Misty Lee was the voice of Ninth Sister in Jedi: Fallen Order and Leia Organa in Battlefront I and Battlefront II. She also provided voices for Star Wars: The Old Republic and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Misty answered a few questions via email for this interview.
What was your introduction to Star Wars?
Was introduced to Star Wars via Empire Strikes Back – it was the first ‘real’ movie I ever saw – and remember crawling around on a theater floor during the movie with straw papers stuck in my ears to allay the loud space ship noises. (I wasn’t the best behaved child.)
Do you have a favorite character from any of the Star Wars films or TV series? If so have your favorites changed over time?
Have always been partial to Han, Leia, Yoda, and Vader. The order in which I’d rank them as favorites changes, but they’ve always been my top four. Still are. Ninth Sister is on that list now, too. So now it’s a Top Five.
What are some of your favorite roles and projects from your career so far?
I adore sassy, brassy, competent broads. Shocking, I know. 😉
So: Favorite characters? Uh, LEIA! *grin* Also loved playing Daisy for Agents of Mayhem, Red Sonja, and Freya on the Lego City Adventures series. Loved playing Envy in Darksiders III, too. That bird voice isn’t processed – it’s all me. *grin again* Oh! And Kabae on Aggretsuko! There are so many. Am thrilled to say I’ve never played a character I DISLIKED, and they’re all a favorite in a way. Am a very, very lucky girl.
What was your first voice acting role?
I *think* my first VO role was a nurse in Batman: Arkham City. Man, that was terrifying.
Why did you want to pursue voice acting?
Upon arriving in LA, I was working only as a magician. Our friend Eddie G. saw one of my early shows advised me to take some classes at Second City (GREAT advice). While I was there, characters kept pokin’ out in our performances. My husband Paul (who has a strong background in cartoons) and a few other people saw potential and acting range, and they suggested considering VO.
So I took some classes, and MAN – some people are terrified being in a booth with “nothing but you”, but after Second City – where all you have is each other – I actually came to really dig acting on mic and creating characters/scenes with nothing but my voice. In addition to loving VO, the idea of a SIMPLE workday – WITHOUT loading and hooking up a trailer, coordinating staff schedules, teching a show then performing it, loading it all back up again and unloading it at home base was REAL sexy… and still is!
Your first Star Wars role was actually many roles in the game Star Wars: The Old Republic. What do you remember from that experience? Did you have a favorite character you voiced from that project? Did that work lead to your work in Battlefront I?
Battlefront (Leia) may have recorded first, but regardless – I very much enjoyed SWTOR. Tora was hands down my favorite in that game – absolutely LOVE her sass and spice. Also based her swagger on Carol Ann Susi, a VERY dear friend who is sadly gone now, but lives on (kind of) in Tora.
SWTOR and Battlefront were completely separate projects. SWTOR was lots of original character work, while the Leia gig was considered a ‘voicematch’ job: they sent out a script with audio reference and several lines to ‘match’. and auditioned a lot of women in LA and New York to try and get as close to Carrie’s sound as possible. The delivery in Battlefront morphed as we worked on it, though – although Leia will always ONLY be Carrie Fisher to me, because of the situations Leia ends up in in the games, Battlefront Leia’s lines are very much a Carrie/Misty hybrid.
Was it intimidating to voice a character so beloved by Star Wars fans and so closely associated with the actress who originated that role?
Leia, in my mind, is only – and will always only BE – Carrie Fisher. Was very grateful for the privilege of playing the role, but until the game comes out you can always be re-cast, so I just considered it a job, was grateful for the chance to play Leia that day (because again, there are never any guarantees you’ll be in the final release), and wanted to do the best I could that day – so I was happy and only a little nervous at first. AT FIRST.
About halfway through the recording session though, the line, “Good luck – and may the Force be with you.” popped up on the screen. I had been pretty ‘fine’ until that moment… but as soon as that line appeared, I FREAKED, and started to hyperventillate. Right next to the line was an image of Carrie in the buns and the white dress (The hero I admired as a tiny! The HALLOWEEN COSTUME I lived in as a kid!) – and the gravity of what was actually happening – HELLO YOU ARE PLAYING PRINCESS LEIA TODAY – made my brain start to melt. I couldn’t BREATHE.
Fortunately the directors couldn’t see me – they had called in from off site, so I could try and hide my panic. In order to get a chance to regain composure I said, “Hey, can we take a quick break?” and one of the directors unmuted their mic JUST in time for us to hear their child shouting, “I SAID I HAVE TO GO POTTY!” – and all of a sudden, everything was totally okay. It was a great reminder to just be in the moment RIGHT NOW, that none of this is all that serious – it IS entertainment, after all – and I was immediately able to settle right back in to just doing the best I could while appreciating the character Carrie’s fantastic work helped make an icon. It’s strange, but it kinda felt like Carrie was there saying, “Just do it, kid. You got this.”
