Overwatch

[Interview] "Nerf This!" The Voice of the North American D.Va of Overwatch, Charlet Chung

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Nerf This!

D.Va: the Korean hero of Overwatch. I was surprised at how Korea and its culture was expressed in such a fun and fascinating way. 

As an ex-professional StarCraft player recruited for her skills and quick thinking, D.Va dove into the Overwatch battlefield. She has many iconic catch phrases like "Nerf this!" and "I play to win!" There's no denying the charm present in D.Va's voice, which captures both the confidence and brightness of her personality.

Charlet Chung, the voice actress for D.Va, is just as charming as the character herself - and I'm not just talking about her looks. As we spoke with her, she carried the conversation with a distinct merriment and we were able to experience the depth of her acting and charm in person.


Charlet Chung's voice isn't only found in Overwatch. She has been featured on TV shows including 'Cold Case', and even in more recent shows such as 'We Bare Bears'. Movies, animation, and even other video games such as 'Call of Duty' and 'Agents of Mayhem' - her voice acting repertoire covers a variety of content. When I first heard her speak during an ordinary conversation, my first thought was simply "she has a pretty voice." However, as soon as I witnessed her switch into voice acting mode, I was astounded by her talent.

So what kind of a person is she?  Charlet Chung is a TV actress, voice actress, and gamer - and we were more than interested to hear from her.


 

▲ Voice actress for Overwatch's D.Va, Charlet Chung


Could you introduce yourself?

Hi, I'm Charlet Chung, and I'm the voice actor for D.Va in 'Overwatch'. I also voice act for Seraph in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 3', and Aisha in 'Agents of Mayhem'. I've been on television and films for 12 years now.

I've only been voice acting for 3 years.


Why are you here in Korea?


I'm here to visit my family. Also, I was filming something a couple of days ago. It's a bit of a work trip, but also, I find it important to stay centered and to ground myself into my heritage, as I'm half Japanese and half Korean, even though I was born in the States. I actually visit Korea pretty often... I think it's my 15th visit here, and I find it mandatory for me to visit Korea and Japan to find balance in my life. It's very important to me - spiritually - to visit both countries, as whenever I do visit before going back to America, I find myself happier.


Are you planning to visit Japan too?

Not on this trip. I want to spend more time in Korea this time. If I don't split my trip, I get about a week each in Korea and Japan. This time, I wanted to spend more time with one country. 


Have you ever visited Blizzard Korea in the past?

No. This is my very first time. 

I heard this is the new office, and it's gorgeous. I shouldn't compare it to the US... but I'm insanely impressed with everything here - it's so technological.

▲ The impressive interiors of Blizzard Korea


What made you start voice acting for video games?

I started my career on television, and there was a show called Cold Case. So I was in an episode - which was about 3 months after I got into Hollywood - and after that, I was on television doing Disney shows, ABC, NBC, and Fox. And eventually, I got a voice acting agent, which was about 3 years ago, and that's how I started my voice acting career.

The first sizable role that I had gotten was in Battlefield, and that led me to Call of Duty, and eventually Overwatch.


What made you choose video games?

I'm also doing animations. It's not like we have a choice as actors, really. We just simply take auditions, and we get picked.


 What is the difference between being a TV actor to being a voice actor?

People tell me, "Oh wow! Since you're voice acting, you don't even have to care about how you look!" But that's not true! You have to look professional. I think one of the reasons on why I was chosen to be D.Va is because when I met Blizzard, I always tried my best to look like a Korean pop-star as much as possible. I think my approach is newer in the voice acting scene. Old school voice actors were mostly men, there weren't too many female actors.

And because I have a television background, I just personally feel more confident as an actor if I dress up like the person that I'm acting. If I'm going in as a patient, I'm going to make sure to put on no make-up and try my best to look as plain as possible. If I'm going in as D.Va, I want to make sure that I look like a Korean pop-star. 

There are differences, but to be a great voiceover actor, you have to be a great actor. So I'm always in acting class all the time, while I'm filming. I'm always learning.

Also, with voice acting, it's essential to take direction. In television, the viewers can take hints through the visuals. But in voice acting, the only thing that you can express yourself with is your voice. So there is a skill level that you need to meet, to show what you need to show with only your voice.

The essential part is that you need to be a good actor, whether you're on TV or voice-recording.


How did you get the role of D.Va?

