By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – Faith (PC), describing it as “without question an experience worth investing in.” Of particular note was Adam Harrington’s performance as Bigby Wolf, played “with just the right amounts of menace and suave.” AMO is therefore proud to present yet another exclusive online interview with the hugely talented Adam Harrington (we interviewed him last year about his role as Andrew St. John in The Walking Dead: The Game), the voice of Bigby Wolf and The Woodsman in Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us!
Hi Adam, thank you for your time and welcome back to AMO!
My pleasure Marty! Love your interviews. I’ve learned a lot of juicy stuff about my voice actor friends by reading them. Things I never would have known without your in-depth probing!
How have you been and what have you been up to since I interviewed you last year?
I’ve been fantastic! I have been getting a lot of work, including tons of gaming VO which is always nice. I’ve not only been working on The Wolf Among Us (and 400 Days) this year, but lots of other cool stuff too… most of which I can’t tell you about just yet unfortunately. Gaming VO gigs are my favourite kind, nothing else even comes close (I guess most of the excitement for me stems from being a gamer myself).
I also still build showcase reels for other voice actors as a little side-job/hobby. I’ve built a few more reels since we last talked, including some big names in gaming/anime VO:
Aside from gigs and reel building, I’ve also started a new project this year that I’m very excited about! My ridiculously talented buddy Erik Braa (voice of Danny, the prisoner on the bus in 400 Days, Draven & Jax in League of Legends, and hundreds more) and I started up a fan driven video game voice acting themed YouTube show called ‘In the Booth With Adam & Erik’.
The Wolf Among us has just been released to rave reviews from critics and players alike – how did you become involved with the project?
Back before we started work on The Walking Dead Season 1, many of our little crew of Bay Area VA friends recorded a few sessions for Telltale’s first incarnation of The Wolf Among Us (still called ‘Fables’ at that point). I voiced a couple of very interesting characters who were ultimately written out after Fables was put on the back burner to make way for The Walking Dead.
Almost a year later, after the last chapter of The Walking Dead Season 1 was closed, Telltale decided to throw almost everything out and start Fables anew. Again, the usual suspects auditioned for the new and existing characters, and… after a very long, often tense auditioning/casting process… I was fortunate enough to book both the title character Bigby, and his long-time nemesis The Woodsman, AKA Woody.
Is it nice to be working with the Telltale team once again?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… some of my very best performances have been captured right there in Jory Prum’s ‘Studio Jory’ (http://studio.jory.org), while being directed by the aforementioned Julian Kwasneski and his partner Jared Emerson-Johnson (of Bay Area Sound http://www.basound.com). My fellow Bay Area voice actor friends and I have learned to love working with this amazingly talented group of audio-wizards (now joined by Studio Jory’s newest engineer/evil-genius, Timothy Galida). We’ve all become more like family than client/talents over the years, cultivating a synergy and trust that cannot be duplicated easily, if at all. We’ve become a well-oiled machine. One that just keeps churning out increasingly amazing performances with each successive project. Combine all that awesomeness with Telltale’s unparalleled character development, writing, direction and design etc., and it’s a can’t lose situation for all involved. Particularly (and most importantly) the gamers themselves. Telltale fans are extremely loyal, and are VERY knowledgeable when it comes to video game VO. They are also notoriously outspoken and have strong opinions when it comes to voice acting in games. Which made all the love I got from them that much more satisfying.
Marathon 6 hour VO sessions feel more like an hour. Always more like play than work thanks to the beautifully twisted minds of folks like Dennis Lenart, Nicholas Raymond Herman, Pierre Shorette, Ryan Kaufman, Mark Darin, Jason Latino, Sean Ainsworth… all the designers, programmers, animators & cinematic artists, right up to the baws-es Dan Conner, Kevin Breuner and Brett Tosti (not to mention our mutual buddy Job Stauffer and his partner Laura Perusco spreading the word far and wide). The list goes on and on. Simply put, Telltale is a dream client for a voice actor. Each character in every scene in every game, from Lee & Clem down to Bandit #3 and Bus Driver, is so well thought out… so layered / mysterious / complex / unique / obnoxious / creepy / lovable / terrifying / hilarious etc…. that the hardest work is already done before we VAs ever step foot in Jory’s studio. We know we’re in for a ride when it’s time to give voice to a Telltale character. They are remarkably adept at writing for the spoken word. You’d be amazed at the number of developers who place little value on voice acting in their projects… even some of the higher profile guys.
So yeah, you could definitely say it’s been “nice to be working with the Telltale team again”. In fact it’s been freakin’ FANTASTIC! Telltale’s ability to lovingly craft then flawlessly execute a compelling plot line within an interactive format is without peer right now. No other developer even comes close (although expect to see many attempts at recreating the ‘Telltale Magic’ in the coming months and years… good luck guys, you’ve got a LOT of catching up to do).
