Roger Craig Smith Interview: The Life of an Assassin
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Our community admin Colum Blackett had the opportunity to interview legendary voice actor and former stand-up comic Roger Craig Smith, best known as the voice behind Ezio Auditore and Sonic the Hedgehog. He is currently credited with nearly 600 different voice acting roles, most recently for performing the voice of Batman in the upcoming animated DC movie: Superman: Red Son.
Raised in SoCal and voted “Class Clown” in 8th grade, Roger focused his creativity toward training in musical theater. He spoke at both his 8th and 12th grade graduations, was elected freshman class president in high school, and hosted a live local TV talk show while earning his B.A. in Screenwriting from Chapman University...all while pursuing a career in stand-up comedy. After working as a comic for 5 years, he left stand-up to pursue voice acting full-time in 2005.
Knowing he’s got fans of all ages on social media, Roger keeps his posts apolitical and family-friendly. An avid supporter of CHOC (Chidlren’s Hospital Orange County), he frequently visits the hospital to meet with patients. He’s currently studying ASL (American Sign Language) and enjoys getting outdoors as often as possible to pursue his passion for nature, hiking/mountain biking, and nightscape/astrophotography, which he shares regularly with his followers on Twitter and Instagram
Col: Hi Roger, thank you for joining us today! I'm sure most of our fans already know, but please could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your time working on the Assassin's Creed series.
Roger: Many thanks for having me! I’m a voice actor based in LA, and I work on commercials, cartoons, and video games. Been at it since about 2003 and, in 2009, had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the 2nd Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed II. Life hasn’t been the same since! Working on ACII was such an awesome experience. I was so honored to be a part of something that was so dear to so many who worked on the game. Their passion was evident from the onset. It was challenging, to be working with a wonderful dialect coach (Ida Darvish-Gadd) and learning how to very quickly speak lines in Italian, finesse an “ItaliaSpanglish” (the blended accent for the character of Ezio) accent, and to wrap my brain around the enormity of what this character was going though---but it was so rewarding. That first foray into the world of AC for me will always be my favorite project.
Col: When the team first pitched Assassin's Creed II to you, what were your
Roger: I truly didn’t know what to think. I was familiar with the first game and very familiar with friends who’d played it and had their opinions, so I wasn’t sure what was in store for the 2nd game. I just went into it trying to provide the best work I could on a daily basis and to deliver for the folks who were nice enough to have given me the shot. That’s usualy all I can do to approach ANY project---just deliver as best I can what the client is asking for. If I think about the enormity of the project or how many eyeballs/ears might be on my performance, then I’d likely be too distracted to simply do the job that’s before me. So, I tend to show up ready to take whatever the client may throw at me and hopefully do the best I can.
Col: Before voicing Ezio, had you ever had to speak Italian for a role?
Roger: Ha! Nope! Being Scotch-Irish, it’s not something most folks toss my way. I was so stoked to have been introduced to Ida and work with her on the project, though. The whole crew became a family on that game. We still keep in touch to this day.
Col: Have you kept in touch with any of the other voice actors from the Ezio games, and have you worked with any of them on other projects since?
Roger: The voice acting community isn’t that large in general, thankfully. So yes, many of the actors that worked on that game, and even other AC games of which I wasn’t even a part, still keep in touch. It’s a neat thing that can happen when you’re part of an iconic franchise---bonds are formed.
Col: How did you find the dialect training? Were there any phrases/ words you struggled to pronounce at all?
Roger: It was definitely one of the more challenging aspects of the project, but I loved the process and the reward of getting something that got the thumbs up from the crew. I wanna say that nailing ‘Savonarola’ in some sentences proved to be a stumbling point for me. There were so many phrases that were challenging, though. I’m sure it’s all a blur now.”
Col: What would you say is the first step to getting into voice acting work, and how can people prepare for it?
Roger Ahhhhh…the golden question…
Truly, I don’t know where to tell people to start. I came into the business when it was smaller than it is today. Technology has made it so that anyone with a USB mic and a good internet connection can instantly deem themselves a voice actor and work from home. Social media influencers have been given opportunities to be a part of games as voice actors when many of them have no business doing so. The industry is getting saturated by a lot of folks who have often had little to no training as actors, let alone voice actors.
So, to find a way to set yourself apart from those short-lived, flash in the pan “actors” and make yourself known to the industry as someone with the skillset, training, talent, experience and professionalism of a serious voice actor…well, that takes time, effort, and investment in yourself. Training. Doing. Practicing. Running your own business. Taking the WORK seriously, not just the attention from likes and retweets online. As far as how you’re going to be the one to make that happen---there’s nothing I can tell you that will work for you. What I did worked for me, and everyone in the business has a different story on how they got started. It’s up to you to figure that out. You’ll never have my career…and I’ll never have yours. I do wish you the best on your own journey, if voice acting’s where you want to be.
Col: Other than Ezio, who else would you have liked to have voiced in the games?
Roger: Uncle Mario. Just for the line that Fred Tattasciore got to say, ‘It’s ah me…Mario!’
Col: Why do you think Ezio remains such a popular character after all these years?
Roger: That’s all the writing and the world Ubisoft created to place him within. The story they gave that character is so deep, complicated and moving. He’s also one of the only characters to have been given so much time to have the story fleshed out. We see him from birth, and, in ‘Embers’, we see him through the end of his journey. We were given the unique chance as players to live an entire life through one character’s eyes and that can leave an impact on gamers. I think that’s why he still resonates. To say nothing of what the entire team at Ubisoft did in making ACII such an awesome experience for players. It’s as much how that game in its entirety was so incredible, as it was the character of Ezio.
Col: If you could meet Ezio in real life, what would you ask him?
Roger: Seriously bro, you can tell me…the hay bales hurt when you hit ‘em, right?”
Col: Have you ever cosplayed as Ezio? If not, would you consider doing it at a future event?
Roger: I’ve never FULLY cosplayed as Ezio. There are some photos on my website of me wearing a mix of costumes from many of my more notable roles, but I’ve never cosplayed as any of my characters, really. I’d consider doing it, but it’d have to be one helluvah remake of that outfit for me to want to do it. I wouldn’t want to ruin the image of Ezio with my goofy human vessel if the costume wasn’t at least spot-on.
Col: Would you ever return to voice Ezio in another project if Ubisoft asked? Do you miss the role?
Roger: Of course.
Col: Which method do you prefer: Stealth of direct assault?
Roger: Stealth. Gotta earn the reward.
Col: Did you watch the Assassin's Creed Movie. If so, what were your initial thoughts?
Roger: I’ve never seen it. After all…I LIVED IT. Ha!
Col: Do you own Assassin's Creed Merchandise? If so, what is your favourite item?
Roger: I own too much AC stuff. The LED glowing Apple of Eden is kinda cool.
Col: Have you been following the more recent games, and where would you like to see the series to explore next?
Roger: Man oh man. Where to go from here?! That’s the beauty of what this franchise has laid out---it can go almost ANYWHERE. I’ve truly got zero clue as to where they might go next…but I’m always watching.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Roger for joining us for this interview.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram