By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner, describing it as “another gut-wrenching triumph that drags the adventure game kicking and screaming into the 21st century.” Of particular note was new character Molly, “a hoody wearing badass wielding an ice pick” who “gets all the best lines and steals the entire episode.” Following on from our recent interviews with The Walking Dead voice actors Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett), Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John), Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul) and Melissa Hutchison (Clementine), AMO is proud to present yet another exclusive online interview – with first time voice actor Erin Ashe, the voice of Molly!
Hi Erin, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
Well, thank you! Excited to be interviewed by AMO.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I was born and raised in a small Northern California town called Petaluma by my two beautiful parents, who are both actors. It was their passion for theatre that led me towards performing at a young age. I’ve been performing on stage since kindergarten, but I began participating in, what I suppose you could call, ‘legitimate’ theatre (aka not elementary school talent shows) at age 12 when I became involved with Cinnabar Theater, a local and historical opera house, where I performed in well over 30 of their operas and operettas. My freshman year of college, I attended NYU Steinhardt for Vocal Performance, focusing on music theatre, but decided it was not the right program for me. Now, I’m a third year student at UC Berkeley majoring in Theater and Performance Studies.
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to perform?
I believe it’s actually one of my clearest and earliest memories in general, and it dates back to age 4ish when I was completely obsessed with the musical Les Miserables. I had the 10th anniversary London concert edition on VHS, which I watched religiously, and I was incredibly determined to one day play young Cosette. I was strangely drawn to the emotional darkness and hope that is so prominent in that show. I still have the tape from my Fisher Price recorder that features me repeatedly singing ‘Castle on a Cloud’ as my older sister screamed at me in the background to shut up. That, as well as my infatuation with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, encouraged me to sign up for the talent show in kindergarten, my first time publicly performing on stage.
How did this desire to perform continue in the years to follow?
I’m not sure what it was about live performance that intrigued me as a child; it could have been the immediate gratification of the proceeding applause or the freedom and joy I found in the act of performing itself. It was probably a mix of both, knowing my selfish yet exuberant little child-self. But I continued to do the school talent show every year, joined the Broadway Babies afterschool-program, and eventually became active in my local theatre.
It was there at Cinnabar Theater in the midst of performing as Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown that I realised this was something I wanted to pursue. When watching big musicals and powerful plays, I felt this lightness in my stomach that made me feel restless, in an inspiring way, making me want to get up, be onstage, play with new ideas and new characters. It’s a one-of-a-kind type of excitement. I gravitated towards musical theatre because of my admiration for singing, in addition to acting. Thus, after graduating high school, I went to New York to study vocal performance.
In your freshman year of college, you attended NYU Steinhardt for Vocal Performance but soon realised it wasn’t for you – what made you decide to return to your local junior college?
I chose NYU Steinhardt’s program because it was more focused on training the singer and one’s voice, rather than the actor; at least, at the time, I thought that was what I wanted out of my college experience. It was a very structured program that detailed exactly what classes I would be taking all four years, most of which concentrated on music and the sung voice.
After a few months, however, I realised I never devoted much time to studying acting throughout high school, and NYU’s program did not offer as much attention on honing the dramatic craft as I began to desire. I became worried that I would graduate having only grown vocally, not dramatically as an artist. I also started to doubt the idea of pursuing the Broadway dream, as the New York life of a starving artist became less appealing during my time in Manhattan; walking to and from class, most of the faces I passed on the street were lonely, exhausted and disappointed.
In the end, I figured I simply enjoy performing. Whether it be New York, London, or small town Petaluma, there are talented and hard-working actors everywhere; there are small and large theatre and performance companies everywhere; there are opportunities everywhere. I don’t need to be a big-name Broadway star, I just want to perform. And I realised I wanted to explore the world of performance in its entirety while I still had the tools and resources available to me through being a college student.
You’re now 20 years old – where are you studying and what are you majoring in?
After completing my general education classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, I transferred to University of California Berkeley, majoring in Theater and Performance Studies. I’m focusing on acting, but the program also offers a well-rounded education in all aspects of theatre (design, technical, etc) as well as developing and researching the ways in which performance plays a role in society and culture.
You recently voiced Molly in The Walking Dead (The Game) Episode 4. How did you land the part?
My boyfriend, Nick Herman, a director at Telltale, had been encouraging me to get into voice acting since he recorded Glenn. I was always a bit weary of the process of voice recording because of how it relies solely on the voice and involves a lot of cold readings, but honestly I had just never tried anything like it so I was nervous as to what to expect. Nick eventually came to me with the breakdown of a character and her audition monologue. The breakdown described a totally badass ninja-like zombie slayer with a complicated past, so I immediately realised it was an opportunity I could not refuse. After sending in my audition and a callback audition per review of the directors and designers of Episode 4, I landed the role, and my first voice gig.
What was the audition process like?
The preliminary audition was one of Molly’s first Crawford monologues that she delivers on the pier after Lee and Kenny first encounter her, where she passes on the ‘ghost story’ of Crawford. I recorded that at home on a crappy PC mic and sent it in. Within a few days they sent me a second monologue, her meaty and emotional confession about her sister (which you hear in the game if you confront her about the tape).
