I'm Ellen McLain, actress and opera singer. I do voices for Portal, Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, Pacific Rim, & more. My husband John does voices for Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 and he's also an author.

We play Fairy Godparents in the hit web-series Wish It Inc. and we could use your help to make our Season 2 on IndieGoGo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wish-it-inc-season-2

You can watch Wish It Inc. Season 1 on YouTube: https://youtube.com/synthetic

UPDATE! We're signing off for the night, so thank you for chatting with us for a couple of hours, reddit.

~Proof~ Ellen: http://imgur.com/IBXbssX John: http://imgur.com/MMx5rvF

Comments: 647 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

sheephunt2000773 karma

Hi Ellen and John! HUGE fan of both Portal games.

  1. What are your favorite fan theories?
  2. What would you do if you woke up one morning and found yourself in a Relaxation Vault?
  3. What is Jonathan Coulton like?
  4. When is Portal 3 coming out?

EllenMcLain2455 karma


  1. Chell is my daughter ;)
  2. I would order in breakfast in bed.
  3. Jonathan Coulton is a genius. A very, very nice genius.
  4. Unfortunately, Gabe Newell was attacked by a 3 when was very young, so I don't know.


NinjaBoffin302 karma


I don't want to be too informal as it may be a bit rude! One question for Ellen.

What was your inspiration for Glados? like what made you do that PARTICULAR voice? (I honestly love the voice)

And for John it would be, How in the name of Zeus can you do SOO Many voices for so different characters! It's truly mind blowing! You must get your inspirations from somewher! Best line for me has to be "Who's that Handsome Devil!"

Thank you so much for the ama.

Ps. I am a big fan (never ever getting rid of this) :3

EDIT: In both of your verification, i see John :P

EllenMcLain388 karma

Not rude at all! My initial inspiration was from HAL from 2001. After GLaDOS loses the morality core, my voice had to change and the creators and writers and I worked it out in the studio from there.

Legatus93296 karma

Thanks for doing this.

What are your favorite lines/quotes for your characters?

EllenMcLain514 karma

Thank you for coming!

GLaDOS: Killing you and giving you good advice aren't mutually exclusive.

Line to me: I didn't know you were attached to one Mr. Lincoln. Fairy Godmother: I think it's the hat- really a turn on.

Kizzycocoa273 karma

Hiya! I am a massive fan of Portal/2, and you voiced GLaDOS absolutely brilliantly! Quite honestly, the best female character in a game to date, and certainly the best antagonist for all games!

I'd like to ask about a specific set of lines made for Portal 2, and if you can shed light on them. In Portal 2, there are one-sided unused sound files, where Caroline tells Mr Johnson "I don't want this", RE becoming GLaDOS.

the explaination for these are that they were scrapped due to J. K. Simmons' objection to the wording of the script, and your discomfort of the scene. Is this true at all, or is that all just nonsense? Is there any light you can shed on the history of these lines?

EllenMcLain266 karma

I recorded everything for Caroline that Valve asked me to record. I was not uncomfortable with anything that Caroline says. I cannot speak for J.K. Simmons. I had heard the story that he was uncomfortable some of the script, but I don't know if the story is true or not.

Also, I know you contributed to the IndieGoGo and I am so grateful for your support for Wish It Inc. Season 2. It's going to be great!

wearing_ties149 karma

Hi! Love you guys.
- What was your favorite line to record for TF2?
- And favorite line to record in general?
- In regards to the latest TF2 comic, John, do you think Sniper's dead?
Thank you so much.

EllenMcLain193 karma

For the Administrator: "Overtime!"

In general, it was a line for Wish It Inc. about the office bitch that nobody likes:

"Well everyone. We’ve had a rough couple of months. Strikes, severe shortages, forced retirement. Which reminds me, Karla I need to speak with you later." She knows what she's done.

LenaNico43 karma

Karla is the worst! :)

EllenMcLain75 karma

Karla, who let you on reddit?

arachus141 karma

Hi! This is the first AMA I’m commenting on :) I’m also new to gaming in general, but am proud to say that Portal was my first! (Huge fan here c:)

Acting (both voice and stage) sounds really fun, albeit difficult. Do you have any interesting on-the-job stories for reddit, or advice for those entering the field?

