The Walking Dead Interviews
Actor Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas landed the role of Omid in this years The Walking Dead game, Omid has only just appeared at the end of episode 3 and with episode 4 just hitting the download stores it has been great to catch up with Owen and chat about his character Omid but to also reflect on how he got to this point in his career that has seen him land roles in Back to the future as well as voicing two characters in League of legends and how he managed to land in Ireland during a heat wave!
A very broad open question to get us started but can you give us a little introduction to your background?
I grew up in Berkeley, California (right next to San Francisco) and have come to love the place. I’m a graduate of UC Berkeley and for years could not figure out what I wanted to do for a living. I’ve had every profession under the sun: swimming teacher, valet, singer, piano player…
How did you start in the world of voice acting?
About a dozen years ago, I thought I wanted to be an Anthropology professor, so I started a Doctorate program at UC Davis and instantly hated it. After a year, I took academic leave and thought about what I should do next, and acting somehow came into my head. Not sure why since I had never done it before. I took a few voice acting classes and it really resonated with me. After my first job I was hooked… that was 10 years ago!
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?
I really try to limit my gaming. One of the saddest numbers is when Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead shows how many hours you’ve played. Not inspiring! That being said, I play those two plus Starcraft 2. I tell people it’s for…um… research. Yea, that’s it… job research.
I watch or play almost every title I’ve been in, it’s really entertaining especially to hear yourself interact with other actors. In all my years, I have only received one copy of a game I worked on, and it was for the Wii, which I don’t have!
If you had to choose between a voice actor or on screen/stage actor what would win out?
I still do on camera work here and there, but only projects that I really love. Doing a lot of voice work gives me the freedom to do the occasional zero or low-pay passion project. I also have made two short films of my own and traveled the film festival circuit to support them. Voice acting is SO much less of a fuss. No lights, makeup, memorizing… just you, a script, and the clothes you slept in last night.
What other projects have you worked on that our readers might be familiar with?
The Sims Medieval, Back to the Future: the game (as Kid Tannen), and League of Legends as Viktor and Twisted Fate are the ones I’m most asked about.
How did you find working with telltale? Are they as awesome as we all believe?
They are stellar and I have fun with them every time. This is my third major project with them after Monkey Island and Back to the Future, and they really help me understand the script, as well as giving great emotional direction. Julian is a fantastic guy and director. One comment I hear the most about the Walking Dead is how dramatic the story is, and their direction is a major key to this. They are also extremely handsome and should hire me again.
How exciting is it to land a role in a game and then see that game do so incredibly well?
I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to be a part of it. The television show has obviously struck a nerve, and so has the videogame. I’m used to watching people’s eyes glaze over when I describe the details of my job, but one mention of this game and people get excited and ask questions… many of which I’m not allowed to answer… just yet…
How do you approach a role like the one of Omid in the Walking Dead?
It’s sort of tough to read too deeply into a character when you’re not supposed to know TOO much about him and the game. I know more than your average gamer since I record way before the release, but that limits me as to what I can say about his motives. He’s an excitable guy that gets caught up in the moment and loses focus of the bigger picture, so I decided to play him like a little kid some times. He’s so thrilled to see a tattoo, see an explosion or mess with equipment, that he loses perspective on the danger that’s all around him. The positive is that he enjoys the little things and can find wonder in them. I can relate to that for sure.
On another note, see if you can tell which episode I recorded with a freshly cracked rib after I fell off my bike. The pain while yelling was quite real…
Did you turn to the comics or to the TV show to get a feel for the tone of the Walking Dead?
Oh for sure. I love the TV show, and I’m sucker for end of the earth type genres of all types. I was already watching the show when I was cast in the video game, so I knew the feel: isolation, fear and survival and having no idea where to turn. It helps give you a real feel for the acting, which is very different from most videogames where you’re forced to guess what’s going on. Again, Telltale really wants me and the other actors to understand their surroundings to get a better performance.
Your character has only just appeared in Episode 3 but we get the impression he is going to be around for a while. Can you tell us a little bit about Omid?
Hmmm… this one is tough because I don’t want to give away too much, and realistically, I’m only about an episode ahead of your average person playing the game. Each time I go into record, I look through the script and look for sounds of Omid being eaten… as for whether or not I’ve seen it yet? …I’m not telling.
What is the recording process like? And does it vary much from company to company?
Usually it’s just me in front of a bunch of lines out of context, and the director explains to me why Omid is saying what he’s saying, or what he’s reacting to. In some ways it’s great because I can play the game not really having a full idea as to what’s going to happen. Most companies are the same, you do it by yourself, even if it sounds like you’re interacting with someone in the end product. I’ve had discussions with a few famous actors in my day, without ever meeting them!
Is recording solo something you just get over or does it still feel strange to be in a one way dialogue?
You do get over it. In most cases the director reads the lines with you so that you can give the proper response. In on camera acting, you’re never completely in the moment because of all the equipment and people, but with voice acting, there’s NO ONE there. You really have to imagine you’re screaming, crying, or pleading with someone in front of you. That’s the only way I can really raise the emotion.
Do you get to hang out with the other voice actors?
I do! We have a small group that gets together here and there, but trying to wrangle everyone together has its challenges with our crazy schedules that can change last minute. My friend Melissa Hutchinson who plays Clementine (and lives 3 blocks from me) have gone weeks trying to do lunch to no avail. But then again, perhaps they’re all avoiding me…
Last week I had the pleasure of having dinner with almost the ENTIRE cast! It was such an amazing experience to share stories and get to know the people that I work with but never see.
What’s next for Owen Thomas? Have you any other exciting projects coming up?
I’ve recently done more work for the League of Legends game. I am already two champions: Viktor and Twisted Fate. I’ve also just signed on for a videogame I wish I could tell you about!
I also make short films and go to film festivals to support them. This weekend I’m on my way to Clint Eastwood’s Carmel Art and Film festival. Should be a blast.
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?
As many Americans love to say: I’m part Irish…. So I do feel connected to Ireland. Years ago I drove across both Wales and Ireland and loved them both. I was told I didn’t get the full Irish experience because there was a heat wave and everyone was sunburned. Dublin was fantastic, but I also really loved the small places the tourists weren’t overrunning like Dingle, and going to museums there reminds me what a baby the United States is at only 240 years old.
If you would like us to include and contact details so our readers can keep up to date with your work?
My website: www.owenthomas.org
My youtube channel: www.youtube.com/owenactor
My facebook: www.facebook.com/owenvoice
My twitter: www.twitter.com/owenvoice