If you’ve dabbled in Overwatch or Apex Legends, you’ve undoubtedly heard Anjali Bhimani’s voice acting talents as characters Symmetra and Rampart, alongside a host of other characters in games, theatre and film. It’s no stretch to suggest the prolific actor has well and truly solidified herself in the gaming space thanks to her lively characterisation, methodical approach to voice acting and collaboration with other big names like Troy Baker, as well as her involvement in live-play TTRPG shows like Dimension 20 and Critical Role.
We got to chat with Bhimani at SXSW Sydney about her role as Medusa in Stray Gods, the creative process behind bringing a character to life, and just how important collaboration is in her line of work.
A musical odyssey and Stray Gods
Anjali Bhimani’s most recent role as the cunning Medusa in Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical sees her take a step in a different direction than that of her other voice acting gigs, with a chance to show off her singing skills and theatre background to a whole new audience and in an entirely different medium. She says she has a “very soft spot” for the title, which launched in August to critical praise, with the process for landing the role and the road to embodying the snake-haired character also a bit different to the norm.
“Troy texted me and asked if I sing…and he said, ‘I need something that’s kind of weird,’ and so I came up with a couple of songs for him, then I got the offer and found out what it was, and I was blown away by how cool it was,” she says of the audition process, “then when I got the materials…there was very little to work with there, it felt like I was just kind of figuring it out as we go, but getting to the actual sessions was where it started to completely fall into place.”
Bhimani says the process of voicing Medusa was made all the better by Troy Baker and David Gaider’s openness to collaboration in the recording suite, and Austin Wintory’s musical talents – “as a musician, he’s just beyond beyond…the music that he’s done for Journey and all that stuff has been so beautiful.” She describes the recording as walking into a “room of people who wanted to play, which was really fun.”
Bhimani says while getting to recording her parts of Medusa was a process in and of itself, collaborating with the Stray Gods team allowed her to bring her own interpretation of just how the character would sound and come to life off the script. “I had this idea of what if she had this Eartha Kitt-y sound, because they told me this would be set in a nightclub…specifically a jazz club. And immediately, it felt right that she would have that voice, and then her voice would change when she was starting to hypnotise her prey…I may have had that one spark of an idea, but then everybody grabbing onto it and being like, ‘yes, let’s do that,’ solidified it.”
This process of interpreting a character from a script and bringing them to life through voice acting isn’t always the same though, Bhimani says. “It’s very much, ‘what can I glean from these very few clues into the character’s personality?’ And when you have great writers…you can really see who this person is by how they speak.”
Returning to Symmetra
Despite her hectic schedule, which only seems to get busier as the years go by, Anjali Bhimani says stepping away from the whole host of iconic characters she’s embodied during her career (and back again) isn’t a conscious process. Despite this, “getting to go back intermittently to each one and revisit them is like putting on a new skin…It’s like, ‘oh, yeah, I remember this suit. The suit feels good. Remember, this dress? This dress feels good,” she says. “I feel like that about all the characters…they start to feel home.”
While Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is Bhimani’s most recent role, her work as Symmetra for Overwatch (and Overwatch 2) remains some of her most iconic voice-acting work to date, and it’s pretty clear just how much the character still means to her. “One of the things that I like the most about the way that they’ve told her story in the lore, is that despite the fact that she’s had a troubled past, and that it was not idea…she’s maintained this life view of, ‘I’m going to make the world a better place. She has this North Star, ‘I want to make the world better.’ And to me, that is very inspiring,” she says.
“No matter what challenges she’s faced, whether it’s being taken away from her family, her neurodiversity…all of the things that she’s had to deal with, the challenges have [made] her determined to do better, and have the world be better. And I love that. I think that’s great for all of us to take away that you aren’t your circumstances, you are not the plot points of your life, you are the lead of your life, and you decide what the story is.”
You can check out Anjali Bhimani’s work as Medusa in Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical now, and also see her in live plays including Critical Role’s Candela Obscura and Dimension 20. We also got to chat to her all about her TTRPG journey and getting to play with other big names like Matt Mercer and Ashley Johnson – keep an eye out on Kotaku Australia for Part 2 of our chat soon.
Lead Image Credit: Summerfall Studios / Respawn Entertainment/EA / Blizzard
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