By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed the fifth and final episode of The Walking Dead: The Game, No Time Left, describing it as “a tear-jerking masterclass in interactive storytelling” and “undoubtedly Telltale Game’s magnum opus, a bona fide masterpiece that will be talked about for years to come.” Over the past year AMO has interviewed several of the voice cast from the game, including Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett), Adam Harrington (Andrew St. John), Nicki Rapp (Lilly Caul), Melissa Hutchison (Clementine) and Erin Ashe (Molly). The Walking Dead is undoubtedly Game of the Year and it is therefore with great pleasure that AMO presents yet another exclusive online interview, this time with the unforgettable voices of Lee Everett and Clementine: Dave Fennoy and Melissa Hutchison!
Hello David and Melissa and welcome back to AMO!
Dave: Thanks Martin… happy to be back. Hello to you and all the AMO readers.
Melissa: Hi Martin! More than happy to be back at AMO!
The Walking Dead: The Game is finally over – how does it feel?
Dave: I have both a sense of loss and great joy. Loss, because I miss the long sessions with the writers, voice director Julian Kwasneski, and recording engineer Jory Prum. We became friends. I miss seeing them on a regular basis and working together. Our sessions were six to eight hours for two or three days at a time for each episode and took almost a year to complete. On the other hand, it’s very exciting to be a part of the incredible success of this game that has touched so many in a way no game has touched them before.
Melissa: Well to tell you the truth, I still feel like the ride hasn’t stopped! This game has been kicking some major ass in the awards department, so even though the recording is finished, the game is present in my life every day, when I open Facebook, and see all of the awesome postings from Telltale! Episode 5 was so heavy. It took some time to recover from it!
Dave, do you perhaps feel a touch sadder than Melissa does, knowing that Lee definitely won’t be coming back?
Dave: You had to remind me didn’t you. I have several fans who are on a mission to resurrect Lee for Season 2, and to be honest I sometimes fantasise that Clem missed when she pulled the trigger and that Lee somehow continues to protect Clem as a talking half-zombie. Hey, a guy can dream!
How did you take the news that Lee was going to die at the very end of Episode 5?
Dave: Sean Vanaman, the head writer, told me while we were recording Episode 3. At first I thought he was kidding and when I realised he was serious I was very disappointed. I like Lee Everett. I like playing him, and by that time he was already becoming very popular with fans and I thought it was just a bad idea. But… as an actor… playing Lee after being bitten in Episode 4 and getting through the final scenes in Episode 5, gave me opportunities to touch emotions very few game voices ever have.
Melissa: Uuuuuugghh….that was some sad news indeed! Like Dave, I was told earlier on, maybe even during Episode 2, that Lee was going to not make it in the end. I was bummed then, but became increasingly more bummed, the more we recorded, and the closer I got to our characters! When it was time to record Episode 5, it was not difficult at all to conjure up VERY REAL tears. It also left me feeling very scared for little Clementine! I mean, what the hell is she going to do without her Lee!
The final scene between Lee and Clem broke my heart – did you both record your lines separately for this scene? I know that’s how it usually works during the recording process. If so, I honestly couldn’t tell!
Dave: We recorded our parts separately. You are not the first to ask that question. I shed real tears recording that scene. Even though Melissa wasn’t there as Clem, I was feeling that relationship. The emotions and tears just flowed.
Melissa: Yes, but by this time Dave and I had become good friends, so it was pretty easy to feel his presence in that recording session. Dave recorded his lines before me, so thankfully Julian led me into a lot of my lines, by playing me Lee’s preceding lines.
Perhaps it’s just because you’re both such capable voice actors, but in your final scenes together the lines were delivered with almost unbearable emotion. Was it easy to become swept up in the moment and put yourselves in your characters’ shoes?
Dave: I was surprised by how easy it was to get into the character of Lee at the end. I think it was because I had been playing him for almost a year and a little part of me is Lee. I found myself really feeling the loss of my little “sweet pea”, the sense of failure that I wouldn’t be there to protect her, the hope that I’d done enough to prepare her to survive on her own, and the fear that I had not done enough. The feelings and tears came without effort. I also think the realisation that this year-long project that I had devoted myself to was coming to an end affected my performance as well.
Melissa: Ya know, it’s kinda crazy how easy it is for me to switch into being Clementine. I actually have moments in my ‘real’ life, where I can hear how she would react to a certain situation, in my head! Like I said it’s a little crazy. We have all experienced loss in our lives. I just recall those emotions, and give them to Clementine to feel! The emotion was raw, and as real as it gets. Such an amazing experience!
