The Walking Dead Cast Interviews
Actor Erin Ashe
Erin Ashe plays the role of Molly who appears in Episode 4 and turns out to be one of the best characters in the game. The fast talking, no nonsense Molly is a well written strong female character and after such a confident performance it was quite surprising to discover that this is actually Erin’s first major role.
This was a great chance for us to get a different view on the industry by talking to someone who is just starting out in the profession. After such a strong start we are sure that we will be hearing a lot more from Erin in the coming years.
A very broad open question to get us started but can you give us a little introduction to your background?
I was born and raised in good ol’ Petaluma, California. In kindergarten, I began performing in the annual talent show at school, ie: dancing to a 90’s hip hop version of “the Itsy Bitsy Spider” and doing the Charleston to the Squirrel Nut Zippers. In 6th grade, I became heavily involved in my local community theater, Cinnabar Theater, where I performed in their youth operettas and professional operas until I graduated high school. Freshman year of college, I attended NYU Steinhardt for Vocal Performance, concentrating on music theater. However, I quickly realized it was not the right program for me, so back I went to my local junior college. Now, I’m in the midst of my first semester as a third year student at UC Berkeley as a Theater and Performance Studies major. I finally feel like I’m in the right place, where I can be constantly inspired and assured that I’m receiving the education and training that works best for me and my aspirations as an artist.
I hear that you have only just started in the voice acting industry, how did you come to choose this line of work? And how lucky were you to land such a good role straight away?
Because I don’t have an agent, hearing about the audition was luck, being in the right place at the right time. Months back, even before the first episode was released, my boyfriend Nick Herman, a director at Telltale, told me there was a character in episode 4 that he thought I could voice well. At the time, the thought of doing voice over work was really intimidating; I hate cold reads and the idea of not having my physicality as a communicative tool was unnerving. Fast forward to August, I come home from a performance of Avenue Q to one of Molly’s Crawford monologues in my inbox. After reading it, I realized this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So, I submitted my audition into the pile that Nick, writer Gary Whitta and designer Andrew Langely, among others, narrowed down. My hopes weren’t high considering I had never done any VO or film work before, so when I received a callback, I was ecstatic. A few weeks later, I got the call that I landed the role in a Safeway parking lot. That was a great grocery shopping trip, to say the least.
Do you play video games? If so which genre is your favorite? If not have you played or at least watched someone play Episode 4 to see yourself in action?
As a kid, I grew up on Gameboy games like Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon Gold (even though I sucked at all of them). Now, I suppose I prefer PC gaming. I play a lot of Team Fortress 2 (I’ll destroy you as Heavy), Diablo III, Guild Wars II, Left 4 Dead, etc. I particularly enjoyed playing through Bastion, Half-Life 2 and both Portal games, to name a few. I’ve played nearly all of Telltale’s adventure games and I’ve been playing through the Walking Dead since the first episode was released (I am also a huge fan of the comics). Nick watches me play each episode, so there’s a lot of “psst, I chored this scene,” and “HOLY F-WHY IS THAT ANIMATION MESSED U-oh…oh nevermind.”
I guess like most other industries the recession is hitting the games industry quite hard too, did you find it hard to land your first role and how cool is it to land a role like Molly in a game as good as The Walking Dead as your first job?
As an aspiring actor, I was grateful to have a chance to experiment in a whole new area of the entertainment industry. But having that chance be on the Walking Dead project, and playing the season’s most hardcore zombie slayer? I couldn’t ask for more. I believe I had already played episodes 1 and 2 before recording for Molly, and I was not only impressed with the game itself (I, like many others, go into a week-long depression and cycle of choice-regret after each episode), but the voice acting was unbelievably and refreshingly wonderful. When VO artists are awesome, like Walking Dead awesome, you get sucked into a reality for three hours, feeling legitimate empathy for some pixels and vicious aggressiveness with others. I feel so lucky to work with and learn from the strong and powerful performances of the other artists on the VO team.
We are massive Telltale fans here. What has it been like working with them?
Perhaps I’m a little biased, but they’re amazing. While working with them at the studio, they created a welcoming and safe atmosphere, which was incredibly important to me being a newcomer to the entire process of voice recording. Voice actors are only one component of what makes these characters impactful and real. The writers, the artists, the animators, the chore artists, the directors…all of them are incredibly talented and work together to create emotionally expressive and physically impressive characters. Those folks at Telltale are pretty awesome at that.
