We sit down with voice actress Samantha Ireland (Nora Valkyrie, CT).
GeekTaco got the opportunity to chat with the voice behind Nora Valkyrie of RWBY, Samantha Ireland. Read the transcript below or listen to the audio file for more stories about Sam’s family upbringing, other ways we see the television medium changing, and what it’s like being a mother and wife.
Sam Ireland Interview Pt. 1
Sam Ireland Interview Pt. 2
Sam Ireland Interview Pt. 3
Sam Ireland Interview Pt. 4
The following is edited for length and clarity.
What’s it like working on RWBY?
I didn’t realize how big it was going to get, so fast too. It got really popular … a lot of it is because Monty (Oum) created it and he had such a following, and got more of a following over the years as he was working with Rooster Teeth. And also Kerry and Miles, and their creative minds as writers.
How did you get involved in working with RWBY?
I became a part of this world through an open casting call and I was really lucky that I just finished Red vs Blue. I heard there was new show and I was really excited. I reached out to a friend in the live action department and asked if there was a role or if he had heard anything, and he emailed the next day and said yea they want you read for Nora.
How would you describe Nora Valkyrie?
It was me but on drugs. She’s so hyper and wonderful, but she’s also a badass and very much a team player. She’s all the good qualities of me or all the qualities I wish I portrayed stronger in my own life. I love her and I love how everyone loves her.
Nora Valkyrie action figures now available on the Rooster Teeth store!
What’s it like for you to play a character that people are really passionate about?
It makes me excited. I get pumped about getting contacted for a recording session. I get pumped anytime I get to work, but specifically now with Nora she’s so in my system that sometimes it’s hard to break away from her when I leave the booth. I feel like I’m Nora for a little while once I leave and I think people in the office can tell. I mean she’s so much like me that it’s just exciting and humbling too … I’m really glad I get to play a fan favorite. For a while nobody knew where Nora was going but Episode 8, Volume 1 and everyone was like “Done, she’s my favorite!” Just knowing where she was going or at least what I was told in the beginning, it got me excited. Of course everyone wants to play the lead or be the important one driving the action, but I love the fact that she just comes out of nowhere and everyone is just like “yes!”
What got you into acting?
I don’t really know. I think it was second grade and there was an assembly for Christmas, and a bunch of friends were on stage for a Christmas show and I just thought “why are they up there? I want to be up there. That looks like fun.” And from then I just had the bug.
What do you prefer: stage, voice or live action?
I used to think it was stage and I think it was because I was so engulfed in it during college. And I did some stage after I was done. The process of it: rehearsals, getting to know a cast, the camaraderie of it all. The more I’ve worked on live action and voice acting, they don’t go hand in hand because they are so different. With voice acting I just concentrate on my voice and I don’t concentrate on anything else. I just let it happen in the booth. It’s a little more freeing at times … I’m not trained in voice acting, I just fell into it and I’m trying to learn as I go. I’ve learned techniques through the sound guys, but I’m not technically trained. And with film I’ve had some training in it. I’ve been doing it a lot more lately. I get to work with the same crew. You just learn how to shift and accommodate, and know how to be technically good for the camera. And that has been a challenge that I’ve always liked.
I think I like live action more, but the freeing of the voice acting and getting into the nitty-gritty of it … it’s really cool to just let your body go and just focus on the vocal aspect. The emotional depth you bring to your character, the inflection and all kinds of things. I like the spontaneity that film and voice acting can give you.
Do you see new media as the way forward and where the industry is shifting?
The industry is shifting, but not shifting fast enough to where everyone wants it to be. I think in the next 10 years for sure. Streaming is the new thing, that’s what everyone is going to and you’ll see less monopolies. I mean you see now that people are famous because they are in a BuzzFeed video. And they are legit famous. Now you have things like tug events and it’s why Rooster Teeth was able to have LazerTeam in the movie theaters because people demanded it. It’s why RWBY was in the theaters because people demanded it. Everything is going to be on demand which is exciting, but also overwhelming. It’s a good thing but also intimidating.
Is there anything you’re inspired by that works its way into your work?
That’s interesting. I never think about it. I’m sure it’s there, but I don’t really think about it. True Detective Season 1 I think stuck with everyone. Michelle Monahan I love. Kimmy Schmidt helps a lot as Nora, and she was after RWBY … but she’s quirky in all the right spots. If I need to get in a good mood for Nora then I think about that and even just the theme song.
I love the Walking Dead. I haven’t read the graphic novel, but I’m going to. I read a lot of fan fiction or fan reviews after an episode is out and the comic just sounds amazing … I love stories where there are no more rules and you have to make your own rules. I think those stories just rip at you and make you think about what you’d do, would you be a stronger person, would you rise to the occasion?
How do you juggle being an actress, a wife, a mother and a friend?
I wouldn’t be married to the man I am if he didn’t know what he was getting himself in to (laughs). I fell in love with this man when I was 22 and let him know that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t care if I fail at it. I could be successful at it young; I could be successful at when I’m 72. And what is success in this world? Are we making $100,000 a movie which is low pay apparently, or is it I’m making amazing work, I’m being creative and I’m making amazing stories … I think for me after having my son it became more important for me to do something I love. If I’m going to teach him something. I want him to remember that I was a cool ass lady by doing things that made me happy, that I worked hard for, with some pretty rad people. I just want to live by example.
Alright time for some rapid fire: Favorite role?
Sam is reprising her role as Nora Valkyrie in RWBY Chibi.
Favorite show you’re currently watching?
Frankie and Grace
Favorite role you’ve seen your favorite actor/actress portray?
Mathew McConaughey in True Detective Season 1.
Do you get to go to work in your PJs?
No. I have to get dressed for the day to do work.
Is there any advice you’d give to other actors?
Listen to your gut. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
Is it strange seeing a finished product?
Thrilling to see a finished product. Holy-schmolly, I was blown away seeing RWBY volume 3.
What’s next for Samantha Ireland?
I’m voicing a sci-fi gamer web series. And I don’t know if anything is going to come from it, I think it’s independently produced. I got my script and it’s a lot so I have to prep for that so I’m not dying by the end of it. I’m auditioning a ton, I have a really great agent. I’m doing a short film that I’m a co-lead for in August. I’m going back in the booth for Rooster Teeth. I’m also going in for RWBY Volume 4, which I’m really excited about, especially for where my character is at. All I can say is keep your ears perked for Camp Camp. I think people will start watching Rooster Teeth because of that show … I’ve got a couple more Rooster Teeth shorts coming soon too. Oh and send me your Nora fan art or any kind fan art, send it to me so I can post it on my site!
Check out Rooster Teeth’s Summer of Animation, you’ll definitely hear a familiar voice.
Alright well give them your stuff so they can do that!
Email (for the fan art): SamanthaIrelandFanArt@gmail.com
I love any and all of the fan art. I’ve gotten Nora, CT and even sketches of me, which I would love to get more of. Some of the stuff people send me is just amazing!
Thanks so much for joining us Sam!
Thanks for reaching out! It was so great to catch up!