Anjali Bhimani has gone from strength to strength when it comes to her acting and video game voice acting work, starring as Symmetra in Overwatch, Rampart in Apex Legends, and most recently, Medusa in Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical. But despite an already stacked schedule of acting gigs, Bhimani has somehow found time to get involved with another one of her passions, Dungeons & Dragons (and tabletop RPGs as a whole), in live-play shows like Critical Role and Dimension 20.
We got to chat with Anjali Bhimani at SXSW Sydney about collaborative storytelling with iconic names like Matt Mercer and Ashley Johnson, her D&D journey, and how TTRPGs make her a better actor in part two of our interview series with the Overwatch voice actor.
The first adventure
Anjali Bhimani was given her first basic D&D starter set by her brother at age eight, and says she immediately “fell in love with it and played it all through high school.” When she got to college, she experienced what she calls the “dark days of gaming,” where she put the dice and PHB down as it became harder to find others to play with. “I thought I needed to be more serious and focus on serious things,” she says.
Bhimani didn’t return to TTRPGs until Overwatch first came out in 2016, when she met Matt Mercer and Marisha Ray at a Blizzard cast get-together, and got to talking about D&D with the pair. “I’d heard about Critical Role, but I didn’t really know much about it,” she says.
Ray reached out the following year to suggest she check out a new Geek & Sundry show Ivan Van Norman was slated to DM, which Bhimani describes as her “first entrée back into it” before “the floodgates opened all of a sudden, I remembered why I did it and couldn’t possibly come up with a good idea why I stopped.”
Bhimani calls her return to TTRPGs “wildly satisfying” and says its “the greatest excuse to hang out with your friends…it’s an absolute dream because we’re all really busy people, and the only way we’re going to get to see each other is if we work together, but thankfully our work is play.” One of her favourite parts of playing is the “bonding experience” and the ability to socialise with friends, with “something creative coming out of it.”
Iconic moments and collaboration
When posed the question of her favourite character, Anjali Bhimani says she can’t possibly choose. “I love them all, even the really flawed ones…I think all of the characters that I choose to play…have some aspect of myself in them that I want to explore or experience. And so each one of them feels a little bit like a part of me so I kind of love them all. It’s like, ‘oh this is a part of me now!’”
Despite not having a favourite character, Bhimani says she’s had many “extraordinary moments” in her time taking part in live-plays, with one standout from her time on We’re Alive: Frontier playing Stingray. Stingray and Xander Jeanneret’s character, Bandaid, “were both having some plant medicine” and “having very different experiences,” with Stingray reliving a traumatic experience. “Because role-playing games are so immersive, and you can really live in the moment with the character, there was a moment that happened, where she spoke about her past that just felt like it came out of me so easily…it’s some of the most satisfying acting I’ve ever gotten to do.”
Many of Bhimani’s stand-out moments during her time getting back into D&D and TTRPGs have come from constructing a story collaboratively with others. “I love the fact that because this is a game, figuring out the choices is as fun as rolling the dice,” she says, “I feel like the failures and flaws in tabletop just really make the story…Everything just turns in a moment, just like life, and it gives you all these opportunities to make gold out of it.”
TTRPGs and being present
Anjali Bhimani’s tabletop career continues to grow with appearances on shows such as Critical Role’s Candela Obscura alongside Ashley Johnson and Taliesin Jaffe as well as a Shadowrun live-play, and it’s pretty clear she’s got no intention of stopping soon. “I think roleplaying games make me a better actor,” she says, “because it is such a constant reminder that you may have ideas of where things are going to go, but ultimately, the life and the things that come at you, whether it’s your scene partner, or it’s what the dice roll, could completely change, alter the course of history, the way you feel, anything.”
Bhimani says being able to be agile, present and able to think on her feet in TTRPGs is “a really important thing that I think sometimes gets lost when you’re acting with a script…it’s not so much that it’s the same process as I think one really does feed the other.”
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 Stray Gods, her voice acting career and the creative process behind bringing a character to life, which you can check out here.
Lead Image Credit: Critical Role
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