“Why thank you, I am the World President.”
He’s the President of the World with the power of Gaia: simply named G, the newest character in the Street Fighter universe was given an especially unique reveal at Evolution 2018, during which voice actor Christopher Smith took to the top 8 stage in full presidential regalia.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Smith said of the experience. “G’s speech was compiled from bits of his game dialogue, so it had to be delivered just right — and there were all the fans.”
Taking the top 8 stage
Smith used more than his voice to bring the prez to life: he even took on G’s physical appearance for the reveal, which came together backstage in the midst of Evolution’s top 8 brackets. “There were costume fittings to make sure everything looked right,” he explained. “Meanwhile, the makeup artist was constructing facial hairpieces and finding the best gold paint to create the tattoos… We watched the tournament on closed-circuit TV as I was fitted with the complete costume and the makeup was applied. All in all, it took over three hours. But the process was so much fun [that] the time really flew.”
Outfitted with a prosthetic beard, golden body paint, and a dashing top hat, Smith truly looked the part: and Street Fighter fans ate up the hype. “… they were so into it,” Smith recalled. “When I came out, I immediately felt their energy, and suddenly, any nerves vanished. We really were there together as one, celebrating this new character — and I was so thrilled to be a part of it. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave the stage. But I kinda had to.”
According to Smith, performing as G on stage was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that outshined his usual work as a voice actor. “Getting to actually embody G at Evo was mind-blowing,” he stated. “As voice actors, we spend so much time alone in a booth. We rarely even record with other voice actors. We work on so many projects in this fashion and we hardly ever get to experience the effect our creative choices have on the players. You can read reviews, or play the game yourself, but you don’t get the full impact until you’re among hundreds or thousands of players all enjoying the character you created. Then the reality hits that you’ve actually helped make something that people respond to and enjoy so much. Evo was that experience on steroids. I’ve been on panels where hundreds of players have wanted to talk about a character I voiced, but I’ve never experienced anything like coming out on stage as G in the arena at Evo. The energy and the excitement was absolutely staggering.”
Building the voice of the Earth’s president
Of course, the prez didn’t come together in the course of an evening – in fact, G’s voice was carefully compiled from a variety of American accents out of a hotel in New Zealand. “Oddly enough, I didn’t think I was going to be able to even audition for the character,” Smith admitted. “I was at a convention in New Zealand when the director contacted me. I said I was flattered to be asked, but I wouldn’t be able to get him a good sounding audition. I was very far away from my setup and wouldn’t be home for two weeks. But he was very persistent and said he was convinced I was the right person for the character, and would I please send him something, even if it wasn’t the best quality. He had directed me as Rufus for Street Fighter IV many years ago, so I trusted his judgement.”
Smith fashioned a makeshift setup out of his hotel room and used the microphone in his laptop to record the lines in question, delivering his best impression of 16th American President Abe Lincoln. “I made the hotel room as soundproof as possible and recorded the audition lines on my laptop,” he continued. “I sent them off and honestly didn’t think I’d hear back — but I did. I’d done my best to think of what Abe Lincoln might have sounded like. Obviously, there are no recordings of him to work from. So I put together an amalgamation of American dialects from Missouri, Arkansas, and a little bit of Carolina. I threw in a bit of Presidential cadence, and voilà! G’s voice voice came to life.”
Speaking of the Space Opera Symphony…
G isn’t the only Street Fighter character that Smith has given voice to: as mentioned above, Smith likewise voiced Rufus in Street Fighter IV — another American fighter, who gained popularity through use by top players. “Rufus and G are very different types of characters,” Smith laughed. “Both a lot of fun. Both have their own particular attitudes. But while G is much more, dare I say, Presidential, Rufus is just having a good ‘ol time.”
“When I came in to audition for SFIV, I did what any self-respecting actor does: I read for all the characters in the folder,” he continued. “I think there were 14 total. I tried to bring my own twist to each of the characters, and it turns out that my interpretation of Rufus was what they were looking for. A gruff, jolly kinda guy from an East Coast neighborhood. A guy with lots of swagger and a singular purpose: to bring down Ken Masters. He became notorious for his use of jiggle-physics, and at first I thought players were thinking of him as just a funny character. Then he got serious cred when world class players started playing as him… and winning! I must say I miss him and his skin-tight yellow jumpsuit. He looks good and he knows it.”
Fighting games vs. anime
While Smith has voiced an array of characters in various anime, he holds that giving life to fighting game characters requires a different technique altogether. “Voicing video is its own particular beast,” Smith explained. “It tends to be very different from voicing anime, because you’re rarely fitting words into mouths that already exist. In games, they match the animation to the dialogue you create. There’s more of a sense of freedom, because you’re free to use your own timing for each line. So, you can imbue the character with more of your own sensibilities, since you’re not matching lip flaps that someone else has already created.”
Although the medium allows him greater freedom, it isn’t an easier task: Smith explained that what he called “vocal stress” takes a pretty big toll on actors’ vocal chords. This isn’t news in the celebrated annals of fighting game history, as Akuma’s previous voice actor, Dave Mallow, left the part due to the strain. “The biggest challenge with fighting games in particular is the vocal stress,” Smith stated. “Because characters tend to be bombastic (at least the ones I do), you spend a lot of time yelling. G was at a pretty heightened pitch since he was always giving a very impassioned speech. Then you get to the fighting sounds. In a games like the Street Fighter series, there are lots of fighting/battle sounds… grunts and yells and such.”
“The only thing that doesn’t exist in Street Fighter are the grisly deaths,” he went on. “I’ve done many games where you are killed in a variety of gruesome ways. [The director will say], ‘Ok, for this line we need you to get stabbed, electrocuted, and lit on fire. Give four or five takes, about a minute each.’ I exaggerate, but only slightly. By the end of that, your voice needs a couple days to recover. And there are just some voices that naturally sit in a stressful place in your throat. Rufus, for example, was a lot of fun, but his placement was stressful. After four hours of his antics I was toast. So, I’d schedule his sessions for Fridays. That way I’d have the weekend to recover. Despite that, Rufus was such a fun character to do [that] I didn’t mind the vocal stress. Seeing him come to life in all his spandex jumpsuit glory was worth the exertion. I do miss the big guy.”
Let’s get it on!
Smith isn’t a noob to gaming, as he holds that his son’s avid engagement in the pastime and his own work in the industry has afforded him some insider knowledge on the space — as well as some funny stories. “When SFIV first came out, there was a tournament at a convention where I was a guest,” Smith said. “I walked through the gaming room with my son and saw two players in heated competition. One was playing as Rufus. I walked up and watched the game for a while, then during a lull in the action I said, ‘You know, I’m his voice.’ The Rufus player turned around, took one look at me and said, ‘Yeah, right,’ then went back to the game. That turned out to be the most common response I got. People would say, ‘You don’t look like him’, which I guess is a good thing.”
Smith is likewise grateful to the Street Fighter fanbase for their open embrace of both Rufus and G, and hopes to see Rufus make a return in the future. “I’m so grateful to Capcom, and my director Jonathan Klein, for giving me the chance to bring G to life,” he said. “It was an experience I’ll never forget. And thank you to the players and fans who have imbued G with the power he needs to truly become the champion he is. *wink* Presidential Power!”
Additional source: Capcom Fighters
G is currently available as one of the final characters of Street Fighter V’s Season 3 DLC pass, which can be purchased through the game’s Shop or directly on the PlayStation or Steam stores.