Panel Recap: A Q&A With Fryda Wolff
I should be fanning myself, really, as I recollect Fryda Wolff’s Q&A at GeekGirlCon ‘17. So buckle up guys, because I’m about to reiterate why her panel was one of my absolute favorites at the convention, and how Fryda easily became one of my top girl crushes of all time (nice and snug between Maggie Stiefvater and Danai Gurira).
GeekGirlCon was Fryda’s first ever convention as a voice actor, and we couldn’t have felt more honored or humble to have her with us. She was a force to be reckoned with, whose voice didn’t demand but immediately earned my absolute attention when I first heard her speak during the Voice of a Hero panel the day before. Her confidence was intoxicating, and made live-tweeting her panel almost impossible, as nearly everything she said was a quote that could be used to inspire the masses. She was truly amazing, and was eager to share her experience getting started in gaming and how that got her into voice acting.
Finding Her Footing
While Fryda began her voiceover journey in 2013, that’s not where her career in gaming started.
She graduated high school a year early, in fact, the week she turned 17. She wanted to be a campaign manager back then, and didn’t have a clue how far from that she’d end up (although it did play a pretty big role in how she got there).
Even though Fryda ended up in the gaming industry, it wasn’t until high school when she got her first PC. She then dubbed herself a PC gamer, and got really into Blizzard (because I swear, all us cool kids started our Blizzard phase when we should have been studying). The interest sort of sparked from there, she really loved to game. “This is what happens when you don’t let your kids do things,” Fryda joked. Gaming wasn’t something she did a lot growing up, so the infatuation was serve. It was fun and exciting.
…and then it just happened.
Sony was hosting an event in Vegas, Fryda’s home town. The event was supposed to host about a thousand people, but unfortunately the venue could barely hold two hundred and fifty. She put that prior interest in campaign management to work and did something about it. She started organizing people, and eventually ushered those who couldn’t get in to all meet at a nearby GameWorks.
Long story short, someone from Sony hunted her down and nonchalantly asked “do you want a job?”
And that’s just how it all started.
Before that, the plan was to move to London on student work visa to “figure it all out.” Maybe Australia. But instead, only a year and a half into college, she landed a gig as a Game Master in Customer Service for Everquest. From there came other roles.
At the time they didn’t have internal audio department, and Fryda started transitioning into becoming a sound designer. It was around this time that she got her first taste of VO, or voiceover work. She was asked to voice for the tutorial in PlanetSide, although role overall was eventually recasted. The experience was unfortunately disheartening, and she continued to focus on the development side of game production until she finally chose to pursue VO again later down the road.
— Indigo (@indigoboock) October 1, 2017
The gaming industry is very interdisciplinary, Fryda stressed. She wore a lot of hat’s in sound design, and eventually co-directed recording sessions for Everquest 2.
Fryda was actually pretty successful working in sound development, but that initial itch never seemed to go away, even if that first experience wasn’t the best. Eventually, she decided to go for it. She wanted to work in VO, and so she made it happen.
Landing The Gig
Like many, Fryda started off in the freelance realm. She faced a lot of rejection, which is sort of the nature of freelance in any creative profession (I can even vouch for that), but acting was that itch that she couldn’t seem to scratch. She kept at it for years on the side. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Talent refuses to go away, and she never let go or gave up.
Eventually, Fryda decided to focus entirely on VO and set aside sound design. “I’ve been doing this for 4 years with no pressure, let’s see if I can succeed.” So she dropped everything and went into it face-first.
She loved working in gaming, without a doubt, but video games are pretty secretive in terms of VO work. Everything is very hush-hush to avoid leaks (much like what happened to Fallout). They use codenames, and change locations for auditions and recording constantly. Publishers often don’t share info with candidates, so actors are pretty much in the dark until they land a role. Often, don’t even know what they’re auditioning for, and that’s how Fryda landed her first big gig.
“Welcome to Mass Effect, you’re the female hero lead!” Fryda exclaimed. She still remembers that call, and was in complete denial for the first four months after getting it. By month six she finally realized, “Holy crap, this is me.”
