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Interview: Kari Wahlgren of the Latest ‘Final Fantasy’ Game Talks About Life as a Voice-Actor

Sara Crocco ’19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer

Emertainment Monthly recently had the pleasure of speaking with voice-actor Kari Wahlgren on her favorite parts of working in her field, as well as what some of her upcoming projects are for fans to look forward to. Wahlgren has done the voices of characters such as Tigress in Nickelodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness TV series, Aranea Highwind in the recently-released game, Final Fantasy XV, and multiple different characters in shows like Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty and Disney XD’s Gravity Falls. Currently, she is the voice of Amanda in Nickelodeon’s Bunsen is a Beast.

Emertainment Monthly: In your new show Bunsen is a Beast you lend your voice to a young girl named Amanda, who has a vendetta against the alien-like main character, Bunsen. I didn’t even recognize that it was you when I first listened to a preview! What has it been like voicing such a boisterous and eccentric character like her?

Kari Wahlgren: Thank you! As a voice actor, “I didn’t know it was you,” is probably the best compliment I can receive! People ask me all the time: “What’s your favorite character you’ve ever played?” and I can honestly say that Amanda has been one of my all-time favorites. She’s just hilarious and evil and completely over the top…I laugh a lot during the recording sessions!

Photo Credit: Nickelodeon
Photo Credit: Nickelodeon

Did you get to see Amanda in full-animation first before recording or did you have to find inspiration for the role in other places?

KW: I only had a description of her when I auditioned. After I got the role, I saw a drawing of her at the first recording session; it really locked the character into place for me.

As made clear by your many voice acting roles, you have an incredibly wide range of voice capabilities, shown most recently with your role as Amanda. I’m sure all of them have their own characteristics to play around with, but what particular type of character has been your favorite to voice throughout your career?

KW: I enjoy comedy the most, I think. Anytime I get to play a character that is zany or slightly unhinged, it is really, really fun for me!

At what point in your life did you realize that you enjoyed voice acting and wanted to make a career out of doing it?

KW: I’ve loved cartoons since I was a kid and told my parents at an early age that I wanted to “do the voices in the cartoons.”  I always knew I wanted voice-over to be part of my career, but I never expected it to take off the way it did. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since your profession requires you to communicate with only your voice, do you ever find it difficult to tap into certain emotions without physical or environmental cues?

KW: I remember doing a line in a session early in my career, and the director told me to do it again, but be angrier. I did the line again and he said, “Okay, your face looked angrier but your voice sounded exactly the same.” It was a powerful lesson that—in voice-over—you have to learn to communicate a range of emotion purely through your voice. Your voice really is an instrument in this career; you learn to dial emotion up or down to suit the character and situation.

Did you have to do voice training for any of the roles you’ve done? If so, what has been your hardest character to voice?

KW: I’m a huge believer in training. I want to keep getting better as an actor, and I still take classes and private lessons sometimes. I remember recording Ashe in Final Fantasy XII — during the recording process, I started taking a Shakespeare class. I came back into the studio, and the director said, “I’m not sure what you did, but you’ve really dialed into the character.” We ended up re-recording a number of lines. The Shakespeare training tapped into something that brought more depth to that character.

As well as Amanda, you’ve also recently voiced Aranea Highwind in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV. I feel, like many other fans of the game do, that her story isn’t finished yet. What are your hopes for this character as far as making an appearance in future DLC’s and expansions of the game?

KW: I really loved playing Aranea. I don’t know what her future holds, but I would play her again in a heartbeat if they let me!

Do you prefer being a villain like Amanda, a hero like a Jedi Knight, or somewhere in-between like Aranea?

KW: Villains are ALWAYS more fun to play!

Aranea in 'Final Fantasy XV'. Photo credit: Square Enix Holdings.
Aranea in ‘Final Fantasy XV’. Photo credit: Square Enix Holdings.

If you could take on the occupation or lifestyle of any of your characters, what would it be, whose would it be and why?

KW: I’d be a superhero, of course! 

And, finally, what has been your favorite part of working on Bunsen is a Beast? And your favorite part of being a voice actor, in general?

KW: The great cast and awesome writing has been the best part of working on Bunsen. The recording sessions are such a joyful experience and I hope that comes across in the show.  My favorite part of being a voice actor is that it’s limitless. I’m not confined by age, race or gender. I get to play so many characters I’d never play on-camera…it’s pretty wonderful.

You can find Kari on Twitter as @KariWahlgren, on Instagram as @kari_wahlgren or on the Kari Wahlgren Official page on Facebook.

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