Ashly Burch 'Heartbroken' She Won't Play Chloe In Life Is Strange Prequel

Life Is Strange

As the longest strike in Screen Actors Guild history chugs on, video game voice actors are making painful career sacrifices to show solidarity with their union. 234 days into the strike, after Microsoft announced Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, fans immediately sussed out that award-winning voice actress and SAG-AFTRA member Ashly Burch will not reprise her original role as the rebellious teen Chloe.

Shortly after Microsoft's E3 presentation, Burch, who has voiced Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn and Tiny Tina in Borderlands 2, said that Square Enix had decided to go with a non-union actress.

"I'm pretty heartbroken," Burch told Kotaku. "It feels sort of like you were forced to put your kid up for adoption." Burch's performance as Chloe in the original Life Is Strange earned her the "Best Gaming Performance" award at 2015's Golden Joystick Awards. She will stay on the prequel project as a writer and consultant.

In October 2015, SAG-AFTRA members voted to strike strike against 11 video game companies, including EA, Activision and Take 2. Video game voice actors comprise a large part of the union and since early 2015, several had been in negotiations with games companies over better compensation.

"Nobody becomes an actor in order to not act," Phil LaMarr, who sits on SAG-AFTRA's interactive negotiating committee, told Kotaku. LaMarr, an experienced film, television and voice actor, had voiced Aquaman for Injustice 2 prior to the strike (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is one of the publishers that SAG-AFTRA is currently striking). LaMarr said he is disappointed that, if negotiations remain on hold, he wouldn't be able to reprise the role if there's DLC or future Injustice games.

Ashly Burch

"Fortunately, there are a lot of companies that have looked at what we're asking for and said, Oh yeah, that makes sense," LaMarr said. "There are a lot of games we're not able to continue working on, but there are a lot of new games, too."

Primarily, these voice actors want residuals — post-release payments dependent on game sales. The strain placed on voice actors' voices when characters die, are injured or run screaming into battle seriously impacts their well-being, SAG-AFTRA has argued. That, and the fact that game publishers' desire for absolute secrecy often leads them to obscure what game voice actors are even working on, can make these gigs particularly tough, the union says.

Since the strike began, SAG-AFTRA has signed agreements with over 30 game companies covering over 40 games.

No voice actors have broken the strike. So when Burch was approached by Square Enix about voicing Chloe in the just-announced Life Is Strange prequel, she had to make a difficult decision.

"When the strike happened, you know there will be sacrifices you have to make," Burch said. "This particular one is genuinely pretty difficult for me. It wasn't one that I was anticipating. This is my sacrifice, and it's a big one."

Burch feels that SAG-AFTRA's demands are reasonable, not just for her and her colleagues, but for up-and-coming voice actors, too. The strike persists, she said, so SAG-AFTRA can ensure that anyone involved in the industry will be safeguarded.

But that doesn't mean hearing another woman voice Chloe doesn't hurt. Chloe, a deeply flawed and endearing character with whom fans have developed a strong connection, is the main character's best friend, a blue-haired, angry girl who, Burch said, "in her core, desperately wants to feel safe, loved and loveable."

Burch said that voicing Chloe wasn't just a gig but also an act of self-care. Burke said that as a teenager, she resembled Chloe a lot. "I broke off a little piece of my soul when I did the first Life Is Strange and put it in Chloe," Burch said. "Playing Chloe turned out to be a tremendously personal experience for me, an almost cathartic experience."

When asked for comment, Square Enix referred Kotaku to a blog post that stated, in part: "Ashly Burch, Chloe's original voice actor, makes a welcome return to the family this time on writing duties. . . It's great to have her writing dialogue for a new younger, 16 year old Chloe, this time voiced by extremely talented actress Rhianna DeVries."

Resident Evil Revelations 2

Burch isn't the only voice actress to report some bad strike-related news during E3. Canadian voice actress Alyson Court, who has played Resident Evil's Claire Redfield throughout five of the game's iterations, posted a YouTube video on Monday explaining that she would not be returning for Resident Evil 2's newly-announced remake, although she featured in the original.

Court said the producer for RE2's remake did reach out about a year and a half ago, but later, she said she was informed that the role would go to a non-union voice actress. Court is not a member of SAG-AFTRA, but Canada's ACTRA, which, in solidarity with US union actors, is also refusing struck work. Capcom declined to comment to Kotaku for this story.

