By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 4: Thicker Than Water, describing it as “a solid penultimate episode” with “so many rich character driven moments.” Following on from that review – and our recent chat with Shelly Shenoy, the voice of Kate García – AMO is proud to present yet another exclusive online interview, this time with Jeff Schine… the voice of Javier García!
Hi Jeff, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hey Martin. Glad to be here and thanks for having me.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
Sure. I’m from a small town in CT and been in LA for about 10 years. I love motorcycles, animation, sushi, anything mint, drums, piano, and video games. People that are rude to waiters drive me nuts.
How did you first get into acting?
I first got into acting at home actually. It used to just be a way to make my mom laugh. I would try to do weird voices and follow her around the house. In middle school I did a few plays and in high school did some community theatre. But I guess I really made the choice to turn it into a career at the end of high school. I majored in theatre in college and did a lot of short films with a production company and as soon as i graduated moved out to LA.
You’ve also made a promising start as a voice actor, bringing characters to life in games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Mafia III. How did voice acting compare to the traditional acting you’d previously done?
I’ve been loving my journey so far as a voice actor. Getting to work with studios like Telltale, Activision, and 2K has been a real joy. I came from an on-camera background and while the two are definitely part of the same language they are different skill sets. In a lot of ways the two are the same. You’re creating a character, you’re making emotional choices and going on an emotional journey.
What’s different are the tools you have to express those things. On camera I have my whole body. The way I look obviously has an affect on how the character comes across. When I’m doing voice over the only thing I have is my voice. That’s all I get. In some ways its actually really freeing. I’m not restricted by anything other than what you hear – unless of course it’s motion capture. In any case, I love it.
Most recently, you’ve been voicing Javier in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. I’ve been really impressed with this new protagonist so far – how did you get the part?
Thanks! Yeah The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has been awesome and I’m so glad you have been enjoying it. The story of how I got the part is actually really interesting. I dressed up as Javi, baseball bat and everything and drove up to Telltale’s studios. I barged into the office and did a monologue from ‘Step Brothers.’ There was no way they could turn that down. Actually…my agent just sent me an audition and I recorded it in my underwear.
What has it been like working with Telltale Games?
I feel pretty lucky. I have been able to work with some pretty amazing people over the years. I don’t have many horror stories from set… maybe one or two. But I gotta say TellTale is an AMAZING group… top to bottom. It has been one of my favourite projects to work on. From my engineers, to session directors, amazing writers, studio execs and producers everyone has been crazy supportive of me and super easy to work with.
They always have a clear vision but also give me a lot of freedom to play with Javi, improv a little, and really explore his edges. When you get into the studio everyone is clear that we are there to work and turn out the best story we can, but we always find the fun in it too. And I honestly feel all acting work requires a bit of fun and love. It’s the nature of the work, and I think it translates. I can’t say enough good things about Telltale. Just class. I guess that’s the best way to describe them… class.
How would you describe Javier as a character? How has the zombie apocalypse changed him?
Javi is a complicated guy. I think he’s got a healthy level of confidence, he’s direct, a little selfish. But also strong willed, honest, and sensitive. I think he’s got a definite moral compass. Before the apocalypse Javi was a lot more concerned about himself than anyone else. I think he always knew the difference between right and wrong, always knew that people expected more from him, but I think it was just easier to not make those hard choices. He was younger, an athlete, thought he had it made and was just sort of doing his own thing.
I just think he wanted to avoid responsibility. I don’t think there’s any question that he loved his family, it was just easier to live his own life. The zombie apocalypse changed Javi a lot. It was honestly the best thing that coulda happened to him in a weird way. He was thrust into responsibility, he was forced to grow up, to put others ahead of himself. He had to basically adopt a father role for his brother’s kids. I think adversity reveals character, not necessarily creates it… so I think these qualities were always in Javi, he just didn’t know how to find them. He’s a natural leader.
How would you describe Javier’s relationships with Kate (Shelly Shenoy) and David (Alex Hernandez)?
