Interview with Jolene Anderson (Sofia in Rise of the Tomb Raider)

December 07, 2016 Kate Sykes 2 Comments

Jolene Anderson is an actress and model based in LA, appearing in a lot of TV and short films over the years.
Recently, she did the voice and motion capture for the character of Sofia in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
I've wanted to do this interview for a while. I found Sofia to be a great character. I think one of the strongest things about this game is that there is no secondary character. Each one is fully formed with their own back stories and personality traits.
This goes for Sofia, one of the "Remnants" - a people living in the Siberian mountains. Skilled, loyal and a good leader. Also a battling match for Lara Croft, should they have been on different sides.
I'm very grateful to Jolene for agreeing to talk to me about her experiences playing her role.

TDD: For the previous instalment, being the reboot of the franchise, there was a lot of secrecy. The game and the characters were given codenames for actors auditioning. What was the process like for you this time?
JA: It was very secretive! I went to an audition with no name attached to either the character or the project, read a few lines and left not knowing what I'd actually done. The script I auditioned with spoke for itself - the dialog gives you everything you need to know about the character, basically. Sometimes, with less information, you have more room to create a character that speaks to you as an actor.
When I arrived on set for the first day of shooting, I had no idea I was working on Tomb Raider and I hadn't even read a script!
I was pleasantly surprised, of course, and felt very lucky to be able to work on the project for months.

TDD: Had you any experience with voice acting/motion capture before working on Rise of the Tomb Raider ? What was it like?
JA: Yes, I had. I did the motion capture for Ada Wong in "Resident Evil: Damnation" in Japan and worked as a voice over artist for other projects.
The best part of playing Sofia was that I was able to do the full performance - both the voice, and face/body movements.
I was able to create her character completely and fully create her the way I wanted to. That was really exciting for me.

TDD: Did you need to do any archery training?
JA: No, not specifically for this project, but I've worked with weapons and done combat training for other projects...I do most of my own stunts. 😊
TDD: It’s nice to finally see another female character in Tomb Raider  who is equally strong and driven as Lara. What is your favourite thing about Sofia?
JA: Well, exactly that! She is the leader of the resistance. She is Lara's equal in strength, bravery...and she's ferocious as well. A wildling. She is not void of sensitivity and feeling even though she is a powerful warrior.
I loved everything about her! And she's a red head. 😉

TDD: What was it like working with Camilla Luddington and your other fellow cast members?
JA: Wonderful! We all had a great time, I think! It's a team project and is so much bigger than just the cast...but I think we have the most fun. 😉

TDD: Sofia has proved to be a hit with fans, so much in fact that there’s been some impressive cosplay popping up. How do you feel knowing girls have been inspired enough to dress up as her?
JA: I'm absolutely thrilled to hear it. I hoped the world would love her as I did - I'm so grateful the creators of the game had the vision to create her for the fans. I'd like to see more women in gaming!
Cosplay by Hanime. Photography by Mark Edwards.

It doesn't stop at cosplay either. Fans have also shown their love for the character through art, such as this beautiful portrait by Shalizeh.
See more of her amazing art on deviantART and Tumblr.

TDD: Lastly, what’s your fondest memory from working on the project?
JA: Finding out I was working on Tomb Raider! Working with the whole team was an inspiration.
It takes so much work to bring the game to life - they would re-write as we were shooting sometimes. 
There is nothing more satisfying to me, as an actor, than the art of creation in that sense. 
Also, motion capture acting is like going back to your 5 year old self. There is nothing there for you to really interact with.
The whole world is added much later, so we're just going on pure imagination. It's very freeing, and very fun!

More and more strong female characters are appearing in gaming and across all genres and we have Lara Croft to thank for starting it all. Even from starting off as sex symbol, she became an inspiration for both genders. It's nice to see that 20 years later, she is still here to join her peers in celebrating equality.

To find out more about Jolene's work, visit her IMDb page and be sure to "Like" her Facebook page.

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