The Walking Dead Cast Interviews
Actor Melisa Hutchinson
Melisa Hutchinson joins us today for a chat about her pivotal role as Clementine in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Melisa has a number of big games credits to date including Sonic the Hedgehog, TellTales Back to the Future, League of Legends and, a favorite here at Bone-idle, Deadly Premonitions.
In Episode 1 of The Walking Dead, Clementine is found hiding out in her tree house when Lee stumbles into her back yard, and a strong bond is created straight away. Clem acts as Lee’s moral compass and perhaps his hope for redemption, he often looks to her for input on the right course of action, but as we saw in Episode 3 there is still more to come out about her story in the final 2 chapters. Her role through Episodes 1-3 has been a quiet one, but she has really started to come into her own in Episode 4.
Landing this role has been a dream come true for Melisa, as a huge Walking Dead fan, she was delighted to have made it through the tough audition process, and we are delighted to have had this chance to chat to her about her career so far, and to get a great insight into her thoughts on Clementine.
A very broad open question to get us started but can you give us a little introduction to your background?
I hail from good ol’ Springfield Missouri, land of hillbillies, bluegrass, and the Ozark Mountains! My Mom moved us out to San Francisco CA, in 1989, and I have pretty much been out here ever since. I love the Bay area! The culture, the weather, the food…it’s home sweet home, tho I do love my visits back to middle America:)
How did you start in the world of voice acting?
My start into voice over was a perfect mix of timing, dream manifesting, and a nice whopping serving of luck! Since my days of being a wee babe, I have always been creating voices. From creating characters for my stuffed animals, pets, people you name it, I would put a voice to it. In fact I still do that to this day! The difference now, by the grace of the gods, is I get paid to do so! My sister and I were always trying to perfect the voices we would hear in cartoons. We would also mimic actors on TV and in the movies. See Ma, all those hours of watching the boob tube actually paid off.
Throughout my teen years I was heavy into acting, and singing in musical theatre productions. I took off a chunk of time in my early twenties to do what most people do in their early twenties, drink beer and explore my existence, and then it occurred to me, that WHAT IF I could make a living doing what I LOVE to do? Fortunately the voice of God, that being my agent Nate Tico, answered this question by giving me the gift of representation at Stars the Agency here in SF. And so began my days of VO acting.
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?
(Do you get a free copy of the game?)
Oh man….for someone who works soo much on video games, you would think that I play them, but alas I don’t really play many video games at all. When I was a kid, we spent many an hour playing the Atari. Pong, Dungeons and Dragons, Pitfall, Frogger….and of course when Nintendo made its presence I played the hell out of Super Mario Brothers. Nowadays I get too stressed out playing video games. They are generally too complicated for my brain. I have done a lot of VO work on those “hidden object” games, and I did get sucked into that for a while. They are like a drug. Once you start it’s hard to stop ha ha. I am also playing The Walking Dead. Talk about stressful! Yikes. It’s pretty damn intense, and it’s also pretty damn good!! Youtube has been a great source for me to be able to see and hear my work without having to play the game, and 90% of the time we are not given a copy of the game, so it also saves some money ha ha.
I have always had the perception that being a voice actor is harder than the more traditional onscreen roles as you have to reply solely on your voice to carry the whole role and that you can’t depend on normal human interactions such as body language or facial expressions.
Is that a fair comment or do both professions have their own positives and difficulties?
I would say that’s a fair comment. There is still a lot of body movement, and facial expressions going on behind the mic. That part is the same. In order for something to sound real, and filled with emotion, you have to put the physical movement into action. Just be careful not to hit the mic:) The difference is, the majority of the time, we do not actually read the dialogue with the other actors in the same room, at the same time. We do not get to work off each other’s emotions. We have to hear the context of the script in our heads, and then perform the lines. We also do not get the scripts ahead of time, to look over or practice, so we are really hearing the story for the first time as we read. Often times the directors will help us out by reading lines with us. Julian and Jared, with Bay Area Sound, have been directing The Walking Dead, and they will read me in with Lee’s lines, and then I go for it. It is very helpful.
