By Marty Mulrooney
Following the emotional conclusion of The Walking Dead: The Final Season – and Alternative Magazine Online’s recent interview with Nicki Rapp, the voice of fierce survivor Lilly – AMO is proud to welcome back award-winning voice actress Melissa Hutchison for yet another exclusive online interview where we discuss all things Clementine, including whether she would like to revisit the character in the future…
Hi Melissa, thank you for your time and welcome back to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hello Martin!! It is great to be back! I most certainly always look forward to chatting with you.
Our last interview was just over two years ago in 2017; time certainly flies! What have you been up to since we last spoke?
Wow has it really been two years?! Where does the time go! Life has been pretty good these last two years. Most certainly there have been bumps in the road… but all in all I have been working on some very cool new projects, and of course wrapping up my time with Clementine.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season recently concluded and I thought your acting was – as always – incredible. You’ve been voicing Clementine since 2012; how did you feel when you realised this would be the final season?
Thank you Martin. I know you have been on this journey form the get-go, so I really appreciate your kind words. 🙂 The fact that this was the final season kind of hit me in waves. In fact I am still wrapping my head around it, and the final episode was released a few months ago! There were most certainly some very REAL moments of holy crap!?! Is this really the end of my time with Clem!? Usually those moments happened in the studio, while recording certain emotional scenes.
What is Clementine’s state of mind as The Final Season begins?
She is in mom mode! Haha! Clem has found AJ, who is now 5 or 6 years old, and they have been on the road for quite a while surviving by themselves. She is FULLY capable of keeping them both safe, whilst teaching AJ the rules of survival, but she is ready to find a place to settle, and a community to do that with. It was a cool shift going from Season Three Clem, who was a lot harder, to Clem who is still super badass but also very tender and loving with AJ. I like to say Season Three Clem was the closest she got to a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry mode.
How would you describe Clementine’s relationship with AJ?
Clem loves AJ as though he were her own child. It’s tricky because obviously she is still very young, and stepped into the role of caregiver at an even younger age! AJ was born into the zombie apocalypse. Unlike Clem, that is the only world he knows. It is difficult for Clem to keep the lines straight with him at times. He gets confused between what is right and wrong. Clem does her best to guide him, but he is coming into being his own person, and wanting to make his own choices.
There are some beautiful nods to Clementine’s relationship with Lee throughout The Final Season. Do you think he would be proud of her?
This final season was an incredible homage to the relationship of Lee and Clem, and the magic of Season One. It was actually quite full circle. I think Lee would be incredibly proud of the young woman Clem has become. One of my favourite scenes to record was the dream sequence on the train with Lee (Dave Fennoy). When Clem needs reassurance and guidance she travels to this space to commune with Lee. I LOVED how that scene played out. It was very emotional.
What was it like working with Nicki Rapp again? I thought your scenes with her were awesome!
I was sooooo thrilled when I found out Nicki and Lilly were coming back!! The door was wide open for her character to come back, and boy howdy she most certainly came back as a baddy. The scenes between Clem and Lilly were awesome! Plus I absolutely LOVE Nicki! We go waaaaaay back. She is one of the first friends I made in the Voice Over world!
Of course, halfway through The Final Season it was announced that Telltale would be closing its doors. Where were you when the sad news broke and how did you end up hearing about it?
Well, as it turns out, I was in the middle of a recording session for the final episode. Jack Fletcher, the director, had me start the session with the very final scene between Clem and AJ. It was a very emotional scene for me to record. It was really then that it hit me that it was coming to an end, and THEN it really did come to an end. Abruptly and suddenly. It was like a light switch being turned off. Myself and everyone in the studio were stunned. We did not know what was happening. I left the studio and called a good friend who was at Telltale, and he confirmed that they were shutting it down. Needless to say I spun into a world of crazy sadness. I cried till it hurt, and then I cried some more. I had lost Clem. My good friends had lost their jobs, and a game company I had worked for from my early days of VO acting had shut down. Telltale Games was a beautiful thing. The creative teams of people who worked there, past and present, were a beautiful thing. They inspired the future of story-driven, character rich games. And I will ALWAYS be so proud that I was a part of that.
