Ep. #70 Being a Real Character with Erika Mori

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #70 Being a Real Character with Erika Mori
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My long time friend, Erika Mori, joined me on the podcast today!  The conversation bounces between sensitive, smart, and very silly as we walk down memory lane, dig into the importance of technique to access emotion, and discuss the inevitable “professional heartbreaks” that we’ll experience in our work.

Quick Links:

Life is Strange Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6CkzwVAr0M

The Lucid Body: A Guide for the Physical Actor by Fay Simpson

https://www.esowonbookstore.com/book/9781621537243

https://www.amazon.com/Lucid-Body-Guide-Physical-Actor/dp/1581156510

Eduardo Salsa Teacher: https://instagram.com/saucedotango?igshid=14j87dzgsep44

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place though. 

Dana: Hello, My friend. Welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. And this episode is so much fun, If I do declare.  Today on the podcast, I am talking to one of my longest time friends. Her name is Erika Mori, and she is sensational. You are about to find out, uh, Erika and I grew up dancing together. We’ve known each other since we were probably nine, maybe younger. I’ll have to check the date on some of the footage that we have uncovered. Yeah, you’re going to definitely want to tune into the Instagram to see some, some proof of our friendship and talent and how it has evolved over time. Um, but I’m, I’m jazzed about this episode because in it, Erika and I discuss a wide range of topics from climbing corporate ladders, uh, the importance of, and the place for our emotions and landing the job of your dreams with arguably no experience. In Erika’s case, very little to no social media following either. She is an exceptional person with an exceptional story, and I’m so excited to share it with you. Uh, but first we’re going to do some wins. Um, if you’re new to the pod, this is, this is what we do. We start every episode off by talking about what’s going well. I think it’s important. I’m going to take the stage first and then I’m going to pass the mic to you. So be thinking about your win and what’s going well in your world. Um, today I am celebrating last week’s free live career coaching call that I hosted. I got to meet so many awesome people. Thank you for bringing yourselves you’re vulnerab— Well, that’s a tough one. It really is a tough one. Your vulnerability, your questions. Um, I think everyone walked away with, with a better idea of what career coaching is, period. Um, but also with a lot of insight and awareness as to how to move forward with clarity and confidence. Um, so that is my win. Awesome free career coaching call. If you guys happen to have missed it, I did not record the call and I won’t record those calls in the future, but I will certainly be doing more of them in the future. So stay tuned over @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram and my website, theDanawilson.com

That is where I will always be sharing. That is the home of those free calls. Uh, okay. Now it’s your turn. What’s going well,  

Do keep it up. I’m stoked for you. All right. Now, I don’t want to borrow any more time. I want you to meet Erica so bad. I’m so excited. This episode is truly equal parts, smart, sensitive, and straight up laugh attack. So buckle up and enjoy this conversation with Erika Mori.   

Dana: Holy Freaking Smokes, ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, and all humans alike. Please welcome my guest today. Erika Mori, Erika, thank you so much for being here.  

Erika: Uh, what a delight, a pleasure.  

Dana: So I, you are one of my longest oldest, dear, not oldest. Uh, I’ll be careful. One of my longest time friends known each other since, since we were children. Um, I’m really excited to talk to you on the podcast today about some exciting things going on in your creative world. Um, and we’ll take a little journey into the past of child Dana, child, Erica. I’m so excited about this. Um, but before we do any of that, I would love for you. Uh, as I love for all of my guests to endure the struggle of introducing themselves, uh, what would you like us to know about you?  

Erika: Oh, wow. Well, my name is Erika Mori and I currently live in Denver. I am a voracious reader and a dog mom, which seems like pretty basic, but I’ll take it.  

Dana: Oh, there’s nothing but nothing basic about being a dog. Mom. I’m a plant mom and I’ve got my hands full.  

Erika: Yeah, but you have a, your plant mom to a plant in eight disco ball planter, which is true, like fairly eccentric. And it’s really fabulous. It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party. And also life  

Photo evidence will be coming soon to an Instagram account near you. Um, okay. Thank you for that. Thank you so much for the introduction. Albeit a very modest introduction because I do want our listeners to also know that you are, um, the face, the voice and the body of the lead character, Alex, uh, from the video game, Life is Strange, which has been, award-winning like, this is a big, massive deal this game. Um, this narrative adventure video game thing by SquareEnix. Is that correct? Yeah. Okay. And we’re going to talk about that because this is a big, massive, exciting job of yours, but first we’re going to go, uh, stroll down memory lane. If you wouldn’t mind,  

I would love to  

This, this blast from the past is brought to you by Chiquita banana head dresses and Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Oh yes. Photo evidence of that coming soon as well. Um, what was that? I like it like that. Yeah. Before it was a Nicki Minaj hook. We danced too. I like it like that with Chiquita banana head dresses on which may be slightly insensitive if done today, perhaps. But I will say that,  

How old were we? I mean, we were like 12, probably 12, 12, 11. Yeah.  

Yeah. Some of my fondest memories took place in those, in those four walls at Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Um, I’m, I’m wondering if you could just dish a few of your favorite memories from being a comp kid?  

