By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC), describing it as “a stomach-churning, heart-pounding experience.” One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Walking Dead: The Game so far has been the phenomenal voice acting, with each voice actor bringing their character to life in a world now ruled by the dead. AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with the hugely talented Adam Harrington, the voice of Andrew St. John!
Hi Adam, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
The pleasure is all mine Martin. Loved your interview with Dave, and your reviews are fantastic. Good stuff.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a full time voice actor from the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been lucky enough to do what I love for a living for over 15 years now, and feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many talented, creative people on a regular basis.
How did you first get into voice acting?
I was a successful telemarketer (oxymoron?) for many years. Successful due in large part to my grandfather’s genes. Charles “Bud” Kroeger owned and operated the top insurance agency in Norwich, a small town in Upstate New York, for most of his life. Grandpa was a master salesman, and his impossibly deep, resonant voice played a major role in his success. When the old man talked, people (including myself of course) couldn’t help but listen.
He mesmerised prospective clients with his rich, resonant pipes (Bud played Santa every year on the local radio station WCHN, answering kid’s letters to the North Pole. Almost the entire town tuned in every year for decades). The moment Bud opened his mouth… the deal was closed. By the time I was about 11 years old it became clear to everyone in the family that “Adam is gonna sound just like his Grandpa.” At about 18, I took the winning genetic lotto ticket and ran with it. Jumped right into telephone sales and immediately excelled.
During my years as a telemarketer I was often told by co-workers and folks on the other end of the telephone line “you should be in radio with that voice.” Well as the new millennium approached, and cell phones/caller ID came into play, sales rapidly began to decline. I realised I’d better find a new source of income, and right quick! That radio thing people kept mentioning sounded pretty good, but I didn’t particularly want to be a Disc Jockey. Voiceover seemed the obvious alternative. Enter the greatest voice acting coach on the planet: Susan McCollom.
Going in I had a bit of an advantage over the other VO beginners in that I had been reading scripts to sell goods and/or services for many years already (telemarketing, you see, ain’t all that different from commercial VO). I went on to attend every class she offered, blossoming under her tutelage. When she thought I was ready, she produced my demos, introduced me to a few SF talent agents, and BAM! I was a professional voice actor. I’ve since contributed my voice to many hundreds of projects but video game VO has become my specialty. I absolutely LOVE losing myself in gaming characters. I’ve been a passionate gamer since the Atari 2600, and I like to think that passion comes through in my work.
Of course it didn’t hurt that I was voted class clown in high school, mostly for my ability to mimic teaches, students, lunch ladies, whomever I felt like bugging on any given day. This also earned me a lot of time in the principal’s office.
Before we talk about The Walking Dead, let’s talk about Telltale – how did you first become involved with the studio?
My first gig with Telltale was a tough one. I was handed the unenviable task of temporarily replacing the great Earl Boen as The Undead Pirate LeChuck in the iconic Monkey Island series. In the gaming world, this is akin to being picked to replace James Earl Jones as the voice of Vader. There’s just no winning in that equation. Telltale was happy with my work, but the fans… not so much. Luckily I voiced another character in the game, Moose, the laid back surfer dude/pirate. The fans embraced Moose at least.
Thankfully, the Telltale guys liked my work enough to continue calling on me to voice several characters in many future projects. A great deal of the work I’m most proud of was produced by Telltale. When my agent calls with a TT booking I know I’m in for a ride! Always more like play time than work time when I head to Jory’s studio in Fairfax and mix it up with Dennis, Julian, Mark and the boys. They have an uncanny knack for coaxing the absolute best possible performance from their actors. Their character development, razor sharp humour, and ability to write for the spoken word is unmatched. At this point they feel more like family than clients, as I’m sure many of my fellow TT voice actors would agree.
Case in point, just a few days ago most of The Walking Dead Episode 2 cast got together at director Dennis Lenart’s home for a play-through party (my friend Dave Fennoy, star of the game, was in LA at the time but I made sure to call him on speaker phone to say hello to everyone). Dennis, Mark Darin, Jake Rodkin, Job Stauffer and Nicholas Herman (all Telltale guys) got the biggest kick out of forcing the Xbox controller into each cast member’s hands just as our characters had a “pivotal moment”. I wont give away any spoilers here, but let’s just say “pivotal moments” are taken to a whole new level with this game. Fact: gamers are shedding actual tears of remorse after playing this episode.
