As with movies and TV shows, the right actors can breathe life into a role and truly bring a story alive. Sometimes all it takes is a certain inflection and tone to really elevate dialog to something that sticks with you for years to come. In the case of Wavetale, the actor behind main character Sigrid is about as pitch-perfect as you could hope for.
Sigrid’s voice acting in Wavetale is handled by McKenzie Atwood, and in our opinion, she absolutely nailed the role. That’s why we were honored to (virtually) chat with Atwood about her work on Wavetale, voice acting in general, and so much more!
Not the face that goes with good news!
GN: You’ve got quite an extensive resume in the world of games and animation! Besides Wavetale, can you share some projects might some people know you from, either through working behind-the-scenes or lending your vocal talents?
MA: Sure! People might recognize my voice from hosting the official Steven Universe podcast! I also provide the English voice of Culotte in the rerelease of La Pucelle Ragnarok, Ali in Ejen Ali season 3, and Isaac Kempff in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I also have worked on several animated series in production roles, and more recently as an animatic editor!
GN: How did the opportunity to voice Sigrid in Wavetale come about?
MA: I actually stumbled across the open casting call on Twitter! I submitted my demo and then received the copy from them. I immediately loved the character and put my all into the audition, and the rest is history!
GN: Just how different is it providing voice work for a game like Wavetale versus a traditional animated project?
MA: There are some key differences! The biggest is that most of my animation work has been ADR (dubbing), where I’ve had to match the existing animation and timing. It was great to have more freedom to read Sigrid’s lines at my own pace!
GN: What was a typical day like when recording for Wavetale?
MA: I recorded Wavetale lines on my own time as they came in from Thunderful, so my days varied! I started recording for the game when I was still in college, and kept recording it in chunks after moving to LA to work in animation. I would record the lines after class or work, then send them off for feedback. I was always excited to see new lines in my inbox because it meant I got to learn more about the game’s story and world.
It’s the friends you meet along the way…
GN: For those who don’t know, Sigrid is the main character of Wavetale. Just how much pressure did you feel knowing you were providing the driving force in the game’s narrative?
MA: I was definitely nervous to get it right!! I knew the team was doing amazing work to bring the world of Strandville to life, and I wanted to do it justice in my performance, so I made sure every line I sent in was as good as it could be. In my mind though, that’s a lot of what Sigrid’s journey is about too. She gains confidence in herself to tackle the larger-than-life challenges she faces—she’s got a lot to prove and a lot to learn, but she tackles it head-on. So I thought, “well, if Sigrid can do it, so can I!”
GN: When learning about Sigrid and Wavetale in general, what ideas, elements and themes came across that you felt were important in voicing the character?
MA: The thing I often come back to with Sigrid is her sense of longing for something more, and her curiosity about the world around her. Over the course of the game she’s seeing so many things for the first time. Even though many of the characters around her seem stuck in the trauma of the past, Sigrid is always facing forward. That really helped me understand the lens through which she sees the world.
GN: How close is Sigrid’s voice to your natural voice, and how did you alter your approach to find your performance for Sigrid?
MA: It’s pretty close to my natural voice, with a specific cadence and a little bit of raspiness added! They were going for a more natural, grounded sound. The scene I often referenced to get into Sigrid’s head was the one from early in the game, when she tells Grandma about the shadow and insists that it helps her, not hurts her. Something about that scene just helps me find Sigrid!
A shell of a mystery
GN: Sigrid goes through a lot in her journey, which certainly requires a lot of range from you. How taxing were some of the game’s more emotional scenes and elements?
MA: I definitely dug deep for those scenes and gave it my all, which can be taxing but is also rewarding! Sigrid is most vulnerable when talking about her connection with her mother, so I tried to put a lot of emotion into those scenes.
GN: There’s definitely an element of sadness woven throughout parts of Wavetale. This is felt in everything from the game’s story to its soundtrack. I know I was moved emotionally quite a few times while playing! Did you ever get hit with a wave of emotions while performing?
MA: Definitely! As I learned more about Sigrid’s connection with her mother, I was thinking of my own family and it helped to bring out those feelings in an authentic way.
GN: What was most important to you when bringing Sigrid to life?
MA: Most important to me was trying to take the player on Sigrid’s emotional journey with her. That’s what it’s all about, you know? Since the player is going to be spending so much time in Sigrid’s shoes, I wanted them to really connect with her, regardless of the context––both in quiet moments, like on the ocean where she’s just talking to the shadow, and in big moments where she’s facing down a giant monster. I wanted the player to be able to step right into the world and feel what Sigrid was feeling as she explored the world around her.
GN: You previously said this project has meant a lot to you and you loved the role. Can you elaborate on why you found Wavetale to be such a meaningful experience?
MA: Wavetale is exactly the type of game I love to play, so I felt so lucky that I got to voice Sigrid. My favorite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, so as soon as I learned about the mechanic of surfing on the water, I was sold. The story is resonant, the art is beautiful, the music is great, and I couldn’t believe I got to have a hand in the amazing project this development team put together. It was also exciting for the stage my career was in at the time, and it validated a lot of the voice acting training I’d done. I knew right away that it was going to be a special role for me, and I was right!! I’m very grateful to be part of a project that I connect with so much.
GN: Your stellar performance is lifted by an amazing cast of voice actors around you. How much did you actually interact with your fellow cast?
MA: The rest of the cast is absolutely AMAZING!! Wavetale was recorded asynchronously from actors all over the world, so I actually didn’t really interact with them at all during recording. That said, all the props in the world to Alexandra Dahlberg (the narrative designer for Wavetale) for giving us great direction to make it all work together!! It was always such a huge treat to get to hear other character’s voices for the first time, and seeing it all come together in cutscenes and gameplay is beyond magical. It was especially awesome to hear the back and forth dialog between Sigrid and her grandma come to life—I think Laila Berzins did a perfect job at making Doris sound stern, but still endearing.
Something fishy’s going on…
GN: Unless I’m mistaken, you’re the one singing “Iris’ Lullaby,’ which is an absolutely beautiful performance. Is this your first foray into singing for a project? What was it like recording this song versus dialog?
MA: Yes, that was me! I actually have a background as a singer before I started voice acting, but this is the first time I got to sing for a voice acting role! Alexandra brought up the possibility of singing and looped in Joel Bille (the amazing composer for Wavetale), and I was super excited! They gave me the melody and lyrics, and I gave them a bunch of versions with different tempos. I was so thrilled that they decided to have it in the soundtrack release as well!! The soundtrack is gorgeous, so singing on one of the tracks was a dream come true.
GN: What do you most fondly look back on from your time recording for Wavetale?
MA: I’m going to be vague to avoid spoilers, but one of my favorite moments while recording was when I figured out the backstory of the shadow. Since I recorded the game in chunks, I learned the backstory and lore in real-time along with Sigrid, which made those reveals exciting for both of us!!
GN: If you could have people take one thing away from Wavetale in general, what would that be?
MA: I think the message about taking care of the planet and one another is something that is universal and timely, so I hope that leaves an impact on people—I know it did for me!! I also found it uplifting that even in an apocalyptic situation, Sigrid is able to find beauty in the world around her and hope for the future. I think that’s something all of us need!