Hey everyone Maleok here with a wonderful interview I had with the talented and kind hearted voice behind the character Symmetra from Blizzard’s Overwatch! I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed conducting the interview!
Maleok: Starting off simple, could you give us your name and a little bit about yourself.
Anjali: Sure! I’m Anjali Bhimani and I’m an actress situated here in Hollywood California. I perform all of the place and do Television and Voice over and pretty much anything they pay me to do that’s legal!
Maleok: Would it be safe to say you are primarily a T.V actress?
Anjali: You know it’s funny that you say that because the first half of my career was all theater. I actually started off purely doing theater, T.V wasn’t really on my radar. I started off in Chicago and stayed there for awhile because I went to school at Northwestern. Then I moved to New York with a show that went to Broadway and did theater there.
Maleok: Oh! What was the show, I do musical theater myself.
Anjali: Oh Wonderful! The first show I did on Broadway was called “Metamorphoses” and it was a play that was originally off broadway in 2001 and went on Broadway in 2002. We were nominated for a few Tonys which was awesome. It was a great entree into New York life. If you’re gonna move to New York that’s the best way to do it. It was a show that we created with our stellar director, with whom I’ve done I think 17 shows now. This is a woman I love, her name is Mary Zimmerman and she’s fantastic. She won best director at the Tonys for the show. Afterwards I stayed in New York which is where I started doing television. My first couple of gigs were for “The Sopranos” and “Law & Order SVU”, and that’s where things started. I started flying back and forth between Los Angeles and New York. In Los Angeles I did most of my television work but still flew out for theater, or did theater in LA. I would say, if I were to describe it I would say it’s half television and half theater.
Maleok: Theater seems to be where everyone in this industry gets their start! Nearly everyone I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with started with stage productions.
Anjali: I think as a young person theater is the most accessible performance art as far as doing it. When you’re a kid you don’t really have the option in Middle school or Junior high to take a television class at school but you do have theater. Theater is such a huge part of literary history and history in general, especially concerning the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare and everything. It’s the perfect way for the educational system to introduce kids to performing. Also let’s be honest, theater is low tech so you can do it in a room or anywhere you have someone watching. If you have two people together, one doing a monologue for the other, you have theater. Most people get their start there, unless they were like a child actor who did commercials or someone who already had a different career before moving into theater.
Maleok: Well you seem to have covered how you got started. So moving on to television and voiceover specifically, what would you say the best/not-so-great parts of both fields are/
Anjali: Well…This is sort of like picking your favorite children. Picking one medium for me is very difficult. It’s like picking your favorite city or Ice cream, they’re all so good! I will say that two of my most favorite things about television. The first is the opportunity to have a long term relationship with your audience. I think of a movie as the greatest one night stand you will ever have an a television show as a real relationship because you get to build a character over time. Writers get to know you, and if you’re lucky enough to be a series regular they are writing with the actor in mind. You can tell a story in that way with a much larger story arc then you could in a movie, and even sometimes in a play.
I remember reading an interview with Dame Judi Dench where she said something like, and I’m definitely paraphrasing here, but the concept was that in theater you need to actually do, act, and create the thing you’re trying to convey, whereas in television and film you almost just have to think it. With the camera right there in your face you can convey much subtler things. When you transition from theater to film you have to remember, and this is a great lesson for life, that I am enough. I don’t need to put anything on top of me, or on top of this very specific thought and feeling and situation that I am embodying because that camera is right here in my face. It’s a beautiful thing because it forces you to be more you for lack of a better term. There is a great sense of freedom in knowing, if I have a great director and writer, then no matter what this message is going to get conveyed.
Maleok: Very well said. And what of voiceover?
Anjali: Oh voiceover is like getting to be a kid again! I mean, I’m relatively new to the voiceover world to tell the truth, but to me it’s similar to mask work in theater because you are freed by the fact that it isn’t your face. So I get to play and I can be seven different people in the span of 30 seconds if they have different voices. You can do all sorts of crazy things and it’s magical! You can be a horse, or you can be a little kid, or you can be a dragon!