When you returned to play Leia in Battlefront II was it easy to slip back into that role?
Yes and No. Battlefront II was a MoCap role, which means I was in the dot-suit running around a volume, and my movement was recorded too. So a/ That’s a whole different layer of study, learning how someone sounds AND moves (I am convinced Carrie did that Leia head tilt because it pulled the bun away from her ear and allowed her to hear) and b/ I got to run around inside a videogame, and everywhere I moved, PRINCESS LEIA showed up on a computer screen doing everything I did. Do you know how cool that is?! I have never been more honored or excited IN MY LIFE. Also, there was quite a bit of discussion on how ‘thicc’ Leia was in Battlefront II – which means my big ol’ bottom is now part of Leia’s canon. *big, sassy wink*
Your most recent Star Wars role was Ninth Sister in Jedi: Fallen Order. Was it a nice change to voice a character that was both on the Dark Side and had never been voiced before?
In the Star Wars universe, for me, there is no ‘nice change’ – there is only gratitude for being part of it. Was playing a Dark Side character with that level of history and badassdom a privilege? YOU BET. Voicing Ninth Sister was a HUGE deal. She’s incredible! I mean, Darth Vader put her eye out. Sixth Brother cut off her leg and left her for dead with Storm Troopers… and she lived to fight on! Total badass!
Ninth Sister and I are also connected because we’re both well-versed in reading body language (Reading people is one of her superpowers, and I studied with the body language/truth wizard experts at the Institute of Analytic Interviewing), so in many ways she feels like a familiar old friend. On set, they paired me up with a real-life badass MoCap actor (TJ Storm) who really made her leap off the screen, and TJ and I became friends, so in addition to being a joy to play, Ninth Sister genuinely changed my life for the better. And let’s not forget that she’s also a pretty big girl – so I’ve had the privilege of bringin’ the ‘thicc’ to BOTH sides of the Force! *huge grin* I really love me some Masana Tide. F’real.
How long does it usually take to record your work for a video game? Are you usually alone in the recording booth or do you ever get to work with other actors?
Both of those answers depend on the game. Battlefront I took two sessions (about a total of eight hours of recording), I think. Battlefront II and Jedi: Fallen Order were different, because they were motion capture roles. That means you have to memorize your lines, go in for rehearsal (with brilliant director Tom Keegan on both games. He is ALWAYS a joy), and learn your scenes as you would for a play that’s being watched in the round – cameras are recording 360-degrees all around you as you perform, so it’s a very unique circumstance. After your rehearsal day, you go back to actually shoot the scene – and a scene that would have been recorded in a few minutes in booth can take quite a while, because they’re recording EVERYTHING – your face, your voice, the movement of your little finger – EVERYTHING. And they’re recording those details on every actor in the scene. It’s a lot of detail, and a lot to do.
Recording just the lines in a booth for a game is usually done one actor at a time. Mocap roles like the ones that I described are typically full-company, meaning you’re working with the other actors ‘live’ for each scene. Speaking of which: Can I please give a massive shout out to the mighty Cameron Monaghan? Because Cameron is a fantastic actor, a real-life badass, and a wonderful WONDERFUL human being. Our director on Fallen Order (Tom Keegan) always creates safe spaces where actors can be vulnerable and do their best work, but boy – Cameron really brought it. Elizabeth Grullon, too. Wonderful, talented humans – the whole cast (and crew!). Loved, LOVED working with them. All the way up and down the chain of production. It makes a HUGE difference, and I think their joy and expertise really comes through in the game.
Has there been much improvisation in the Star Wars projects you have worked on?
Not often, because there’s a lot of history attached to the Star Wars Universe, which demands both precision and accuracy. 40+ years of story pops through in one line sometimes, and if you’re off the mark the fandom KNOWS, so there’s pressure to both honor what has come before and continue the legacy in a meaningful way. There’s sometimes more leeway with new character creations – and the francise brings the best of everything – storytellers, tech folk, actors, etc. – so when you’re given space to play with lines, movement, etc, it’s extra fun.
How is voicing characters in a video game different than voicing characters in a TV series?
Every project is different. Always. That’s what makes what we do so special, exciting and fun!
Can you share any upcoming projects?
Without express, written permission from producers? Before they’re released?! HAHAHAHA! OMG Never!
Check out Misty Lee’s website to learn more about her career, including her work as a magician.
Here’s a look at Lee’s work as Leia on Battlefront I.
As Leia on Battlefront II.
And as Ninth Sister in Jedi: Fallen Order.