Interview with Lani Minella -- Woman of a Thousand Voices... and Nancy Drew
By GameBoomers Staff
GB: When did you discover you could imitate so many different voices?
Lani: When I was young I used to imitate voices I heard either on TV or even teachers in school. I was typically the class clown but not really doing it loudly.
Lani: Perhaps because my father was an opera singer and mom had a very pleasant voice, maybe my genes had something to do with my 4 octave range. I had to come up with my own techniques which I since have passed on by coaching now and then.
GB: What were some of your earliest impersonations?
Lani: Warner Brothers cartoons and Rocky and Bullwinkle (June Foray). This later proved useful as I was going to be Rocky in the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie and was Sherman in the game. Things happened later that turned out to relegate me as a placeholder until Foray could come in later and replace me with Audio Dialogue Replacement or ADR (Looping). Turned down that movie gig for that reason. Funny that when that happened for the game, and June redid Rocky, the publisher said ďWhat happened? Now Rocky doesnít sound like Rocky anymore.Ē Bless her heart. June is in her nineties now, and I respect her a lot.
GB: Did you always want to be a voice actress, or did you start out being interested in acting in general and end up specializing in voice acting?
Lani: I was always fascinated by the way animators put so many wonderful gestures and actions in cartoons. They should get more of the credit when people give awards to animation voice actors. Many times itís the animation that turns a celeb voice into something interesting.
I still dream of being able to be in a Pixar animation but celebs have always been given that honor. So to answer your question, I always wanted to do cartoons, but ended up with many years in retail management, real estate, writing and later doing morning drive radio, as well as production. It wasnít until the early 90s that I starting making voice acting my only job. That as well as directing, casting and thus forming my own one stop shop to bring in work which ended up being mostly video games. Iíve done a few cartoons like Justice League, Rugrats: All Grown Up, Cleveland Show, etc. Plus commercials, tutorials, even some phone messages in British.
GB: What was your first professional voice acting job?
Lani: Someone whoíd overheard my celeb impersonations on a morning radio show called me in to do sound alikes for characters in the movie Fern Gully. They thought I was so good they sent me downstairs to work on tons of voices for inanimate objects for these childrenís CD Roms. That led me to ask ďWho else does these things?Ē They recommended I go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas which I did for 2 years. Then Electronic Entertainment Expos, Game Developers Conferences etc.
GB: Was it fun or was it a "learning experience" that made you question your choice of profession?
Lani: After working so many years in retail, the decision to make a producerís job easier by hiring Audiogodz Inc to provide all the talent, directing, script tweaking and more, made more sense and that choice brought in more jobs than my trying to sell myself. This is because producers donít know how to coordinate talent from various cities to bring the best people to the same project. So, I learned I needed to have my own one stop shop from many years floundering as an individual talent.
GB: What is the largest number of voices you ever did for a single project?
Lani: I think it was at least 150. Male and female. Knights of Xentar in 1991. Painful to listen to now on YouTube.
GB: Are you expected to do cold readings or are you provided with a script ahead of time?
Lani: A little of both. But there is very little advance notice. Often Iíve been cast without ever seeing a pic of the character. Then, in the studio, Iím handed the script or they project it on a screen and I have to cold read instantly while trying to Ďactí without knowing much context at all.
GB: How many foreign accents can you do? Are there some that are particularly difficult?
Lani: I do almost every dialect pretty well with the exception of trying to sound like a true Canadian, or a Cajun.
GB: Are you normally given many, many small parts rather than a starring or co-starring role?
Lani: Again this is more common for many roles in any game unless you are the star like Nancy Drew. More often the star of a First Person Shooter is a male unless Lara Croft or when I was Rynn in Drakan: Order of the Flame. However I do have many great roles Iím fond of besides Nancy Drew.
Like many parts in Blizzard games (Medevac Pilot, Zerg Queen, Succubus, Banshee, Harpy), Ivy in Soul Caliber, Eve in Mass Effect 3, as well as monster voices which can be as weird as the infected, Clickers and Bloaters in Last of Us.
GB: When you record voices for a project, do you ever rehearse or record along with other actors? Or are you usually expected to work alone in the recording studio and guess at how the other actors will read their lines?
GB: Does your job involve a significant amount of traveling, or are you able to do most of your voicework from your home base?
Lani: I do much of my work from San Diego and LA. I have indeed traveled to do same day recording in various other states, but that is rare. Everything is so easy now to handle with Skype as a way to direct or a phone patch or ISDN.
GB: Are you as busy as your resume makes it appear?
Lani: Remember my resume spans decades. Itís a feast or famine business, just like acting or any form of entertainment where you can never tell when the next job will happen. You might do tons of auditions and not hear anything. Or if Iím lucky, I could be handling 5 projects (different games) at a time.