Oh God. Um, I think one of my favorite memories is actually like pretty disgusting. It was, do you remember how we would spit on the floor and rub our feet in it? Like our shoes in it to like basically be rosin? Yeah. Um, S four turns so that we wouldn’t slip just loogies everywhere. 

100% everywhere. I actually caught myself in the act of this, um, of this spit resistance very recently. Like during COVID times. And I spit on the floor and it was like, Oh my God,  

I am so sorry. It’s like, now we’re just like a Petri dish of disease  

For real. I mean, when you consider, I just, I just hit my disco ball. I’m getting, so I’m getting so excited when you consider that later on, I rolled around on that same floor and the other people that would be rolling around on that same floor. It’s a miracle 

We ate off of that floor. 

Um, such a wonder that we didn’t all get ringworm, right? Yeah. That was a disgusting, that was a disgusting habit that we had. We had some wardrobe, some hot wardrobe fashions. I remember, I remember specifically wearing little boy underwear in dance class as if they were briefs like dance briefs.   

Yeah. That was kind of like some of our costumes. I just, now I know how upset my dad was about just all of it, how, um, there just weren’t many pieces of fabric or for a lot of our costumes and he still, you know, religiously went to every single dance competition. Bless his heart. Yes. You know, um, and probably just like closed his eyes for all of it. 

Super shout out Rick Mori. Well, you know what? I didn’t expect the conversation to go there, but this is a really interesting topic. That’s seeing quite a bit more light, uh, of, of late. I think as a lot of people are becoming more aware of some of the things that might be happening unintentionally in the convention and dance training worlds that are not so safe for young people. Um, so I think a lot of, a lot of people at the moment being more responsible for, um, not just the costume, but also the music being age appropriate, the intention behind the music being age appropriate. I really am seeing a trend towards the safer in that space in the convention space. Um, but since our competition days, your relationship with dance has, has changed a lot. Could you talk a bit about that, about your relationship with dance today and, um, kind of how it’s changed since, since we were up on that stage? 

Oh God, God bless it. Um, it, you know, I I’ve had dance in my life consistently. Um, right after high school, I went to college at the University of Southern California. And I was, I think this experience is, is pretty shared amongst a lot of incoming freshmen where you get really close with a group of people that you meet at orientation or on your dorm floor. And then you realize that you don’t really like them, like a month, a month and a half later where you’re like, huh, we weren’t actually bonding over things that we actually enjoyed. It was that we were just balls of hormones shoved together in the same place at the same time. Exactly. No parents, lots of booze. Um, I need to find some of my own friends. And so I saw a flyer up about dance auditions and I ended up getting on a dance team called the song leaders or song girls. Um, and they dance at football games, basketball games. It’s, it’s a, it’s a big deal, but that was, that became my, my social group for the rest of, of college. Um, and so I was dancing all through college. I did like adult dance classes when I lived in San Francisco just to like keep it going. And then I actually was in Buenos Aires. I was living there for five or six months. And your mom Steff 

Shout out Stan, 

Shout out, shout out to Stan. She got me into contact with her tango instructor. Oh my God. He’s amazing.  

The name is for real. His last name is Saucido and he’s this sauceiest. Just super shout out. Yes. He is an incredibly talented dancer and a really gifted teacher. I did not fancy myself an excellent partner dancer. Actually my mom’s schools me still she’s very good, but I found that a lot about tango is opposite our training. Um, first of all, in that you’re moving backwards most of the time, but it’s like a weight control relinquishing control. Well, that’s even outside of my dance life a subject, but, um, yeah, I really, I struggled with tango a lot, so Eduardo not only talented, but also very patient teacher. Um, and he’s in BA okay. So wait, you were there before you knew that, that my mom was traveling there. My mom, by the way, for those of you who are just tuning into my life and my mom, um, she was a flight attendant for several years and was flying Buenos Aires turns so that she could be dancing, uh, during her layovers, which I just think is the most heroic and romantic thing to be doing.  

So fabulous. Yeah. So it was really serendipitous because I was already planning to take a sabbatical from my corporate job. I was planning on living in one of the side days for a set amount of time and we reconnected and she was just like a total angel. I saw her every time she would come through, we would do dance class together. Sometimes we go to a Milonga and I just think the dance has been a really grounding experience for me. So even though I left the competition world, I didn’t pursue it. I kind of always knew I wouldn’t pursue it professionally. Um, I actually blast from the past, I remember we were at some convention, we’re all sitting down and I maybe it was like Mark Meismer or somebody was walking around with a microphone and was asking like, what do you want to do when you grow up? Some, some question like that. And I like, my little hand shot up and I knew I was like, he he’s expecting, like, I want to be a professional dancer. And I like grab that microphone. And I was like, I want to make enough money so that I can pay for her. And I pointed at you, should be, that she could be a dancer my God. And he was, I just remember him being like, okay,  

But that’s not the message we’re trying to put out. We’re trying to encourage dancers to be dancers without sponsors, but work or, I mean, you know, we’re, we’re coming fresh out of, um, not at the time of this interview, we’re coming fresh out of Money March where I’ve spent four episodes talking about kind of the economics and the, the ins and outs dollar bills of a dancer’s life. And man, as I was doing research, I found some, some numbers that were quite startling. Um, and I, again, there’s such tremendous range in the dance world. It’s hard to get like a grip on how much it answer makes, if you haven’t already people listening, go give a listen to those four episodes, but I’m touched that you would sponsor my dance life for me. And you probably still would today. I would, I would imagine  

I can recognize like unique talents when I, when I see it and I rub up against it.  