Asked for comment, Court sent Kotaku a new video explaining her disappointment. "It's one thing to make a decision to replace me for a creative choice — and I totally get that," she said in the video, "but if the only reason they chose to replace me is because they wanted to go non-union, it's petty, it's disrespectful."


Comments

    Workers go on strike, then are disappointed they don't get work. Isn't that the point of a strike? To not work?

      No, the point of a strike is to force a renegotiation between employer and employees. Not working is the price you have to pay not the benefit. She had to reject the role, but luckily she was also offered a job writing for the game that she was able to accept.

      I see you've not been part of a strike action. The people who are striking want to work. They want to get a fair deal from the employer, whether it be fair pay or better conditions.
      In this case, they are largely striking for better working conditions, as many voice actors are risking damage to their vocal cords doing long hours of screaming and yelling.

      Sorry, no sympathy (at least for voice actors). Good voice actors are a dime a dozen. There are literally hundreds of excellent ones who could instantly replace Jennifer Hale, Ashly Burch, Nathan North, David Hayter, Matthew Mercer, etc., tomorrow and do just as good of a job. They just never got the lucky break or nepotistic opportunity these now famous staples of video game voice acting got.

      In general, I am in favor of unions, but when the union represents (usually) overpaid employees in an industry where only a fraction of a percent actually make it, and tens of thousands of others would kill for the opportunities or lucky break these union strikers now have, I can't say I care too much for the "plight of the worker".

      This feels more like the kind of problem akin to a rich, spoiled sorority girl crying and screaming because Daddy bought her $40000 Jeep instead of the $70000 Range Rover she really wanted.

    As I understand it, voice actors aren't tremendously well paid, so hopefully this strike achieves something positive.

      Hopefully something positive comes out of it but honestly I don't think they'll get what they want. Voice actors in video games aren't considered important enough to get a cut of the post release sales. Unfortunately this strike seems to have reinforced the idea that union voice actors are easily replaceable.

        There are a few that I think most certainly do get what they want (Nolan North stated in an interview about Uncharted 3 back in the day that he was pretty "happy" with his deals).

      I can agree with voice actors getting paid more but they're asking for residuals on all sales of a game. With all the work that goes into making games why should voice actors get residuals when none of the other people who make the game do? This works in other forms of media because actors are central to the production, but actors don't sell games.

        I'm not sure about that. Unknown actors certainly don't sell games, but could you imagine Nathan Drake without Nolan North's voice?

        If actors in film and television get residuals, it's not don't because they are "well known" enough to sell the product (and not all actors are well known but they do get residuals). It's because the owner of the product (film studio) is repeatedly making money off them. Perhaps because the actor's craft is inseparable from the person, a performance is not as objectified as visual artworks tend to be (these are often considered "owned" by the studio/publisher). However, the studio publisher doesn't claim to own the artist's style and creativity, which are traits inseperable from the artist. In other words, visual artists are considered to be creators of single works which are purchased once and owned by the employer. Whether or not you agree with that, or you think that it's unfair that other artists to not get residuals, is beside the point. It is a norm in other acting industries.

    Non-union members getting work that union members would normally get? This isn't going to end well.

      I wonder if they picket and shout scab!... prob just do it over twitter these days

      I do hope they get what they are after no residuals is ridiculous

    Voice actors should probably be paid proportionate to the work required, if they're required to strain their voices with screaming/character getting injured etc. then their pay should reflect that as opposed to regular voice work.

    I can see why they would want more money if a game is highly successful, but they've already accepted an amount for their work before the game was even close to release or, the animators / writers probably don't get an increase in their pay.

      I agree, will they get some of their primary fee taken back if the game tanks? While from what I've read the condition aren't great, lets not pretend there isn't a thousand people waiting in the wings to jump in if they had the chance. Strikes only work if the people striking have something the company needs and can't get elsewhere, in this situation I see the studio's throwing the VA's a small bone just to end bad press, not out of any real need.

        Hah I'd written a paragraph on that but decided not to use it. I hope people don't take this out on Squenix themselves because they have to remember that Square Enix is a Japanese company with Japanese morals/ethics/customs and when you're on a tiny island with 120+million people, if you're not going to do a job, there are thousands waiting in line to take it!

