By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online has extensively covered The Walking Dead by Telltale Games since its episodic launch in April 2012 – our review of Episode 1 explained how “the bond between Lee and Clementine is so accomplished that it already brings to mind another iconic gaming duo, Ico and Yorda.” Following on from our recent interviews with The Walking Dead voice actors Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett), Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John) and Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul), AMO is proud to present yet another exclusive online interview – this time with the lovely Melissa Hutchison, the voice of Clementine!
Hi Melissa, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
Hello Martin! Thank you for having me!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
Oh man, where to start… I live in Berkeley, or as I call it BEZERKELY, California. Right across the bay from beautiful San Francisco. I love the Bay area! The culture, the food… and it’s a mere 3 hours from Yosemite and Tahoe. 🙂 I am a full-time voice over actress and have been in this line of work for about 11 years now! I love my job and feel so very grateful to be doing what I love!
How did you first become involved with voice acting?
I grew up doing theatre and always wanted to be an actress. I had a gift for mimicry and creating voices as a child. I would watch cartoons and just study all the characters. I wanted to BE those voices! So fast-forward many moons later, I’m an adult and what not, and a lightbulb goes off in my brain! I’m like, hey I want to be happy and do work that is soul satisfying, as opposed to soul sucking. I want to get back into acting and while we are at it, let’s do this voice over stuff!
So I contacted a friend of mine from high school, Nate Tico, who happens to be a talent agent here in San Francisco at Stars the Agency, and asked if I could come in and talk to him about getting into the VO biz. I went in, ready to ask all these questions on how to get started, and Nate just bypassed all that and immediately took me under his wing. That was a huge gift that was given to me! The sometimes daunting task of trying to get representation can potentially take quite some time and be very frustrating. Nate just opened the door and I walked right on through, and for that I am eternally grateful!!
What did you do before you became a full-time voice actor?
Two words: service industry. I worked in a restaurant for several years. I worked myself up from host, to server, to manager. I left that job to pursue VO. After the restaurant gig, I also worked at a grocery store doing, of course, customer service. They were actually really awesome, and flexible with my schedule, so I could make it to auditions and stuff. The service industry is a hard business to be in. Humans can be pretty awful sometimes. It should be mandatory that everyone has to work in the service industry for at least 2 weeks. Then perhaps we would live in a much kinder world. 🙂
Do you remember your first voice acting gig?
I remember every detail of my first VO gig! It was a video game, Superman: The Man of Steel, made by Atari for Xbox. My part was super small. I was like random woman #12, and all I had to do was scream as if I were falling from a tall building, make a reaction sound of being caught in mid-air, and then say “Thank you Superman.” It was awesome! I was so psyched!
You’ve voiced quite a few characters for Telltale Games – how did you first become involved with the studio?
I love working with Telltale! Every project has just been a blast. I can’t really call it work, it’s more like play. After seeing a few rounds of auditions from them, I finally booked a part in Sam & Max. That was my first game with Telltale. And I do believe it was my first gig at Studio Jory, with Jared and Julian from Bay Area Sound. I fell in love with all those guys instantly. Voicing characters for them is really the ultimate VO gig. So much fun!
You played Girl Stinky in Sam & Max Seasons Two and Three – that must have been a fun role! It’s implied that she died at the end of The City That Dares Not Sleep – is this a character you would like to return to at some point?
Ahhh yes, Stinky. She’s great. Intelligent, sarcastic, cunning, bitchy… I love her. She dies? Wait what? I should know this right? I really need to start playing more of the games I work on. I would absolutely LOVE to bring Stinky back. It’s always fun to play a character that is the opposite of your personality. Well… maybe not the exact opposite. I too have bouts of sarcasm, cunning, bitchiness, and maybe more of a “lack” of intelligence. Hell, they should just write me into a video game.
You also voiced Trixie Trotter (aka. Sylvia McFly) in Back To The Future: The Game. I thought she was a fantastic character – was it exciting to be involved with such a beloved film franchise?
Oh Trixie. What a sweetheart. I really wanted this part, and really wanted to be in this game, so of course when I got it I was thrilled. Back to The Future? Hell yeah! I have seen the first movie like 6 million times. I own the soundtrack! I’m a nerd. Trixie was such a blast, and the best part is, I got to sing!
Now, if Telltale made a game based off of The Goonies, and I got to voice a part in it, my life would be complete.
From one major franchise to another – you are now voicing Clementine in The Walking Dead, another adventure game from Telltale Games. Were you familiar with The Walking Dead prior to becoming involved with the project?
Yeah, talk about exciting! Again, I REALLY wanted this part. It was a hefty audition process. I think I had like 3 callbacks for it, and in fact at one point was convinced I did not get it, gave up, and kinda released it into the universe, and that’s when they called me. I had seen the first season of the TV show and LOVED it! So I was psyched. Now I am working on the graphic novels. I just love everything. The stories, the art, the characters. Freakin’ brilliant! Thank you Robert Kirkman.
How would you describe Clementine as a character?