And yo likewise, by the way, because I want to just point out, you might not have been the one that was like, I want to go on tour with Britney Spears, but you were the one that was winning first overall with all of your solos and all the scholarships and the feet and the legs and the turns and the personality and and and 

Thats because I was an absolute ham. Like I can’t even watch videos of myself performing because you know what it feels like. It feels like those first few episodes of a new American idol season, where there is just the general auditions and there’s just like a dumpster fire going on on your screen and you can’t look at it because then you’re afraid that you will in fact burst into flames yourself. It’s just like, there’s so much awkward. That’s what it is. I can’t, I can’t watch myself. It’s it’s so, Oh, I’m sorry for everyone.  

I’m going to make it more job to find some video footage to accompany this episode, because if you were a dumpster fire, my friend, I was a dumpster fire Slingshot to hell. Like it was a hot mess, but we really enjoy yourself. Um, we, we really enjoyed each other and I remember spending some like out of dance class time together, inventing fake products and writing jingles for them, which I far too sophisticated for this audience.  

You wouldn’t get it haha 

Um, but we would, we would like spend 30 odd hours a week at the dance studio and then be making up dances in your garage over the weekend. So we did love this thing and it’s really cool to see that you continued to love it in different ways throughout your adult life. Um, and what’s really, really cool is the way, what I think is the way dance has showed up to support you in this next chapter of your life. So let’s, let’s talk about you and being the star of this narrative adventure video game. Um, you have a really unique story about how you came upon this role. I would love to hear a little bit about that and then maybe we can dig into some conversations about mocap because, I’m obsessed. Um, so how did you, how did you come upon the role?  

The truth of it was I kind of tripped and fell into, into the role. Um, I had gotten into kind of a season of, of my career and my life where my corporate job was really taking over. And it was just working all the time, coming home, eating dinner, feeding the dog, going to bed. And it was just a rinse and repeat. And I was really feeling the strain of that. I think in general, I do try and do a good job of infusing something creative into my daily life. Um, and I just, that was a season where I wasn’t as fastidious about about it. And so recognize that signed up for an adult acting class at the Denver center, um, here in town. Excellent. Excellent. Um, excellent place to, to hone your craft. They do all sorts of classes, acting playwriting, dance, um, voiceover, on camera. I mean, it’s, it’s a really amazing resource, um, for folks here in Colorado and my, so I signed up for a class and my instructor happened to be a casting director who was the casting director for this game. And after the class was over, I get an email from her and be like, Hey, I think you should do this audition. Didn’t have a, obviously no agent, no idea.  

No headshot, no resume, no reel. 

What was, I know It was just a selfie. I’m deaf. I still don’t have a real, like, it’s just, you know, it’s just what it is. And so she sends me, she’s like, okay, yeah, I think you, you should definitely go to this audition. I almost called it an interview. Uh, and I was,  

That’s how one foot in each world you are, but you’re like one foot in the top of each of the worlds. This is amazing. Keep going  

Well. And, and I was like, okay. Yeah, I think, you know, one o’clock could work, but it would be better if it was at two. And she was like, you need to clear your schedule. Like this is not, this is not a negotiation about like, when you can be there, you are not the one dictating the timing. And I was like, okay, I’ll put it in the schedule. So I get up there, I do the audition, I get a call back. There were multiple callbacks. I want to say maybe like four callbacks, which is pretty intense. And I didn’t realize until maybe the first or second callback. And it was the first call back I’d ever done. Like, I just, it didn’t, I didn’t know what was going on. Um, but it was, it wasn’t until like the first or second callback where I realized that I was auditioning for the main character. I was like, Oh, surely this is like a tertiary character, because I don’t know the difference between my ** and a hole in the ground right now. Like just no clue what’s going on. Like nobody, nobody would, would gamble, gamble the house on somebody. Who’s never done this, but they ended up gambling the house on somebody who had never been the industry. I have no formal training. Um, I almost think it’s better that I didn’t know until that point because I just, and I had never experienced the life is strange, uh, games, the fandom, I, I just had no idea. And I think it was probably for the best for my nerves. And I didn’t have any idea  

So that you, so you got it. You’re plugged in to the epicenter of this universe that is already spinning with all sorts of planets and moons and things orbiting. And there you are, the warm fuzzy center of it. And this is so I think for people listening, it’s important to know that when you’re doing I’ll call it performance capture because it was way more than motion, right? You had sensors on your face, we’re capturing facial expressions, you are miked, we’re capturing audio. We’re, we’re what we’re hearing is your voice. And so this is full-blown performance capture that happens in a motion capture studio, um, or in some cases in some, um, or in some cases, because there’ve been such tremendous advances in the technology, performance capture and motion capture can be done outside, like in normal daylight and sunlight and stuff. Um, but where you on, on a studio for the most part,  