      If the only argument against paying voice actors residuals is that "then other people working on the project will ask for them too", then I'd tend to side with the voice actors.

      SAG isn't asking for residuals for all the other employees because it doesn't represent them. But if SAG does win this one, it should be significantly easier for other groups to ask for similar terms.

    I don't get why this needs to be made as news. You join in the strike and obvious consequences would be not able to work.

    It is like "woman got pregnant after refusing to have safe sex".

      It's a pretty big deal to Life Is Strange fans, and this strike is a pretty big deal to video game fans. It may not be your cup of tea but it should definitely be covered on a gaming news site like this.

      Kotaku had comments on the Life is Strange reveal article asking for a story with more info about Ashly not being cast.

      So yeah, people are interested in this stuff. Especially as it's quietened the knee jerk reaction that some commenters jumped to that they chose another voice actor without even approaching Ashly first.

      Last edited 15/06/17 2:56 pm

    In what world do the voice actors deserve residuals?

    Drop that rubbish and the strike would be sorted in no time.

      I agree, whether a video game does or does not do well has almost nothing to do with the voice acting. It can help or hinder sure but these people are not movie stars, games are not sold with their name on the front.

      This world, the one we occupy.

        Why voice actors? And why residuals? So much effort goes into making a game, why do they deserve this over anyone else who makes a game? I can agree with a pay increase, just not residuals. This isn't the film industry.

          This.

          Pay increase and guidelines that protect their vocal chords are very reasonable demands.

          Thinking they deserve residuals is ridiculous. The poor bastards doing months of crunch time and living at the office deserve it over a bunch of actors.

          Imagine if the programmers and artists that suffer during crunch time ( I know some that do unpaid work in a mad effort to get their games done) asked for residuals. There are voice actors that are popular enough to make demands due to effecting games sales, but a lot of voice actors are not important in terms of name strength.

          Once again, programmers getting screwed while walk-in/walk-out voice actors cry.

          To both you and @mr_scratch and @vaegrand below: designers, artists, programmers, and other developers deserve better protections and pay, and maybe even perks like residuals. The key difference here is that voice actors have unionised to fight for better conditions and better pay. If that includes pushing for residuals, why not? It's incredibly unlikely they will achieve that end, that's even if you think they actually expect to get every item they are negotiating for, but it opens up a dialogue and widens the parameters in which they can work.

          Crunch is shit, as well as a lot of other practices within the industry, we all know that. It's unlikely to end without either external or internal pressure, like independent oversight bodies or unions, respectively. The former won't happen, which leaves it up to the latter. So instead of deriding the efforts of a group of people who have got their shit together and are trying to better their lives and their industry, you should rally behind developers and publishers that are trying to do right by their employees, and the employees who are trying to empower themselves through unions or bargaining groups.

            Oh, I get it.

            My issue however has to do with residual pay, for people that are largely dispensable (a great game can be made without voice actors, but cannot be made without artists and programmers). If we are talking about the issues involved with concealed contracts resulting in va' not being aware of vocal strain in the roles they have taken on, then I am all on board, however the large thing that they seem to be complaining about is that they are not paid enough.

            If I am being fair the fact that no one other than management in the video game industry is paid enough is a joke; however just because they (VAs) unionised, does not mean I have to take their side.

              You say you get it, but then you go back to arguing the same points.

    A prequel developed by a second studio while the original works on a proper seqel, with different voice actors. It's really starting to sound like the "Batman: Arkham Origins" of the series.

    Last edited 15/06/17 4:22 pm

    Burch is "heartbroken" alright... Running around with a smile on her face and a paycheck in her pocket about her upcoming "OK KO: Let's Be Heroes!" animated series and VIDEO GAME roles.

    The only one I actually feel sorry for in this story is Alyson Court, someone who doesn't have animation, TV or other video game roles booked up like Burch and LeMarr do. If you're going to stick to your "morals" then stick to them instead of picking and choosing your battles. Either work for everyone who wants to pay you, or have your morals and sit back and wait for the strike to resolve. Can't have it both ways, just ask the TV and movie writers about 2008.

      You're upset that a union member is working for a employer that is not part of the current strike?

      This whole thing is about picking and choosing battles.

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