If you were Lee, would you have cut off your arm after being bitten?
Dave: Absolutely. I would have done whatever I thought might end or slow the zombification process.
Would you have killed Clementine’s kidnapper?
Dave: Good question… my initial answer would be yes, but when you know his story, the decision becomes a bit less black and white. A definite maybe!
Melissa: Yeah, I am with Dave on this one. Every character in this game has gone through, or is currently going through, hell on earth. It could definitely drive a person mental. But my initial reaction would be yes as well.
Would you both agree that Clementine’s character is essential to The Walking Dead: The Game as an experience? I can’t imagine the game without Lee finding Clem at the beginning of the first episode…
Dave: The essential relationship in the game is Lee and Clem. Without Clem, it’s a different game. It could be good, even great, but it would be a different game altogether. Clem is Lee’s chance at redemption, and Lee is Clem’s chance to survive. More than all the other storylines, that is what this game is about.
Melissa: Yes. I think the writers kinda took a chance with Clementine! As I have said before, kids in video games can often be a nuisance, and kinda annoying, but because of the brilliant story writing and character design, right from the get-go people bonded with Lee and Clementine, and immediately went into protection mode for this little girl!
Lee’s backstory is hinted at throughout the game – do you think what he did before the outbreak ever really mattered?
Dave: Yes, I think it does. When the game begins, Lee is a broken man, a former college professor on his way to prison for killing his wife and her lover. My take is that he’s an average decent man who has destroyed his own life by taking the lives of two others. Perhaps someone else might say what he did was understandable, but in the eyes of the law and in his own eyes he has done evil. Protecting Clem gives him a chance to redeem himself, if only in his own eyes. He needs to protect Clem.
Melissa: Yes. It is a sort of redemption story. I too believe that Lee is a decent man, who had a very bad moment of jealous insanity. Broken is a very good way to put it. Finding Clementine, and taking care of and protecting this sweet, innocent child, brings light back into his darkness. That might sound a little deep, but I think that is the best way to put it!
Do you think the mistakes he made in the past drove him forward?
Dave: Yes. Protecting Clem is what he must do to make amends for his past discretions.
Do you think Lee redeemed himself?
Dave: Yes I do, despite the fact that he has had to make difficult decisions, often ones that he regrets, protecting Clem is always job number one.
Melissa: Hell yeah I do!!! Clementine survives! We all make mistakes right?
Would it be fair to say that Clementine saw Lee as a father figure?
Melissa: I think that is not only fair, I think that is exactly right. Kids need parental guidance. Clementine never gave up hope of finding her Mom and Dad, but with the current situation, and of course only being 8 years old, kids naturally look for the protection of a parent. Lee became just that.
The Walking Dead has been both a commercial and critic success. When did you first realise that you were involved with something truly special?
David: I realised that TWD game was at least a very different game at our first recording session. The quality of the writing, the number of lines, and attention to detail from the Telltale crew was just different. The length of the sessions and lack of the usual ‘canned’ game lines said “this is something special.” Just how special… I didn’t have any idea!
Melissa: I knew right from the start. Like Dave said, the quality of the writing was amazing. Immediately I was experiencing a new kind of video game VO acting. It was very serious, and needed to sound very realistic. There is a lot of dark emotions in this game. I don’t think Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, would have given the okay for this project if he had any doubts about it not being completely awesome. To witness, and be a part of a game that is this successful, still just blows my mind!
I’ve noticed that you both seem to have been in regular touch with the rest of the voice cast. Is it nice to get together with your fellow voice actors? I’m guessing that you often work on projects and never get to meet any of the other voice actors at all!
David: True. Usually if I don’t see who had the session just before and/or just after my own, I often don’t know who else is on a project until its release. I actually didn’t personally know any of the other actors, except Adam Harrington and Terry McGovern, before working on TWD, and didn’t know Terry was on the game until Episode 4. But because TWD is five episodes and was becoming more and more popular as each episode dropped, I began to realise how special this project really was and wanted to connect with my fellow actors.
On a break from recording Episode 3 or 4, I finally met Melissa, whose session was scheduled after mine. Our meeting was brief, but there was an instant connection thanks to Lee and Clem’s relationship in the game. As the final recording loomed, I asked director Julian Kwasnescki and voice actor Adam Harrington to invite the cast for dinner in the little northern California town of Fairfax, where we recorded. I live in southern California, but most of the cast lives in northern California so it had to happen while I was there. I’ve been on a lot of games but never felt moved to want to meet and break bread with the cast. We ate, drank, laughed, got to know each other a little, and began what I hope will be lifelong friendships based on being a part of this game. They all did great work.
