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Why The Overwatch Voices Sound So Familiar

Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch boasts one of the most colorful and diverse rosters in video game history. No matter whether you like supporting your fellow players or charging in with guns a-blazing, there's a little something for everyone. Not only that, but the talented voice cast ensures that each of these characters has their own distinct personality.

In an article on diversity in the world of voice acting, NBC News specifically addressed the cast of Overwatch and how Blizzard went about assembling them. When seeking out the actors who would make up Overwatch's cast, Blizzard's senior casting director and voice director, Andrea Toyas, "searched internationally to capture a sense of authenticity in the game's characters." This has resulted in a cast made up of both veterans and newcomers to voice-over work.

Here are the faces behind some of your favorite Overwatch characters, as well as what else you may have seen or heard them in. Let's break it down.

Crispin Freeman - Winston

Crispin Freeman lends an honorable air to the gravelly voice of Winston, the genetically enhanced gorilla, making him more of a gentle giant than he would first appear. Freeman may be best known to fans of anime for his lead voice roles in the English language dubs of series like Hellsing Ultimate, wherein he plays lead vampire and anti-hero Alucard, Naruto Shippuden, where he voices the shinobi Itachi Uchiha. In the world of Western animation, Freeman is probably best known as the voice of Roy Harper/Arsenal in Young Justice, an impressively varied role that has extended to Roy's multiple clones, each with their own unique personality traits. 

Freeman was one of many voice actors who participated in a massive strike in 2016. In speaking to GameSpot during the strike, Freeman explained, "I've been asked to work on games without them saying that it's the same game again, and so they tried to undercut my salaries ... I understand the video game industry is very secretive ... But when you decide you want to hire an actor ... you have to tell them what the game is. I don't know anyone who would go to work not knowing what they're working on, and yet we're asked to do this continuously."

Darin De Paul - Reinhardt

Darin De Paul voices Reinhardt, a former soldier of the German Armed Forces who charges into battle in a rocket-powered suit of armor. His commanding tone should call to mind some of his other voice roles. One of his more notable roles was as Ardyn Lucis Caelum in Final Fantasy 15, a role he reprised in various spinoffs, including the animated Final Fantasy 15 film, Kingsglaive. He also memorably portrayed Dr. Samuel Hayden, the obsessed scientist who dragged Mars into Hell and kickstarted the events of 2016's Doom.

In an interview with Break the Game, Darin De Paul said that he knew he wanted to be an actor at least since he was in high school. His pursuit of the dramatic arts eventually led to work in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, as well as some film roles. He got his first real break as a voice over artist for video games when he was cast as Gill Grunt in the first Skylanders game. Since then, he has stayed quite busy, playing heroes and villains alike.

Jen Cohn - Pharah

Armed with rockets and a jet-propelled suit, Pharah is the go-to gal for raining down destruction on the opposing side. Her voice is provided by actress Jen Cohn, who told Comics Gaming Magazine that she auditioned for the role years after working with Blizzard's voice director on World of Warcraft. Though her first audition portrayed the character with more of a villainous bent, Cohn really started to find the character's distinct voice and tone when she was told "to think of [Pharah] as being the Captain America of the game."

Cohn studied acting in college, landing her first voiceover role when she "was 19 or maybe 20 years old." After that, she continued taking occasional voice-over gigs in between performances in stage plays. Her voice can be heard elsewhere in multiple installments of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, as well as in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where she played Lord Zash, Master Cala, and several other characters.

Charlet Chung - D. Va

The mech-operating, trash-talking D. Va is one of the more recognizable characters in Overwatch. The light, sassy voice behind D. Va is actress Charlet Chung, who has appeared in live action guest roles in several series, such as Weeds and Grace and FrankieAs a voice actress, Chung has also been featured in the games Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. She also portrays junior detective Julia Argent in the Netflix Original Series Carmen Sandiego.

Chung credits much of her success with always looking the part and maintaining an air of professionalism. In an interview with Inven Globalshe explained, "You have to look professional. I think one of the reasons on why I was chosen to be D.Va is because when I met Blizzard, I always tried my best to look like a Korean pop-star as much as possible ... And because I have a television background, I just personally feel more confident as an actor if I dress up like the person that I'm acting."

Cara Theobold - Tracer

The dual pistol-wielding Tracer is voiced by British actress Cara Theobold, who has reprised the character in a few Overwatch shorts and in a cameo role in the major motion picture Ready Player One. Tracer herself made headlines when Blizzard revealed in 2016 that her character was in a relationship with a woman named Emily, officially making Tracer the first canonically LGBTQ+ member of the Overwatch cast.

Elsewhere in her filmography, actress Cara Theobold's first television role was in the BBC drama Downton Abbey, from which fans of that show may remember her as Ivy Stuart, one of the maids of the Abbey. She would later play one of the leads in Crazyhead, a horror-comedy series that The Telegraph called "bright, punchy and genuinely funny." In an interview with The Independent, Theobald discussed what draws her to playing more complex, imperfect characters in live action, saying, "Just as we can have flawed heroes we can have flawed heroines. The honest portrayal of real people is much more interesting than some shiny version." 

Benz Antoine - Baptiste

Baptiste is "a battle-hardened combat medic" voiced by Benz Antoine, a prolific actor whom you may recognize from several different roles in movies and television. He was a lead actor on the Canadian police procedural series 19-2 and had a recurring role on the horror television series V-Wars. He has also been seen in such films as Get Rich or Die TryingI'm Not There, and 2008's Death Race.

Surprisingly enough, given how busy he seems to stay in other media, Overwatch marks Benz Antoine's first-ever voice acting performance. In an interview with Variety, Antoine explained that he had no idea what he was auditioning for when his manager got the call from Blizzard; all that he knew was that he had to do a French accent. After he landed the part of Baptiste, he said things changed for him in major ways. As he told Variety, "I've spent 25 years working as an actor and no one in my family thought I was cool until I got this."

