GGRecon talks to Anjali Bhimani about all things Rampart, Symmetra, and joining a new gaming community.
Anjali Bhimani is best-known for, well, a lot of things. From voicing Symmetra in Overwatch, to various parts on TV shows and in film (Modern Family, NCIS, and Young Sheldon to name but a few), the American-Indian actress is trying her hand at a whole new challenge – voicing the new Apex Legend, the spunky weapons-expert Rampart.
Rampart joined the Apex Legends troops in Season 6 and has been staking her claim as the new fan-favourite character. From her abilities to her quips, Rampart is shooting straight into the community’s hearts.
GGRecon spoke to Anjali about all things Apex, including becoming Rampart, how the community has welcomed her, and if she plays her signature character in-game.
First things first, congratulations on becoming Rampart!
Thank you! Thank you so much, it’s such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? What a great character she is. They have such an incredible family of characters, and an incredible family of actors and developers behind the characters, so I’m just having a blast.
What was the process like of becoming Rampart? Were you asked to be her, did you have to audition?
So, as it is with most roles that we get, whether in games or, as with most of the projects that I get, and that actors get, I was sent the audition by my agent, then I submitted my audition and did a call back with the voice director and some of the developers. Then I was fortunate enough to get to come in and do the role.
Did you get any say in her personality, or the voice lines/script?
The script came in, and it was already genius, and the character that they had created was so cool. The writers over there, Manny and Ashely and all of them, they already had this really great idea of who she was going to be, and I think what I contributed more than anything is just my “me-ness”, and my understanding of what that character looked like to me, and sounded like to me. When we all got together and were able to do this collaboratively, I think there was definitely a creative energy that then enabled us to do some more things, after they were like “okay, so this is going to be the voice, now let’s figure out what sounds right in her voice”. And, so, they continued to write more lines with my voice in mind, but certainly, they were the ones who created the character and the idea of her, and I just came in and filled those shoes.
She’s loads of fun, she’s insane, it’s really fun to play that sort of character.
She’s definitely got no filter, and I do have a little bit of a filter.
Well, you did tweet that she was sort of your “inner Anjali”, how much truth is there to that?
(Laughs) Well, every character I play has a little of me in it, right? And I think it’s that way for a lot of actors. I definitely have her rambunctious style, and I’m a very physical and gregarious and expressive person, and that’s definitely a part of me. I don’t know that I quite go so far in my sense of humour on a regular basis, but I have my moments. She’s definitely got no filter, and I do have a little bit of a filter (laughs). It’s really fun to let that loose though, she’s so free, and she’s so strong, and all the lines they’ve written for her – she’s just hilarious. And I don’t remember ever reading a character on the page that I laughed as much at when I was reading it.
Do you have a favourite Rampart voice line?
Oh my goodness, there are so many great ones! The one about “sticking a bag over your head” is pretty funny. I have recorded a lot of lines, and I’m not sure which ones have made it into the game, and because I don’t play a ton of Apex, I have to be very careful!
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Rampart knows a lot of the characters already – did you have to get to grips with her relationships with the other Legends?
I definitely, on my own, looked into all of that information, but when we were in session, our voice director Eric, and the developers, all filled me in on what the relationships are, but I definitely wanted to do my own research. Then, it was a little easier when we were in session understand “okay, well now I’m dealing with Bangalore”, and Mirage, I mean, Roger [Craig Smith] (Mirage VA) and I went to high school together. His sass is undeniable, I was so prepared to play with that character, I was very excited.
The voice actor squad is pretty amazing too, they’re such warm, talented people, it’s really fun to see that in the game.
Obviously, you’ve been part of the Overwatch community as Symmetra for a long time, so you know how enthusiastic and attached people get to the characters – so how does it feel to dive into a new community?