I was in a studio for the most part, except for when COVID hit. Like we still had pickups from, uh, different chapters and the end of the game to film. Right. And so for the most part, yes, there are, there are different technologies in terms of, of, of mo-cap. So we used one that required you to be in, in a studio with 24 cameras surrounding you, plus a couple regular cameras to get different shots, to like so that the animators can see your hands move. There were things that you can’t do, um, because it looks janky with the avatar in terms of like crossing your legs because of the hips on, on Alex or any, any of the characters. Like it just looks weird. And so finding like I would, we do, we’d do a scene and we’d have the writer, the director, um, audio guide, mocap folks. And they would bring in the animators, um, to make sure that they were getting what they needed. And it was just, it was super fun. And I think it comes back to, um, what we were talking about in terms of dance and just, I have a lifetime of experience being like truly grounded in my body 

And awareness and able to make small changes or big changes for that matter.  

Right. And so I think the coolest part of, of doing this performance capture was being able to make choices, how Alex moves, that’s different from how Erica moves and what informs those choices or how she sits or how she like holds her body. Um, the, the game is about empathy and how you embody what’s the physicality of emotions, different emotions for this character was super, super important. And it was the coolest part of, of the creative process,  

The greatest buffet for an artist, because, you know, you will not just get to, but you’ll be required to experience at varying levels, every single emotion on the spectrum and in every circumstance. So stop me if I’m wrong, but in my experience with, with motion capture, which we can talk about in a second, in a, in a narrative type of game, you more or less have to capture every possible outcome of what this character might do and with who and in what emotional state. Um, and so the, the shoot schedule is tremendous because you’re creating a world from scratch. You’re creating a human and all the infinite variable outcomes of, of what might happen in this world. So, number one, I would love to hear about how those shoot days looked, what type of like bites were you taking in a day of work? And then also how long was the shoot schedule? How long was this your nine to five?  

Whew. Well, we, I was, let’s see, I was cast in July of 2018 and I wrapped September of 2020,  

And the game isn’t coming out until September 2021,  

Right. September 10th. But it’ll come out all at once. You can binge it like you would binge Netflix. Yeah.  

You better believe I’m going to, I was, and this is a person who doesn’t really play games, but you better believe it would be better. I was so excited. 

But yeah, the, um, the creative process there, I mean the Alex that exists in the game now, it’s not the Alex we started with, right. So it was like incredibly collaborative. And I was told by the game director, by the writers that at some point when they had gotten to know me well enough and had seen my output, the performances that I was giving, they started to write for me. And so I think that there was a real, which I didn’t know was, was a thing, but apparently when there is, um, a really good relationship and an understanding between an actor and the writers’ room, real magic can happen. And I think, I think that’s, uh, I attribute that relationship among, among many others it into why Alex is, I think a really sensational character, um, as part of the life is strange universe. Um, so gosh, days could be anywhere from 5 to 10 hours of shoots. Um, a lot of scene work because it is narrative driven and the, to your earlier point, the script is branching, right? Because the script is conditional. I can’t, I mean, thousands of pages for a script. And so the performance started to get more like specific and nuanced as we got deeper into the story. And especially like at the very end, because it was like, okay, there were all these critical choices 

And How do you wrap up all those possible?  

And so like the prep was, the director would come out and okay, we’re running the scene. You, you know, I was given the script ahead of time. But remember this choice in this branch, this choice was made. This choice was made, this choice was made, this choice was made. And so the, the, the performance needs to have flavors of X, Y, or Z. And it was the best. I loved it.  

This is seriously like strong man universe of acting. Your muscles, even for somebody with zero experience. We all know that like, even as human beings that have never stepped foot in an acting class, you act different around your grandmother than you do around your boyfriend, or then you do around, you know, the Amazon delivery guy. So like, well, we’re all, we’re all actors in our way, but you must have been so strong to begin with and even more so now, what, what, like, do you think this is a type of work that you’ll be pursuing forevermore? Do you feel confident in your skills? Do you want to be doing this?  

Yes. I, I really like this, this genre of acting, um, career option that I stumbled into. I also think I was able to do what was required to me later in the script, because this was such a long running production that I was basically just living and breathing Alex. And so there was like a very, there is a very close connection with myself and my character and that character. And so I would love to continue to do that because I think it is a really nice meshing of the physicality and the body awareness that I have. And now I know all of the like unique little minutia that goes into doing performance capture for a game.  

How would you say that dance prepared you for this other than being able make micro adjustments and take direction? Well, how, how did dance prepare you? And were there any circumstances where you felt totally unprepared where you were like, Oh, I have no idea what, wait, what someone help.  

Yeah. I think in terms of how dance helped me. So kind of going back to your comment about tango being almost antithetical to our training, because you are following in the moment, I’m a terrible follower. I just want to lead. Poor Eduardo was always like, stop it,  

He’ll wait for you to stop. He’ll stop until you surrender.  