Melissa: Yes. This is very true. It is not common at all to meet the actors whom are working on the same project. Being a VO actor can be a bit isolating. I have had the honour of working with most of the cast of The Walking Dead on other projects before. In the Bay Area, there is a smaller pool of talent, compared to LA that is, so it is easier to get to know your fellow VO peeps. Around the time The Walking Dead started recording, is when all of us as a group really started hanging out. Monthly gatherings at the pub. This game has spawned such an amazing friendship for all of us. Not just the actors too. It has really given us a chance to get to know a lot of guys from Telltale, and of course the three J’s: Julian, Jared, and Jory. Meeting Dave was the cherry on top!! We are all family now.
Who is your favourite supporting character and why?
David: Easy… Clem with Kenny as a runner-up! Clem because she is Lee’s true motivation in the game… to keep her safe and thereby redeeming himself. Kenny as a runner-up because he becomes Lee’s best friend in the game, the guy he counts on most, although it is a troubled, tenuous relationship.
Melissa: Well Lee of course!! But I guess that is a given. Hmmm… Aw man…I dunno. They all have qualities I like. Except for Lily’s dad Larry. He’s a dick. I’m gonna say Katjaa is one of my favourites. And that is not just because I love Cissy, the woman who voiced her, but because of her gentle mama presence in the game. She was so nurturing. Poor woman. I was very sad for her in Episode 3.
During my playthrough, Clementine grew tremendously as a character. I wanted to make sure that she could look after herself if anything ever happened to Lee. Would you have cut her hair/taught her to shoot a gun Melissa?
Melissa: Definitely! There is no coddling during a zombie apocalypse! There is only survival. To not know how to take out the ‘bad guys’ and stay safe is basically suicide in the world of The Walking Dead. Clementine is a sharp kid. When Lee found her, she had already survived for quite a bit on her own. Clementine grasped the concept of survival, and even though it was scary for her at first, she understood why it had to be done.
What is your favourite episode and why?
David: Episode 5. It’s rare for a voice actor to get the opportunity to have scenes like that and hear from so many fans that “Lee and Clem made me cry.”
Melissa: Yeah, I have to go with Episode 5 as well. I went into that session with a heavy heart, knowing that I would be saying goodbye to Lee, so that part was kinda sucky, but it was so effective. I called Dave directly after the recording session to lament, and also just to hear his voice!! I guess I just needed to hear that it was Lee that died, and not Dave. His acting is that good!
Do you have a favourite scene or moment from the game?
David: The final scene of Lee and Clem… soooo emotional.
Melissa: I have three. The salt lick scene in Episode 2, the haircut and gun training in Episode 3, and as SAD as it was, the final scene in Episode 5.
Were there any funny moments during the recording process?
Dave: Lots… during a particularly grisly scene I asked writer Gary Whitta if his mother knew he was writing such “sick shit”… we all had a good laugh… and then he quoted me on Facebook and in magazine interviews all over the world… Okay, guess you had to be there. Suffice it to say, although we worked hard, we had a great time doing it. Lots of laughs.
Melissa: Oh yeah. For sure. Beyond the serious content of the game, and when we are not recording, it is nothing but jokes, sarcasm, and just plain crass behaviour. It’s like a truck drivers’ convention. I am pretty sure Jory has a nice stash of ‘Clementine’ saying some pretty crude things…
David, do you ever call Melissa “sweet pea”? Who came up with that nickname for Clementine? It’s perfect.
David: Ha! No. I don’t call Melissa “sweet pea”… but I might from now on! It was in the script… not sure which writer came up with it, but a pat on the back to him.
Congratulations to you both! David for winning Best Character Design at the Inside Gaming Awards and Melissa for winning Best Female Performance at the Spike Video Game Awards! The accolades just keep rolling in – did you expect the game to receive this much recognition?
Dave: I am still in shock. Melissa and I have called each other a few times just to try and wrap our minds around the acclaim for the game and for us as actors. It feels great and at the same time is a bit disorienting. I’ve gotten several hundred Facebook messages and Tweets from fans who just want to reach out and tell me how much this game and our performances have touched them.
Melissa: Thank you sooo much! Yes, I too am still in a state of shock! It all feels pretty surreal to tell you the truth. The fans of this game have been so amazing in showing us love, and support! The whole experience has been so humbling. And it just keeps on coming! This game MORE than deserves it! To have a game with such an amazing storyline, and so much depth… people are ready for this. This game is truly a ‘game changer’!