GB: What was your favorite role of all time?
Lani: Thatís a very hard question to answer since every role I get can soon become my favorite for different reasons. Nancy Drew has been my longest returning role which is now wrapping up to make way for someone new, who is local to Her Interactive in Seattle. I also love making up creature voices, alien languages, end bosses, dragons, etc.
GB: What was your worst job of all time?
Lani: When one uses that term ďworstĒ it could mean many things. Worst for making me do a totally irritating voice that everyone should hate? There are a few of those like Bubsy 3D, Omo Chao from Sonic Adventures, Sindragosa the screaming Dragon from World of Warcraft... OR worst because the script was so bad with no helpful directionÖÖÖ Evil Zone was one of the most horrid for this, followed by Blue Stinger and many others where people should blame the script before the actors. LOL
GB: I have heard your voice in an increasing number of casual games recently, including those from top-rated developers such as Eipix and Mariaglorum. How did this initially come about? Do you plan on doing more of this in the future?
Lani: It came about because I answered a casting notice on Voices.com This led to more games and of course we actors try to recommend each other to our clients sometimes when we get roles. I still give many people in my talent pool some of my casting notices for male and female parts and never make a dime like an agent would.
GB: In a Twitter post in the last several weeks, you posted: "In all my years of acting, directing and reading scripts, it's made me not blame actors or credit them when it's the script that starts it." Could you expand on this idea for us?
Lani: Because games are non-linear and have less cut scenes like a movie, we get disjointed lines that were never spoken aloud by the writer. Often, if given the chance, I will offer to tweak the scripts for spoken word for FREE just so we donít sound so ridiculous. Sometimes it can be because the script was translated from a foreign language so the English sounds very stilted and not conversational. Remember the iconic line, ďAll your base are belong to us?Ē Itís such a stupid line. That game got famous and sold more because everyone wanted to laugh at the bad dialogue.
Many games have text on screen that people are reading, so even if weíd like to make a contraction like couldnít instead of could not, itís not allowed. Nancy Drew was not allowed to say ďgonna.Ē I had to say ďGoing toĒ because Nancy was not supposed to use ďslang.Ē
So remember when you love or hate any actor, whether itís on screen or a cartoon or game, give first credits or first blame to the script because thatís where it all starts. Thereís only so much perfume you can put on poop, but itís still poop.
GB: Do you play Nancy Drew games, and other games you've voiced, yourself? Do you have any favorites?
Lani: Iíve only played Secrets of Shadow Ranch all the way through as I felt it imperative to see what completing a game entailed. I give a lot of credit to gamers as I am one of the worst. Iíve also played a bit of Diablo, Starcraft and watched many walkthroughs on YouTube, but I just donít have the time or ability to play many games. My favorite game would be one I could play more easily, which is Nancy Drew, but if I was a better gamer, Iíd go for anything where I didnít have to be killed in a nanosecond online against a bunch of experts.
I remember having to go through Myst and Journeyman because I was working with that development team. Good thing I had a book of cheats or Iíd never have made it. Iím pretty good at FP shooters but getting past level one is another story.
GB: What have you enjoyed the most about voicing Nancy Drew? What aspects of her personality do you particularly appreciate?
Lani: Working with the team at Her Interactive has always been a pleasant experience. Often, I donít see the roles of the other characters so I canít really tell much about game play or story line. But I loved the older games that inadvertently taught cool things, even like math when you had to feed horses without the correct sized measuring cups. Or learning about Vervet Monkeys which I helped voice, and even the various birds or what you call caterpillar droppings. (Frass)
I am so surprised now to learn about the following Nancy has had with girls who are now in their 20s and say they grew up with my voice in the games they played. I am touched and honored and if Iíve made someone smile or have a good time, thatís what I appreciate the most about Nancy Drew: being smart, positive and solving things. Good role model.
GB: Could you tell us a little bit about the circumstances which led to your becoming the voice of Nancy Drew for Her Interactive?
that was so long ago, I donít remember. I have Megan Gaiser to
thank for that and remember her in the studio for the first game we
did. How we met is something Iíll have to ask her about next time
we speak. I owe her everything regarding Nancy Drew.
GB: There are many, many Nancy Drew fans who are very disappointed and upset by the decision of Her Interactive to switch to a new voice actress as of Nancy Drew game #33. It's hard to understand why Her Interactive would voluntarily remove you as the voice of Nancy Drew, when you have demonstrated time and again that you are one of the series' greatest assets. Would you be able to shed a little more light on this decision?
