Infinitely Interesting: An Interview with Bioshock Infinite’s Courtnee Draper Pt. 1

BioShock Infinite voice actress Courtnee Draper talks about the process of voicing Elizabeth and the representation of women in games.

Elizabeth, BioShock Infinite

Courtnee Draper has been acting professionally since childhood, so it is no wonder she was chosen by Ken Levine and Irrational Games to play one of the most intriguing and iconic video game characters of this generation, the “Lamb of Columbia,” Elizabeth Comstock. Courtnee’s lilting, mellifluous voice lent a quality to the dimension-hopping Elizabeth that is hard to quantify: at times, childlike and full of wonder and at other times, somber and distraught. It is a masterful performance, second only to Jennifer Hale’s turn as the female Commander Shepard (“FemShep”) in the Mass Effect series of games.

Put simply, Elizabeth/Courtnee is the heart and soul of the complex masterpiece that is Bioshock Infinite.

The lovely Ms. Draper was kind enough to take a break from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions about Bioshock Infinite, her performance and her life in general.

Jerry Bonner: What, to you, was the coolest and/or most interesting thing about playing Elizabeth?

Courtnee DraperCourtnee Draper: The coolest thing for me was—I don’t know—it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. I really liked being exposed to a completely different medium and the learning curve in doing a game was very sharp.  I wasn’t very familiar with the current video games, so learning all of that in the last two and half years has been really amazing.

The creativity and the intellect that goes into making games is mind boggling. It’s really nice to be in that world now and have such and understanding and appreciation that I didn’t have before, so that was really cool. And, of course, working with Ken (Levine, Irrational Games Creative Director) is dream come true. I mean, he’s amazing. He really, really is a genius and the things he was trying to do and accomplish. I was just very impressed with his dedication to that. Even in the face of people questioning him or saying, “You’re crazy; that’s not going to work!” he still persevered, and I think anytime you get a chance to work with someone like that, whether you are in an artistic field or not, I think it’s amazing to work with someone like that. Especially in such a collaborative way like we did with Bioshock Infinite.

So, I think those are the most interesting things I took away from being Elizabeth. And now that that the game is out, seeing the fan reaction and hearing that all the things we were trying to do with this game really resonating with them (the fans) and the critics, and the industry as a whole, is really just phenomenal . You really can’t ask for anything more than that!

JB: How hands on was Ken (Levine) during the recording of the dialogue?

CD: He was always there, which I think is pretty typical for a director, producer or writer to be guiding the performance and the recordings. He was more hands on in the fact that he was always there in the room with us, which is very unique because a lot of times you’re in a recording studio and you’re talking to someone across the world on Skype giving direction. I just did something where they (the producers) were Skyping in from Poland! Ken was right there in the room with us giving direction. So, he was hands on in that aspect but not in a dictatorial way. I mean, Ken really wanted it to be a collaborative process and really, really encouraged us to work together that way.

75% to 80% of the recordings were Troy (Baker, who played Booker DeWitt) and me flying to Boston and working with Ken in the same room. The remainder of the recordings were pick-ups of things that were done from L.A. and then Ken was Skyping in with us. So, one way or another, he was a presence at all times.