Do you think Voice actors get the recognition they deserve? It is often quite hard for the fans to put a face to the voice and although they could be huge fans they might walk past you on the street without recognizing you. (Although that might be a good thing too)
I often walk down the street and think about how many people around me have heard my voice, in a game, a toy, a commercial, hell even a car for that matter, and yet they have no idea I exist. It’s pretty wild. I want to get a shirt that say’s “I’m famous, and no one knows it”. When it comes to VO, I don’t mind being “invisible”. I truly LOVE my job, and am so grateful to be doing what I do, and that is good enough for me. And when I do get to meet fans it is of course awesome! People get such a kick out of hearing me voice their favorite character. It’s kind of mind bending for them. Of course, if I were able to morph into all the characters I play, then people would notice me walking down the street because, I would pretty much resemble a blond haired, green skinned, 8 year old boy/girl child, with big boobs, and arrows shooting out of my reptilian, space ship eyes. I would be hard to miss!
What other projects have you worked on that our readers might be familiar with?
Geez, there are quite a few…I will list some favorites of mine! Death Jr 2, the Root of Evil, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic and the Black Night, Tell Tales Back to the Future, League of Legends, Penny Dreadful’s Sweeny Todd, Deadly Premonition, and of course The Walking Dead. That’s just to name a few of the games.
Looking at the other games you have been in it’s clear a long and lasting relationship has developed with Telltale. How did you first start with them and do you still have to audition or do they now write characters with you in mind?
What is a normal day like when working with the team at Telltale?
Oh I love me some Tell Tale!! I booked my first gig in 2007, playing Stinky in Sam and Max. I had seen auditions for Tell Tale games come and go, but had yet to book one. So when I finally got in, I was PSYCHED! Every project I have worked on with them has been nothing but a good time. It’s a different kind of VO acting with Tell Tale. There is a lot of “realness” in the writing for the characters. It gives me a chance to put as much as I can into the performance and really get into the character. They always have such a stellar VO cast working on their games. It’s a real privilege to be a part of the process! All of the recording sessions take place at Studio Jory, in the lovely hippie haven that is Fairfax Marin. I don’t think I can truly call a recording session with them a day of work. There is a lot of laughter involved, a raunchy joke or two, and just general mucking about. But when it’s time to hit record we are all 100% head in the game.
As for whether I still have to audition for them…yes. Yes I do. My ego would love to believe that they have me in mind when writing ALL of their characters, but not so sure this is the case. I have to audition just like all the rest.
When you first sat down to start preparing for the role as Clementine how much did you know about the character and how much evolves throughout the process?
Did they have visual designs already made for her (video, gameplay footage) to help you get into character?
Oh little Clementine. I just love her so much. When I very first laid eyes on the picture of her they sent along with the script, I started to connect with her character. I could hear her voice in my head. We were given the first round of audition scripts, with a, brief personality description and their current situation in this horrible zombie apocalypse. Not too much information was given about the evolution of the character throughout the process of the game. I just knew that this little girl was going to be experiencing some crazy ass sh@#!! I read my little heart out for this audition! I felt like I totally nailed it! I sent it in. About a week later we were given another round of auditions. Ok, I can do this perhaps one more try is all it will take. Two weeks later, yet another round of auditions. Oh man, I guess I suck. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. At the point of completely letting go of getting the gig, I got the call that I booked it! Hallelujah amen. Might I also mention, that I am a HUGE fan of The Walking Dead to begin with! The comics, the show! Holy Hell this was a dream come true!
Clementine is a pivotal character in the series, although she is quite young she’s still very strong when you consider what she has gone through. What are your impressions of her?
My impression of Clementine is that she is just a really good kid. I think she was raised in an awesome, loving household. She was nurtured, but not spoiled or babied. Because of this, she is strong, caring, trusting, a reminder that there is still room for kindness, and still has the hopeful innocence of a child. She brings a glimpse of light into a very dark and hopeless situation. With Clementine in the mix, she gives a good reason to keep fighting the good fight.
Have you been able to have any input into Clementine’s character, or was she pretty well formed by the writers?
