Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia got its international release last Friday! In celebration of the new game, we have an interview with Kyle McCarley, the English language voice of one of the game’s main protagonists, Alm. Kyle has lent his voice to a variety of video games and animated series, including NieR: Automata, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Mob Psycho 100, and Disgaea 5. Thank you Kyle for taking time out of your busy recording schedule for us.
How did you get involved with the Fire Emblem series? Did you have to audition for the role of Alm? Did you know his importance to the story at first?
Probably 99% of the work a voice actor does, and I imagine this is true even for the most notable names in the industry, is something you have to audition for. That’s definitely the case with higher profile projects like Fire Emblem. It’s not like we’re A-list celebrities who get offers for probably 10 feature length films per day and get to decide which projects to take; voice actors are constantly hustling to find opportunities. As far as the audition process for this one went, I can tell you I have a fantastic relationship with the lovely ladies at Cup of Tea Productions, where this was recorded, and while they try not to influence the clients’ decisions with casting, I’m pretty sure they were hoping I’d land the role. I think I read for four or five characters in this game, and Alm was the first I tried. When I finished my audition for the last one, they said, “Would you mind giving Alm another try, now that you’re warmed up?” And, of course, when somebody says something like that, you say, “Yes, absolutely.” Turned out it was the right call! Kyle McCarley
2. What were your favorite lines and moments to record for Alm? Without too many spoilers, how would you say he grows and transforms over the course of the game’s narrative?
That’s a tough question to answer without spoiling any of the narrative. Sappy romantic that I am, I very much admire Alm’s devotion to Celica, even though they haven’t seen each other in years (and they live in a world without cell phones or the Internet!) But there’s a pretty big scene between Alm and another character in which things are revealed about Alm that not even he’s aware of at the start of the game, and that’s gotta be my favorite. Sorry if that’s too vague for anybody to understand what moment I’m referring to, but I don’t wanna spoil it for you! Kyle McCarley
3. Do you relate to Alm at all? What aspects of his character did you find easy or difficult to embody in your acting?
Alm is kind of the quintessential hero character; he’s designed to be relatable for pretty much everybody. Small town boy with big aspirations, fighting for justice, morally righteous, and, of course, desperately wants to reunite with Celica. We all look at characters like Alm and see ourselves in them; we want to be that kind of person, even if, in reality, we may not be quite such a flawless role model. I know I’m nowhere near as fearless as Alm; in the same situation, I’d probably stay home and cross my fingers that the Deliverance can handle things without me, simply because my greatest fear is that of my own mortality. Having spent many a sleepless night pining for the affections of probably countless girls and young women in my youth, I can definitely relate to his dedication to Celica, though. Kyle McCarley
4. Are you totally for the Alm-Celica relationship? Could you see him paired with someone else?
I’ve kind of addressed this one already, but I’m 100% pro-Alm/Celica. Their relationship is akin to Robin Hood and Marian for me; pairing either of them with anybody else would just be wrong. Kyle McCarley
5. What was it like voicing Soren for Fire Emblem Heroes? I saw on Twitter that you got him while trying to roll for Alm. Have you played any other games your voice is featured in?
Soren seems like a very entertaining character, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about him. The characters don’t really say much in Heroes, and aside from whatever background information they can give us to help inform those performances, that’s basically all we have to go on, unless we happen to be familiar with the game ahead of time. When we recorded Alm’s dialog for Heroes, there was another batch of characters being added to the game, as well, and since I was there for Alm anyway, they had me voice Soren, too. We tried a couple different ideas for the voice before we settled on the kind of laissez fare attitude we went with; I remember my first attempt for him was quickly discarded for being too scholarly. I think he’d be a lot of fun to play if any of the games he’s in ever get a fully voiced remake.
And yes, I did finally manage to pick up a 4-star Soren in Heroes. I’ve beaten the main story, all the paralogues, and probably half the game again on higher difficulty levels just farming for orbs to get Alm and Soren. Alm still eludes me, probably 300 orbs later. It’s very frustrating. I’ve played a few games my voice is in, but the most notable is my playthrough of NieR: Automata, which I used to launch my Twitch channel. And I’ll be playing Echoes on the channel soon, too. Kyle McCarley
6. Do you prefer auditioning for projects in person or recording clips on your own time? Did you have any struggles or stresses when you first started auditioning? How did you get through them?
Cup of Tea is one of the few studios that will ask actors to come in for in-person auditions these days, at least prior to the callback stage (when there is one), and I will always take that offer over auditioning from home. In today’s world, a voice actor has to be confident and comfortable enough to direct themselves and send in auditions they record on their own, but no matter how good you get at that, it always helps to have another set of ears there to help refine your performance. Doubly so when that extra set of ears is a director or someone else who’s more familiar with the project you’re reading for, because they usually have a much better idea of what the client is looking for, and can help you get closer to that, which improves your chances of booking the job. I certainly won’t complain about the convenience of recording auditions from my home studio, but I almost always feel better about the auditions I do in person.
