
P: Even though it is a picture of Sigourney’s actual mother, Elizabeth Inglis, do you think the photo of the elderly Amanda in the Aliens Special Edition looks at all like you (or anyone in your family?)
K: You know, if I break the lovely ladie’s face down, I can see all sorts of similarities with my family. I looked back at a photo of her in her younger years, and think I am more similar to Sigourney, but to be honest, this is all wishful thinking on my part as they are both a compliment. Another highlight of being immortalised in computer form is reading some of the people players think I look like.
P: How immersed are you in the Alien franchise (were you a fan before you got the role?) and how important was it to you to preserve the Alien canon and vibe through your story as Amanda? Or were you aiming for something different?
K: I am a big fan of the horror genre & am passionate about film. I’m actually going to resist going into the detail of why this franchise is my favourite, as I fear I will never do it justice or articulate it in the way it deserves– and also risk boring you with stuff you already know, but, in a nut shell: I revisit these films over and over, find new details, never get restless, and I have to mention it’s just THE best female protagonist of all time :) I just wish I had an Alien egg to watch it in!
P: Did you have any input in what became Amanda’s character?
K: During the audition process, Casting see how you as a performer/person can mix with the character they are wanting to present, so really the writers/director already feel quite comfortable with you as that person, so I felt very comfortable to bring my own ideas and instinct to the shoot days. We had a lot of chats about Amanda, and really cared about portraying her how she deserved and the fans of the films deserved so it was a collaboration, as any character you were given the gift of playing should be. Justifying the dialogue/setting/circumstance so you are confident with your choices, largely down to a great director who will guide/let you feel free and of course the writing, not forgetting we know her mother preeetttttyyyy welll so that was a great pot to play with. I felt very attached to Amanda and proud to take her on, sometimes I think, what would Amanda do?
P: Are you excited at possibly reprising your role as Amanda?
K: It would be great to reprise Amanda, there’s no better world to survive in!
P: What other games have you worked on, and have you had any bad experiences while working in the gaming industry?
K: I have been very fortunate to work in the game industry as a performer, it’s a growing but there aren’t many of us. My first job was doing the motion capture and expression for the bond girls in 007 Legends. From there, I took on the role of another awesome female protagonist: Nilin in Remember Me. Along the way, I have done a number of other cool projects and games with mainly motion capture. In all honesty, I have not had a bad experience. It’s a different set up in some ways to being on a film set/television set. For me personally, I love it, the computer geniuses/yourself/someone on skype quite possibly/rest of crew are all in the same space working together throughout the day. Occasionally it can get a tad cold, as the camera and lights need to stay a certain temperature and because of the size of a volume you need a big space, but you just jump around, put a bodywarmer on, have a coffee, etc. To me, it adds to the whole experience. It’s very hard to pick out something negative as the suits, no makeup, minimal set, are all bonuses for me to loose inhibition and really use imagination. Let’s not forget the action stuff is brilliant fun too.