Did Telltale approach you for the voice of Andrew St. John based on your previous work with them?
They have a pool of talent they draw from (a cast of usual suspects for the most part) whom they have audition for each role in a game. I was lucky enough to win them over with my take on Andy. Having kinfolk from Georgia helps.
How would you describe Andy as a character?
One of my best characters ever. Period. Complicated in so many ways. Nothing is simply “black or white/good or evil” in this game. Same can be said for Andy. No matter what choices the player makes, one constant motivation remains as far as Andy is concerned, keeping his family alive and together. That’s it. How far would any of us go to do the same? I like to think that before the apocalypse turned their world upside down, Andy was the kind of guy many of us would like to have dinner and a few beers with. Well… maybe just the beers. But I really don’t think he was an evil guy pre-walkers. Just an honest, hard working momma’s boy. We are imagining what an apocalyptic event can bring out in different people, in different situations. Exploring the ways this sort of event could change us both individually, and as a society. This is absolutely fascinating to me.
Would you say that he is a ‘bad guy’ in the traditional sense?
Again, after their world has gone to hell, I believe the line between “bad-guy” and “good-guy” has blurred for all of these characters. In some cases beyond recognition. Telltale has left it up to us, the gamers, to decide what is the good/right choice and what is the bad/wrong choice. Or perhaps I should say “which is the LEAST horribly… brutally… twisted choice.” More often than not, that decision will be gut-wrenching no matter which direction the player has Lee take us. Hence the tears I mentioned earlier.
Who do you think is the brains of the operation on the farm? Is it Andy, his brother Danny or their mother Brenda?
Um, Andy. Was there ever any doubt?
Do you think the St. Johns planned to eventually eat Lee and all of his group? Or just some of them?
Well, Andy DID attempt to fry Lee (kinda sorta accidentally/on purpose) with his ‘lectrificated fence early on in the episode. This leads me to believe that the St. John clan planned to cull out the stronger members of the group, and keep the weaker (more tender) members around for vittles.
Are the St. Johns insane?
“Who you callin’ crazy boy?” *shoots menacing glare* Haha, no I honestly don’t think so. Just surviving. A touch inbred maybe, but not crazy.
Did you get to record any of your lines with the other voice actors? How did you get yourself into the role?
Unfortunately most VO these days is recorded solo, then mixed to sound like everyone was recorded together. As far as getting myself into the role, every character begins with a piece of myself often mixed with people in my life. Friends, family, even people I’ve only interacted with a few times, often influence my character choices. And again, it don’t hurt to have Georgia kinfolk to channel. Getting physical while in the session helps a lot as well. My neck was sore for a week after recording the scene where Andy is sizzling on his own electric fence. Alas, what sacrifices we do make for our art!
Are you a fan of the TV show or the comic books of The Walking Dead?
I’m a zombie fan period, so when the series came out I was on cloud nine. My wife and I don’t miss an episode. When I found out I booked Andy, I decided to check out the comic compendium at my local library for research. I had only planned on browsing the five pound volume, but a few days later I had finished the whole damn thing and was ravenous (pardon the expression) for more. In retrospect I kinda wish I hadn’t. I’m afraid I’ve got a general idea of how the next three seasons of the TV show will play out now that I’ve read so much of the comic. Gonna be REEEAALL hard not to spoil the whole thing for my wife: “Oh, oh! this is the part where she nails the Governer’s…”
The fight between Andy and Lee at the end of the game in the pouring rain is brutal – the player is then given the choice to either finish Andy off or leave him to the zombies. In Lee’s shoes, what would you have done?
I kicked myself into the fence on Dennis’ 7 foot TV screen Monday night, but that’s only because he and Mark made me do it… just to watch me squirm. Honestly, at that point, I believe frying Andy on his own electric fence was just about the most humane thing Lee could have done. So I would have left him for the zombies. And yeah, the Andy/Lee fight scene is probably the best scene I’ve ever appeared in. Just remarkable work from everyone involved. The next time someone tells you that video games will never be a legitimate art form… show them what Telltale has done with this scene, and tell them it already is… and is getting better every year.