I was devastated to hear the news as I’ve been covering Telltale on AMO since 2009 when the site launched; many of the developers are my friends on social media and it was heartbreaking to read their messages. Did you believe that The Final Season would remain unfinished?
The messages from the Telltale folks were so heartbreaking. It’s one thing to get laid off with no severance, in the Bay Area which is NOT cheap, but it’s another thing to spend so much time and energy working so hard on a project just to see it unfinished. And ya know, I don’t say this often, but the social medias at that time were such a great place to start the healing process. So many voices of love reached out. Game companies and folks in the industry posted job listings, people shared memories of their time with Telltale, or favourite scenes from a Telltale game, and the fans, the amazing wonderful fans sent so many messages of love to myself and the Telltale family. I cannot express how much that meant to me. As for whether I thought the game would be finished, I did not think it would.
It must have been such a relief when Skybound Games stepped in to complete the final two episodes. What was it like working with them?
It’s crazy, because for some strange reason, I never even considered Skybound stepping in to save the day!?! And when that happened I was like duh… of course! That is the only thing that makes sense! Clementine is a huge part of the Skybound/Walking Dead universe! They weren’t going to let her go out like that! AND what was the most important aspect to them taking over, is they hired back as much of the final season crew from Telltale as possible! They aptly took on the name the ‘Still Not Bitten’ crew. That meant the world to me. And of course all the folks at Skybound and Skybound Games were super psyched to be working with all of us. Everyone was so amazing, and generous. It was all very exciting. And of course when I got back in the booth to actually and truly finish my work with Clem, the tears that were shed this time were definitely those of gratitude, and happiness.
Did you already know how the season was supposed to end before Skybound stepped in? Or was Clementine’s fate a complete mystery until you recorded the final two episodes?
I, for the most part did not know exactly how the game was going to end, until close to the final episode records. I wanted to keep it that way so as not to dwell or overthink the ending. It felt more organic to go through the motions with Clem in real time, if you know what I mean. And honestly not much was changed as far as the story goes and Skybound stepping in. They truly honoured the work the ‘Still Not Bitten’ crew had already put in.
I was so pleased that Clementine got a happy ending, as I’m sure you could tell from my review. Are you happy with how the story ended?
I love how the story ended. And I say that as a fan of the game. There is no reason why Clem shouldn’t still be alive, out there kicking ass in the zombie apocalypse. We lost Lee. But we get to keep Clem. And I also like that her and AJ are amongst kids their own age. Because as we know from past seasons, the adults she’s met along the way tend to muck everything up! 🙂
Would you like to revisit the character one day, or would you prefer to let this be a definitive ending?
Yes? I mean YES! I love Clem. It has been such a privilege to spend so much time with a character, and not only spend so much time, but to actually age with her! That is super rare in the VO world. So if the opportunity came around to reprise the role, and it was true to form to what Telltale created, than yes. But with that said, I feel completely satisfied with how the game ended. It feels complete.
What moments will you remember most fondly from your time voicing Clementine over the past seven years?
Oh man…There are WAAAAYYYYY too many to list. Getting to work with so many talented, creative, hilarious folks has been outrageously fun! Getting to meet and work with some of the most talented actors in this universe has been a blessing. And getting to meet and chat with, what I think is the best fan base for a game EVER, has been so rewarding. I hear some of the most touching stories from fans, on how this game got them through difficult times, or brought them closer together with friends and family, and all of the amazing cosplay and artwork I receive! It’s just so crazy cool!
What’s next for you Melissa?
I’m going to Disneyland! If you get that reference you’re old like me! Haha! No, but seriously, I am just continuing on with my Voice Over career, as I have been this whole time! I’ve got some cool stuff coming up, which I will of course talk about when I can. I have been very fortunate in this world of acting, and I will continue to push forward and create more characters for people to get excited about.
Thank you for your time! Clementine is undoubtedly going to go down in history as one of the greatest video game characters of all time; every time I interview you I feel truly honoured and I can’t wait to see/hear what you do next.
Thank you so very much Martin! As I said before, I am so glad you have been a part of this journey with Clementine and Telltale Games. It is always an honour and I truly look forward to the next time we meet!
Enjoyed this interview? Don’t forget to follow Melissa Hutchison on social media!