video games

Q&A: Vanille Velasquez on voicing Valorant’s first Filipino agent, Neon

Gelo Gonzales
Q&A: Vanille Velasquez on voicing Valorant’s first Filipino agent, Neon

NEON. Neon is the first Filipino agent in Valorant.

Vanille Velasquez photo by AJCQ Photography/Neon image from Riot Games

Vanille Velasquez tells us about how she landed the gig, and the pressure she felt in giving life to Neon

Thursday, January 6, was an exciting day for Filipino gamers, especially players of Valorant, as its publisher and developer Riot Games revealed that its newest agent, Neon, isn’t just a Filipino character but is also voiced by Filipino voice actor Vanille Velasquez.

Vanille also made the announcement on Twitter, with her tweet getting over 55,000 likes and 6,400 retweets as of publication time.

Ever since joining now-defunct anime cable channel Hero TV’s Dubbing Academy in 2016, Vanille’s resumé of voice acting roles has only grown. Below’s a quick list from her Facebook page. You can also see her voice acting show reel through this link.

  • Jelly, Ben & Pogo – a series of cartoon shorts on PBS Kids in the US where she plays the titular character Jelly
  • Lil Wild – a Singaporean animated series on Netflix where she plays Kokeko, a character she describes as a “fabulous otter”
  • Ikai – a horror game coming soon on Steam, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch where she takes on the role of the playable character Naoko
  • Valor Legends: Eternity – an Android and iOS mobile game where she plays the characters Gisela, Renee, Diana, Vazquez, and Nancy
  • Bayani – a Filipino fighting game based on Philippine historical figures where she plays the character Tsora, based on Melchora Aquino
  • Genesis – a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) on PS4 and PC where she plays Selinda
  • The Loud House – a Nickelodeon cartoon where she plays Lana and Lisa in the Filipino dub

And on Friday, January 7, Vanille added another big item to her resumé: voicing the newest champion, Zeri, in one of the biggest MOBAs today, League of Legends.

Needless to say, it’s been quite a few exciting days for the voice actor. We caught up with Vanille for a quick chat over email, and she filled us in on her experience voicing Neon – a win for Filipino representation in video games.

Q: You’re obviously very excited and proud with the Neon reveal! We saw your posts on social media. But take us back a little. How did it feel when you first landed the gig? And what was it like while you were recording the voices for Neon knowing that Valorant is one of the biggest games around currently? 

It was as exciting as it was nerve-wracking, because I knew how big this is and that’s what makes it a double-edged sword. Because this is such a big deal, there’s this pressure that she has to be perfect. And I felt that pressure but I gave my all for this and I just hope it shows in my performance.

Q: How did you approach the challenge of giving life to Neon? What was running through your mind in terms of shaping the character? Any interesting excerpts from when the Valorant team was giving you directions in shaping Neon? 

Well, I didn’t really do much in terms of Neon’s personality. That was really the writers. I was just told how she is, what she’s like, and it’s just a coincidence that our personalities are kind of similar, haha. I guess my contribution is improvising some of the Tagalog lines she says. Not all are improvised, just to clarify, but Riot was very welcoming of me adding Tagalog so when I can think of one, I would provide an alternate take of a line (in English) translated to Tagalog. There are also times when my script would just indicate for me to add something in Tagalog, like how it was for the teaser I recorded of Neon calling her parents. I added, “Sige, babay, Nay, Tay.” (Okay, bye, mom, dad.)

Q: What were the most challenging parts of the project and the most fun parts as well? 

I’d say the most challenging part was really getting the pressure out of my head. I really felt – and I still do – this enormous responsibility with being the voice of Neon. I am representing her and Filipinos in a way and it can really make you feel anxious and nervous about whether you’re doing a good job or not. But everything I did in this role, I wholeheartedly did to make Pinoy gamers proud. 

The most fun parts is definitely getting to say all the Tagalog lines! I’ve never heard Tagalog in a mainstream game before so it was really cool just for me as a gamer myself to hear my mother tongue in a video game as huge as Valorant. I get excited pretty much every time I get to say something in Tagalog. 

Q: What was the audition process like? Can you tell us a bit about how you landed the gig? 

I had two auditions, a month apart from each other. I had them just at home, using my home recording setup. In a way, I think that made things less scary for me because at least my environment was familiar. But don’t get me wrong, I was so nervous! I was contacted by the casting producer online. One day, I just got an email and at first I didn’t know it was Riot Games until after I signed a non-disclosure agreement. For a while, I think I wondered if that really was Riot Games in my inbox. It felt surreal.

Q: It’s still the pandemic so we suppose you were still recording in your mom’s walk-in closet? How are the acoustics there?

Even if my auditions were recorded at home, I actually had to go to a professional recording studio for the game! At the time, I was taking a break from going to studios for VO work because it wasn’t the safest and in the first months working on this, I wasn’t even vaccinated yet. (I am now.) But needless to say, this opportunity was way too huge to turn down! But I have recorded at home for cool stuff too! Like Jelly, Ben & Pogo, a series of cartoon shorts on PBS Kids in the United States.

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Q: How does the Neon project differ from all the projects you’ve done in the past? 

Neon is extra special because she’s a Filipino character in a mainstream video game being played all over the world. Regardless of the next roles I land, Neon will always be one of the highlights of my career. Voicing a Filipino character that’s a big step in Filipino representation in video games will always mean something.

Q: Do you have a type of videogame character that you one day dream of voicing?

I am a huge fan of narrative-driven games, like Life is Strange (which is why I was so stoked to be in the same game as Ashly Burch, who plays Chloe in Life is Strange and Viper in Valorant!), and the Quantic Dream games. Even RPGs like the Final Fantasy series. I love games that have a focus on story, which I also appreciate in Valorant in terms of their lore. So it would be a dream to be in a video game like that. 

Q: What genres in games do you like most?

The games that have a big focus on story for sure. I’d love to get into more competitive games, but I’ve always been bad at them and feared getting heat from my teammates, haha. But after this, there is absolutely no way that I won’t be playing Valorant. That’s a given.

Q: Any shoutouts to people for this project? 

In true Neon fashion, I’d shoutout my family! My mom and my dad, who’ve been supportive of my career! And my younger brother, who is the biggest Valorant fan. I talk to the devs about him at my recording sessions all the time, to the point that sometimes they would be the ones to initiate and ask about him, hehe. –

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.