There was certainly a period of time when I was starting out where those in person auditions (and when I was going in to record the job that audition booked me, too) would give me butterflies and I’d have that little voice in the back of my head saying, “these people are nice, but you’ve still gotta make sure you do a good job or they won’t hire you.” Sometimes I still get a little inkling of that feeling when I’m going to a new studio or working with a director I haven’t worked with before. But I think it’s like anything; the more you do it, the more comfortable you are doing it. Most of the time now, the train of thought when I walk into a studio is, “Hey! It’s great to see you again! How’s the family? Everything good? Oh, yeah, let’s record that thing real quick, but let’s go out for drinks on Saturday or something!” That’s not to say I’m not focusing on the job once I get into the booth, but my point is it’s comfortable now. I don’t have a sense of “I hope they like me.” And I guess the only advice I can give on that front is just persevere. Keep working through your fears and insecurities and eventually they’ll go away. Hopefully.
7. What have been your favorite roles (from anything in video games, animation, commercials, or even theatre) thus far?
It’s impossible to pick just one favorite role, because they’re all so different. Different characters and different stories are interesting for different reasons, working with different directors can be satisfying for different reasons. I loved 9S because he goes through so much; it’s an emotional roller coaster. He’s a completely different character by the end of the game. I loved being Mikazuki in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans because I grew up watching Gundam Wing, and it feels so cool to be able to say I’m a Gundam pilot now. Mob Psycho 100 is hysterical, being Mob is a blast, and I love working with Chris Cason (the director on that show) because we always seem to be on the same wavelength, so it’s just easy. Aoba in Durarara was special because it was my first major anime role, kind of what put me on the map (even though I’d been doing this stuff as a full time job for years), the character was a delightful sociopath, and I got to work with a handful of great directors. Alex von David probably did the bulk of it, and he’s meticulous, working on finding the absolute best possible performance, which is very satisfying creatively. Your Lie in April was a beautiful show and I feel lucky just to be a part of that. Shows like that don’t happen often. And Patrick Seitz is not only a great director (meticulous like Alex), he’s a good friend now, and I have YLIA to thank for that. And some of the best acting I feel like I’ve ever done was in an audiobook for a brilliant (and underappreciated) reimagining of Romeo & Juliet written by Rachel Caine called Prince of Shadows. There are definitely some jobs that feel a little more like work than others, but I’m very lucky to have worked on a whole lot of fun projects that feel a little more like play. Kyle McCarley
8. Can you share any insights you found while voicing 9S from NieR: Automata? It’s such a bleak, complex story. Did you ever find yourself getting lost within it?
NieR: Automata is phenomenal, I feel like that’s my crowning achievement to date. That’s not to take anything away from all the other stuff I’ve done, it’s just that NieR is really something special, and 9S is one of the deepest characters I’ve ever had the privilege of portraying. I feel like voice actors don’t get the chance to play characters like that very often. Hell, on camera actors don’t get to play characters like that very often. I’m insanely lucky. And his journey is devastating. There were probably tears shed in the booth during recording, there were definitely tears shed on the couch when I played through the finished game, and I screamed my lungs out to the point that I needed to take the following couple days (thankfully a weekend) to recover before I did any more work. I’m not sure if that really answers the question, or if it’s just me fawning over Yoko Taro’s genius, but that’s what I have to say about NieR. Kyle McCarley
9. What was your childhood like—hopefully less dramatic than Alm’s? Did you always know you wanted to be a performer? Was it something you pursued in college?
I was born in a suburb of Chicago, grew up in a small town in Kansas, and I have an extremely supportive family. I legitimately don’t know if I’d have ever had the time, let alone the stamina, to get to where I am in my career without their emotional and financial support. My mom likes to say I started acting in the 3rd grade when I played The Candy Cane Kid in a production of Christmas at the O.K. Corral, but I’m pretty sure I was reenacting nursery rhymes in pre-school. Basically, I wanted to be an actor since as long as I can remember. I mean, I was a kid, so I also wanted to be a firefighter, an astronaut, and a professional basketball player, but “actor” was always on the list. And as I got older and the other ideas fell to the wayside, that one always stuck. I moved to Los Angeles, went to college at the University of Southern California and studied Theatre in the hopes that I’d one day make it big in Hollywood and be a TV/movie star. Somewhere along the line, I gradually lost my passion for being on stage and being on camera, but I dabbled with writing, directing, and voice acting in an amateur online radio play as part of a Warcraft fan site called WoW Radio during my college years. And about a year after I graduated from USC, feeling like I’d completely lost my drive and not sure what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I thought back to that little hobby and said, “You know, that voice over stuff seems like it’d be kinda cool. Maybe I should take a class in that.” And I instantly fell in love, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. Kyle McCarley
10. What’s something crazy about you that you can share with us? Something that not even your fans would know!
Hmmm… I feel like, thanks to my Twitch streaming, there’s at least a portion of my fans who know a lot about me already. I play ice hockey in an adult rec league on Sunday nights and I’m decidedly mediocre at it, but I’m sure at least one person reading this knew that already. Maybe they don’t know that I played a transgender version of Mrs. White in a wildly offensive production of Clue The Musical as a freshman in high school, so let’s call that my crazy fact. (If you’re good with Google, you might even find photographic evidence). Kyle McCarley