Oh Kate and Javi. Does it get more complicated than these two? They have been through a lot together. Essentially became a forced family but they really made it work. I think Kate’s personality and Javi’s are really compatible. They both care about each other, but what to do with those feelings…. well I guess that’s more for the player to decide. I really like what Shelly did with her.
As far as David I think they have a pretty normal relationship. I always had it in my mind that they were really close as kids… but as growing up does, they grew apart a bit. There is definitely a deep love there, even if its riddled with tension and arguments. Brothers are supposed to challenge each other, push each other to be better. I think they both just approach things very differently. In many ways they have the same qualities that just manifest themselves differently. Interestingly enough I think Javi is actually turning out to be the more dependable one.
The first season of The Walking Dead focused on the relationship between Lee Everett (Dave Fennoy) and Clementine (Melissa Hutchison). I’ve found it really interesting – and touching – to watch Clementine become more comfortable with Javier. How would you describe their relationship?
Clem is such a great character. It’s not shocking to me at all that the fans love Clem and Melissa. I actually think Javi and Clem are great together. Part of that is because I think Javi really respects her. I think the writers did a great job of giving us lots of moments where Javi treats Clem like an equal, like an adult, balanced with the undeniable reality that she is a kid. It’s easy to sorta forget that fact when looking at Clem because she’s such a badass… but at the end of the day, no matter how much experience she does have, she is still a child and I think Javi respects that. Because Javi is really honest with her and displays his own vulnerability and shortcomings I think it gave Clem the space to trust him more. He never begged for her trust, or demanded it, he really gave her the space to arrive at it on her own.
Had you played the previous seasons before taking this role?
I was always familiar with the franchise but never had a chance to play it. I did go back and watch the previous seasons though. I genuinely enjoyed them.
Have you had the opportunity to record with or meet the other voice actors?
I did have a chance in the very beginning to do a little group recording. I always prefer recording with other actors since so much of it is done on my own. Getting to play with another actor really helps. The cast is great. Shelly and I had a session early on and I think everyone got a kick out of finally having Javi and Kate together; and Shelly is a bad ass.
Alex, who plays David, I actually got to know well from working together on Mafia 3. He was the lead on that game and did a great job. We had a remote recording session together when I first came on TWD. Neither of us knew the other was on the project until his mug popped up on my monitor. He’s a solid guy, total pro.
If I remember Melissa and I had one short session together too, and yes, she is every bit as nice as you would hope her to be. Everything was done remotely but really nothing beats having the characters together. I gotta say I really like the cast on this game. All are super pro, really great people.
Are you a fan of The Walking Dead TV show/comic books?
I’ve binge watched almost all the seasons on Netflix. It was a pretty epic marathon… I’m behind this season though. I wasn’t too familiar with the comic book but I have plans to definitely check it out.
Javier has a very difficult relationship with his brother! Do you have any siblings in real life?
Yea… I have a younger brother and younger sister. Neither of them are as difficult as David. They are actually amazing people, we are all really close… I’d be friends with them even if we weren’t related. (Can you really capitalise that section, I think it’ll ensure me some great Christmas gifts!)
Is it difficult to record the more violent scenes, for example the baseball bat scene in Episode 3?
I don’t find those scenes any more difficult really. Sometimes the “efforts” can be challenging. That’s what they call those sounds when you are performing an action… like hitting, or getting hit, running, jumping, etc. Trying to get the right effort to match the movement takes a little practice, but I have a pretty good system.
What’s next for you Jeff?
I actually have a few games in the works at the moment and I’m working on some other projects on camera as well. I’m really excited about a few and hopefully I’ll be able to talk more about those soon. At the moment I’m not allowed to say much.
Thank you for your time – I can’t wait to play Episode 4!
Thank you…its been a lot of fun. I definitely appreciate the opportunity and all the love the fans have shown for this season… I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Hope you enjoy the rest of the season!!