Vorcha: Cosplayed by Mark Meer, Mask by Composite Effects,
Armor by Moonbase Creations, Gun by Michael Kraft, Photo by Debadeep Sen.
The very first Mass Effect crept onto our screens in 2007. Since then, BioWare’s trilogy has undeniably crept into our hearts and presented us with a whole shipload of memorable characters, missions, and of course, our very own space hamster. Out of the dust and cosmic rubble there was always one constant, and that was Commander Shepard. Andromeda will be an uncertain journey, presenting the next generation of space exploration and paving the way for a new hero as one of the Ryder twins.
Let’s chat with one of the most iconic voice actors and entertaining humans on this planet, Mark Meer, (aka Commander Shepard, aka BroShep)! Because Shepard will forever be remembered and revered, and Mark Meer is a name (and voice) you should know!
Espionage Cosmetics: You’ve made your mark on quite a few amazing projects, and your humor continually shines through. You are no stranger to making fans and strangers alike smile from ear to ear. We would imagine your background in improv translates fairly well to voice acting. Do you get to improv much in the booth?
Mark Meer: The writers generally prefer that you stick to the script, but having an improv background does come in handy. In video game work, you don't always get a chance to study the script before a recording session. A lot of the time, you're going into what amounts to a cold read. There are multiple takes, of course, but improv training lets you hit the ground running, and that's always helpful.
EC: In the beginning, game VO was all about piles and piles of paper scripts. Can you tell us much about how the process has evolved since then? What are the pros and cons?
MM: It's mostly pro, especially from an environmental standpoint. We don't go through quite as many forests since we moved on from paper scripts. Everything is on a screen these days.
EC: As far as fellow voice actors go, who inspires you most?
MM: Mark Hamill has been a favourite ever since the old Batman animated series. Steve Blum is great - and also a great guy! Billy West, Jennifer Hale, Courtenay Taylor, D.C. Douglas, Quinton Flynn... the list goes on.
EC: You’ve cosplayed as Commander Shepard, mingle with fans on the reg, and basically just kick a lot of major ass. How’d you get your start in cosplay? Your Vorcha is INSANE by the way! (We recently found out you voiced the Vorcha…like we said….kick a lot of major ass.) Are you currently working on any new costumes?
MM: I've always been a big Halloween fan - that's what my first costumes were made for. By the time I started bringing costumes to Cons, I had a collection that included Bizarro, Doctor Doom, Black Adam... mostly villains, actually. My Commander Shepard armour was made by my friend David Carpenter of Evil FX Props after we met at Dragon Con one year, and the Vorcha silicone mask was custom made for me by my pals at Composite Effects. They also made the mask for my most recent costume, The Night King from Game of Thrones, which I wore to host the cosplay contest at this fall's Edmonton Expo.
As far as future plans go, it's not strictly a new costume, but I'm planning on bringing my Hobgoblin back to DragonCon next year for a Sinister Six group with some friends of mine. And I may have to do Vorcha Dad at some point, since I already have the mask...
Night King: Mask by Composite Effects, Makeup by Pru Olenik, Photo by Dave Chapman.
Hobgoblin: Mask by Composite Effects, Costume by Brian Parsley, Photo by Marc-Julien Objois.
EC: Alright, you’re a gamer and that’s a beautiful thing. What’s your favorite RPG at the moment? What new releases are you most excited to play?
MM: I played the HELL out of Fallout 4. Really wish the game didn't keep track of how much real time you've spent playing it... I spent weeks of my life building settlements! Haven't got around to Witcher 3 yet, so that's next on my list. I think I'll dive back into Skyrim for a bit with the release of the Special Edition, and I'll definitely be playing Red Dead Redemption 2. And, of course, I'm looking forward to Mass Effect: Andromeda.
EC: Did you contribute any content or VO in Andromeda? cough Hmmm?
MM: Nice try!
EC: Also, I like to sample a lot of flavors when it comes to romancing in games. ME placed certain restrictions and sometimes I was boxed into having just one flavor in my waffle cone. It sounds like a lot of those walls have been lifted in Andromeda, what does this mean for you? Are you the type of protagonist that stays loyal to Liara, or do you like to take advantage of this make believe world and perhaps your cone shall runneth over? We won’t judge.