In the meantime… my mouth waters at the prospect of what they have in store for us in the coming years.
Had you previously read any of Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series?
Not until a few weeks before my first Woodsman session (I booked Woodsman before I officially booked Bigby, so we did his lines first). When I found out I was going to be voicing Andy St. John in the first season of The Walking Dead: The Game I decided to “scan the comics a little” for research purposes. A few days later I had finished the entire first ‘compendium’. I was sucked in quick. Same thing with Fables. The premise had me a bit sceptical but after reading the first few issues… I was hooked. I can’t get enough now. I’ve been through the first 11 volumes already. I plan on reading them all… in fact I’d be reading Vol. #12 now if everyone weren’t sold out. Apparently there’s been an increase in interest/demand since a certain game has debuted… heh heh.
My favourite Fables character is Jack Horner ‘Jack of Tales’ btw. I can’t help but love the guy’s swagger, even if said swag is unearned. Dude is a scoundrel, and I’ve got a soft spot for scoundrels. I sure hope he makes an appearance in the game. Cinderella too, she’s a bad@$$.
You voice the game’s main character, Bigby Wolf – how would you describe him?
Boy… how much time do you have? I could talk about this character for hours. Hell I’d need 10 pages just to address his feelings for Snow.
However, looking above and seeing how much I’ve rambled already (I pity you if you’re the one who has to edit all this blather) I’ll just say that I’d describe Fabletown’s scruffy sheriff as…
Big. Bad. Complex.
It must be a lot of fun playing a character that is so tough but not a hero in the traditional sense?
Yeah, it’s funny… I’ve spent most of my 15 year gaming VO career voicing the guy everyone loves to hate. I’ll audition for as many characters as possible in each game my agent sends me, but more often than not I end up booking the vilest, most evil of the bunch. Always the bad guy never the bride, y’know? I ain’t complaining though, trust me… most actors will tell you that the juiciest, most complex… hell let’s face it, the most interesting and fun roles, are the baddies. It’s just way WAY more fun to be the heavy. I mean c’mon… who would you really rather have a few beers and shoot the $#!+ with at your local bar… Luke or Vader?… Batman or The Joker?… Clarice or Lecter?
I rest my case.
I relish these roles, and am the first to admit that my voice lends itself to darker characters. Yet at the same time, the insecure actor in me was starting to wonder if I’d ever get MY chance to wear the white hat, save the damsel in distress, and finally… FINALLY not get whacked in the end.
Well, thanks to Bill Willingham (and subsequently Telltale games)… this Big Bad Good Guy drops into my life. Bam… a perfect fit! And well, “a lot of fun” doesn’t even begin to describe what the last few months have been like for me. This has been the gig of a lifetime, and I’m not taking a moment of it for granted. I am 1000% invested in this character and his story.
As previously mentioned, you also voice The Woodsman – how did you approach recording two separate characters who so closely interact with each other, often violently? The opening fight scene is awesome and you can’t tell it’s all voiced by the same guy at all!
I wish I could tell you that Harrington vocal gymnastics were 100% of the contributing factor behind the organic feel of these intense interchanges between two old foes, but most of the credit for the disparity between these two character voices goes to Julian Kwasneski at Bay Area Sound. I had already recorded all my Woodsman lines for Episode 1 before I ever booked Bigby. Usually I know in advance how many and which characters I’ll be voicing for a project. I’ll then work out with the client what sort of accents/tones/attitudes we’ll use to distinguish one character from the next. However, since I didn’t use any discernible accent (other than my own) for the initial Woody sessions, and because Telltale eventually booked me for Bigby based on my non-accented auditions (I also gave them two alternate Bigby reads, one with a classic New Yawk Private Dick vibe, and the other with a slight UK lilt)… we were faced with a bit of a challenge. Gamers (Telltale gamers in particular) are getting more and more savvy about (and critical of) voice acting in their favourite video games. And while I think this is a freakin’ FANTASTIC trend for the industry (love that the fans are getting more interested in the actors who portray these iconic characters), the newfound intense scrutiny/focus on performance can be terrifying for a video game voice actor…
“It’s so obvious that character A was voiced by the same dude who voiced character B. FAIL!!”
…waits around every YouTube ‘Let’s Play…’ comment section.
Particularly when first taking on an iconic established character like Bigby Wolf.
In the end, even though I read Bigby and Woody as two very different guys, with their own distinct pace, tone, cadence and attitude… the fact that they were both voiced by the same actor was juuuuuust detectable enough to make it necessary for JK to work some of his audio magic to finish the job. He very subtly tweaked and pitched my Woody takes until he found the perfect formula… NOT an easy task.