It’s such a wild return to childhood. It’s the very thing that gets kids wanting to do theater because when a three year old is pretending to be a pretty princess she isn’t pretending anymore she is that pretty princess. When you go into voiceover you can straight up do that, both thanks to the technology and the field having less boundaries. It’s one of the things I love about the gaming world is that it’s imagination unleashed.
Maleok: Well moving onto Blizzard specifically, how did you get involved with them and have you been enjoying the experience so far?
Anjali: Well I got involved just by auditioning, straight up like an everyday actor. However as for how much I’ve been enjoying it, I can’t put into words how much I have been enjoying it. From recording the audition and sending it it, to all the sessions I’ve had with the Blizzard folks, it has been such a fun, easy, creative, and exciting experience. I can’t talk about them enough. Watching things come out on or with the game, like the comics or animated shorts, I get so excited. It’s just been really really wonderful. All the folks at Blizzard have been tremendously welcoming and I’ve had a great time working on it.
Maleok: When you initially read for Symmetra what struck you as cool or interesting about her?
Anjali: Her questionable morality. This was of course my initial opinion of her, I’m not speaking for anyone else. As I read the description of her and all the lines I had to read and the story, I thought, “Wow you can go either way with this, anyone can look at this person and say ‘yea I can see where she’s coming’ from or ‘she is the devil’ ”. I love that because to me that is more like real life. There is the gray area, and how action to action people can do great things or they can do evil things. So yes the first thing that struck me was that I didn’t know if she was a good guy or bad guy and frankly I don’t think she knows either.
Maleok: Overwatch is obviously doing very well right now, it’s one of the most watched games on Twitch.tv and it already has a prominent eSports presence. How much do you personally keep up the game.
Anjali: To be totally honest with you, I find it so hard to keep up that I feel like such a novice. I haven’t even really been a console player most of my life so we bought a console just so I could be part of that. So I’m definitely elementary. I have a few very sweet fans that I message regularly from all over ther world, and one in particular who lives in Australia keeps me up to date on all the stuff on the other side of things. I know what’s going on behind the scene but he keeps me up to date on the participant side.
Maleok: Do you think your experience with Overwatch has opened you up to pursuing more voice acting opportunities.
Anjali: Absolutely, and I don’t mean that as in “Oh she has Overwatch on her resume”. It absolutely has, I just finished one that came out at the end of August that was downloadable content for Fallout 4. That one is more like the PC games that I used to play when I was a little bit older than when I was playing campaigns in D&D. So yes it has definitely opened things up for me, and you know work begets work.
Maleok: Have you had any cool fan experiences as of now, and if so what were they?
Anjali: Specifically my one fan who has become a dear friend from Australia named Riley who I’m hoping to go meet in the flesh. Also I just love how all the fans are so gracious, artistic, supportive, and excited. The fanart to me is mind blowing, and i love that people get excited to show that stuff to me. Let’s face it I didn’t create the game or the character I just voiced her, so the fact that they want to show that to me is special. I don’t want to sound cliche but it really is an honor to be treated like this who care so much. In terms of specific fan experiences I would say that meeting Riley is one.
Another one was when my boyfriend was at a bar with a friend just talking to some people and asked what everyone was into and this girl had mentioned she was playing a lot of Overwatch. He said, “Well my girl just voiced one of the characters in the game.”, and they flipped out. Okay that’s pretty cool, when I’m not even there and someone makes me look good in front of my boyfriend, that’s a good job! Overall it’s just the graciousness and the kindness of these fans, everyone hitting me up on Twitter and hearing what they’re into and hearing what has drawn them to this and gaming in general. For me the only reason to do anything artistic is to connect with people. We live in this beautiful world where we can get on twitter and talk to someone who lives in China, Australia, or South America as if they were right here next to me. I love the chance to talk to people about what jazzes them, because that’s the juice that makes me want to go out and do it.