Your Character Molly turns up in Episode 4 and makes a huge impact straight away. She is a strong confident female character. Can you give us any further insight into Molly?
With the apocalypse, Molly was thrown into much more responsibility than she had ever had before, though I believe she had always been witty and strongly independent. But she’s also young, and felt the weight of her sister’s life so much so that when she lost her, all of the energy that was dedicated to maintaining her sister’s health became displaced into sheer need for survival. Without the motivation to keep her sister alive, I don’t think she knows what she’s moving towards. She just knows she is capable of surviving, and works to continue to do so.
When you go to prepare for a character like this were you able to turn to the comics and TV shows for inspiration and I guess since Molly doesn’t show up until episode 4 you could have even caught one or two episodes of the game too?
Guilty confession: I’m really behind on the TV show; I’m somewhere in Season 1 (I know, I know). But I definitely turned to the comics. To me, Molly’s story in Crawford perfectly resonated with the tone of Kirkman’s comics. Part of what makes The Walking Dead so great are the quiet moments and subtle commentaries, but the moments when humanity is tested to the nearly-uncomfortable limit are when you are most reminded of the dangerous possibilities and effects of a post-apocalyptic world. I consider Michonne to be a bit of an inspiration; she’s always been one of my favorite characters in the comic because of her strength and because any toughness or perceived bitchiness is justified by how her past has affected her. That, and she and Molly share totally badass zombie slaying skills. Also, having been up to date on the game’s previous episodes before recording helped me to refine Molly in that all of the women in the game so far have been incredibly strong in their own unique ways, and I wanted Molly to continue that legacy while also being a fresh and different character. Random fun fact: to get into Molly’s mind, I listened to Metric’s album Fantasies before recording. That album was made for a zombie apocalypse and I love imagining Molly rocking out to it while bashing in geek skulls.
How much fun was it to play a character like Molly who really steals the show in Episode 4 and is up there as one of my favorite characters in the whole series?
Oh man, I couldn’t be happier that she’s been such a well-received character! Before recording, I was warned that Molly was Gary Whitta’s precious baby that he lovingly created and everyone was hoping for her to be a fan favorite (no pressure). I am ecstatic about Molly’s fanbase, but I have to give a great deal of credit for her awesomeness to Gary’s snarky comments and Molly’s awesome ninja skills via the creative team.
As this was your first VO gig how did you find the experience?
At first I was really nervous. It was my first time alone in front of a mic, my boyfriend and a successful screenwriter would be directing me, and I hadn’t read through the script yet. Also, between each line take, I could see the group of five guys chatting in the next room, but I couldn’t hear anything they were saying unless they wanted me to. I would do a line reading and then watch a bunch of dudes silently laugh for three minutes until Julian would tell me, “Great, next line.” It made me feel pretty self-conscious at first, but I quickly got over it. Later, I sat in on one of Melissa Hutchinson’s (Clem) sessions, and between takes they’re typically just talking about what kind of pizza they want for lunch or telling Star Wars jokes. Overall, however, it turned out to be some of the most fun I’ve ever had performing because of how free and experimental the environment is.
Did you record alone and is that a bit of a strange feeling talking to yourself?
I did feel a bit crazy yelling and telling my dramatic life story to no one, but I got more and more used to it as the first session progressed. I thought I would be most embarrassed doing the non-verbals (screams, grunts, breathing, etc) while just standing there alone in a small room, but it was the part of the session I enjoyed most. It’s amazingly therapeutic to scream like a zombie is chomping on your neck, although I did get a little lightheaded after recording several different types of heavy breathing!
Now that you have made your first steps into the VO industry what’s next for you? Have you any other exciting projects coming up?
I currently don’t have any projects lined up, although Julian has been amazing and has kept me in the loop audition-wise. Before my second session, I ran into Dave Fennoy who gave me some great advice on finding the right kind of voice coaching and training, which I’m working on now. I had a wonderful experience with VO recording, and would love to continue further with it.
To finish up as we are Ireland’s biggest Independent Video Game publication we do like to ask everyone if you have any connection to Ireland? Ever been? Or planning any trips soon?
Well, my name is Erin! I was named in respect to my grandfather, who was Irish Catholic and never let me forget my Irish heritage. I’ve unfortunately never been to Ireland, but I would love to and know I will make it out there eventually when I’m not in the dark depths of college life.