— Indigo (@indigoboock) October 1, 2017
All my BioWare fans out there know that their games are packed to brim with emotion and dialogue, and Fryda lived all of that. She wasn’t faking love because she was experiencing love. She didn’t just know Sara Ryder, the main character of Mass Effect Andromeda, Fryda was Sara Ryder.
She had to lose her mind, experience a bunch of emotions. Heck, there’s video on Youtube of her losing her mind (which I unfortunately couldn’t hunt down). Sessions for Mass Effect were tiring, as BioWare is known for it’s long pieces of dialogue that are often fairly deep and impactful.
She also tackled, not quite literally, her first sex scenes in VO while working on Mass Effect. “These were my first sex scenes, and I shared them with you…and they made me make out with my hand.”
And, bonus story time, Tom Taylorson, a close friend who previously worked with Fryda on Octodad, moved to LA with his family to pursue a big job around this time. They found out that they were recording at the same location, which raised a few sneaky questions. “Are we on the same game?” She jokingly asked. It wasn’t something they could straight up say, but turned it into something like 20 Questions. Does it take place in space…yes. Is it being directed from Canada…yes.
“I’m the player character for Mass Effect Andromeda,” Tom said. She was floored. “I’m the player character for Mass Effect Andromeda.”
They screamed about it for five straight minutes, at least.
Advocacy and Beyond
I quickly learned that Fryda is truly humble when talking about her journey, but was eager to discuss the paths that she took and decisions that she made. She had worked in gaming for quite some time before deciding to pursue VO, and it wasn’t her first love in life (but maybe that big, powerful love now, aside from her husband and cat). She found VO a little later in her journey, but encourages us to pursue those passion regardless of what stage in life we’re at. If it’s what you want, nothing is stopping you from going after it.
— Indigo (@indigoboock) September 30, 2017
That being said, it’s probably unsurprising that she’s often asked “How do you become a voice actor?” …like there’s some overarching, end-all-be-all answer. And, considering that she is as witty as she is enlightening, Fryda wasted no time in creating a How To Become a Voice Actor page on her website. It’s full of information, both curated and created, on, well, becoming a voice actor!
But satire aside, Fryda was quick and eager to share some of her most vital pieces of advice.
First and foremost, you really need to be in LA to work in VO. Everything is there, regardless of where the various media and game related studios are located whose content you’re interested in.
Beyond that, she practices. A lot.
Par exemple, Fryda had to work with a lot of science fiction jargon whilst working on Mass Effect, so she put a lot of time into reading college-level science and medical textbooks to better help trickier annunciation. She really enjoys that sort of work, so she takes the time to really put in the research.
She says to be strong, and be loud. Don’t just ask for a handout, show initiative. Especially in the beginning when fresh off the press VO actors are working in the freelance realm, Fryda urges these young actors not to simply turn down roles because they’re only interested in working on games, or on TV but are not interested in commercials. Find experience everywhere, and don’t miss out on opportunities to challenge yourself (or just to gain that experience you need to move forward). In a similar light, you may also face roles that you’re morally or emotionally against. “You are entitled to say no. If you don’t agree with it, don’t do it.”
Aside from the harsh, demanding work that VO requires, Fryda always finds ways to have fun with it. She recalled one of her most…memorable experiences. “They even killed the messenger pigeons!” She sounded across the room. Repeating that line nearly broke her, which is exactly she did in the booth when she first had to record it. The director’s job is keeping them (the actors) together. “Come back, come back from the edge,” he cried. But she couldn’t. I mean how could you? They even killed the messenger pigeons.
As the panel came to a close, Fryda was asked one of those big questions. One that we all aspire to be ale to answer ourselves one day in regards to our respective careers. What made her think that she was doing the right thing? The emotional answer, more or less unsurprising, was Mass Effect. It was that big break that really set things into motion. The literal answer, though, was when she started making money off of it. Ignorant expectations will be stamped out quickly, so learn from your mistakes. But once you get in the door, get ready. “They want to see you win,” you didn’t make it as far as you did without talent, so own it. And once you’re through that door, you’ve made it. No matter how big or how small that first step is.
— Indigo (@indigoboock) October 1, 2017
I express no exaggeration when I say that Fryda Wolff was a force on that stage. A marvel, truly. As a fairly young creative myself who shares some common ground in gaming, she was an inspiration whose voice acting is just as strong and as powerful as her personality.