Clementine is precious. She is this little girl who has witnessed horror. Massive amounts of horror. She has the ability to keep it together and stay strong, because she is a child, and has the innocence to believe that it might “all get better”, but on the other side of that, she is also aware that this is probably not the case, and that the world has gone to shit. She is endearing. I have been reading, and hearing from people, that she is liked because she is not annoying. The “least annoying kid” in a video game. Whilst that is awesome and funny, it’s totally true! When I am being Clementine and reading through the script, I actually have serious emotional moments. I want to just scoop her, errrr… me, up and take care of her! She is such a good kid. I really feel sad for her.
What attracted you to the role?
Basically everything I just stated up above is why, as far as the character goes, and to play a little girl struggling through a zombie apocalypse? Yes please! The ONLY downside is I do not get to cuss as much as the other characters. 🙂
How would you describe her relationship with Lee Everett (voiced by the wonderful Dave Fennoy)?
Lee and Clementine’s relationship, now THAT is some good story writing! Lee has given Clementine hope and protection, which in turn has made her stronger and more capable of dealing with the circumstances. Now of course you can play Lee in different ways, but even when you play Lee with the more “jaded” decisions, he still keeps his connection with Clementine. He has found love and a reason to keep going. To survive.
I would argue that the inclusion of Clementine is integral to the player’s gaming experience as they take control of Lee – their relationship is the emotional core of the entire game. Is this something that you are aware of when recording?
Yes! Very aware. That is what truly puts the emotion into the read. I actually visualize the two of them, and the scene, in my head as I read. I feel like I’m there, and then I thank the gods that I am not! Clementine and Lee have a strong connection. Most of what Lee does in the game revolves around protecting Clementine. The player really has to feel that connection. It’s the guts of the game!
There was a really nice moment in Episode 2 where Clementine and Lee are talking in the barn about the salt lick – does strong writing help make the performance easier to deliver?
Hell yes. I cannot express enough how awesome the writing is on this game. And while we are at it, how awesome the directing is too!! They have made it so easy to stick with the character. Successfully coming up with a voice for a character is made possible directly by the writers. This is such an amazing script to work with. Not once have I had a moment of doubt concerning the dialogue. I really have a clear connection of what is wanted from the reads. At least this is how I feel, hopefully they feel that way too!
In my recent interview with Dave Fennoy, he revealed that his voice acting work for The Walking Dead is recorded solo and that he hasn’t had “the pleasure of working with Melissa, or Adam, or any of the other very fine actors.” Do you ever find it difficult recording your lines without hearing the other parts? How do you get into the role when recording?
Ya know, I have YET to meet Dave Fennoy, but I am having such a wonderful time working with him! He is awesome! It’s crazy to be connected to someone and not even have met. Tis the VO industry. Most jobs you record solo, except for the rare occasion that you read in the booth with another actor. I wish we could read together! That always makes performing easier, and not to mention it’s just better that way. But unfortunately due to the amount of lines and time limits and what not, it just does not work out to do it that way. Again, this is where the awesome directors come in and make the magic happen. It’s not very difficult for me to get into Clementine’s character. I feel a pretty close connection to her. We have spent some quality time together. I relate to Clementine. I think I was very much like her as a child. Except for the whole zombie, death, apocalyptic, end of the world thingy.
Clementine is an 8-year-old girl – how much do you have to change your voice to make it sound so authentic and real?
Have you seen the show on TV called Big Ang? You might have to Google it. Well I pretty much sound like her. HAHA! Just kidding. So my actual speaking voice is a bit lower than Clementine’s. I’m more of an alto. It’s a stretch, but a comfortable stretch. I love doing children’s voices! I usually get cast for “boy” voices, so it’s always a treat when I book a “girl” voice. It’s easier on the vocal chords. 🙂
At the end of Episode 2, Clementine makes a stand against looting the car in the woods. I thought that this was such a brave stance that I just had to side with her – do you think she made the right choice?
Yes. Yes I do! This is another instance of Clementine and I colliding as one. I was TOTALLY like that as a kid. I would have been so NOT okay with looting someone’s car. A. It’s “morally” wrong. B. what if they come back and hunt us down, and C. if we loot this car, then we are only a few notches better above being zombies ourselves! But then on the other hand, personally, I would have said, f#%k it!! I’m hungry, and we need to survive!!!
What other games might AMO’s readers have heard you in?
Oh boy… there have been so many. Of course Sam & Max, Back to the Future, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, Sonic and the Black Knight, Death Jr. 2, The Root of Evil, League of Legends… the list goes on!
What’s next for you after The Walking Dead?
I actually just started recording for an animated series called “The Space Racers”, which I am super excited about! That won’t hit the air for another 7 months or so. I do some commercial VO work, and voice a slew of characters for Leapfrog and Hasbro. I will try of course to get myself into as many games as possible. Hopefully I will be working on more projects with Telltale. I kinda wish The Walking Dead would last forever. I love it so much. What an amazing experience!
Thank you for your time Melissa! I think you’re doing a fantastic job as Clementine – she’s one of the main reasons why The Walking Dead is so emotionally involving and critically acclaimed. I can’t wait to spend time with her again in Episode 3!
I am so very pleased that you like Clementine. That really means a lot to me. You are awesome and kind! Enjoy Episode 3. Cheers Martin!
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)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John, The Walking Dead: The Game)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul, The Walking Dead: The Game)