I think the most difficult part was guessing where Molly was emotionally with the events in her past and deciding how she interprets and expresses those emotions. I figured, from what I read in her breakdown and how she initially decides to keep her past a secret, that she is and has been too independent to feel the need to confide in strangers, and she’s not the type cry hysterically when she does. Apparently that was the right approach, because a week after sending that callback in, I received a call notifying me that I landed the part.
Am I correct in saying that this is your first voice acting gig?
Yup. Molly was my first time performing in front of a microphone (besides my Fisher Price recorder).
What attracted you to the character of Molly? How would you describe her?
What first stood out to me were her strength and independence, as well as her blunt and witty nature, because with my past as a soprano in opera, I typically get cast as the damsel in distress or the naïve ingénue. She is clearly a complex and layered character, and I was excited to tackle that.
She is an honest and assertive person, though through her tribulations throughout the apocalypse she has learned her priorities and understands it’s safest to stick with them, which is why her assertiveness may appear harsh. Her skill set appears to allow her to thrive in this new deadly environment, but I believe a large piece of her longs for the normality, particularly so that compassion can regain its reign over what survivability has dethroned.
Did you record your lines alone or did you get to work with any of the other voice actors?
I recorded alone, but occasionally I would be fed the previous line if that character had already been recorded; that was incredibly helpful for getting my response in the right tone and context.
What was it like working with Telltale Games?
They’re great! It’s hard to answer this in a non-biased way after I’ve gotten to know so many of the employees as friends, but even when ignoring that relationship, I don’t think I could say anything bad about them. They’re a group of hard-working, explicitly nerdy, fantastically talented individuals who all want to make cool things. It’s inspiring to work in that type of passionately driven environment.
Where you previously familiar with The Walking Dead (comic books/TV show/games)?
I read the first compendium of the comics a while back and fell in love. I read it in two days and it left me in this depressed wallowing state, anxiously yearning for the next issue, which is why it’s so awesome. I played TTG’s game before I even thought of auditioning to be part of the VO team, and I felt that same gaping, emotional hole in my soul between each episode that I do between Kirkman’s volumes. I do watch the show, though I’m incredibly behind; I hear it’s getting crazy, so I really ought to catch up.
Are you a gamer? If so, will you be playing The Walking Dead?
I suppose I’m a gamer. I do play video games, PC games mostly. I am currently up to date on the series and I am anxiously anticipating the release of Episode 5. I have a strange excitement to be emotionally destroyed and left hopelessly alone after the season’s end.
It must be awesome seeing Molly on-screen and then hearing yourself?
It was really bizarre. I’ve only ever done live performance, so I’ve never really experienced my own performance. In her opening scene, I barely paid attention to anything she or Lee were saying because I was just analysing each line read, dissecting what I did and didn’t like about it. Though as I continued with my playthrough, I eventually stopped doing the self-analytical actor routine and began enjoying the game as it was meant to be. But yes, it was totally awesome hearing/seeing my voice matched with a chick scaling buildings and slashing zombie brains.
Molly is an absolute badass – she’s also very handy with an ice pick. She actually named her ice pick ‘Hilda’! What weapon would you use in a zombie apocalypse and what would you name it?
Whoa. How have I never thought of this before? I’m not buff, so it should be a lighter weapon. I’d prefer one that didn’t involve expending non-reusable resources like bullets; if playing shooters are any indication, my aim sucks anyways. Dare I say it… I would probably reach for an ice pick. It’s two sided, has jagged teeth on the blade, is relatively light, and can have multiple other uses. I would probably name it Lois. It was my grandmother’s name, who was one tough cookie, but it’s not commonly associated as a ‘pet’ name, so it has an essence of humanity.
The Walking Dead is a tailored experience that differs for each player – for example, in my version of the game Molly lives to fight another day. However, for some players it is implied that she dies… although I’m told that her death is never actually shown on-screen. Would you like to return as Molly in the future?
In regards to her implied death, I believe Gary Whitta likes to encourage the phrase “her fate is unknown.” In regards to returning as Molly, I would absolutely love to! Seeing her in her full potential, in action, was exciting. I would love to revisit her character.
Would you like to further pursue voice acting within video games?
Absolutely. I plan on continuing my training as an actor, as well as devoting some more focus on training the spoken voice specifically for voice-overs. The video game genre is full of some of the toughest and most intelligent women, roles that female actors like myself dream of. It’s also full of some of the weakest and most helpless women… but, hey! I guess someone’s got to give them a voice.
What other interests do you have besides acting?
I love to bake, though I’m still on a learning curve there, and I’ve always loved singing anything from any genre, from jazz to opera. In my free time, I choose between playing video games, watching weird and/or bad TV, or cuddling with my dog Walter.
What’s next for you Erin?
I’m about to begin rehearsals at Novato Theater Company for Steel Magnolias, playing Shelby. Then I suppose I’ll eventually graduate from college. But hopefully some more fun performance opportunities will arise in between.
Thank you for your time! I’m really glad that I got to interview you Erin – Molly is a fantastic character and you really brought her to life. I’ve interviewed many voice actors over the years and to nail a part like that when you’ve never done any voice-over work before is an admirable achievement. You’re super talented and I predict many more great roles to come. Congratulations and good luck!
Thank you so much!
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved for Help (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 4 – Around Every Corner (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)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, The Walking Dead: The Game)