Talking to Nikki Rapp
The voice behind Monkey Island’s mightiest Pirate Hunter.
Originally posted December 24, 2009 on Game and Player.
Words like effervescent and energetic just don’t cut it when describing someone with a voice like Nikki Rapp’s. It was a pleasure to have a chat with her and to find out what it’s like to play a few of my favorite characters.
Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little about what you have done?
I am Nikki Rapp. Let’s see, probably one of the biggest things that people would know is that I was in Psychonauts as Lili, and I play the girl child in The Sims, and I’ve been doing that since 2003. What else? I’m Morgan LeFlay in Tales of Monkey Island![Giggling] I love her!
My day job, I work at a youth hostel where I run the breakfast every morning. I love it because I meet people from everywhere and it helps me pay my rent when the voice-over jobs aren’t happening so much. I’ve done lots of stuff for Leap Frog. I do a lot of kid’s things. I’m doing these DVDs for preschool girls called Prima Princessa where I narrate ballets and I play a very perky ballerina princess. I’ve been doing that for a while. I did Swan Lake and the Nutcracker, and we will be starting Sleeping Beauty soon. I’ve been working for about ten years and I’ve done lots or random things. Lately Psychonauts, The Sims, and Tales of Monkey Island are like the greatest things ever.
Let’s talk about Morgan LeFlay. I get a sense that you two are similar. Is there a lot that in common between the two of you?
I do think Morgan and I have a few things in common, I mean she is way tougher than me [giggling] and she has way better moves than I do, and she is pretty hot, but I like her sassy-sarcastic sense of humor. I think she is really witty and very smart in her wittiness. I think she is really street smart, really tough, but I love — I love how vulnerable she is and I love those moments where she is speaking from her heart because I just love that they wrote her like that. To be super tough and then also have those moments where she is just kind of quiet and inward, just trying to say how she feels and I think that I am like that. I am pretty mushy and I’m pretty romantic about things and I think there is that in her as well. It’s the whole fangirl thing I guess, the kind of sensitive cheerleader, but she has that whole other edge to her which is amazing.
Do you have a favorite scene? Anything that you feel captures everything about Morgan?
You know, I love that first part with the fighting when she is first introduced. And the line about the mast always cracked me up, and then when I watched it I thought it was really, really funny. I love this thing that she and Guybrush have, and I wish that I could meet him in real life [giggles] because I think he is amazing. Then there is the whole speech about the big manatee, and how she just needs someone to understand her and I really loved that as well. That’s when I thought they were going to make out, and I know that isn’t cool because of Elaine, but it would have been rad. But Elaine was being a jerk! I know she was sick, but she wasn’t really being that nice. I can see it if there was just a tiny smooch, but it’s better that there wasn’t.
How different was your voice work for The Sims from Tales of Monkey Island?
With The Sims, first of all, my sessions were 6 hours long. I’m used to it because I have been doing it for so long. I don’t have a script, I just improvise. So I just go in and I make up words, and I’m crazy because in my house — I live alone — I talk to myself in Simlish. I’ll think of a word that I think is rad. I have a notebook full of Simlish. But it is really, really different and it’s always a trip for me to have a job with a script after I do The Sims because I go in there, and it’s actually really insane, but it has been good training for me as far as sustaining my energy and all of that stuff. It is really different.
If Morgan LeFlay were in The Sims, what kind of things would she say?
[Laughing] Hmmm . . . Let’s see. My Simlish is like [in a high, childlike tone] “Ah, na boo zha la bagazeeb,” but she would be like [in a more sultry tone] “Oh, toobah gaazee.” I don’t know, I think she would get irritated with all of the Sims because they can be whiners and she wants action.
What do you like best about being a voice actress?
I love the freedom of it. I love being secret. I love being in the booth on my own and my imagination just goes crazy. I feel very safe in there. I went to drama school and I did theater for years, and I still love it, but I think I was very self-critical. When I do my voice acting I don’t judge myself so much and I am very comfortable. Also the people involved are really good. It’s a different kind of scene because when you are being seen all of the time and when it is about how you look, it’s totally different. Or as with me, I’ll go into a job and they will say, “Oh, you’re an adult?” [Laughing] So I’m like, “Yeah! Put the microphone up.” But it is a really wonderful job. It’s nothing I ever thought I would be doing, and when I did take my first class I thought, “Oh, my god. This is the best thing ever.”
How did you get into voice acting?
I was down in an LA drama school and a couple of my teachers thought I should do it, and I had never thought about it. In Sausalito [CA], there’s a school and my dad had heard the teacher on a radio show and he said, “She has a voice like you!” and I’m like, “What?!” I thought you had to have this deep thing going. I had never thought about cartoons, I don’t know what my problem was. So, I took a class and, well I still take classes. I’ve been taking them since 1995. At least it has worked out for me. It was all about being patient and working towards it and I didn’t really know what else I was going to do. Like, am I going to be a barista forever? I mean, I still am but at least I work at a youth hostel, so it’s kind of cool.
What are your upcoming projects?
All I have coming up is that I know I have more Sims and I had an audition today. It’s really slow right now, and now that [Tales of Monkey Island] has ended I’m hoping for my next big thing. I’ve been really lucky with The Sims because that has been going on forever. Psychonauts, I think we recorded that for 5 years and then this, just these past few months. So I’ve been very lucky living up here and having jobs that are really carrying me through for a while, and that let me get to know the characters more rather than just go in for two hours to do something and that’s it. It’s been really awesome with Morgan especially, just to see what happens and how she changes and how her vulnerability came out. It was so rad.
I was really impressed by Morgan, especially in Chapter 4. She has a lot of depth to her character.
I agree and I love that they gave her so much. Just the whole thing about having the biggest crush on somebody and then they don’t get it.
I loved when she asked him for his autograph.
[Giggling] Oh, that was so funny. I loved that too! You know, you do it and then it is so amazing when you see it all done and together. I said that line like 3 or 4 times, and now that’s how it is. It’s so cool!
Is it weird saying the same line different ways?
No, I love it because it kind of makes me think I am using my brain in a different way. Like, Roger Jackson who plays Winslow, I was in this web cartoon with him called Piki & Poko years ago by Mondo Mini Shows. He played the villain in it and I had a session with him and he said one line. I swear he said it 50 times, and the directors were like, “Okay, that’s good! That’s good!” That guy is a genius. He just spouts it out and it’s really crazy. I think it’s kind of fun, and maybe I’m not saying it the way they want me to say it, and I’m trying to figure it out but I have it in my brain the way I want to say it, and then I’m like, “Argh, but I can’t do it the other way!” It all works itself out.