Bringing Cassie to Life: An Interview with Angela Morris

Bringing Cassie to Life: An Interview with Angela Morris

 

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I'm from a small town in Southern Illinois (think Kentucky south and you're close), where I grew up in the country with lots of animals.  

How did you get into acting?

I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who value the arts and are incredibly supportive of the path that I've chosen. I was exposed to great performance art, mostly ballets and musicals, from a very early age. When I was four, my mom enrolled me in tap and ballet. From there, it seems like the rest was a natural progression. I started taking voice lessons, then I was cast in my first musical, then I was doing at least two shows a summer, oftentimes in towns over forty miles away, then I was keeping it up through the school year, and I never really stopped.

I'm drawn to this profession because I get to tell and be a part of amazing stories. I love experiencing different lives, different ways of viewing the world. And, I'm a huge fan of the collaboration that goes into creating a piece, be it for theatre or voiceover. Working with creative people is a definite highlight of the process.

What are some of your hobbies?

I am a voracious reader, I've always got two or three books started. I'm a film and TV geek and spend what many would consider an unseemly amount of time watching movies. 

 

How did you approach the role of Cassie?

I started with the breakdown, which contained the basic essence of the character and the genre. The sides for the Cassie audition specified her independence and her sass and that the character existed within a horror game. It takes a very special type of person to maintain wit and sarcasm in a fight for survival. 

Then, I went to the text. I read it repeatedly, getting more of the character with each pass through. Word choice & punctuation informed my read immensely. Though I only had a few of the lines, they gave me an immediate sense of who Cassie was as a person. For example, despite this being horror, she was described as nervous only once within the sides. Who is that person? A badass, that's who. 

Once I knew who Cassie was, I recorded my interpretation of her.  It's easy to fall into the trap of second guessing acting choices. "Am I doing this right? Is this what the casting director wants?" Basically, "you do you" has become my mantra. Sometimes my read is right for the project, but oftentimes it isn't. However, it definitely won't work if I'm trapped in my head trying to figure out how I can be the perfect choice. Thus, after an audition, I try to let it go. However, I really, really wanted this one.

Once I was cast and received the script, I read over it top to bottom in order to refine my interpretation of the character. During this read, I learned that Cassie was blind and my initial impression, see "badass" above, was fortified. No wonder she was independent. She'd had to be. I also learned that she wasn't "just" a sarcastic woman, her words were bricks that she used to build walls around herself. And then, all that was left was to play, to put my stamp on her while doing my best to do justice to the amazing character that Amanda and Bill had created. And, of course, to listen to and implement the direction Jim Bonney gave me.

What sort of roles inspire you?

I'm always passionate about roles that take me outside of my own immediate experience. And, I'm especially drawn to complicated characters. Those who are strong AND vulnerable. The weak who are also brave. 

Cassie is that kind of role for me. I would never, NEVER take the journey she takes in the game, especially not alone and without the benefit of sight. Her self-sufficiency is inspiring. However, I empathize with her drive, the need to know, the need to figure out why this place is calling her. We all have a grail, but Cassie is actually able to take the leap and seek it out.

What are your favorite roles?

This one's really hard, but: Getrude in Round 5 of The Hamlet Project: Chicago; Charli in "Trash," a short film currently in post-production; Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; and Cassie, of course.

Who are your favorite voice actresses and why?

Jennifer Hale. If you get a chance, watch her animation reel. You can't tell it's the same person from character to character. Her control and versatility are absolutely astounding.  

Tara Strong. She's voiced some of my favorite characters: Raven from Teen Titans; Harley Quinn; and so many others.

E.G. Daily. Tommy Pickles, need I say more? And Babe the pig. I still tear up just hearing a couple of words.

What challenges did you face when voicing Cassie?

One of the biggest challenges with Cassie was not letting my fear of her situation creep in too much. Cassie is braver than I am, and upon occasion that fear would color my read. This is a woman quipping in the face of danger, not cowering. But, Jim Bonney would give great direction that clicked for me and off we would go, a defiant Cassie once more. 

Is this your first time voice acting for a video game? 

Perception is my first video game. I may have screamed a teeny tiny bit when I found out I had booked Cassie and Poppet.

Would be nice to hear how the medium is different for you. Or not. And how you experience it.

With theatre and film the world is there, though it may be bare bones, to interact with, to inform choices and help shape a performance. There's still a lot of imagination that goes into it, but for me, voiceover requires even more. For example, costumes provide a lot of information about a character. I'm not going to speak like I'm wearing sneakers when I'm shoved into a corset for a period piece.

With Perception, all I had was the script, no costumes, no partners to play with. It's up to me to do my best to construct everything in my head. Thankfully, Perception is  very, very well written and it gave me everything I needed to imagine myself as Cassie, making my way through this ever morphing haunted house. And, if I ever got off track, I had a great director to steer me back. 

Also, a nice perk with voiceover is being able to show up in a hoodie and not worry about whether my hair is being uncooperative.

All that being said, I approach any kind of acting as a world to be built and lived within for the duration of the project. Different tools are used depending upon the medium, but, for me, everything can be distilled to imagination and empathy for the characters and their journeys.  

Do you play games? Which ones?

I love RPGs and action-adventures. The first game that I really got into was Baldur's Gate on PC. I was way too young to get some, probably most, of the themes, but I was hooked on the exploration and the quests. Also, fun fact, Jennifer Hale voices Liia Jannath. And, of course, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64. I wore out the cartridge, but I still totally brought it and my N64 with me when I moved to Chicago.

My tastes haven't really evolved much from when I started gaming. I'm a big fan of the Elder Scrolls, and I almost exclusively play as a thief character.  Basically, if you give me a bow and arrow and locks to pick I'm good to go. Other games/series that I enjoy are: Fable; Assassins Creed; Arkham City; and Prince of Persia.

After I found out who made up The Deep End Games team, I picked up BioShock Infinite so right now I'm playing that. I will not, however, be playing Dead Space. I would never sleep again.

What's next for you? What are you working on?

Currently, I'm working on an independent feature called Less Than 30 that I wrote and in which I play the lead. We just filmed the last shot of the film and will now be heading into post-production. Up next for me is a voice project with VTECH Toys that I'm really excited about. And, of course, auditioning. 

Angela Morris

For a bonus interview, check out this video of Angela! 

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