I mean, we were both, we would always be like drenched in sweat because it was basically a battle. Like you need to stop trying to lead. Yeah.  

Okay. So, but, but you were able to like quiet down and, and listen.  

I was, but I think our training as competition dancers, the memorization, um, the quick picking up of choreography really helped me here. So for example, you already mentioned that there was facial capture. So I had like a helmet with a rig on that came out. I don’t know, maybe a foot or more from my face with a camera. So, and it’s filming, it’s filming my face. Um, and she just it’s used by the animation, but even, I think in the, the, the release trailer, you see Gabe hug, Alex, you can’t do that with a helmet on, or you can, or you have to like move it around. And so for that sort of character intimacy for a lot of it, we would have to, we would put on these like silly little hats we take off our rig, we would perform the scene and then we would have to redo it with the facial, uh, the facial camera on with the hat rig on. And so we would have to remember exactly what we did on the circle take. Wow. And it was just, yeah, it was, I mean, it was second nature to me where I was like, Oh yeah, I absolutely, Nope. The hand went here. Nope. It was two seconds on the shoulder. And then it came down to the forearm. Like it, it was just second nature because it was in my body already to pay attention to that kind of stuff. And I would say the hardest to the second part of your question, the most challenging stuff for me was actually, um, going to those deep, emotional levels, um, that were required, especially for this game, especially for this character. I think I’ve, I’ve grown up. I’m Asian. I don’t know if know, 

This is a podcast, so anybody who’s listening,  

I’m, Asian-American, I’ve grown up in an Asian-American household and, um, wonderful childhood happy childhood. My parents did a bang up job because I was quite a handful, um, Dana, you know? Um, but there, there is, there has been a culture of like, you figure things out on your own. You don’t necessarily always show what you’re feeling. I’ve always been so bad about that. But then I really, really learned that lesson when I entered corporate America, I was specifically told, yes, I know you’re upset about, you know, this, this conflict that happened with your coworker, but in order to go to the higher ups who were always male, um, you can’t have any emotion when you tell them it just has to be the facts. And I remember early on in my career asking like, well, wouldn’t him seeing how this affects me emotionally. Um, like be a benefit, like give the whole story. And I was like, no, they won’t take you seriously. And so in order to, I thought, and it was erroneous, but I thought, and I was, I was coached to, in order to move up the corporate ladder to get into spaces that I wanted to be in, I needed to tamp down the emotion. Yes. The emotional side of me. And I think not to make this gender focused, but I do think that there was more sensitivity around it because I was female. I took it upon myself to say, like, if you want to get into these spaces that you desire to be in, this is something you need to work on. And I tend to be a woman of extremes. Like I will swing to one end, realize it doesn’t work swing to the other end. It does realize it doesn’t work and then figure out where I need to be in the center. And so I really did swing to the extreme of like no emotion. I actually only want to do analytical work. Um, and I’m a language arts girl, not necessarily like a math sciences girl, like that’s not where my strength is. And I think this game helped, helped me scratch off the scabs over my fear of, of being emotive 

Or, or quote over emotional.  

Yeah. And I was required to do that. And so when I first started again, back to being aware of your body, I know where grief lives inside of me. It like lives in a specific part of my body. And I know how to access it. Same with rage, right. Same with same with joy and all of that. And so before I realized, um, that I could go to that specific part of my body, I used, um, this is, this is part of the Lucid Body methodology by Fay Simpson that I, um, was introduced to in early 2019. But before that, right, we’ve been filming for six months before then. And I was just re-traumatizing myself to get to those emotions. So for example, um, Gabe, my, the, my brother Alex’s brother dies in the game and for one of my auditions or for one of the callbacks, they wanted to see that, that, that emotion. And I remember being like, I don’t, I can’t do that in front of people. And one of my closest friends at the time told me, like, just imagine if it was Evan, Evan is my younger brother. And as soon as  

Super shout out Evan! 

He’s just the best, Oh my gosh, doesn’t wear power ranger onesies anymore.  

That’s how I will always remember him. Actually. Maybe it’s better. I would love to see him again, but I don’t mind keeping that, that person precious in my mind. Okay. So you’re basically your friend is telling you more or less kill your brother in your, in your mind.  

Well, it’s like in order to get there, just imagine if Evan died and as soon as he said that I was crying completely unraveled. Yes. I like, I, I, it was, I found it, I found like the pain and the grief and the rage and, and all of it. And I use that in my audition. But then as I was, I think I’m sure it helps me get it because it was so very real. Like it almost didn’t feel like act acting. I almost said the wrong name. I almost said Evan’s name in the scene, just because that’s how closely connected to the grief of that scenario I was. And then I realized as we’re going through shoots. I was like, man, I can’t, I can’t keep doing this. Like, this is not good for me emotionally, psychologically. And I’m so, so glad that I found, um, the Lucid Body, because it does talk about how do you go as a performer. It can be a dancer. It can be a singer actor, whatever it is, you are going to be asked to go out on a limb of emotion, whatever that emotion is. If it’s grief, it’s rage, it’s happiness. You’re going to be asked to go out there, but you have to find yourself. You have to find your way back to the center, to the trunk of who you are. And I can do that now. Right. I, I’m not afraid to go out onto, you know, a sadness limb, because I know that when they say cut, I won’t still be out there without any sort of tools or recourse to come back to center. And it would just, it used to take so long and I would use to try and like hide, but I, I needed, I needed a five to, just to just come back to myself. Um, and I’m able to do that much more quickly and without fear, um, I used to have a lot of anxiety before some of the more intense scenes, just because I was like, well, if, what. I think that, that was a very real fear of, um, I was in a play called The Wolves in the fall of 2018 and it’s very, very emotional. It’s about a high school girls, soccer team, very fun. Um, but it requires a lot of, of the character that I was playing emotionally and I hadn’t found lucid body at that point. And it was a re-injured every single night to get to that emotional state. And it’s just, it’s just not healthy. It’s not sustainable  

