By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 3: Above The Law, describing it as “a strong reminder that, despite juggling multiple franchises, The Walking Dead is where Telltale truly shines.” A large amount of this new season’s success can be directly attributed to the fantastic voice acting. AMO is therefore delighted to present an exclusive online interview with the lovely voice actor Shelly Shenoy – the voice of Kate Garcia – where we talk about her acting career to date and all things The Walking Dead: A New Frontier!
Hi Shelly, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hey Marty! Thank you so much for having me. This is awesome! How are you?
I’m good thanks, hope you are too! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
Haha, sure, hi readers! What would you like to know? I’m happy to have an online Q&A over, like, a live Facebook session sometime, just say when Marty. But for now let’s start with some fun facts that people might not know about me.
When I was a kid I was weirdly good at things like throwing a football, playing baseball and archery. I guess it’s not that weird, I have three older brothers, so playing with dolls wasn’t really an option until my little sister was born. When I was 16 my mom gave me the choice between learning how to drive or learning how to fly. I chose flying, of course. I ended up going to aviation school and learned how to fly a plane before I learned how to drive.
I live in New York City now. I moved here by myself with no money, no friends and definitely no connections of any sort just a few short weeks after Sept 11th, the first week of 2002. By 2004 I was sick of waiting tables, babysitting etc. to make ends meet. My boyfriend at the time suggested working where the money is, in order to make the money. So I took up a job as an executive assistant in the corporate offices of a well-known financial company.
I had an all female sketch comedy troupe at the time called ‘The Brothel’. We did well – got a spread in Time Out New York, won The Funniest Week in Chicago by 2007 – but starting in finance in 2004 was the same year I got my very first voice over audition, which I booked. When the financial collapse happened in 2008 (not my fault, I swear) I had hustled hard in the VO industry, I had an agent, and I decided to hustle even harder for a full-time acting and voice over career. I never looked back.
You started acting at a very young age – was this something you were always interested in pursuing?
Yes. It’s why I took the chance, moving to New York as young as I was. It was a huge risk, but all I ever wanted was a career as an actor. They say “if you want to ride the waves, you first have to put yourself where the waves happen.” I knew I had to make it in New York. I knew it was where the waves happened.
How did you make the transition to voice acting?
The Brothel (my sketch comedy troupe) had been asked in 2004 to perform with a bunch of other up and coming NYC comedians at this MTV event. We did the show and worked with some big names, like Nick Kroll, Eric Andre and Nick Stevens (they weren’t big names then, though, they were just “the other comedians” at the time). A few cast members were voice over actors. I became friends with one of them, Lloyd Floyd. He insisted I was a voice over actor. I said “Are you sure about that?” he said “I know one when I hear one. You’re a voice over artist.” A few weeks later he called me and said I had to come with him to a voice over audition. I went with him. I booked it. Turns out, he was right.
How would you describe the difference between acting on camera (or stage) and voice acting?
Acting on camera is insanely different. You don’t get to use your face very much, and in training sometimes they’ll put tape on your eyebrows so you can feel the needed facial control for acting in front of the camera. In the theatre and on stage, you’re using your whole body, and your voice – only it’s typically projected. For the microphone and voice over work, you are using pure voice. Nuance, control, layers, walla, mic technique from grit to intimacy, different mics for different gigs – you’ve got to know the equipment, and know your instrument, and know how to use them together. And you can use your eyebrows as much as you want.
You’ve previously provided voice work for a number of Telltale games, including Batman and Game of Thrones. How did you become involved with the studio?
My very first job with Telltale was when I put a loop group together and booked the audition to create and direct the loop group for Game of Thrones, which then led to Minecraft, then The Walking Dead: Michonne, then Batman.
What is a ‘loop group’? 🙂
A loop group is a group of actors I’ll cast to work in the booth with me to audibly create scenes containing several (to huge) amounts of ancillary characters. I direct with hand signals to the actors based on what’s being asked for, and we’ll create 10 second to 60 second clips of audio work that matches picture that can later be looped to sound like even more people. For instance, if it’s a large crowd of high-end aristocrats in a gala scene in Batman, we play the crowd, mingling over champagne. If it’s a pit of angry villagers in Game of Thrones we are the angry screaming villagers, or if it’s a sea of a hundred people in a crowd watching tennis in Minecraft, we’re all those people cheering on Jesse and ordering popcorn and soda, etc. We create the ambiance by listening to the director of the scene with Telltale, and I physically direct (conduct) from inside the booth getting more (or less) from the members of the group as needed to create the perfect recording. We create loops of audio that match the scene, the number of people, and the emotion of the crowd as per each circumstance.