Maleok: Do you ever think about the fact that tens of thousands of people hear your voice every day, and that people main Symmetra and love her? How does that level of grandeur feel?
Anjali: This is going to make me sound like such a sap, but it literally makes me tear up. Because to be a part of anything that brings that many people joy is why you do things like this. Usually when I think of it I try and write it off by saying things like, “Ya but it’s just me, it’s just my voice, I’m not that important”, there is a part of me that says I am a very small cog in a very big machine. It means a lot to know that it’s out there and that people recognize my voice. I’m really grateful and excited! I can’t wait to see what Blizzard throws out there next and I hope I get to be a part of it whether it’s with this game or another.
Maleok: To wrap up, do you think that acting is something you will do for the rest of your life?
Anjali: Absolutely, ya! There is no reason not to be, that is one of the beauties of this profession is you don’t have to retire. I could be doing this when I am 95, there is no reason to stop, I could choose to but why? Ever since I started acting and I knew that was the path I was going down, there has never really been a consideration to me not doing it. It’s too good, fun, and rewarding. Whether you are doing theater and seeing people’s reactions right there for immediate gratification, or whether it’s television and you have people come up to you on the street and tell you how an episode touched them, or whether it’s someone in a bar freaking out because they heard your voice in a video game! It’s too rewarding for me to imagine switching gears now. It feels like the right way to use the particular set of talents and shortcomings I have.
Maleok: So I’m curious, do you play Overwatch yourself?
Anjali: Hahaha well, “play the game” would be a loose term…I *fail* at playing the game. I certainly make great attempts! I seem to lack a certain level of coordination, but yes I guess you could sort of say that I Quote “Play the game”. I’m terrible at it and I admit it freely, I probably shouldn’t share that with the world because Symmetra looks a lot cooler on her own than she does in my hands.
Maleok: Do you have any other favorite characters outside of Symmetra?
Anjali: Oh gosh there’s so many! Again it’s like picking your favorite children I can’t, there are so many that I love! I love Ana, Junkrat, and…I’m stumped give me a second here. *opens Overwatch* Well when the trailers first came out how can you not be in love with Tracer, she’s adorable. I was a little jealous at first because I thought that no one would want to play Symmetra because this kid is just too cute. On the flip side I think Widow Maker is awesome, who doesn’t want to play a sexy evil woman. I love Winston. I love Lucio even though he and Symmetra are at odds he is such a great character. There is something about Zenyatta that makes me feel like I’m meditating, he is so sweet and the way they animate him the way he moves is so elegant! Of course Hanzo, because he is just badass. Also after the Bastion animated short how can you not love Bastion! We all cried, and if you didn’t I don’t trust you because it’s like people who don’t like puppies; If you don’t like puppies and/or you didn’t cry during the Bastion short I don’t trust you. Huge props to Blizzard for what they’ve done with Overwatch! They are uniquely suited in the world to telling these stories in a beautiful way, and making these characters live in a way that a standard first person shooter may not do.
Maleok: Are you interested in going to or being sent to conventions for voice acting/Overwatch panels?
Anjali: Absolutely! 100% Again it’s another chance to connect with the people we made it for. I’m always interested to connect with fans either on a one-on-one or larger scale to see what Jazzes them. In fact a just saw this beautiful girl on instagram (@misslunacrow) who did a cosplay of Symmetra and did such a great job and made think, “Oh I wanna meet her! I wanna do one with her!”. It just makes me think I wanna do that it sounds like fun let’s play! I’m hoping to get down to Blizzcon to just see anything and if I get to be a part of it that’s just a bonus.
Thank you Anjali so so much for chatting with me! It was marvelous to hear your stories and experiences and I’m sure the fans thank you for some wonderful insight into your mind. Please do follow Anjali on Twitter, Like her Facebook page, and check out her IMDB to check out other things she has been a part of!
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