MM: Well, I had inside knowledge that some of the characters from the first Mass Effect (Liara, Ashley) wouldn't be full party characters in ME2, for example, so I guess I played the field a bit on my playthroughs. My Renegade romanced Ashley, then Miranda. My Paragon was with Liara, then Tali. I suppose I should eventually do a playthrough where Shepard shows some fidelity.
EC: We LOVE that you said playing games that you’ve done VO work in is like being Dr. Manhattan except with pants. You certainly are privy to key points as you’ve mentioned. So, what are your thoughts on being Dr. Manhattan Pants? Does it take away from your gaming experience or even enhance it in a way?
MM: It's a unique perspective, to be sure. However, I think for sheer gaming enjoyment, it's more fun for me to not know what comes next.
EC: What’s your preferred character to play as in Dragon Age?
MM: I tend to go for spellcasters in fantasy games. One of my favourite DA characters was a Blood Mage, but he was careful to never let on and was very secretive about it. As far as I know, the good-aligned NPCs never had a clue... they usually got left back at the camp site.
EC: What’s your favorite line that you’ve delivered? Ever?
MM: "I'm going to cut your balls off and sell them to a Krogan." has a certain ring to it. "That was for Thane, you son of a bitch." was a good one too. My favourite might be "...The best."
EC: OMG, Thane. Yes, we greatly approve of that one. If you could start your own Mercenary group in RL, what would you name it?
MM: I'll go for "The Black Goats", solely for the Lovecraftian connotations.
EC: If you were transported into a Pixar film, what sort of character/animal/object do you think you’d be?
MM: A Commander Shepard action figure. I could hang out with Buzz Lightyear.
EC: Most importantly, did your fish survive in ME or did you continually find some floaters?
Fish and hamster care are a top priority on my ship.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU NOW?!
EC: Do you have any large projects on the horizon (that you can talk about)? Voice acting and otherwise?
MM: I just finished my recording for the first episode of the eagerly-awaited Story Mode on The Long Dark for Hinterland Studio. It's currently in Alpha on Steam and Xbox solely as a survival sandbox, but we've already got hundreds of thousands of players. The narrative mode should be out within the first few months of 2017. The game itself is a realistic post-apocalyptic survival simulation that's been described as "Player Vs. Canada". It stars me and my Mass Effect counterpart, the amazing Jennifer Hale, plus David Hayter and Elias Toufexis. I should note - we're all Canadians. Also, author Margaret Atwood recently tweeted about the game, so that's about as Canadian as you can get.
I recently did a fun puzzle game from Blue Wizard called Slayaway Camp. It's a tribute to slasher horror movies of the 1980's. The script is genuinely hilarious and it lives up to its claim of being the "most violent-est puzzle game ever". My friend Derek Mears, who plays Jason in the latest Friday the 13th movie, has a brief but memorable vocal cameo as the "Final Girl", Jessica.
Currently, I'm in Canada shooting the fourth season of Caution: May Contain Nuts, a sketch comedy show from Mosaic Entertainment, who also produce my TV show, Tiny Plastic Men.
I'm also in the middle of recording the newest season of The Irrelevant Show for CBC Radio. We're broadcast nationally in Canada, and available as a free podcast from the CBC website and on iTunes.
And then there's my work in improvisational theatre... I work regularly with Rapid Fire Theatre here in Canada, performing the improvised superhero epic "The Harold of Galactus" with my friend Chris Craddock, and playing The Doctor (and sometimes The Master) in our improv Doctor Who tribute show, Doctor Whom. I'm also a member of the long-running improv soap opera, Die-Nasty, and I'll be attending the London Jam and Improvathon in the UK this January. I'll be playing the Dungeon Master in Improvised Dungeons & Dragons (which is exactly what it sound like), and going the distance in the annual 50-Hour Improvathon, which many of the actors perform without sleeping. This year's Improvathon is fantasy-themed, so there's sure to be plenty of Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings references. The festival runs Jan 16-19, followed by the Improvathon Jan 20-22, at Wilton's Music Hall in London.
Find links to past sketches w/ Mark Meer below!
Original thumbnail photo by Joseph Chi Linn