Lani: Yes itís a bit strange to me too. I was told that the CEO did some research and found the Nancy Drew name was well known, but the gamesí popularity had dwindled. So they thought bringing in a new actor who was local to them in Seattle, as well as possibly making other eventual changes to the game might help increase sales. I wish them all the best.
GB: Has the outpouring of support and love that you have received, in response to your being replaced as Nancy Drew, come as something of a surprise to you? Did you realize what an emotional issue this would be for your loyal fanbase?
Lani: Goodness yes, and thank you everyone for such astonishing support and love. It means the world to me, and I only hope I have given you some good times and something positive to remember. Iíve been spending a lot of time on social media that I never have done before, trying to smooth things over and thank everyone so much. I am overwhelmed!
GB: What is your vision of present day Nancy Drew?
Lani: Dare I say, someone who is able to be more edgy when needed, have a more ďwith itĒ boyfriend (ha ha), or no boyfriend at all, be able to say ďOh man, this is gonna suckĒ or maybe just ďGet ready everyone---all together nowóĎItís locked!íĒ Iíd like her to have more wit and humor than sheís been allowed to have, but remember, sheís more a prompt for other characters instead of her being able to go off on a conversational tangent, so itís a challenge for the writer to let Nancy ďlooseĒ when the most you hear from Nancy is in the closing letter.
GB: Are there any upcoming projects (games, animation, other work) that you're interested in and would like to voice for?
Lani: Iím always game for almost anything thrown at me. I continue to help cast and direct Star Trek Online and Neverwinter, Dungeons and Dragons. And I hope to be brought back for more Blizzard Games, as well as anything requiring acting skills and lots of different voices. Iím still asked to do voices for RIFT, Lord of the Rings Online and a few others periodically, but itís the fans that often alert me to games before I know they exist. ďAre you going to be in Mortal Kombat X?Ē Wow, even though I was Sheeva and Sindel in Mortal Kombat 9, I never knew there was a number ten until I was asked on Twitter. As always I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be in any Disney or Pixar cartoon, and I never take even the smallest job for granted. Very thankful for anything I receive.
GB: Have you ever done any showbiz thing other than acting -- like directing or writing for a project?
Lani: Yes I have an English Degree so Iíve done the writing stuff, including a nationally published book about the Assassination of JFK, TV guide front cover stories and of course, scripts for games, lots of commercials since I worked at radio stations as talent and copywriter and production director. I currently direct a large majority of the games I cast. Iíve been in at least one movie, a few TV series things as atmosphere, and Iím quite good at plants, animals and alternative medicine, if you can believe that.
GB: You are an activist for RF Radiation; is there a personal connection that caused you to become an advocate for education and accountability for the cell towers?
Lani: Yes Iím against EMF and RF radiation because they were trying to install a distributed Antenna System too close to my aging mom, who passed away in 2013. I researched a lot, and found tons of shocking evidence proving a direct link from Towers, Antennas, and even WiFi, cell phones and Smart Meters to CANCER, destruction of migratory bird, mammal and insect species, including BEE COLONIESówhich is currently in a state of disaster, and this affects food production. And now theyíve found low levels of EMF or RF actually break our DNA. This type of radiation lowers your immune system, leaving it open to attack by any number of diseases, chronic illnesses, ADHD, Parkinsonís, infertility and more. There is a lot of evidence supporting this, but as you can imagine, telecom companies have TONS of money to dispute this and come up with false claims and evidence. I have a federal court case going on now to try to give us back the ability to talk about health risks and oppose arbitrary installation of towers and antennas too close to your home, schools and work.
Last November, three news stations did reports about how towers are exceeding the safety standards for emissions by as much as 700%.
If you want to see how many antennas and towers that are registered within a 4 mile radius of your place, go to www.antennasearch.com type in your address, wait for two reports to generate. Then realize there are many more you do not see because they donít have to register anything unless itís over 200ft tall or near an airport. Electro-pollution is fast becoming as dangerous as global warming.
Hopefully I can tweet how you can keep abreast of my lawsuit and help pass the word along. We are definitely trying to do what no one has been able to do before. Change part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. There is NO ONE measuring the radiation from towers or making sure they are safe. NO ONE. The FCC says they donít have the manpower. So we need to be able to mandate their safety wherever you live or get them removed.
GB: What message do you want to send to your fans and gamers?
Lani: From the bottom of my heart, Thank you SOOOO much for being my family, my support group and even my criticizers. I am so honored to have been a part of your lives and hope I can continue to bring you new sources of fun and creative entertainment for many years to come. Big HUGS to all!
To see more about Audiogodz, visit www.audiogodz.com
About me: www.laniminella.com
I do try to update my resume on both sites periodically.
GB: Thank you very much for your time, Lani. Good luck and much success on all your endeavors.
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