Did you get the chance to meet Robert Kirkman? What does he think of the game?
David: We got to meet Robert on the red carpet at the VGAs. He said he loves the game.
Melissa: Yeah, that was my star struck, geek out, moment of the night. I actually ran into him a few times that night. He is just so rad. He has an amazing brain. To create what he has created involves having an amazing brain. I’m pretty sure I told him that…
Melissa, I know you won’t be able to tell me anything specific – but do you know who the two figures are that were shown at the very end of Episode 5?
Melissa: Nope. I have noooo idea. And I am not just being stingy with information, I truly have no idea. I hope they are nice though…
Can you confirm that you’ll be returning for Season 2? Or do you not know for certain yourself yet?
Melissa: I cannot confirm nor deny that I will be in the next season. I hope so! I mean, they can’t just leave little Clementine alone! Honestly, I don’t think Telltale has it figured out yet either. I do know there are a lot of people out there who will be crushed, or better yet LIVID, if any harm comes to that little girl! Ha! That kinda sounded like a threat. Hey, if you know anything about The Walking Dead then you know that anything can happen… I mean Lee is dead for god’s sake!! Damn… it still hurts to say that.
David, you’re widely known as ‘The Hulu Guy’ – if you’re now known by gamers as ‘Lee Everett’, are you cool with that?
David: I am so cool with that. You can’t imagine how good it feels to be Lee Everett in The Walking Dead: The Game.
Why do you think The Walking Dead has connected so much with gamers?
David: I think it has connected because it touches them in real human ways. The game, more than anything, is about relationships and choices in life. You begin to see yourself in the choices you make, and even more than that, you come to care about the characters. That’s one of the two most common messages I hear from fans… “I’ve never been emotionally connected to the characters in a game before” and “Lee and Clem made me cry.”
Melissa: It’s different. It’s real. It’s engaging. It’s an intelligent game! A lot of games are kind of mind numbing. This game is social and interactive, and even though it is still quite violent, there is compassion and a ‘human’ quality to it. I’m glad it is this successful! In a weird way, it kind of gives me hope.
Would you like to work with Telltale Games again in the future?
David: Of course. All they have to do is call! I love their approach to gaming. Future games are going to do everything they can to get a bit of that Telltale magic.
Melissa: You better believe it! I of course hope to continue on with Clementine, and The Walking Dead, but would love to be involved with all of their projects! I have been working with Telltale for some years now, and hope to keep it that way!
What’s next for you both?
David: More of the same… I’m a voice actor, so it’ll be more voice acting. I’m part of a very cool project, ‘Anomaly’, the world’s biggest graphic novel with pages that come to life through iPod/Android apps. I’ll be on several more games including Starcraft, Warcraft, and Skyrim. I’ll be voicing TV promos, movie trailers, commercials, cartoons, and even a couple of audio books.
Melissa: Again hopefully more Walking Dead! I am also working on an animated series called ‘The Space Racers’, which won’t be coming out till 2014. Other than that, hopefully this time next year there will be lots more games and animation!
Thank you for your time! I honestly believe that The Walking Dead is a masterpiece that has raised the bar for interactive storytelling. I feel incredibly privileged to have spoken to you both throughout this year – congratulations once again!
David: Thanks Martin. It is my honour to be interviewed by you. By the way, you just called TWD game exactly what it is: ‘interactive storytelling’. It was expected that interactive storytelling would have come from the movie industry or television. How interesting that this, the best example of how it should be done, comes from the world of games. THIS GAME CHANGES THE GAME! I invite all to friend me on Facebook, ‘Like’ my fan page ‘Dave Fennoy Voice Actor’, and follow me @davefennoy. Hope to be working on more projects worthy of an interview in these pages soon. All the best to you and your readers.
Melissa: Oh… thanks Martin! I feel privileged to be here!! To be able to spout on about the success of The Walking Dead is an honour in itself! Thank you for being an outlet for that. Being a part of this game has been such an amazing experience, and I am just beyond psyched to be a part of it! Thanks again, and hopefully see you in Season 2??
Thank you Dave and Melissa! The Walking Dead is undoubtedly AMO’s Game Of The Year I can’t wait to interview you both again in the future!
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)
GAME REVIEW – The Walking Dead: Episode 5 – No Time Left (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)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Erin Ashe (Molly, The Walking Dead: The Game)