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Bayonetta voice actor urges fans to boycott third game over ‘insulting’ pay rate

Voice actor Hellena Taylor detailed why she turned down iconic role for Bayonetta 3

Bayonetta poses with a purple pistol in Bayonetta 3 Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Original Bayonetta voice actor Hellena Taylor said that developer PlatinumGames’ “insulting” pay rate kept her from voicing the character in Bayonetta 3. Taylor published a series of videos via Twitter on Saturday, in which she detailed her reasons for turning down the role, claiming that PlatinumGames gave her a final offer of $4,000 to voice the iconic role.

Bayonetta 3 director Yusuke Miyata confirmed in October that Taylor would not be reprising her role in the franchise’s third game. Instead, Jennifer Hale, a prolific voice actor known for her roles as Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard and Overwatch’s Ashe, would take over as the voice of Bayonetta. Miyata told Game Informer that “overlapping circumstances” kept Taylor from reprising the role.

“We held auditions to cast the new voice of Bayonetta and offered the role to Jennifer Hale, whom we felt was a good match for the character,” Miyata told Game Informer. “I understand the concerns some fans have about the voice change at this point in the series, but Jennifer’s performance was way beyond what we could have imagined.”

Taylor disputed that characterization, and said that she, too, auditioned for the role and “passed with flying colors.” She said she first received a lower offer before writing to PlatinumGames co-founder Hideki Kamiya to ask for more. That’s when she said she was offered $4,000 for the role.

“This is an insult to me, the amount of time that I took to work on my talent and everything that I have given to this game and the fans,” Taylor said. “I’m asking the fans to boycott this game and instead spend the money you would spend on this game, donating it to charity.”

In the days since Taylor’s original tweets, where she also described declining mental health and suicidal ideation after declining the role, her videos have amassed more than 80,000 retweets. Neither PlatinumGames nor publisher Nintendo have responded to Polygon’s request for comment. PlatinumGames’ Kamiya appeared to respond to Taylor’s allegations Saturday via Twitter: “Sad and deplorable about the attitude of untruth,” he tweeted. “That’s what all I can tell now. By the way, BEWARE OF MY RULES.”

Kamiya’s warning is in regard to rules he keeps about tweeting at him: specifically not to tweet at him in English (or any other language than Japanese), “no repeated questions,” not tagging him in conversations, and “no advice.” He frequently blocks people that break his rules.

Kamiya’s Twitter account was briefly restricted during Saturday’s blocking spree, before he deleted and reactivated his account. He’s made no other direct comment about Taylor’s accusations.

PlatinumGames’ $4,000 offer is not exceptionally low for a lot of voice actors. Video game voice actors have spoken out on Twitter over the weekend about notoriously low pay — something The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has previously addressed. SAG-AFTRA is a labor union for actors — Taylor is a member of — that regulates minimum rates for eligible performers and works. Video game voice actors must be paid $956.75 per four-hour days, with three voices maximum, under current SAG-AFTRA terms. The hourly rate is $478.50 for a single voice, with $319.00 added for additional voices. Bonus payments are tacked on for the number of sessions it takes to record the game, a secondary compensation line that SAG-AFTRA voice actors won after a 11-month strike that started in 2016. Video game voice actors do not typically receive residual or royalty payments like voice actors in other industries do.

Taylor had previously told a Nintendo podcast in 2018 that she recorded her lines for both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 over four days, with each session lasting four hours — in this case, the $4,000 minimum pay rate would line up. It isn’t clear how long Bayonetta 3 is, or how many voice lines there were to record. But Taylor is reprising an iconic role in a franchise that’s sold millions of games over the years.

“The exploitation of [voice actors] is not new,” voice director Eliana Zebro told Polygon. “So many indie projects especially has low, low VA rates — mere dollars per final line delivered, or worse, a flat rate for an entire project that means well under a dollar per line.”

Zebro continued, “It happens to all [voice actors], big and small.”

Update (Oct. 17): Bayonetta 3 voice actor Jennifer Hale has responded to the discussion around the game and its voice actors. Hale published a statement on Twitter, writing that that she supports “every actor’s right to be paid well” and that she’s advocated for this “for years.” She noted, however, that she’s signed a non-disclosure agreement and cannot speak directly about the situation. “My reputation speaks for itself,” she wrote.

Here’s the full text of the statement:

With regard to Bayonetta 3:

As a longtime member of the voice acting community, I support every actor’s right to be paid well and have advocated consistently for this for years.

Anyone who knows me, or has followed my career, will know that I have great respect for my peers, and that I am an advocate for all members of the community.

I am under a NDA and am not at liberty to speak regarding this situation. My reputation speaks for itself.

I sincerely ask that everyone keep in mind that this game has been created by an entire team of hard-working, dedicated people and I hope everyone will keep an eye open about what they’ve created.

Finally, I hope that everyone involved may resolve their differences in an amicable and respectful way.

Update (Oct. 18): A new report from Bloomberg, citing sources, disputes Taylor’s account of her negotiations with PlatinumGames. The developer reportedly offered Taylor somewhere between three to four times her stated payment of $4,000, while she reportedly asked for “a six-figure sum” and residuals on the game. Taylor described that account of the negotiations as “an absolute lie.”

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