Most recently, AMO’s readers will have heard you as Kate in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. I think you’ve been doing a wonderful job with this character! Did you have to audition for the part?
Oh my gosh, thank you Marty. I love that you’re playing and I love that you love Kate! I love her too. And yes, I auditioned for the role at the beginning of last summer.
How would you describe Kate’s character?
The Kate I originally auditioned for is not the same Kate you know now, and the writers and directors at Telltale will back me up on this. She not only started as someone completely different, she looked completely different too!! But Kate developed into who she is now over a trial and error process at the very beginning. And my god, I love her. On the surface, Kate is a woman who is afraid, who is worried, who is sceptical. She’s someone who wasn’t confident enough to decide certain things for herself, because she couldn’t trust herself. She used to be someone who could be told what to do. But the real Kate is a woman who knows what she wants. She is fearless. She is smart as a whip, funny, brave, and a total MacGyver. She is, and always has been, the jack of all trades. She just hasn’t always known it.
How would you describe her relationship with Javier?
Complicated, vulnerable, passionate, honest, real.
Do you trust David?
You mean does Kate trust David or does Shelly trust David? Neither of us do.
How does the recording process work? Do you record your lines alone or with the other voice actors?
We almost always record alone. And depending on who is in the scene and if that actor has already recorded that scene, then they’ll play us the other actor’s lines. Occasionally I’ll see one of the cast members in the waiting room at the sound studio in NYC. I have a few pics on my Instagram with myself and a few other cast members. But at the very beginning, Jeff (Javi) was the last one to join the cast. On my second or third recording session for Kate they had me in the booth rigged with cameras in NYC, and Jeff set up in Los Angeles with cameras. The directors were up in San Francisco, they could see us, and Jeff and I could see each other on the screens. Reading with Jeff live that day was one of my favorite recordings for Kate in the last year. I snuck a photo of the TV screen – you can see Jeff, me, and it has the old model of the first draft of Kate, and the first draft of Javi too. One day I’ll share it on Twitter or Instagram – the pic still blows my mind.
Are you a gamer yourself? Have you played the episodes released so far?
I’m a gamer… to an extent. If I had more time I’d play more regularly. I’ve played episodes 1 and 2 of Season 3 a few times. I’m playing Episode 3 tomorrow and Episode 4 this week!
Are you a fan of The Walking Dead TV show and/or comic books?
The zombies on the TV show scared the crap out of me. I could only watch a few episodes. I have never read the comic book. I love the show, and love the entire Walking Dead family more than anything. I respect, love, and admire the true fans and their commitment to it. Especially the fans that create their own artwork. I’ve seen a few fan drawings of Kate that I’ve kept as screen savers, I love them so much.
What’s next for you Shelly?
I’d love to work on Guardians of the Galaxy with Telltale. I can’t tell you how much I loved working on The Walking Dead and how close I became with the crew. I know I’ll be working with them again soon. I also have a few projects in the works with another video gaming company. I can’t say anything else about it now, but it’s pretty exciting stuff. As for other upcoming projects, occasionally they’ll be listed on IMDB before they’re announced anywhere else, so be sure to poke around there every once in a while for new info!
I just wanted to take a moment to quickly say that I loved your voice acting in the old-school pixel-art point-and-click adventure game Shardlight last year, as I’m sure you could tell from my review: “Shelly Shenoy in particular is superb as Amy, remaining endearing throughout even when she has to do the unspeakable.” Was that a fun game to work on?
I love that you loved Shardlight!! And yes, of course I remember reading your review. I never got a chance to reach out after reading that, so I’d like to say thank you now. Thank you!
Dave Gilbert and Wadjet Eye Games are family to me, and of course working on Shardlight was a blast. I love working with Dave – he’s a great dude and a good friend. Wadjet Eye Games was where my acting in the video game world began over a decade ago!
Thank you for your time – I can’t wait to hear you again in Episode 4! 🙂
Marty thank you for being dedicated to the gaming world! Thank you for inviting me here. I’d love to come back and say hi in the future, and if you ever do a live Q&A with the fans, count me in. Also, buckle up. Episodes 4 and 5 are going to melt your face off.