For our third feature, we are happy to be interviewing Timothy Miller, who provided the voice of Fleet Admiral Castor Dane in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. He is an award-winning voice actor, narrator and principle performer who has worked on various commercials and even provided his voice for the Red Cross messages of hope during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. We have interviewed Timothy in regards to his time with Retro Studios, the character Admiral Dane and his other work.
SS: How were you approached to play the role of Admiral Dane in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption?
TM: One day several years ago, I got a call from my agent Debora Duckett at dBtalent to come out and talk about doing a role in a new video game for Nintendo. It was a mysterious phone call because she couldn’t tell me anything about it until I got to the office and when I did later that morning, I was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before looking at the script.
It felt more like a vital behind the line mission for the secret service than a voice gig, which I must admit gave it definite appeal. I signed, she gave me the script, we recorded a couple of pages, made some appropriately conspiratorial wisecracks and I left as she sent the recording to the Nintendo guys. That was my first introduction to Admiral Dane. A week or so later Debora called to book the first session at Retro studios and sent a few notes on the Admiral…strong …voice of command..cares deeply for his team…in voice – over parlance a “Voice of God” type.
SS: Tell us a bit about the process of how you recorded your lines.
TM: The actual process was similar to film dubbing. An animated sequence was run and the dialog was matched to the images we worked scene by scene, of course staying with each scene until it met the Directors specs then on to the next. Thus, I had the Admirals moving images in front of me as we recorded. In other game work I’ve done, it was entirely from the script then matched to the animated sequence.
SS: What was it like to work with Retro Studios and Nintendo on the game? Do you have any memorable moments from your time on the project?
TM: Retro is a cavernous place filled with brilliant young audio and video tech wizards of every stripe one of whom met me at the lobby and escorted me through a maze of hallways and work studios to the audio studio deep within…seemed more secret agenty all the time. The writers, audio engineer and director assembled, I went into the recording booth and Admiral Dane started to come to life.
SS: Were you given any information about the character to help you define him, such as a description or image?
TM: I had the Admirals images in various action situations, his costume, his facial expressions, etc to see and the game creator’s ideas of what he was like. These, as well as the information gleaned from his written dialog, then go into the “inner studio” where it turns into the voice of the character – in this case Admiral Dane.
SS: You’ve done various voice works over the years. What was it like to voice a video game character and how do you go about defining the voice, as well as the personality, for an animated character?
TM: It’s a richly creative process. The Writer gives me words and images and theme and he gives me his (or their) idea of who the character is. The Director gives me his ideas and working with the Engineer keeps the performance within the bounds of the technical requirements of the game. For instance, at any given point we may have a great read, but it’s a bit too short or a bit too long time wise, so the work involved becomes to make the read fit the tech requirements. In the middle of recording, the Director may find that a line doesn’t work and has the writer come up with something new. The work then becomes to fit the new line into the existing context…and so forth.
My part in all of this is to let the character live and express that life though my voice. I listen to every idea and add it to the Psychic Mill that has been operating within (that strange and mysterious place) and then get Timothy Patrick Miller out of the way completely so that only Admiral Dane responding to his own Life and Drama comes through. His very name expresses it…DANE.
As I let my imagination work its magic, very quickly, an updated Viking Warrior Chieftain emerges sailing the raging seas of space and he has dangerous and terrible tasks to struggle with. He makes decisions that cost him the life of friends and comrades in arms. He feels each loss deeply as he fights on against overwhelming odds. He rejoices in each victory…and always he is in command…foes come from every side yet still he has trusted allies and some brilliant young heroes to deploy (Samus)
Such a Character lives in that magical wondrous place where all actors go to find their characters and for the time of performance is every bit as alive as me typing this description and you reading it. Maybe more so. The difference of course is that this is only a description while in the recording process it is immediate and vital. The trick is to keep that vitality through the stop and go problems of recording.
SS: Looking back, is there anything you felt you could have added to the character or something you could have done differently?
TM: No, from this perspective, there’s nothing I’d do differently. Different things might be tried as we were recording and the end version was the one everybody agreed on.
SS: In Metroid Prime Trilogy, the voice for Admiral Dane was changed slightly to remove curses. Can you recall other instances where dialogue you have worked with has been altered for the final production or a later revision?
TM: I realize that video games, even more than film, is a Directors medium. The Director will take any actors performance, edit it, cut it and in general, mold it to fit his vision of the overall project. Not only do I not have a problem with that, I don’t see how it can be any other way. Should they find it not to work I expect the voice will be dropped.
SS: What was it like to voice one of the major characters in Metroid Prime 3? Did you feel under a lot of pressure?
TM: It was a great deal of fun, as it always is to work with brilliant creative people. There was no particular pressure involved. There is always intense concentration on the task at hand and that eliminates the possibility of the kind of emotional pressure I think you mean. All that kind of thing gets left outside the studio door.
SS: Have you played Metroid games in the past? Are you much of a gamer yourself?
TM: No, I’ve not played the games. I’m pleased to participate in the Gaming world as a Voice Actor.
SS: Tell us about the projects you’ve been working on since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
TM: My favorite project since performing the Valiant Admiral Dane has been to create the internet home of American Listeners Theatre and A Magical Reality Chautauqua Show. It is a site where you can Discover, Download and Listen to the Greatest Stories from the Treasure Trove of Americana Legend and Lore. It’s a project near to my heart discovering stories from our incredible listening heritage and making them available to folks who are not likely to find and enjoy them otherwise.
SS: If Nintendo were to contact you to work with them again, do you think you’d like to reprise your role as the Admiral? Is it something you would consider?
TM: If invited to play the Admiral again or anyone like him, I’d be glad to.
SS: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Timothy. Do you have any closing comments?
TM: You and your readers are invited to visit and accept your free Show Gift celebrating the opening of American Listeners Theatre now LIVE! on the Great Web. It’s called “A Visit With John Henry” and while the Hero of the story is quite different I think you may find some ghostly overtones from the Admiral. Listen And Imagine. It will Set You Free.
Shinesparkers would like to thank Timothy Miller for his time and dedication to putting this interview together with us, and wish him the very best of luck with all his future endeavors.