Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4
Halo 4 releases on November 6, 2012, and in anticipation of the adventure to come, we sat down with motion capture actress Mackenzie Mason, who portrays Cortana in Halo 4, to learn a bit more about the title and the challenges of her role.
Cortana is an artificial intelligence assistant who has played a critical role in the Human-Covenant war. This blue siren captures the heart of the iconic Master Chief in Halo 4. Read on to check out our interview with the beautiful Cortana, Mackenzie Mason, and learn more!
AMANDA DYAR: For the upcoming release of Halo 4, you were brought in to perform all of the motion capture for the character of Cortana. What was it like to come on to such a huge project as Halo 4, and how much pressure did you feel for playing such an established and beloved character as Cortana?
MACKENZIE MASON: It was so exciting! I think because this game is the first in a new trilogy, I was really given the freedom to give her a fresh spin and bring a lot of myself to the role. She is such a different person than in previous games so I really didn’t feel any pressure to play her a certain way. I was nervous of course and very excited to be able to be a part of something so huge.
AMANDA: Cortana has been voiced throughout the Halo series by actress Jen Taylor, but Halo 4 will be the first to feature two actresses for the single character. How does the team at 343 Industries go about matching your acting with Jen’s, and how difficult was it for you to act in this manner?
MACKENZIE: All of our work was separate–so I really just performed the scenes and did all the work on my own with the other performance capture actors. The matching of voice to performance was something that happened after my work had been completed.
AMANDA: Motion capture is one of the strangest bodies of work to watch as an outsider that doesn’t fully grasp how it all works, but how does it compare to actually performing in such a bizarre environment, and does it ever become natural to act out scenes in the motion capture industry?
MACKENZIE: Well, the process of getting ready to shoot every day was so different than that of movies or TV. Each day we would have to put on Velcro suits with sensors attached to it to pick up all of our movements. Then there was the process of putting on my face dots, which took about 30 minutes each time. The dots had to line up perfectly each day so it was a tedious step at times. Once everything was in place, it was time to perform the scenes! My fellow actors and myself would go on the set and perform the cinematic from start to finish to complete one full take. There is no editing from different takes so the finished scenes you see were all performed from start to finish. The process is truly amazing. It is such a free form of acting where you really just get to concentrate on the scene and not worry about all the artificial elements that come into play doing regular camera work. (lighting, makeup, wardrobe, camera angles, etc.)
AMANDA: Gamers already know that Cortana is one of the greatest video game characters of all time, and she is definitely something more than her blue, artificial intelligence makeup would suggest. Could you tell us in your own words what you enjoy so much about this character and why it was such a thrill to play her in Halo 4?
MACKENZIE: Well, starting with her path in this game, going through rampancy (which is basically death), she begins this game with the knowledge that she is going to die and has a really hard time dealing with her deterioration and accepting her own mortality. There is so much depth and pain to her journey that I really got to explore a lot of different emotions. She is a badass, takes no shit from anyone kind of girl. But then has an amazing soft and loving side to her, as well as jokes and sarcasm.
AMANDA: Cortana is one of the best characters in a Halo universe full of other great characters whom she will interact with throughout the Halo 4 campaign. How was your experience working with the other actors in the game, and what was the best moment you’ll take away from the entire experience?
MACKENZIE: I was so lucky to work with such amazing actors for this project! There was so much life breathed into every one of these roles, and it is really going to show through to the fans as their experience hopefully becomes more interactive and involved. Working on the stage and being with the cast and crew that all worked so hard on this game was really my favorite part. I really loved going to work every day.
AMANDA: Cortana and Master Chief have quite possibly the best relationship of any two characters in the history of video games. In your own words, can you describe their relationship, and can you tell us where the duo would rank on your own personal list of two lifelong companions?
MACKENZIE: They are by far one of my favorite couples, especially in the video game world. They have such a love and respect for each other, with full trust and devotion. It’s really moving to see how deeply they connect, and I think in Halo 4 this part of their relationships takes a much more pivotal role.
AMANDA: Halo 4 will be the biggest release of 2012 in the gaming industry, and the series is one of the best ever. What are some of your own personal favorite games, and what other games will you be playing this year in addition to Halo 4?
MACKENZIE: I am a huge Super Mario fan, and Zelda was another favorite growing up. For 2012 I’m really into Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption.
You can visit the official Halo 4 website to learn more about the game.
Halo 4 Game Features:
*Online multiplayer and Spartan Ops missions require Xbox LIVE Gold membership (sold separately).
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