The writers painted a clear picture on how they wanted Clementine’s character to be played. I think that is why it was a grueling auditioning process. Clementine is a very special character. She’s a kid. Kids can come off as annoying. Sorry to any kid’s out there. I’m not speaking of you of course ha ha. The writers had a pretty strong tie to how they wanted her voiced, by the time I came along. Once we got started recording, I just honed in on her character and built a relationship of my own with Clementine. I think I was a lot like Clementine as a child. We have some similarities. Except for the whole end of the world Zombie apocalypse thingy, and I was probably a bit more of a smart ass.
The user has less of an input into how Clementine’s character is portrayed and while they can alter how Lee acts towards her they can’t change her too drastically. Does this make your job easier in some respects that she is pretty consistent throughout the game?
Ah yes, the bipolar Lee. Kind Lee, paranoid Lee, Angry Lee. Which Lee are we talking to now? Ha ha! When I play the game I always play him as” kind” Lee. In the game no matter how you play him, his relationship with Clementine doesn’t change that much. They are still a duo, and Lee’s ultimate goal is to keep her safe. Yeah, Dave Fennoy, whom plays Lee of course, must have a lot of fun with all of the range of emotion his character goes thru. Clementine doesn’t have nearly as drastic mood swings. Even when she is disappointed by Lee’s actions, or the overall actions of the group, her character stay’s pretty consistent. I wouldn’t say this makes my job easier, but I guess it does help to stay locked into her character. Voice Over is funny that way. In any given recording session a client might want you to play 7 different characters, and you have to be able to lose all inhibitions and just go for it! Sometimes the word “consistency” can be a not so good thing. That is yet another reason why it has been so nice to work with Clementine for this amount of time. We’ve bonded 🙂
What is the recording process like? Do you record with any of the other cast members or is it all done solo?
We actually record all of our lines solo. It is in fact rare, in this industry, to record with your fellow cast mates. We are usually given a breakdown of what is happening in the episode, and we have the writers and directors in the studio to give us story context, but it is a do it that day kinda thing. We don’t get to take the script home and study it or anything like that. In fact I JUST met Dave Fennoy not two weeks ago. It was awesome! We have been “working” together for some time now, and just met! He’s rad! It just so happens that I know, and am friends with most of the rest of the cast. We like hang out and stuff. Go drink beer and what not. So at least we get to talk about our Walking Dead experience with one another. Such a great group of actors!
Is recording solo something you just get over or does it still feel strange to be in a one way dialogue?
Recording solo, in the beginning days of my career, was definitely a bit more difficult. Acting is sooo much more effective when you are bouncing your energy off of another actor. It is the natural process of how we communicate with one another. But it’s just not very feasible to have everyone in a session together. It’s a time/money issue. For the Walking Dead, we have access to the lines that precede our lines. So I usually will read in my head Lee’s line, and then go into Clementine’s line. It’s a little nutty, but it works. Most of the time we don’t even have that luxury! I have recorded for other games, where I have no idea what the hell is going on! I would have to play the game myself to find out. You get used to it.
How far ahead do you record the voice work, did you have to run through the whole series then start making the game or has it been an ongoing process where you recorded for each episode?
Ongoing. In the beginning we were told the basic outline of what was going to happen throughout the episodes, but of course there have been lots of tweaks, and changes along the way. The voice work is done one episode at a time. It has been ongoing. Such an amazing experience! One would want for it to never end.
What’s next for Melisa Hutchinson? Have you any other exciting projects coming up?
What is next for me? Well, I am obviously hoping to continue working on projects with Tell Tale Games! That would be great! I also just recently booked a gig for an animated series called the Space Racers. This won’t be hitting the airwaves for several more months, but we have started recording and boy let me tell you I am psyched!
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?
The year was 1741(or something like that). My great, great, great, grandfather got on a boat, and left the mother country(Ireland) for the shores of North America, and my lame butt has not been there ever since. I WILL make it to Ireland! It is definitely on my to do list! Nicki Rapp (Lilly in The Walking Dead) and I were just threatening a plan a trip out to Ireland not two weeks ago! She has been a couple times. I want to go stare at old castles, run through green pastures, and drink beer in pubs, with awesome Irish people. SO, I will let you know when I’m coming over!!
Would like us to include any contact details so our readers can keep up to date with your next projects?
website : www.melissahutchison.com
youtube channel @ melyhutch