And its not necessary if you have another way. Yeah. So do you feel that with the lucid body technique that you were able to achieve the same, um, level of emotion without it needing to be, um, imagining a real life, your life scenario to get it?  

Yes, absolutely. And I think it made it, it made it possible for me to only access that emotion as Alex  

Interesting, like her emotion.  

Right. And of course, exactly. And of course, like, I don’t think that we are ever fully divorced from our character. It’s why, like, if I play Lady Macbeth, people are going to come see my interpretation of Lady Macbeth, not, you know, Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Lady Macbeth. If they do that, they go see Meryl Streep. They probably should. Um,  

Oh, I just watched the Manchurian candidate the other night and she is flawless Okay. So I’m fascinated. I want to do a little bit more digging on that lucid body technique. It sounds like, um, you know, lately I’ve been working a lot on managing my mind and finding fuel in my feelings instead of like, feeling like I needed to manage my feelings, but enjoying that my feelings are what get me places. My feelings are what have me doing things. My feelings are, are also have me not doing certain things. So kind of circling back to the conversation about when do feelings help, or when do feelings hurt your chances of getting a thing or getting in a room or getting a certain job? I regard feelings so highly, such as they’re gold to me. Um, and in our work, I suppose that’s tremendously useful that I think so highly of feelings and experiencing all of them. Um, but it’s fascinating to me that you’re a person who’s lived and performed at really high levels in worlds where emotion is not only demanded, but encouraged. And then in a space where it’s like shunned, ignored, really not recommended. Um, I think, I think we could go on at great lengths on that topic alone, but do you want to talk about something that came up when you and I had a catch up recently, we wound up talking about voice and you know, your we’ve talked a bit about how dance and physicality showed up for you in this role, but you weren’t a person that had a tremendous amount of vocal training were you? 

No, I did choir in high school. Um, mostly because I really liked the teacher and my friends were all in choir and I liked to sing, but no,  

We used to write jingles.  

I know, I know. And we, I think that is a career option for us, if everything else falls through.  

Yeah. Uh, look out like Simon and Garfunkel at the piano. Um, but, uh, I, I think is something of interest to me lately partially because of the podcast and partially because I can’t seem to keep it healthy for, for any extended period of time. Um, so I would love to hear about your growth as a voice actor and your journey of becoming more aware of your voice as a tool through this work. Like what did you learn about it? What did you struggle with and, and who helped you? What helped you, is there, is there a lucid body equivalent, but for the voice or does lucid body account for the voice?  

I think lucid body accounts for, for everything, how, um, voice and what you, what you vocalize externally is, it should, um, come from what’s going on in the body? I think, you know, a lot of times we can conceptualize almost anything. Scenarios, what it should be, but until it’s like actually seeped from our head into our body, it’s not real. And so by the time it comes out of your mouth, like I hope to God that it’s in your body. Um, I learned through, and it was all, it was all on the job training. And luckily, you know, uh, the directors at deck nine, uh, Web and Zach and the audio director, Chuck, like, they are excellent at giving cues that make sense to me. And when they didn’t, they were totally open to having a conversation. Right. Because the important thing is that I understand what they want. Um, and so I just learned that like vocal, inflection volume, um, the pace of a line can change It’s feeling it’s it’s tone, it’s meaning and getting more comfortable and confident as the game went on. Cause there’s so much VO, there’s so much voiceover for Alex because in these games, you know, there’s like, Oh, well, you know, the players doing one thing, but they haven’t solved this piece of a puzzle. That’s going to unlock another part of the game. So there a lot of voiceover that are just like nudges, like I wonder if I should go over to the bridge of flowers or, you know, so just a ton of voiceover, sometimes that would be all we would do for a shoot is catch up on voice on all these VO lines. Um, but I would say that the, the biggest learning came, um, because Alex, wasn’t always a singer when I joined. Yeah.  

She’s the character is a  

Singer/songwriter. Yeah, yeah. Plays guitar. And she wasn’t that at the beginning, but you know, the writers, the creatives really, really wanted that to be part of her story. And so, and I really wanted to support that part of her story. And so I took, was taking voice lessons. Um, I, and that really helped me understand like placement of your voice within like your head. Right. And, and how to safely shout, um, which is,  

This is the lesson I keep missing. I’m always absent on that day. Um, so do you feel that you’ve achieved some, some level of proficiency or dare I say, mastery of your voice? Like if we went out to a karaoke bar, would you sing and would you sound like fabulous?  

