Aisha Tyler is many things to many people. She's a comedian, an actress, a cartoon character, and—to some very lucky people—holy headshotting death from above. When not doing one of her many stand-up gigs, or appearing movies like Balls Of Fury, or voicing the character of holy-shit-smoking-hot Lana Kane on FX's Archer, Tyler is usually on Xbox Live, taking out her aggression on fools in Halo 3 and Gears Of War 2. She's even been known to talk about her gaming skills in her stand-up act. And in interviews. And to anyone who will listen. So you can imagine how chatty she's been since landing a role in Halo: Reach...
Interview by Paul Semel
Complex: You've been pretty vocal about your love of all things Halo. Is this what led Bungie to hire you for Reach?
I never actually asked them why. I've had a relationship with Bungie for a while, I was on the Halo Council for Halo 2...
Wait, what's the Halo Council?
For Halo 2, there were this group of celebrities who were like Halo ambassadors. There were only seven of us—Linkin Park was one, I was one—but all we got was gifts, like this custom travel version of the original Xbox.
When you first got the call from Bungie, did you think maybe you were going to be the hero of the game, or maybe Master Chief's wife, Mrs. Chief?
I didn't think about it too much. I was just glad to be a part of it. But I don't know if I can tell you who I play, I've been sworn to secrecy. What I can say is that the complexity of the game changes as you play, and that different characters are revealed depending on the difficulty level.
Were your lines scripted, or did you get to improvise?
I was scripted, but I did get to ad-lib quite a bit. They had told me up front that we had to keep things PG, but because I know the series so well, I was able to come up with some really funny stuff that was right on the edge, and they said they're going to keep some of that stuff in as Easter eggs.
Did you also have to do a lot of grunting and dying sounds?
Yeah, I had to make a lot of dying noises: being shot in the head, being stabbed, stealth assassinated, falling off a cliff into oblivion, a lot of dying noises. We worked on the death rattle for a while.
Tyler's "Welcome to Reach" video she did with Bungie during the multiplayer beta of Halo:Reach
Before Reach, you did voice acting for The Boondocks and Archer. Is doing a voice for a cartoon different from doing one for a game?
No, but I will say that doing a whole season of Archer before I did Reach put me at ease in the booth. I had spent so much time doing Archer, and it's so action-driven—we're always running, we're shooting, we're pushing bombs out of rigid airships—that I've gotten to the point where I can make getting shot with a Needler sound realistic.
You always talk about being able to smoke people at Halo. How much of that is just talk?
I think, like most gamers, I talk a good game. It depends on who I'm up against. When I play with my friends, I'm an assassin. Though when I played Halo: Reach during the multiplayer beta I was beaten severely and repeatedly.
Do you play much online?
I don't because I won't stop. I'm like a binge gamer. What I'll do is I'll play something like Fallout 3 for eight months straight, but then I'll think it would be nice if I got some work done, so I won't at all play for a few months. When they did the beta for Reach, I would be up until four or five in the morning, I couldn't turn it off. But I'm actually more into playing co-op. That's just a fun way to play.
You've been doing some directing lately. You direct a funny music video for your song "Nowassitall," and did a short film called Committed, which is on your Facebook page. Is this all practice so you can direct the Halo movie?
[Laughs.] Wouldn't that be so great. My goal is definitely to direct features—action movies, that's my favorite genre. So I'd would love to do the Halo movie. I would also love to see a Fallout movie. If you play enough Fallout 3, you start walking around your house wondering if you have enough clean water.
If you did get to direct the Halo movie, would you do the story from the first game, or one of the books?
I really feel that the games have taken a great narrative turn. [Halo 3 spin-off] ODST was a big step forwards because it was much more character-driven, which I really enjoy. I feel like it's much more immersive and much less of being just a shooter. I love shooting things, that's my favorite thing to do, but it's always nice when there's a strong narrative that makes you feel more connected to the characters. I loved the story in ODST. I've only played a little of Reach, but I've really enjoyed what I've played so far. So I think some combination of ODST and Reach would be pretty great for a movie.
Have you read any of the books?
I haven't, though I have all of them. I have a whole Halo corner in my house. One time, when I went to Bungie, they gave me this awesome Halo: Reach backpack. Usually, when you get stuff like that, it either ends up in the garage or going to charity. But I walk around with that Halo: Reach backpack all the time, and I drink out of my Halo: Reach bottle every day.
Halo: Reach is available today for the Xbox 360. Like you didn't already know that.