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A Halo-tastic Interview with Master Chief & Cortana

Master Chief and Cortana

At this year’s Auckland Armageddon Expo, we had the incredible privilege to interview the voice actors behind two key characters in one of the most prolific video game franchises, Halo.

Here’s our interview with Steve Downes and Jen Taylor, who voice Master Chief and Cortana respectively.

When you first started 15 years ago, did you imagine the Halo story to become as enduring as it has? How does it make you feel?

Steve Downes: “It’s surreal. Most often with voice acting, you go in, do your thing and that’s it. With the Halo franchise, it’s been an amazing journey to go on for 15 years.”

Jen Taylor: “The great thing about doing a project like this for so long is that you get to learn more and more about your character. Each time you get called back to do another game, you get to learn something new about your character that you never knew before, and that’s incredible.”

What was it like working with Bungie Studios and 343 Industries? How did working with both differ?

Jen Taylor: “When we began working on Halo with Bungie,  there were always a few key people who would always be there. You get to work with so many different people but you’d always see those familiar faces and you tend to become very used to it. ”

Steve Downes: “When we worked on Halo 4, when Microsoft Studios and 343 took over, it was a very different franchise. It was more of a rewarding experience because I got to actually work with Jen in person rather than what we were used to previously, which was to record our lines separately, often in different parts of the country and at different times. At Bungie, we used to get the script about 10 mins before recording, whereas at 343, we actually managed to get a hold of the script before recording and were able to learn more about the characters, which was nice.”

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What do you see for the future of the Halo franchise & your characters?

Steve Downes: “I hope they do continue the franchise, so long as there’s a story to tell because being able to participate in the story is what’s been the most exciting part of the journey. So yes, as long as there’s a story to tell, we’ll continue to tell it.”

Jen Taylor: “Even if 343 don’t plan to, we’ll continue to tell it (laughs). Maybe we’ll do a podcast of something? Though, we haven’t really been told if Halo 6 is happening or not.”

Steve Downes: “Well generally with these things we’re on a need to know basis (laughs) and right now, we don’t need to know.”

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What sets Halo apart from other projects and roles you’ve taken on in your career?

Jen Taylor: “The thing that I love about Halo is that it’s all about the hero’s journey and having these cool abilities”

Steve Downes: “I’m a huge science-fiction fan and everything about Halo played right through that and into voicing a superhero, you know, because growing up, every little boy wanted to be like Superman and be the hero of the story (laughs).”

Jen Taylor: “And I’ve ALWAYS wanted to voice a computer! (laughs) For me, it’s the detail and depth embedded into story that set Halo apart.”

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What about Master Chief or Cortana would either like to change or add to their character?

Jen Taylor: “Over each of the games, Cortana has become more and more sexualised and whilst that’s probably what the fans want, if I had my way, Cortana would be less sexualised and have her character and personality be more of the focus.”

Steve Downes: “343 has already done this from Halo 4 on, but I’d like to see Master Chief have more of a personality and get a bit of a backstory.”

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What makes your characters so compatible when it comes to completing a mission and getting the job done?  

Jen Taylor: “Oh, I think it’s basically, Master Chief is good at taking orders and Cortana is good at giving them. Cortana is able to tap into all kinds of information and guide Master Chief… and he completely trusted Cortana.

Steve Downes: “I agree. It’s the trust that’s really important. As of late though, their trust is beginning to waver and you can see Master Chief starts to question Cortana’s instructions. It’s definitely an interesting conflict for the series.”

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If you were to be told you could only play one Halo game for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Steve Downes: “(Chuckles) Halo 4 because I have more lines and because, at the end of the day…it’s all about me (laughs).

We had a fantastic time speaking with Steve and Jen, two incredibly talented and lovely folks. A huge thank you to Beyond Reality Media for facilitating the interview and a special shout out to our friends Dave (WaffleNinjaNZ), Harry (VenomousNoise) and Mario (Tucker051) for contributing their questions 🙂

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