Along those lines, what were your dream jobs as children?

EllenMcLain156 karma

My dream job as a child was to sing- all I ever wanted to do is sing. And then I realized that people usually sang on stage, so I had to learn about being on stage. My first stage work was as the Virgin Mary in the fourth grade. That was many years ago.

As for on the job stories, I've never laughed so hard on set as I did on Wish It Inc. with such a funny cast. The challenge was trying to get to the end of a scene without laughing.

My advice to everyone is to just start. Take a class, audition for school or amateur productions in your area, and just dive in.

ThiZ120 karma

You two have been together for about 30 years now, right? Do you have any advice for younger couples who also find themselves working in the same field as their partner?

EllenMcLain139 karma

Actually, yes! We met 31 years ago this September. John and I have always tried to get each other work and we've been successful sometimes. I convinced Nick Celentano and Ryan Anthony Martin to hire John for Wish It Inc.'s Fairy Godfather! (And he's a much better actor than I am)

lilmisscopypaster75 karma

have you seen the portal musical? :D also, you guys are awesome! :D

EllenMcLain110 karma

No, I haven't see the Portal musical! I haven't even heard of the Portal musical! Where can I see it?

shadowmaat92 karma

Here's a link for the Geekenders musical. It's adorable! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2F1S0MgXhGaxouBOpdasnJKfXash_0xE

EllenMcLain89 karma

Thank you! We'll have to give it a watch sometime. I hope GLaDOS sings opera. ;)

MycroftDiogenes64 karma

Hello! Thanks for answering questions! This is a question to either/both of you! I was just wondering if there were ever times in your lives where you felt like you really didn't know what you were doing/weren't sure what careers/lines of work you wanted to pursue? And if so, how did you overcome this? Thank you!

EllenMcLain110 karma

There came a time in my life when I realized I wasn't an ingenue (pretty young thing) anymore and then I found out I enjoyed character work more than just being eye candy.

corpvsedimvs64 karma

Ellen, have you used the voice of GLaDOS for other works? I could swear on my life I've heard it elsewhere.

EllenMcLain156 karma

Yes- for Gipsy Danger in Pacific Rim and for GLaDOS in Poker Night 2. GLaDOS appears in the Portal Pinball game and the Dota 2 Announcer Pack. And my husband hears that voice all of the time ;)

JustAdolf-LikeCher59 karma

You guys seem like the sweetest couple ever. What is the secret to a happy life together?

EllenMcLain242 karma

Marry John Patrick Lowrie.

Alexsynndri50 karma

Hi there! Long time fan, first time AMA'er.

My question; given your reputations in the gaming world, are you gamers yourselves? If so, what takes your fancy? If not, what are your favourite passtimes?

EllenMcLain51 karma

I am not a gamer, but John is.

One of my favorite past times is actually watching the blooper reel for Wish It Inc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3SkCcGLuKI

NorbitGorbit47 karma

what are the weirdest vocal warmup phrases you've heard?

EllenMcLain70 karma

I liked Piccolomini. It's the name of an old Italian composer. Our friend, conductor Bruce Monroe, uses it as a warm up.

1-800-Taco45 karma

Which Dota hero did both of you enjoy voice acting for the most?

EllenMcLain136 karma

I had such trouble with Broodmother and Death Prophet. Broodmother because it was hard on my voice. Death Prophet because I started with a middle European accent and they wanted me to change to a French accent in the studio. We like to call Death Prophet euro trash because you can't identify her accent.

ZeDargon43 karma

How did you two meet?

EllenMcLain82 karma

We met in 1984 on a tour of Show Boat in Europe.

Herr_Medicinal_Mann40 karma

Hello Ellen and John!

I'm glad you guys decided to do this AMA! First off I wanted to say how wonderful both of you are! My girlfriend and I got the chance to meet you at the Midwest Media Expo and being able to talk to you guys and listen to your stories was easily the highlight of our weekend! I'm not sure if you remember us but here's one of the pictures we took together!

Anyway I guess my question for you guys is: Are you planning on coming back to the Midwest Media Expo next year or have any other conventions you're planning on attending in the near future? as we'd love to see you both again!

Thanks again for the AMA!