Overwatch beta came out, but at the time, there were no commercials, so I didn't know about it. So one day, I got the audition and I googled the game and saw the Tracer/Widowmaker intro cinematic. I was really impressed by it, it was like an animated movie! The quality of the movie was really high.

Eventually, I saw the character description of D.Va, and I tried my best to sound cute but strong at the same time as much as possible. Voiceover acting auditions take a really long time, it can take up to 6 months to hear back from the audition. Two months after that, I got a call back from Blizzard to meet them in person. Two weeks after that, I got the role.

▲ "Can you act this?!"


What was your first impression of D.Va?

I thought she was really pretty. (Laughs) But she also looked really tough. That's what I really appreciated about the character. She's 19 years old, and she was a gamer. But she ended up joining the military because Korea relied on her to fight the Omnics. So she was all about female power and strength. She is feminine on the outside but is really strong on the inside. That's why I really liked the character.

Purple is also my favorite color.


Are there other characters that you want to voice act in Overwatch?

No, I love D.Va! (Laughs)

But, I do like doing other voices. Mercy is a really good friend of mine, so we go and meet our fans and attend conventions together. We got close, and I heard her lines a lot of times. So I started mimicking her lines as well as other characters' for fun.

I'm always around them [voice actors] and we hang out a lot, so... it's easy to pick up on their characters.


How are your voice acting coworkers? How is your relationship with them?

Thankfully, everyone is really, really nice. They're super nice and super generous. Their heart and mind... I really admire all of my castmates. Usually, at a workplace, there's that one person that you might not get along with. But here, I'm close to every single one! They're all accomplished actors and are just... really good people. I love them a lot. We became a family, and we travel a lot. 

Once, I took Lucio(Johnny Cruz) to Korea town in LA, because he never had soju and many of the Korean dishes. He really loved it! 

This is a personal story, but when I went to Blizzcon for the very first time, I met with the voice actor of Nikolai(Fred Tatasciore), a Russian character in Call of Duty - he also plays Soldier 76. In real life, he kind of looks like Nikolai himself - scary. So I was intimidated, but I met him and told him, "Hi, I'm a big fan... I look up to you as an actor."

I found out that he is the nicest and most humble man that I've ever met. We sat next to each other during the event, and I was very touched by the fact that he consistently looked over and acknowledged me and my work. I was very nervous at the time, so it really meant a lot to me. I was amazed at how humble he was despite being so accomplished. 

▲ Charlet and Fred (Source: Charlet's Pictame)


What games do you play?

I started off with Duck Hunt. The very first game that I beat was Lion King. It's actually a great game! After that, I played Street Fighter 2 with my family. 

I wanted to be Ryu - I mean, everyone wanted to be Ryu. My family always picked him, so I felt obligated to play Chun Li. And in-game, she wasn't that strong of a character when compared to Ryu. So I was always frustrated!

Bringing this back to Overwatch, I really appreciated the game because the female characters weren't any weaker than the male ones. There are female DPS characters - and genderwise, the game was very balanced. 

When people ask me, "Who do you main on Overwatch?" I responded, for two weeks, "Roadhog." I'm a D.Va main now, but I used to feel like I'm Roadhog on the inside, you know, a big, tough pig!

What's so special about games like Overwatch is that you get to live vicariously through characters that are nothing like you and learn a lot about their culture. I heard that a lot of the fans who play D.Va have eventually become a fan of Korean pop-culture and its food. 

In high school, one of my best friends was a boy that played Tekken. He always wanted to practice, but he couldn't practice with another guy because it would've gotten really competitive and the only purpose of playing would be to beat each other! So he would come to me and ask me, "Will you spar with me?" (Laughs) So we would play, and he would practice his moves on me. Looking back... I would never do that now! (Laughs) I have a life, too! He was a good friend of mine, so I wanted to help him improve. It kind of shows what being a female gamer was like back in the day. There used to be a lot of sexism - something that we still fight to this day. So here I am, being a sparring buddy for a friend - who is a guy - and now, I'm fully integrated into the gaming world and had become a voice in video games, advancing the narrative for feminism. I think that's really cool.

I've come a long way in my video game journey.


You said that you're a D.Va main. Have you ever trolled players with your voice?

I have done it once.

I have a friend who is the actor for One-Punch Man, and he's a big fan of Overwatch. So one day, he contacted me to come over and practice Overwatch with him. At the time, they were streaming to raise money for child-cancer research, and he invited me to be a special guest on his show. 

So I went over, put the mic on, and my friend was telling his viewers, "Guys, the voice of D.Va is here! It's D.Va!" But his viewers didn't believe him. 

