Mark Meer Interview: Talking To The Voice Of Mass Effect’s Commander Sheppard
You may not know who Mark Meer is, but if you have ever played Mass Effect, you have spent multiple…
You may not know who Mark Meer is, but if you have ever played Mass Effect, you have spent multiple hours listening to his work. Meer is the voice of Commander Sheppard, as well a bunch of other galactic personalities and nasties that you meet while trying to stop the Reaper’s cull of all life. The barrier is seemingly moved up ever several months but at the time, Meer’s voice work on the original Mass Effect helped craft one of the best character performances that the gaming world had seen.
Meer himself has an ineffable charm about him. When I first meet him in a pub, he is in a circle of many fans who are offering to buy him drinks, hang out with and showing him their fan work. Since I was at a convention, I assume this is an experience exclusive to large geek gatherings but if he told me that regular occurrence whereever he went, I’d believe him. Having spent a little while in the industry, I have never seen the line between talent and fan so noticeably absent. While at the MCM London Comic Con a few weeks back, the line to meet him was as long as to get a signed poster from Edgar Wright. In the right circles Meer is royalty. However, unlike most of sovereign social status, Meer always finds time to blend in with his subjects. It is well documented Meer has gone dressed to several conventions dressed as Commander Sheppard himself. As I watched him at the pub surrounded by multiple fans, it soon became clear that he was one of them.
Which of course raises a particularly interesting and possibly cruel question. What happens when a man who is synonymous with a franchise like Mass Effect and has such a great relationship with fans ends up a part of a fiasco like what happened at the end of Mass Effect 3.
I had no problem at all with the original ending. That said, I completely understand that some players needed more clarification and closure, and ultimately, I think I prefer the Extended Cut – particularly the Control Ending, which results in Shepard becoming an immortal Reaper God.
The ending of Mass Effect 3 is an endlessly interesting subject to me. I have heard it all. People who were satisfied with the original ending. Those who were satisfied with the Extended Ending. Those who still aren’t satisfied and then there are those who are satisfied with the Citadel DLC that was tailor made to saying goodbye to these characters. Having spoke to Mark about it, I know it was something he was clearly proud of.
The emotional closure it provided was great – getting a chance to say goodbye to these characters that you’ve spent years with and come to care about. And I loved all the in-jokes and nods to the fanbase – things like the “I should go” scene, the bit with the hamster, and Shepard coming face-to-face with Blasto.
It is an important point and one of the most important to the Mass Effect series. While it may not have always been dealing with humans, the universe has a fantastic humanity to it. In the face of the annihilation of the galaxy, the series always had a great sense of humour about itself. It wasn’t self deprecating or self aware but humour that was just about friends finding the joy in each others company in the face of death. This kind of nuance is only partially laid out in writing, but given a truth by the voice actors. I asked Mark about the process of actually being a voice actor, and the kinds of involvement that they have with their character.
The recording process for something like one of the Mass Effect games could stretch over the course of a year or more. We weren’t in the booth every single day, but at least in the case of Jennifer and myself, we were brought in early in the process for demo work, often before the bulk of the game had been fully scripted. I actually started work on the original Mass Effect when things were still in the concept art stage, working with the team at Bioware to develop the sounds and voices of the various alien races – getting cast in the lead role came later. It’s pretty fun getting to watch something as rich and complex as the Mass Effect Universe being constructed from the inside.