EllenMcLain40 karma

We hope to be invited back to Midwest Media Expo next year and yes! Of course we remember you. We will be CollidaCon in London in the fall. Thanks for coming to the AMA!

letitgoelsa28 karma

Gigantic fan of both of y'all. What's it like recording voice lines for video games? Lot of work or pure fun? Do you have any upcoming recording engagements?

EllenMcLain58 karma

Since I love the work, it is pure fun. Sometimes my voice gets tired at the end of a four hour session of saying things like, "Victory!"

Yes, but I can't talk about any of them except for Wish It Inc. Season 2 :P bit.ly/wish4more

goatcoat21 karma

What was your inspiration behind the announcer for TF2? Her voice is dripping with scorn and perhaps even a little panicky when she announces that the other team is winning, yet seems just barely satsified when the player's team is winning.

Are you imagining a specific person in a specific situation when you do those voices?

EllenMcLain47 karma

Let's just say the Announcer is a very dissatisfied woman...

eddieelric18 karma

Ellen, your voice was my ringtone for about two years. I absolutely love the way you sing Turret Opera. The song itself is way... 'nicer' that all the stuff GLaDOS does. Was it weird changing the tone? Did you need a new inspiration? Thanks for doing this AMA!

EllenMcLain31 karma

Mike Morasky, the composer for Portal 2, penned the Turret Opera. He wanted me to use my operatic soprano voice for the solo turret. I was happy to oblige. That's actually how I usually sing.

Gibusmann18 karma

Hi Ellen, I'm a huge fan :)

Have you done any recent work with the TF2 team? Any new lines?

EllenMcLain61 karma

I can't talk about that. Stay tuned.

ethosaur14 karma

I really enjoyed your voice acting for the combine overwatch in hl2, could you talk a little about it?

EllenMcLain41 karma

When I went into the studio, I didn't really understand what video games were. I didn't know the purpose of the character and I just tried to follow Marc Laidlaw's direction. I hope I did a good job because I didn't know what I was doing.

ApepCaldera14 karma

Hey Ellen and John! My friends and I are huge fans of yours. I have a question for Ellen!

My friend would like to ask for your hand in marriage. What do you say?

(This may or may not have been a joke.)

Anyways, you guys rock!

EllenMcLain44 karma

I don't think bigamy is legal in this country. Yet. Let's ask the supreme court.

observer81514 karma

Hello to the both of you!!

I'm a huge Portal fan, I could play it over and over, and I was super excited when it was announced that JJ Abrams had plans to work on a Half-Life or Portal movie, but it's been a few years and I haven't heard anything new...

So my question is, do you think we'll be seeing GLaDOS again in the future, either featured in a movie, or in another game?

EllenMcLain58 karma

GLaDOS is..."still alive."

RaijinThunderswag13 karma

I love you both! Will you adopt me? :D

EllenMcLain41 karma

Sure, no problem.

czar-koz13 karma

Hi, I wanted to say how much you two mean to me since I met you at MMX almost two months ago and every time i think of that day i get all happy inside and you make me think i can do incredible things one day as a performer, so thank you for doing all that in a few minutes :)

ok so i wanted to ask: do you two ever go online and look through all the fanart and cosplays of your characters?

EllenMcLain38 karma

I do by myself because I don't want John to know I'm doing that.

shadowmaat13 karma

Hello! Thanks for doing this! What kind of new and enticing things can we expect from the two of you in season 2 of Wish It, Inc?

EllenMcLain31 karma

Fairy Godmother deals with the biggest threat to her career since the beginning of time. And she should know because she was there for it.

PeBeFri10 karma

It's been theorized that the Voice of the Overwatch had foregone subtlety ("Probe. Expunge.") by Episode Two because it was no longer under the influence of Dr. Breen, who had a predilection for euphemisms when referencing the Combine's intentions ("Capital prosecution is discretionary"). Thoughts?

EllenMcLain16 karma

I don't even understand the question. I have watched John play Episode Two. If Overwatch was every subtle, I never noticed it.

KingShindo10 karma

This might be a really ignorant question, but do most voice actors and singers find out that they have a talent/passion for their craft after they hit puberty and went through vocal maturation, or do some singers learn about their gifts before adolescence and carry it even after they age?