So I started saying D.Va lines... but they still didn't believe me. (Laughs) 

▲ "Nerf this! - it's really me!"


But on a more serious note, that was the first time where people started saying very rude things to me. Well, because I'm a female voice, and they didn't really know that I was D.Va. They were very inappropriate towards me, and that's when I really saw the toxicity that is present in the gaming world. When I meet my fans, a lot of times, they are shy. They also have a social life through gaming. So it really made me sad when I heard that there was bullying in gaming.

When they started saying rude things to me on stream, my friend apologized and took me off the mic. Even though it didn't feel good, I took it as a learning experience, because I find it important for me - a person that represents the game - to be on the side of the victims of verbal harassment. I stand firmly against that. 


You must have a lot of fun memories of recording D.Va's voice. 

I don't really have an embarrassing moment for Overwatch specifically, but... at the very beginning of my career, I had a very weird habit of taking off my shoes whenever I entered an audition or booth. Because I was always nervous, whenever I'm wearing high heels or of something similar, I always took them off so that I'll feel more balanced and stable. The interviewers were always looking at me strangely through the glass panels as I took off my shoes. (Laughs) Now, I always keep my shoes on.


Are there any key points that you consider important to act as D.Va?

Pronunciation was the most important to me. As a Korean-American, I don't have the same pronunciation and knowledge of slangs as those who are native to Korea. So I always practiced and tried my best to sound as authentic as possible. 

I just wanted to make sure that I didn't sound "too" American when I voiced her. I also didn't want to sound "too" accented - insultingly accented. I needed to find the perfect balance. The devs at Blizzard always try their best to make everything as authentic as possible.

We have a very international team, so we ask each other if we sound authentic or not. 

The most important thing that we all had focused on is authenticity.


Have you ever listened to the other D.Va voiceover actors? Say, for example, French D.Va, Korean D.Va... etc?

Not all of them, because a lot of them aren't available on Youtube, so there are some that I haven't heard. I heard the Korean D.Va's voice when I was playing Overwatch here on the Korean servers, and she sounded very much like me. I was telling the other team members earlier today too, that she sounded like me. 

The Korean D.Va voiceover actor... she's amazing.


What is your favorite D.Va line?

Of course, I like her ultimate, "Nerf this!" I worked on in a lot.

Also, I like that line because it's such a gamers' term that the line is very different depending on the country. The line is very short, so it is easily translatable. Even if I can't communicate with the fans of a specific country, I was able to remember the line in their language and use it. 

My most touchy moment was when I met the hearing impaired fans of Overwatch. I was able to sign language "Nerf this!" 

I also love the sound that D.Va makes when she gets "booped" off of a ledge. 

There was one line that I really wanted it to make it into the game, where D.Va goes, "Oh, oh, oh, D.Va style." It was right after Psy's Gangnam style, but it didn't make it through...

▲ All gamers share the same language


If an animation is to be made for D.Va, what kind of story do you want to see about her?

I want to know her military background. Because she used to be a gamer before she went to Busan and ended up becoming a soldier to fight against the Omnics. I want to know how that transition was for her. I mean, she was a gamer, but suddenly, the Korean government calls you and asks you, "would you like to ride on a mecha?" 

Obviously, that would never happen in real life, that's why I want to see that journey of her's. 

I also want to see her backstory in the context of Korea. It would be nice for people to see Korean culture and Korean food. I want people outside of Korea to see what it's like. I also want her to have a boyfriend. (Laughs)


Are you planning to watch the Overwatch League?

I've started to. Especially with the new season coming up, I'm definitely planning to follow it. I'm very proud of Seoul Dynasty. I've been rooting for the team. I'm an international D.Va, so I can't really side with anybody, but Seoul Dynasty has D.Va as their mascot and I recognize that. I'm a little biased, of course. (Laughs) The Korean teams have been completely demolishing everyone, not just Overwatch but almost every Blizzard game.


What is your new year goal?

I have several. I'm still trying to get a lead on a television show. I'm always auditioning, work on guest stars, and etc... I got a lead once on a show, but the network didn't pick it up. So, I'm still waiting to get my own series.

And also, I really love traveling - I went to 20 conventions last year. I was invited to Australia, Ireland, Kuwait, and much more. But because I had so many meetings, I had to say "no." So this year, I want to be more international. I would definitely like to meet the Overwatch fans of Korea, so we'll have to work that out. 


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