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Sombra’s voice actor doesn’t mind the haters, loves her character

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“I think Sombra is the perfect embodiment of Latinas.”

Carolina Ravassa
Brian Crecente/Polygon

The voice of Overwatch's Sombra knows that not everyone is a fan of the offense hacker, and she's completely OK with that.

"I'm honored when they picked me," voice actor Carolina Ravassa told the audience at a SXSW talk this weekend. "I know every character, every superhero, is a person and has a little good and a little bad in them.

"I know there are a lot of Sombra haters and that's OK."

Ravassa joined Michael Chu, lead writer of Overwatch, on stage Saturday to discuss the creation and diversity of characters in Blizzard's popular team shooter. It was an interesting look into how characters bubble up from Blizzard's team of creators and how, once envisioned, they are brought to life.

There are generally three reasons that characters come into Overwatch, Chu said. They can be created to help balance the game or introduce a gameplay mechanic, or perhaps an artist designed a character specifically for his or her look, or a character might be introduced specifically to help with the game's backstory.

Junkrat, for instance, was created specifically to balance out Torbjorn's turrets and Ana was added because the team wanted to create a support healer character who was skill-based. They thought that a lot of high-level players would be interested in taking on the challenge of playing a support that required more skill.

Arnold Tsang, a concept artist who created some of the Overwatch characters, was responsible for Zarya.

Zarya
Zarya
Overwatch

"He was watching a weightlifting competition and thought that would make for an awesome character for Overwatch," Chu said. "And he wanted to create a tough, female character with kind of a nonstandard body type."

In terms of story-based characters, Chu mentioned Soldier 76 as a good example because that character has seen a lot of the history of Overwatch.

Sombra was a character that the team had long been thinking about. In fact, Chu said, she was originally conceived as one of the original cast for the game, but her kit didn't quite fit into the original line-up.

When they started to prepare her for launch, Blizzard did an open casting call in New York, LA and London for a female actor who could speak Spanish.

Ravassa said she knew the team wanted someone who could speak with a natural Mexico City accent, but she went in for the audition despite being from Colombia, and used an accent she had been developing.

"I knew she was Mexican, and I generally do an accent from the north," she said. "During the first sessions, I kept thinking if they find out I'm Colombian I'm going to lose this job.

"I really was worried."

Chu and Ravassa speak during a panel at SXSW
Brian Crecente/Polygon

Chu said they knew, but were impressed with Ravassa's take on the character.

Using an actor who is from the same area as the character is "something we strive for," Chu told Ravassa on stage. "But it was awesome that you were able to pull off that accent.

"We are always trying to do our best to strike a balance between an authentic accent, acting and personality,” Chu said. “But it doesn't always work. Another example was Mercy. We wanted someone with a Swiss-German accent, but that's hard to do. We liked Lucie Pohl's voice acting so we went with her."

Once Ravassa was selected as the voice of Sombra, Andrea Toyia, director of voice and casting for Overwatch, starting working with her to dial in the level of the accent, Chu said. (Toyia was originally scheduled to appear on the panel, but couldn't make it.)

Chu set about writing the dialog, with a lot of help from the localization team in Mexico. It was thanks to the localization folks that Sombra's lines included some specific slang and references to the area.

At one point during the panel, Chu asked Ravassa to explain what the line "Me hace lo que el viento a Juárez" meant.

Overwatch's Sombra

Voice actor Carolina Ravassa, the voice of Overwatch's Sombra, explains where the phrase "Me hace lo que el viento a Juárez" came from.

Posted by Polygon on Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ravassa, who doesn't play many video games, said she didn't initially quite understand who Sombra was, but that she's come to respect her.

"Honestly I think Sombra is the perfect embodiment of Latinas," she said. "She's strong, feisty, a badass and funny. I feel really proud to play her. I'm often asked to play stereotypes who are not too smart or have big boobs.

"Hopefully the Latinas who play as Sombra will feel like there is a little bit of her in them."

The session wrapped up with nearly a half hour of questions from the audience, many of which started out with thank yous to the developers for creating female characters with their own stories, that are strong and that, as one person said, wear clothes.

One 13-year-old thanked Chu for not "over-sexualizing the characters in the game. It makes my parents decide I can't play the game. Overwatch has made it so that I have a whole new view on that sort of thing."

Another person asked how a male writer can go about writing female characters.

Ravassa gave the best advice:

"If you admire your mom, sister, grandma, think of them," she said. "We want to play the women who inspire you."

Posted by Brian Crecente on Monday, March 20, 2017