Well, I would sing, and I think that sounded pretty good. I was actually, um, it was my singing voice in the game. I was Alex in her entirety until last summer when they decided to swap out her singing voice for MXMtoon. And it was, it was pretty devastating to have done all of that work and have gotten through all of these like approval phase gates with, with square and with the other creatives. And then with, you know, she sinks creep. Um, and, and so getting nine inch nails on board, getting B the artist who wrote and performed the songs originally on board. Okay.  

Everybody signed off on you. Yes. And then switcharoo. Somebody made the money decision to go with a popstar.   

Yes. Yeah. And she’s got, you know, I think she has a lovely voice and she has a much broader reach than I do. Like I am a nobody, you know, I don’t, I, I have, I had like four friends on Twitter. Like I just don’t have the reach. And so, I mean being completely vulnerable here and, and transparent, like I had a lot of emotions around, around that decision, which like, I, I was really, I was really hurt because it was such a, I think that was one of the most personal parts of the game for me, because it was a skill that I knew I had, but I had never cultivated it in the way that I did with dance or even that I had done with, um, with acting. But I, I wanted to, I knew the strength of having Alex as a singer songwriter to this story. I knew the strength of what that would bring to, to the story, to the, you know, to our gamers experience. And so I was, I think very, very understandably wounded by it. I think where I am now is I know that MXMtoon has such a broad reach. And if this is reaching even one person who would not have played the game before, I believe so much in the game and the message and what it will bring to people that I’m like good. I think, I think it was worth it then. And I still have all of the music that I perform. It was all I saw it in game when I was playing the builds. I, you know, I have them. And so it’s not like my work is, is gone or the journey is. And you and I had talked about heartbreak. That’s, that’s just, that’s kind of part of, of being an industry and you take the good with the bad. And luckily in my case, the good is greatly vastly outweighing you know, some of the heartbreaks of the creative process.  

Thank you for sharing that. That’s, it’s, it’s probably to be expected that during the course of a project is spanning, as this one that you would have some pretty remarkable highs and some pretty, pretty low lows. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. The professional, the professional heartbreak is real. I’ve, I’ve felt feelings from gigs that I have not felt in some intimate relationships before. It’s a very real type of, um, type of hurt.  

Well, and I wonder if it’s because like, as artists and I, and I speak about this only from my personal experience of being in corporate America, there isn’t the same blood, sweat, and tears that I put into my organizational design work that I do to my acting work. Like it’s, it’s, it is personal. And I think that good art is personal, but the, the dancers that I love to watch the actors who I buy tickets to see the comics that I, that I watch, they, it is personal to them. And I can tell.  

And so it’s not, it’s not possible to not seek something personal and not personally it’s personal. Um, okay. Kind of on a similar tangent, when you talk about having, you know, favorite comedians, favorite actors, favorite, you know, musical beings that you follow, are you now coming to a place where you have like mocap heroes? Do you have game heroes? Do you have, are you familiar enough with that world now to know the key players and, and who should I know about as a person who doesn’t know much about the world? Although I have, I don’t know nothing about this world. I haven’t been, um, several characters in a two K game that I was so hysterical. The process that from the audition on was just a ridiculous process. In the audition I had to die in every way imaginable. It was so much fun. I’m I remember calling my agent immediately when I left, I was like, more of this, please love this. Hysterical. And then I booked it and I found out what a 10 hour day of dying while holding a, uh, like, um, a mock machine gun, but, uh, a fake weapon that is roughly the weight of a real weapon and doing that for 10 hours a day. I was like, Oh, no, we’re good here. But are there people that you, that, that you now know of that have become heroes to you in this space?  

You know, I didn’t do a lot of, I am historically really bad at the comparison game. Um,  

Meaning you do it a lot and it’s not good for you or meaning? 

Yeah. Where I am competitive and where that comes out is in comparison. Like for example, I used to do orange theory, fitness  

OTF. I was in that orange zone.  

See right. You’re in that orange zone, but as long, like in you wear your little heart rate monitor, and it’s all displayed as long as I wasn’t the last person, or like had, had like the least amount of calories. I was, I was good, but goddammit, if I was close to the end, I would just be busting. I mean, I probably like, you know, pop a hammy,  Trying to make sure the last  

That type of workout can be very, it can be done this when you’re that. Okay. So, so did you, you intentionally didn’t do much digging into the world.  

Because I didn’t want that necessarily like their, their tricks or whatever, informing what I was doing with Alex. Um, I did, you know, I did do some play throughs of life is strange 2. And like the strange 1, as well as before the storm, which deck nine, the developer also, um, developed alongside like the strange, true colors, which is the game that Alex is in. And I mean, I just think that those performances are the reason why this, this fandom is so strong, why there is a third game, um, why this universe is still around is because they got some real ringers, um, in, in every single one of those games. Like those, the emotions are real, like the, the relationships they feel so real. Um, and so I don’t have role models or, or, you know, icons that I look up to yet, but I know that, that I will, I mean, I’m like a baby, a babe in the woods on this one. Um, and I have so much to learn and I’m so ready to learn from, from the best.  