On top of his audio acrobatics, I’m still relying on his (with the help of Jared Emerson- Johnson’s) directorial guidance to keep me in that magic place for both characters in each subsequent session. If Woody starts to drift into Bigby territory (or vice versa), the boys at Bay Area Sound, as no one else can, steer me right back on course (or should I say “whip me” back on course?). We’ve built a symbiotic relationship over the years, and it’s no coincidence that the character work Bay Area Sound has elicited from me at Studio Jory is some of the best (if not THE best) I’ve ever done. Period. JK is the Scorsese to my De Niro.
I loved your work as Andrew St. John in The Walking Dead: The Game, but your performance as Bigby Wolf huffed, puffed and blew me away. In my review, I said how: “It’s delightful to see a highly gifted voice actor getting such a meaty part and successfully ripping chunks off it with every single line spoken.” Other reviewers have been similarly impressed – do you pay attention to the reviews and how does such a positive response make you feel?
First off… “It’s delightful to see a highly gifted voice actor getting such a meaty part and successfully ripping chunks off it with every single line spoken” will headline all of my future testimonials/resumes from here on out.
As far as reviews go, all the praise from the gaming media certainly does wonders for the ol’ ego, but the opinions that hold the most weight with me, the only opinions that truly count when all is said and done, are those of the fans themselves. I do this for the gamers, they are my bosses. And I ain’t gonna lie, right up until the release of Episode 1, I was more than a little nervous. To be perfectly honest I was a complete wreck. Not only was this my first ever starring role (hell TITLE role) in a high-profile game… but I was also handed the herculean task of giving voice to a character who has already been a beloved established icon to millions of comic book fans for over a decade (most of whom couldn’t help but cultivate their own version of Bigby’s voice in their heads as they got to know this character over the years).
And while we’re at it… let’s throw in the fact that this was to be Telltale’s follow-up game to the juggernaut that was The Walking Dead Season 1. Expectations… from ALL sides… were inevitably sky-high.
So yeah, once all the great reviews (and again, more importantly, the unadulterated love from the fans) started to come in… well sir… the giant exhale emanating from Casa De Harrington could be heard three counties over. One of the best weeks of my life. Very easily could have been one of my worst… so yeah… whew!
You’re a veteran voice actor – would you say this is one of your biggest voice acting roles to date?
Yes. The popularity of my five League of Legends champions continues to astound me (and continues to grow), but the opportunity to headline ANY Telltale game, much less one of this scope and quality…
Becoming Bigby Wolf has been the highlight of my voice acting career to date. And the game’s only just getting started.
The Wolf Among Us serves as a prequel to the Fables comic book series. How careful is Telltale Games being when it comes to keeping everything authentic and canon?
Well, I hear Telltale has got a new guy on quality-control/fact-checking who is fairly well qualified. A young go-getter named Willingham? So yeah, pretty safe to say we will safely remain 100% cannon.
We’ve been friends on Facebook for a while now and it’s always nice to see you hanging out with your fellow voice actors. Did you get to record with any of them this time round, or is it still very much a solo affair?
No, gaming VO is almost always done solo. The logistics of dialog placement in games, particularly Telltale’s branching style of dialog, renders ensemble performances unrealistic, almost impossible really. However I DID have (and continue to have) the luxury of hearing many of my cast-mates’ lines fed to me during The Wolf Among Us sessions. Not only does this aid my performance, it also reminds me on a daily basis what ridiculously talented voice actors I’ve been lucky enough to work with here in the Bay Area over the years. I have shared billing with these fine people on too many projects to count. Folks like Gavin Hammon (voice of Beast/Magic Mirror/Dee & Dum), Melissa Hutchison (Beauty/Toad Junior), Brian Sommer (Colin the Pig), Cia Court (Faith), Chuck Kourouklis (Toad/Bufkin), Erin Yvette (Snow White), Roger Jackson (Ichabod Crane), other VERY familiar names I can’t mention yet…. (the list goes on and on)… these guys ALWAYS deliver the goods, and hearing their epic performances in my cans throughout this process has certainly motivated me to step up my game. I’m trying my hardest for them just as much as anyone else. Perhaps even more so. It may sound corny, but these folks are my buddies, and I don’t want to let them down.
I feel truly blessed to be able to call these amazing talents my friends… along with all the other usual suspects: Erik Braa, Owen Thomas, Dave Fennoy, Nic Vigil, Nicki Rapp, Doug Boyd, Rebecca Schweitzer, Terry McGovern, Thessaly Lerner and of course my mentor Susan McCollom… I KNOW I’m blanking on some very important names here, and will deeply regret not mentioning them the moment you post this… but I love ‘em… each and every one of ‘em… and we have all done some absolutely spectacular work together. With the best yet to come no doubt.
Be honest: would you have shared your drink with Colin the pig?
Yes… mostly because there’s a chance Brian Sommer will read this… Brian is a LOT bigger than me.
