Ellen McLain is an operatic soprano, stage actress, and voice-over artist, who is most famous in the latter field for her work with Valve Corporation, and in particular for her portrayal of G La DOS, the Breakout Character and Fountain of Memes from the Portal series.
She is married to John Patrick Lowrie, also a voice actor who has done extensive work with Valve, and it was he who encouraged her to get into voice-over work. Her training on the stage - and, most importantly, her skill in acting and singing - made her perfectly suited to play the character of GLaDOS, a role which has brought her great praise.
In addition to continuing to work in theatrical productions, she is now a permanent member of the Valve repertory, having appeared in all of their games since Half-Life 2. Surprisingly, and despite her popularity and critical acclaim, she's done little voice acting outside of her work with Valve - IMDb, for example, lists no other credits.
Her commentary track for Portal is a great listen, and forever endeared her to the game's fanbase. Also, a very good full-length interview can be found here. To see her at work in her "other" career, watch this clip from Cosi fan Tutti. She performed her two Portal songs, "Want You Gone" and "Still Alive", live for the very first time at the Midwest Anime Convention on July 16, 2011, accompanied by Lowrie on banjo, with the two of them leading a sing-along the following day.
She and Lowrie have an itinerary of conventions where they'll be appearing throughout the next year, including Kitacon in Birmingham, UK in April. McLain has also confirmed that she's appearing in at least one more game in the near future, but she's been sworn to secrecy about what the game is, or what kind of role she's playing.
Roles performed by Ellen McLain:
- G La DOS and the Turrets and Caroline from Portal and Portal 2.
- The Administrator/Announcer from Team Fortress 2.
- The Combine Overwatch from Half-Life 2.
Tropes for Ellen McLain:
- The Cast Showoff: Yes, she really can sing.
- Cool Old Lady: No matter what she says, she's too young to qualify for this trope. She's definitely a Cool Middle-Aged Lady, though.
- The Danza: The Administrator's real name is Helen, which sounds nearly identical to Ellen in most dialects of English.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has claimed to share GLaDOS' love for sarcasm, which helps explain the character's aptitude for it.
- Evil Laugh: She herself has one, as heard on her commentary for Portal. Many commenters on YouTube have claimed that it makes her sound creepier than GLaDOS.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: As far as she's concerned, everybody working at Valve is an artist. Except maybe the lawyers. But hey, some of her best friends are lawyers!
- Happily Married
- Large Ham: As the Administrator.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: By all accounts she is a genuinely sweet person.
- Money, Dear Boy: She's made no bones about the fact that she's in voice acting for the money. That doesn't stop her from feeling creatively fulfilled when she hits upon the right role, of course.
- Shout-Out: Unfailingly sings the praises of the following people working on Portal 2, in every interview she gives: Bill van Buren (producer); Erik Wolpaw, Chet Faliszek, and Jay Pinkerton (writers); and Mike Morasky (composer). She apparently did this so much in her Portal 2 commentary that it was shelved for fear of seeming too self-congratulatory on the part of Valve.
- Tough Act to Follow: She and everyone at Valve very much felt this way about the original Portal while they were making the sequel.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: As noted above, she provided her voice as GLaDOS, free of charge, for the Gary Hudston Project.
- Word of God: Because she was made privy to the story of Portal 2 throughout its development, she's been able to confirm or deny fan theories. For example, she's the one who officially revealed that Caroline is the woman in the picture with Cave Johnson.