Andrew St. John is a great character because you’re never quite sure where you stand with him – is it fun voicing a deceptive/evil character?
Always, ALWAYS more fun to voice the bad guys. Can you imagine how boring any Disney film would be without them? Who would you rather dress up as for Halloween, Luke or Vader? Case closed.
Do you wish he had survived?
When all is said and done… this is my job. So yeah, a few more episodes would have been nice. In fact I keep telling Mark, Dennis, Julian… anyone who will listen… that Andy could be the first ever TALKING ZOMBIE! I try to explain how ground-breaking this could be, but I’ve yet to get an answer. Perhaps my dozens of emails are going into their spam boxes? I guess multiple texts per day are the next step.
Over the years, your voice has graced many other projects, including too many video games to mention. Where might AMO’s readers have heard you before and what previous roles would you single out as highlights?
Ahhh there are too many to list. Andy is ABSOLUTELY up there in the top 5 now. Many of my Telltale characters dominate the list for obvious reasons.
My League of Legends characters have also turned out to be huge hit:
But rather than try to list them all here, an easier way to see/hear some of my characters is by watching a 3 minute rapid-fire video featuring 50 of my standout gaming roles:
You mentioned League of Legends – what can you tell us about this game?
Yeah, League of Legends, WOW! A few years ago some of my VO friends and I were called into Somatone Studios (another regular client who are masters at producing gaming VO) to work on this little game that no one had heard much about. Four years later this “little game” is a freaking MONSTER. 11 million subscribers and counting.
I was lucky enough to voice five different characters, all of whom have gone on to cult status of Star Trekkian proportion. 90% of my fan mail comes from “Summoners” (LoL players) and I’ve gone on to befriend quite a few of them online. All of the fan-made art, music and YouTube videos these dedicated fans put together is just amazing!
A few of the fans have gone on to become almost as big as the game itself. One of these super-fans (“Grasshyren” is his LoL handle) recently called me out for a LoL themed cypher (a YouTube rap contest of sorts). Well, I couldn’t let my biggest fans down so I recruited a few of my fellow LoL voice actors to perform a skit featuring some of our characters from the game.
I wrote the skit as a build up intro for the actual rapping, which I recruited a pro to do (no one wants to hear me rap, trust me). Well, Erik Braa, Melissa Hutchison (Clementine in The Walking Dead), Brian Sommer (my brother Danny in The Walking Dead) and Danielle McRae were kind enough to lend me their VO skills, and the incredibly talented rapper Dan Bull agreed to do the actual rapping. Almost 200,000 views later the fans LOVE it, and are demanding more. Something just might be in the works.
Here’s the “Cypher” that started it all:
I’m Shaco, the maniacal clown that hosts the video, and Mordekaiser, the big scary heavy metal dude. What started as a little project for the fans turned into a TONNE of fun for me and my friends, and it looks as though this will lead to bigger things. Stay tuned!
What’s next for you Adam?
Well, I’ll keep doing voiceover until I’m six feet under, or they throw me out of the business. Whichever comes first. But I’m also getting more involved in other aspects of “The Biz”. Doing some writing, directing, and editing. I’m discovering I have a bit of talent, and a growing passion for the latter. I’ve recently taken that talent and passion and turned them into a little side business building video showcase reels for other voice actors. What started as just a hobby building my own reels like the ones linked above, has turned into an actual job.
Some of my VO friends liked what I was doing with my own stuff and asked if I could do it for them. This has since snowballed to the point that I’ve got a waiting list (If you had told me this two years ago I would have laughed). In the process I’ve been lucky enough to build reels for some of the biggest names in the industry. Bob Bergen, John Taylor, Lani Minella, Erin Fitzgerald, even our mutual friend Dave Fennoy, voice of Hulu and The Walking Dead’s lead character Lee Everett. These are just a few of the super-talented folks I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some examples of my work are available here.
Thank you for your time Adam – Andrew St. John is a great character and I hope to hear your voice again in future Telltale projects!
And thank you for allowing me to ramble on about myself. We self-absorbed actors can never get enough of that. In all seriousness, it’s been a pleasure Martin. I’m a big fan, and will continue to read and enjoy your articles. Cheers mate!
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett, The Walking Dead: The Game)