Oh man. Well, I think you’re, you will probably be becoming a movement hero and emotion hero, a performance capture hero to so many people because of this. And I’m thrilled for you. And so grateful to you for sharing some of your experience here today, but mostly just for being an example of, of what type of unexpected things can come from being a person in pursuit of a full creative life. I just think it’s the coolest thing. And I’m thrilled for you. I cannot wait to see the game. Um, I I’m emotional, like talking about it and I, and I wasn’t there for any of it.  Um, the trailer looks beautiful. I will absolutely link link to it in the show notes for this episode. And if you’re listening after September, 10th did you say? Go find it, go find Life is Strange. Starring the one and only Erika Mori.  

That’s right. Although, Oh my gosh. You have to be careful because you Google Erika Mori. And I was like, that’s my name? I’m not adding like a letter in the middle of it. That’s that’s my name now. 

Not Erika Danger, Mori? 

Yeah, exactly. Which was, which was on the table. But I’m not the first one that comes up again because I I’m a nobody, which is kind of how I like it. Well,  

You were about to go into this kind of PR ringer, right? For the game for promotion, you know, a whole circuit probably of, of engagements. Do you plan on being more involved socially as far as like a presence as a, um, w what do we, what do we call them? Oh, God, everybody in their darn Instagram profile social figure is that they call themselves?

Oh, they call themselves public figure public figures. Influencer. Not, not an influencer. I would not. No, I should not influence. 

You’ve influenced me tremendously. And I turned out all right,  

Really? It was, it was that rainbow-rhea, diarrhea, jingle. 

Wasn’t a to pull out the name, if you’ve made it this far in the episode now, you know, the name of the imaginary product that we created was Rainbow-Rhea, diarrhea control. And we sat at your piano in the living room and knocked out a jingle. And not only that, but then we printed out the jingles.  

Yes. I think I, it, I like printed it out in like rainbow font on like Microsoft paint or something, very professional and framed it for you. And I hope that it it’s still around. It is. I think I might find it just like speak. I think I just might for the gram. I still remember the lyrics. I’m not going to sing them.  

Both: If you’re getting diarrhea a want relief real soon. So keep watching this commercial, I will get it right to you.  

And then we do the talky part. Were we talk about the symptoms and the side effects. And then we had a wrap-up too, but I don’t know.  

I don’t remember the wrap-up, but I think that the jingling part, obviously the one that we both remembered, and I think the fact that we still remember, it means that it was a damn sticky  

Sticky. I’m Oh my God. 

I feel exposed on your own podcast.  

I do my cheeks hurt and I was just, I like, dang it. I knew I should have done a full vocal warmup. We were talking about my insecurity with voice, and then I wound up singing and guys that’s life. Sometimes. That’s what happens. Um, Erika, you’re a treat. You’re an absolute light. A joy. Thank you for being here today. Um, and congratulations.  

Thank you. Yeah, we should do this again sometime. Oh yeah. We should bring Michelle in. 

We should, Michelle in and wait. That’s going to happen by the way. Let’s do an Instagram live with Michelle, because now you can have three people on an Instagram live, Michelle, Erika Mori, and Dana Wilson. We’re doing the IG live. We’re going to talk about, I like it like that. We’re going to talk about spitting on the floor and rolling in it.  

We’re going to talk about you. Yes. And you being, um, Sebastian in our ballet of little mermaid and me being the chef. Yes.  

What’s the chef’s name from Little Mermaid like food. No, that was, yeah.  

Louie. Yeah. He sang Les Poissons

A really good song. So we had that magical duo.  

Yeah. We had a duet. I think we choreographed it 10 minutes. Yeah. With Michelle, like dying laughing, Stage Directing, and we’re like, okay, we have to find this. We have to find this  

Wait Erika we have to find this. Life Is good. See you, aren’t a, nobody you are Louie the very least and Louie and your talents are so wide reaching Instagram, live coming soon. I adore you. Thank you again. 

I love you so much.

I’ll talk to you later, my friend. Bye. Bye.  

All right. What did you think? My friend, what did you learn? What did you love? Um, Oh, I do want to back up and call myself out. Um, my reference too. I like it like that. The song that Erica and I danced to as tiny dancelings, that’s not a Nicki Minaj, uh, sample that that was confusing. That’s a Cardi B song that I was thinking of. So I apologize if that took you out or threw you off or hurt your feelings. Um, Oh, speaking of feelings, I was super inspired, um, to take a deeper dive on what Erika had talked about, the lucid body technique, which was created by Fay Simpson. There are classes, there is an awesome book. Um, and I w I will share the link to a few different places. You can find the book I’ve been digging into it and loving it. Um, and I think that you might too. So if that’s something you’re interested in, in going deeper on, take a look at the show notes to this episode, um, and of course be on the lookout for the new SquareEnix game. The next game Life is Strange starring our friend, Erika Mori. And with that, everybody, I think I am through now go out into the world, feel all the feels. And of course, keep it funky. I will talk to you soon.  

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe, and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

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