I love the scenes featuring Mr Toad, his dialogue is brilliant! What’s your take on the character?
It just so happens that my very first Bigby session was Toad’s scene. From the first moment I heard Chuck Kourouklis’ lovably cantankerous cockney amphibian spewing obscenities that could only be cooked up in Peter Shorette’s and Ryan Kaufmann’s beautifully twisted minds… I knew I was in for a hell of a ride. And that I’d have to be at the top of my game to keep up with Chuck and the rest of me VA mates.
He’d better have that glamour by now though, or we’re gonna hafta have a little talk…
How would you describe the relationship between Bigby and Snow White?
Towards the end of Episode 1, Grendel messes with the wrong wolf. In Bigby’s shoes, would you have shown him mercy?
In a word… “fetch” (that will make more sense after you play dear reader).
I know your lips are sealed (and rightfully so!) when it comes to what will happen next – but have you started recording for the second episode yet? Should players be excited? I certainly am!
Yes we have, and hell yes… y’all should get pumped. Prepare yourselves… things have only begun to get interesting in Fabletown. The best is yet to come.
Telltale has also just announced The Walking Dead: The Game – Season 2! Will you be involved with this project?
Points for trying Martin… but my lips ARE sealed. I will tell you this… The Walking Dead Season 2 will NOT disappoint. Expect to make hasty decisions that will haunt you for the rest of your life… and on into the next one.
You mentioned your YouTube show ‘In The Booth With Adam & Erik’ earlier on – what’s it all about?
In each episode we answer some of the fan’s most upvoted questions/comments/topic ideas from the comment section of each previous episode. The #1 most upvoted commenter always wins a prize (always a VERY cool prize) AND a Skype conversation with Erik and me. The winner is then encouraged to record the session and post it on their own channels/pages.
We have regular contributor segments, including:
– Our good buddy Owen Thomas (voice of Omid in The Walking Dead, Twisted Fate & Viktor in League of Legends and hundreds more)
-Stephanos Rex (an up-and-coming voice actor who has become a YouTube celebrity through his League of Legends themed videos, including impressions of League of Legends champ voices and “how to” VO engineering stuff)
…and of course, our newest contributor…
– Julian Kwasneski (Founder of Bay Area Sound and VO director for The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, many other Telltale games and lots of other gaming VO/audio productions). Getting Julian on board was a huge coup for us, he’s got invaluable information from the perspective of the guy on the other side of the glass.
He also happens to often be the one who listens to our auditions and decides which actors to book. Erik and I learned a ton from the first instalment alone, so along with aspiring VAs, working actors will also want to listen very carefully to JK’s tips from the directors chair.
We also interview other voice actor friends, do some gaming VO related bits, offer helpful hints for aspiring (and working) VAs, and a lot of behind the scenes stuff. We include a fan art showcase segment every episode, and we’ve had some AMAZING submissions. There’s so much artistic talent out there in the gaming world. With each successive submission, my mind is blown a little more. Awesome fan art never gets old.
So far we’ve received very positive feedback from a rapidly growing audience (one of our episodes still has zero dislikes… no small feat in this, the golden age of internet trolling). The fellas and I are all stoked about the future of this show. If you or someone you know are interested in video game voice acting, or any other type of voice acting for that matter, you really should check out and/or share the show:
Each and every episode we offer a plethora of extremely useful information for aspiring VAs and working VAs alike (or just fans of video game VO who want to know more about the work). The answers to all of your burning VO questions can be found ‘In the Booth’.
Our latest episode features an interview with our good friend Dave Fennoy that we think viewers will find particularly insightful. Dave is the voice of Lee Everett in The Walking Dead (and about a thousand other HUGE gaming characters)… not to mention the voice of Hulu. As I said to Erik after the segment… “I want to be Dave Fennoy when I grow up”. That dude is the real deal… and waaaaay more kind/generous/genuine than any actor of his stature and status has a right to be. I guess Dave never got the “OK you’re a big star so it’s time to start snubbing people, and behaving like a pompous ass” memo. And we love him for it.
Thank you for your time! I think your performance as Bigby Wolf will be career defining for you and I can’t wait to play the next episode!
The pleasure is ALL mine I assure you Martin. Thank YOU… and a special thanks to the vigilant few readers who have endured my incessant ramblings, remaining with us this far into the interview. Nothing a narcissistic actor loves more than the opportunity to go on and on about themselves… ad nauseam.
I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far with The Wolf Among Us, and I am even more excited about the work to come. Bigby is a once-in-a-lifetime role, in a once-in-a-lifetime game. I plan on savouring every heart pounding moment of it. I’ll be sharing more of my experience on ‘In the Booth With Adam & Erik’ as we move ahead with production of future The Wolf Among Us episodes. Stay tuned!