EllenMcLain18 karma

I started singing before I can remember and I always loved to sing and entertain. I know everyone has a unique story to tell. My love of singing was always part of me, but it's different for everybody.

icyclaires9 karma

Hi Ellen and John!! Huge Portal fan here! What was your inspiration behind the song you wrote for Portal 2, "GLaDOS's song"? Do you know why Valve didn't choose to include it? It's so beautiful, and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing it with us.

EllenMcLain18 karma

The song just came to me in the bathtub. John and I recorded it in our living room. We sent it to a friend at Valve and never heard anything. We're so glad you like the song.

__Mik8 karma

Hello Ellen and John! I'm a really big fan of Portal and TF2 and I was wondering what you thought about the comics LAB RAT and the TF2 comic series. Also what do you think is going to happen to Sniper? I saw this sneak peek of issue #5 and started to panic!

EllenMcLain16 karma

We haven't gotten that far yet! No spoilers!

Eldazzra6 karma

All in all, of the Valve games that you have done voices for, which is by far the most fun that you have had working on?

EllenMcLain22 karma

GLaDOS by far.

spareaccount1006 karma

If you were to be approached by Valve to make a full-length movie with some of your characters (especially DOTA characters, Pudge, Death Prophet, Broodmother, Earthshaker, but also potentially others, Glados, Sniper), how would you feel about the idea?

The personality you bring to these characters is fantastic and I'm wondering if you think it would stand up to a longer format.

EllenMcLain11 karma

I love to work! I'm ready any time.

ihategeorgethetree4 karma

Also,what advice do you give to people who would like to take up voice acting,like me,or a few friends I have?

EllenMcLain5 karma

First, take an acting class. Second, start recording yourself with Garageband or something simple to start recording your voice. Play them back, listen, and see how you can improve. Third, pay attention to peoples' voices and accents. Fourth, make a voice demo. All you need is about a minute of your different voices and accents. Lastly, shop around your voice demo to theatrical agents and best of luck!

StupidSexyConnor3 karma

Do you have a favorite character you've voiced?

EllenMcLain7 karma

There are many, but I do love the voice of the Fairy Godmother.

Jared200983 karma

Hey guys, love your work! You always did amazing voice acting!

Here are my 2 questions,

  1. What's the most hardest voice you had to do?

  2. Anything you are able to slip up on games you're working on? :7

EllenMcLain8 karma

  1. The most taxing voice I've done is Broodmother in Dota 2.
  2. I can't talk about that, but stay tuned.

BrineOfEmeralds3 karma

Hello! What is your dream meal, and favourite desserts?

Thanks for taking time to do this!

EllenMcLain7 karma

Dream meal: fresh sockeye salmon with rice and asparagus.

Favorite dessert: strawberries with vanilla swiss almond ice cream.

Thanks for stopping by!

shadowmaat2 karma

If you could get one wish granted (other than a second season for Wish It, Inc.) what would it be?

EllenMcLain4 karma

Other than a second season for Wish It Inc., it would be that everyone could marry anyone they wanted to marry.

jmov2 karma

Question for Ellen: How did you like GLaDOS? Did you want to make any changes to the character?

I loved both Portal games, especially because of the voice acting. Also the Turret Opera is one of my favorite pieces of game music. It was such a beautiful moment when it was played in the end.

All the best to both of you!

EllenMcLain11 karma

I love GLaDOS. I am sorry that she is so lonely. I don't want the player to ever leave.

I love the Turret Opera too.

SquallMano1 karma

Greetings. When would you have time to tour conventions? (Please come to New Orleans.)

EllenMcLain3 karma

Get us an invitation! We love New Orleans.

ladykillerwannabe1 karma

Hi there! I love you guys, your voices are some of my favorite voices out there in any video game. As an aspiring voice actor myself, you two are a huge inspiration. My question is: how did you get into voice acting and do you have any tips for someone such as myself who wants to get into that field?

EllenMcLain4 karma

I got into voice acting in 2002 because John made me get a voice demo.

Mail-a-tron1 karma

A question for both Mr. Lowrie and Mrs. McLain:

Have you had any input on your lines in the games that you've voiced?

If so, what are some of your favorite examples of your own input in your voicelines?

EllenMcLain4 karma

I made up the words to the Turret Opera in the studio in my bad Italian.