When Overwatch happened, it was the most mind-blowing, unexpected experience of generosity and kindness coming from the community that I have ever experienced, and it continues to be that way. The gaming community, in general, has been so so so lovely. Whether it’s their generosity on social media, with their comments, with their fan art, with their cosplay – all of it, it has been a wonder to me, since Overwatch came out. So now coming into Apex, it feels like there is definitely a crossover in that community, and everybody has been so lovely. I think that speaks to the gaming community at large, because sure there are negative forces there as well, just like the world in general, but I think the gaming community, whether table-top, online RPG, online FPS, I think everybody comes there, in one way or the other, to connect, and to be together and to play together. So, the fact that this transcends games, that, yes, each game has its own community, but there overlap – that to me is really special. It means so much to have these communities that we can all connect with online. I can’t even express how lovely it is.
When it comes to negativity, I’ve been an actress for several decades now, and before I was in the gaming world, I was in the theatre, and television, and dance, and opera, and film, so I’ve run the gamut of doing all of those things. And, I’ve learned to consider the source when something is coming at you, and that has been a boon as the world has moved on to an online existence – people do seem to feel freer with negative comments, from the safety of their own keyboard, and I don’t love that, I don’t love that about the world. But I personally have had enough experience of sloughing that kind of stuff off and focusing on the positive in my day to day life as an actor, so that I can carry that into internet life.
What I really hope more for, I’m less worried about me, and me being treated well, I care about that obviously, is setting an example for people online of how to do this in a civil and kind and respectful and supportive way, and because all of us now have a voice. All of us have this voice that can be heard worldwide, the internet is forever, if you put some comment out there it’s there forever. I just want to show people that we can actually do this in a respectful and awesome way, and if people want to throw negativity at me – okay, but I’m not going to take it and run with it, I’m going to do everything I can to brush it off, or to say “I don’t know if you know this, but there’s another human being on the other end of this comment, you might not get that sense because you’re behind your keyboard – so let’s talk, let’s see if that’s really what you want to say.” Nine times out of ten, it’s not.
It’s not from a place of superiority, it’s literally from a place of “I’m not sure you realise your words are having this effect.” If you know it, and you still want to be brutal, then I’m just going to take my energy elsewhere – because I don’t got time for that. But, if it’s something that people don’t recognise as they’re typing things, whether that’s just learned, then I like to remind them “hey, human beings here”, because someone else they talk to might not have that thicker skin, someone else might be really hurt by something they say. So, yeah, I kinda think it’s important to stay at the forefront of that, particularly when you come into a new community, and I just want to focus on all of the loveliness that is out there.
Due to the pandemic situation, when did you actually record the brunt of the Rampart voice lines, was it from home or in-studio?
Probably half and half, we did a few sessions in the studio, then the pandemic happened, and we started recording from home, and we actually did some of the motion capture work from the trailers at home. It’s been a really intriguing time, I’m very lucky because we have a pretty well-equipped studio in my house. What is most amazing to me is less about me contributing my small part to this character from home, than the devs putting together all of Season 6 from home. I’m always amazed by animators and game developers, but then doing it remotely – I can’t even imagine the amount of coordination that had to happen behind the scenes. They’re phenomenal.
The community really seems to love Season 6 and Rampart, how does that feel to be a part of?
One of the reasons I’ve loved gaming since I was a kid, is because you are an active part of the story, not like watching a TV show or a film, where you are watching the story – in games you get to be a part of the story – so the more you find out that informs you being part of the story, the more exciting it is. Apex and Overwatch both do a great job of that. I’m so glad to hear that, because it’s a pretty extraordinary universe that they’ve created. I love stepping into different worlds, and gaming is one of my favourite places to do it.
The big question is – do you play Apex Legends? And if so, is Rampart your main?
Okay, I am ashamed to say that I have not played Apex – yet. Primarily because I am so bad at first-person shooters, like so, so, bad, it’s an epically bad embarrassment. My husband bought us a PS4 before Overwatch came out so we would be able to play the game, and I did not realise how bad I am with consoles, I grew up playing on the PC. So I have not yet played Apex because I am waiting to find a time to be able to play with some select friends that I have, who are going to help me with it. When I do play, no one will know my screen name, because I know I will be embarrassing myself. I suspect I will be much better at doing the voice, than I will at playing the game, but I have every intention for it, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Images via Respawn Entertainment | Blizzard Entertainment