Anjali Bhimani - Symmetra

Voiced by Anjali Bhimani, the beautiful teleporter known as Symmetra is notable for being a video game character who has been confirmed as being on the autism spectrum. Bhimani herself grew up in California and pursued a theatrical degree at Northwestern University in Illinois, beginning her television and film career when a play she was in moved out to New York. 

Bhimani's voice may sound familiar to gamers for her role as Nisha, the leader of the Disciples, a faction of criminals in Bethesda Game Studio's Fallout 4. In live action television, she has been seen in guest roles in several popular shows, including episodes of Young SheldonStation 19, and A.P. Bio. She is also a cast member of the live action role-playing game web series We're Alive: Frontier. In addition to her acting career, Bhimani has a YouTube series called I Am Fun Size, which focuses on positivity and helping people learn how to live their best life.

Christopher L. Parson - Junkrat

"The worst feeling in a first-person shooter is having absolutely no idea why you died," writes Kotaku's Cecilia D'Anastasio. "Overwatch took that feeling, compressed it into a small Australian man, and armed it with grenades." That's a hilarious way of describing the character of Junkrat, as well as his penchant for choosing rampant destruction over finesse and strategy. This small, grenade-lobbing Australian man is voiced by Christopher L. Parson, who says the character description given to him for his Overwatch audition stated that Blizzard was searching for "like a meth-addict kind of thing." 

Parson should sound very familiar to gamers of all genres. In addition to reprising the role of Junkrat in Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, he portrayed Artyom in Metro: Exodus and Gladiolus in Final Fantasy 15. In their review of Final Fantasy 15, when commenting on the game's English voice actors, Gaming Nexus said, "Chris Parson's gravelly Gladiolus balances out the cast." Parson also notably voiced a child version of President George W. Bush in the Comedy Central animated series Lil' Bush, a role he briefly reprised in a sketch on an episode of Mind of Mencia.

Matthew Mercer - McCree

McCree is a sharpshooting Western-themed hero in the Overwatch universe, voiced with a raspy southern drawl by veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer. In addition to voicing McCree, Mercer is known for his portrayal of another major hero in the world of video games: Resident Evil's Leon S. Kennedy, whom he voiced in two computer-animated films and Resident Evil 6. When news broke of Leon's recasting for the remake of Resident Evil 2, Mercer took to Twitter to assure fans that he held "no ill will" regarding the decision. However, he did add, "I just care for the character a lot, and hope for the opportunity in the future to step back into those shoes."

Mercer is also a main cast member of the live action series Critical Role, where he plays Dungeon Master for a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game featuring several fellow voice actors. Fans of anime will likely recognize Mercer for his performances in several English dubs; he plays Hit in Dragon Ball Super, Levi in Attack On Titan, and Yamato in Naruto: Shippuden.

Genevieve O'Reilly - Moira

In OverwatchMoira is most memorable for her healing abilities and a distinctive Irish accent. Moira's voice actress, Genevieve O'Reilly, may be familiar to television audiences for her starring roles in the series Tin Star and Glitch. In an interview with Parade, O'Reilly explained that she first fell in love with theater and the craft of acting after seeing a stage production of Marat/Sade when she was younger.

Aside from Overwatch, Genevieve O'Reilly has already made a name for herself in the science fiction genre as the actress who portrayed Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma in the Star Wars films Revenge of the Sith (where her scene was deleted from the final cut of the film) and Rogue One. She would also reprise the role in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. Of her attachment to the Star Wars fanbase, O'Reilly has said, "Whenever I do a play there are Star Wars fans at the stage door and they're always lovely ... When you're doing something really serious and the Star Wars fans are waiting outside, it's a nice juxtaposition."

Sahr Ngaujah - Doomfist

Doomfist is an incredibly powerful fighter voiced by Sahr Ngaujah. In fact, Doomfist was so over-powered at launch that his moveset was tweaked after the very first day the character was made available to players. This tough-as-nails character is pretty on-brand for Sahr Ngaujah, whose most well-known television role may be that of Anansi on the Netflix Marvel adaptation Luke Cage. The mentor to the dangerous super villain known as Bushmaster, Anansi was a recurring character in Luke Cage's second season.

In addition to his television and voice-over performances, Sahr Ngaujah has also done quite a bit of work in the theater. He made his Broadway debut in 2009 as the lead of Fela!, a musical about Nigerian activist and musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. As noted by The New York Times, this role was so demanding that Ngaujah and another actor, Kevin Mambo, would alternate performances as Fela. According to an interview with Afridiziak, Sahr Ngaujah was nominated for an Olivier Award for his work in Fela!, and he considers Broadway legend Ben Vereen to be a performer who has inspired him in his own career.

Gaku Space - Genji

With his wickedly sharp dragonblade at his disposal, Overwatch's Genji is an armor-clad force to be reckoned with. Genji is voiced by Japanese actor Gaku Space, a man who is certainly no stranger to martial arts action or the video game world in general. 

In the Machinima web series Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, Space notably portrayed Gouki, the young warrior who would eventually become Akuma (a reference to the change in the character's name from between the American and Japanese release of the games). In an interview with Kung-Fu Kingdom, Space expressed a distinct distaste for previous big-screen Hollywood adaptations of the Street Fighter franchise. Said Space, "Those films may be entertaining, but they don't tell the story properly."

According to an interview with What's A Geek?, Space managed to land the role of Genji after only one audition. Though he doesn't have any input on the writing side of things, Space works to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of his Japanese-language dialogue while in recording sessions for Genji. 

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