Interview: Skyler Davenport Talks Voice Acting, Final Fantasy And Overcoming Adversity

Skyler Davenport is an actress and voice actress who has worked on countless video games and animated productions.

In this interview with Close-up Culture, Skyler opens up about her acting journey and overcoming adversity along the way.

Q: What are your early memories of performing and falling in love with acting?

A: ​I did all the school plays in elementary, but I wouldn’t say I ‘fell in love’ with acting itself. I’ve always been an incredibly sensitive person, someone who feels things very deeply.

What I fell in love with was that, through acting, I could channel those intense feelings (which sometimes were very painful for me) into something that could reach and help others. I guess I fell in love with being able to help people on a massive scale, and acting is the easiest vehicle (for me, personally) to use to do it.

I was set to go to drama school after I graduated, but then had the stroke. My path has been very winding and unique. I do remember the very specific moment when I thought “this is what I want to do!”. People always told me growing up: “you don’t act like an actor”, meaning that I was shy and reserved.

Q: You’ve worked as a voice actor on countless video games and anime series. What led you to this part of the industry and what do you enjoy about it?

A: I actually started out in voice-over and made the transition to film, which, based on what I’ve encountered talking with other actors, seems to be the opposite of how it goes for most people.

I had always wanted to do voice work since I was about seven years old or so. I can remember being very young and completing one of my favourite games, and upon watching the credits scroll, it dawned on me that someone got to voice these characters. That sounded like fun to me (laughs)! 

I love that with voice work, you’re not tied to how you look/your “type”.  I’ve voiced creature characters, male characters, and characters far bigger or older than myself. It’s also sometimes nice to have your four hour session and then go home. Film is far, far more physically strenuous when you’re on set for 12-18 hours and possibly facing extreme heat or cold during a shoot. 

Q: One of the most high-profile roles you’ve had was as Rinoa Heartilly in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. What was it like voicing Rinoa and becoming part of the Final Fantasy family?

A: When I first got word that I’d booked Rinoa, I was confused and thought it was a typo (laughs). I had played Final Fantasy 8 as a young girl and assumed that all these years later, she’d already have a voice, or perhaps it was a different character than the one I was familiar with.

It was such a fun and unique experience. We had not only the director and engineer in the other room, per usual, but also had the directors in Japan over the line/in my headphones via patch in. So I was getting direction from multiple sources.

A lot of people loved her voice, and some thought it was too high or bouncy for the character, but the Japanese vocal directors really wanted to keep her “energetic, positive, and young”. I’d always assumed the character was in her late 20s or so, but the description I had in front of me while recording said she was 16. It was one of those times where you just have to roll with it. Everyone at the studio was amazing.

On a side note, Kingdom Hearts 3 was recording in the booth next to me each day I was there. I got to meet the voice of Goofy and hear his classic laugh. What a dream!

Q: You aren’t done with Final Fantasy yet. Last month you announced that you will voice Sophie in Mobius Final Fantasy NE. What can you tell us about Sophie and this second Final Fantasy experience?

A: Sophie is one of my favourite roles because she’s recurring, which means you get to grow with the role. Every two months or so I have a session and she develops her character more and more, especially now that she’s the lead character for the game.

It’s also so much fun to work with the same director/engineer/line producer every time. We’ve gotten to know each other and there’s a lot of silly jokes coupled with mutual respect and hard work.

Q: What have been your other standout experiences as a voice actors? Any interesting stories to share?

A: Billy Zane’s performance as Ansem in the first Kingdom Hearts was what sparked my interest in voice-over, and I got to meet him one night a few months ago at a dinner get together here in LA. We went for a private tour of his art gallery afterwards around midnight or so, and the whole thing was just so surreal. Getting to meet someone whose work inspired me so much as a child was priceless to me.

Q: When announcing your role as Frencia on Toonami’s Sword Art Online Alicization, you mentioned the sexual trauma you experienced in your personal life. What did it mean to you to give a voice to this character?

A: When they brought me in to record for Frenica, I didn’t know that it was going to be included in the plot. Due to my visual impairment, I save my reading ability for scripts, so I hadn’t followed the comic and didn’t now the storyline very well. It was a little uncomfortable, because the subject matter was so real to me and I wanted to make sure people didn’t view it as “just a cartoon”.

I got emails/messages from all over the week the episode aired and it was really heart-warming to hear how much they loved her. I was also recording for another project that hasn’t been released yet just a few weeks before that dealt with a similar subject, so getting so much at once dealing with the same issues was a challenge. I feel immeasurable gratitude for a particular individual (who will go unnamed) for the impact they’ve had on my emotional healing from my own trauma, I think these roles would’ve bothered me a lot more if I’d not had this person around.

Q: I saw you in Jake Yuzna’s short film, ‘Young Adult’, at last year’s BFI London Film Festival. I was fortunate enough to interview Jake and Allison Cameron Gray. How was your time working with Jake and Allison? What did you take away from that project?

A: I’d almost forgotten that it went to BFI! Jake is a gem. It was his final project to graduate, so I’m sure he was under a lot of pressure, but he has a pretty welcoming energy to begin with. I never once saw him snap at anyone or lose his cool on set the entire week we were shooting, even when unexpected delays happened.

He’s just the best. I hope to work with him again, and I expect him to create great work in the future.

I freaking adored Allison. I would run and get her water in between takes, smuggled her a cupcake from set after the party scene was done shooting, and often helped her eat during meal breaks when she needed it. She has such a bright spirit, we still stay in touch now and then on Facebook. I think she’ll always have a special place in my heart unlike any other co-star because she’s just such a strong person.

Q: I have to ask about your scene with LL Cool J in NCIS: Los Angeles. How much fun did you have on that set?

A: It was a blast! We shot at a huge mansion just outside Vasquez Rocks. That was my first co-star role in LA.

He mostly kept to himself between takes, listening to music and such. I don’t think he was expecting my line delivery to be what it was. I could tell his reaction was so genuine and, when he wrapped for the day, he approached me to express his gratitude for the good laugh. He’s so tall…

Q: I understand you were recently booked for a lead role in feature film. Can you reveal anything about it yet or what it means to you?

A: Unfortunately, not much… hehe. I will say that the character in the film is blind, and it’s her first time really going out into the world on her own, which I can relate to on every level.

I don’t think there are proper words to describe what it means to me… when I had the stroke in 2012 that caused my visual impairment, I was lying in bed with a blindfold most of the time for two years while enduring constant, and often very painful, testing and procedures. I was extremely depressed and suicidal, so to come out the other side of that and play a character where I can use all of it to my advantage makes me pretty emotional. 

Q: What are your ambitions and plans for the future? Are there any other upcoming projects you like to tell us about?

A: I think the ambition of most actors is to keep working consistently on projects that interest them. A role that is Marvel-related is most definitely on my list.

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