The Walking Dead Cast Interview
Actor Gavin Hammon
Gavin Hammon has been working in the voice acting business for around 8 years now popping up in a number of different supporting roles until Gavin recently landed the role of Kenny in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. This has marked the start of a remarkable run that will see Gavin appearing in the first 4 episodes (maybe 5), another two big upcoming sequels set to land this fall and becoming the voice of the new Furby!
Kenny is a character that has been rocked by tragedy and it is Gavin’s excellent performance that allows the player to really experience the full impact of his loss. We meet Kenny in the first episode, he along with his wife and young son are heading the same direction as Lee so they group up but in true Walking Dead fashion it is not too long before tragedy follows. So far he has made it to episode 4 but Kenny is falling apart he is racked with guilt and starting to cause problems in the group’s dynamic. It is anyone’s guess if he will make it to the end of the series…..
We recently got the chance to chat with Gavin about his work up to now and how he approached a character like Kenny in The Walking Dead.
A very broad open question to get us started but can you give us a little introduction to your background?
My name is Gavin Hammon and I’ve been a voice actor for about 8 years now here in the lovely San Francisco Bay Area. I mostly work on games and toys, which is great because I like both a bit too much. I’d like to tell you how many characters and games I’ve worked on, but honestly I’m really bad at keeping track of that sort of thing… I play Kenny in the Walking Dead The Game, at least through episode 3! Will I survive 4? I hope so!
And how did you get started in the world of voice acting?
I was in a band in the 1990s (a ska band called Dance Hall Crashers, we played in the UK with NOFX and did Reading a few times) and after we stopped playing I got into voice-over at VoiceTrax in Sausalito, CA. I had randomly heard about the place on the radio while working in construction. I’d always liked doing voices and accents and excelled at being unbearably obnoxious as a child, so it seemed a perfect vocational pursuit. After some years of classes, people started paying me!
Do you play video games? If so which genre is your favorite? If not do you play or at least watch someone play the games you have starred in to see how they turned out?
(and do you get a free copy of the game?)
I do play games, though I think I’m a minority. I’ve been playing games all my life and still play them as often as I can. I play mostly on PC (WoW, Diablo 3, TOR, Guild Wars 2) and Xbox (looking forward most to Borderlands 2). I don’t go out of my way to play things I’ve been in though. Walking Dead is one of the very few exceptions. I usually find it a little unnerving to hear myself in a game. But sometimes I do play them, and it really just depends on the game. I seldom get free copies of the game, though. Meh, we get paid well to do it.
Comparing voice acting to on screen acting do you think voice work is more difficult as you have to carry the whole role with just your voice and can’t fall back on things like body language or facial expressions to help convey emotions?
I think they’re apples and oranges. Voice actors get perks in that we have significantly shorter “shoots” than on camera actors. We get to flub and fix our lines when we screw up and we can do two or three of those gigs in a day, if we’re lucky. Personally, I think the emotional connections are all still there, or they should be, it is acting, of course. But yeah, it can be tricky to get something across only vocally, but that’s our job!
With the down turn in the industry have you noticed a dip in the amount of role available for voice actors?
Yeah, it’s been picking up a lot more this past year though, from what I’ve noticed. Many games are being cast in LA now, as opposed to up here in SF, but we have some great developers (like Telltale, Trion, EA) making good games out here, so we’re lucky in that regard. And we have excellent production companies as well (like Somatone) who do a lot of audio for apps as well as console and pc games. So, there are more and more opportunities these days.
What other projects have you worked on that our readers might be familiar with?
Well, I dunno, not much I suppose. Most of my work is less significant characters who yell things like “cover!” and “put the gun down, asshole!”. I was Stan in Telltale’s Monkey Island episodic though!
We are huge fans of Telltale, how did you find working with them? Are they as awesome as we all believe?
Yeah, they’re that awesome. The writers really tap into the spirit of whatever they’re working on, from the zany to the really kinda horrifying. It’s an honor to work with them, honestly. I was more excited to have booked Kenny than probably any other game I’ve worked on. I mostly work directly with Julian Kwasneski of Bay Area Sound who produce a lot of the audio for Telltale games and he’s always been awesome too.
How exciting is it to land a role in a game and then see that game do so turn out to be so good?
It’s a huge relief, honestly. It’s hard to know how something will turn out, because we’re working in isolation, so when it’s great, it’s really great!
On to The walking Dead: How do you approach a role like the one of Kenny in the Walking Dead?
I really just try to put myself in his shoes. I thought of Kenny as the father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, maybe 6 months earlier, not quite broken, he’s still got his family after all, and he’s still mostly willing to see the good in people, but pragmatically. Over the course of the game, obviously, my approach has had to change a little…
Did you turn to the comics or to the TV show to get a feel for the tone of the Walking Dead?
I’d already read the first couple trades years prior and I think the first season had aired by the time we saw the auditions for the game, so I was familiar with the feel of the Walking Dead, but especially the way the story can just jolt the crap out of you and how real and visceral it gets. I was fan before I had the pleasure to read for the part, so maybe I just had an advantage. And I love doing the accent…
Your character has a pretty hard time of it, do you feel for Kenny?
Little bit, huh? I do feel for him. Honestly I see his side pretty much across the board. I’m a parent too, and I can sympathize with his plight and such loss. He’s in a pretty bad way after episode 3. We just recorded episode 4 a few weeks ago and there’s tons of grief he may never work out.
What is the recording process like? And does it vary much from company to company?
Recording at Studio Jory is awesome. The facilities are lovely in a lovely part of Northern CA and the sessions are very relaxed and friendly. I’ve been working with Jory and Julian for 5 or 6 years now so it’s very comfortable. The scripts are usually fairly linear, but not always, so we get context from the director when things change, or when we need to be mindful of not talking too loudy and arousing walkers. It does vary from studio to studio and company to company. By and large it’s the same process though, just subtly different.
Do you record your own lines separately or do you ever get to record in a session?
We rarely ever record VO with other actors present. Sometimes, but 99% of the time, we’re solo, with little or no idea what anybody else’s takes sound like. It seems a little weird, but it works out okay.
Do you get to hang out with the other voice actors?
I do! I actually hang out regularly with Clementine, Omid, those creepy cannibal St John brothers, even Lily! We see each other so rarely at work and yet work on so many of the same projects, that we try to make time every few weeks to have beers and complain about things. (We really can’t ever complain about our jobs to anyone else.)
What’s next for Gavin Hammon? Have you any other exciting projects coming up?
Yeah, I’m in a couple AAA games coming out this fall. I’m not sure that either full cast list has been announced, but they’re both sequels, fairly deep into their respective franchises… Aside from that, most of my time has been put into Furby. Yes, love or hate it, I am the voice(s) of the new Furby, worldwide. Try not to hold it against Kenny, please?
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 here on holidays? Or planning any trips soon?
I’ve been to the UK several times touring with DHC, but I’ve never been to Ireland, I don’t believe. Does Scotland count? You guys love them, right? Seriously, I would love to go to Ireland, though, it looks beautiful.
If you would like us to include any contact details so our readers can keep up to date with what you’re currently working on.
Sure, feel free to like me on Facebook:
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