Gavin Hammon has voiced many memorable characters, from Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather II to Beast in The Wolf Among Us, to Kenny from The Walking Dead. You’ve probably heard some of his work, but his characters as so vastly different, that you may not know it, yet. From video games, to toys, to motion capture, he is a man of many talents and he gave me to opportunity to inquire about a few things, with detailed and informative responses.
The following interview does contain spoilers for Season 2 of The Walking Dead video game.
Which of the characters that you’ve portrayed, do you connect with the most, in personality, as well as emotionally?
Well, that’s a difficult question, since very few of the characters I’ve had the pleasure to lend voices to have a lot of dimension to them. That said, I try to bring as much humanity as possible to everything I do… I think in terms of personal connection, I probably feel closest to Beast. He’s pretty unassuming, sorta quiet and not very aggressive at all, unless he thinks you’re involved with his wife. I mean, I enjoy the un-me-like nature of characters like Kenny, Dee, Monsignor Calvin, Thug 6B, etc, because of the way I get to detach from myself, but they’re not much LIKE me.
In your wide body of work, what genre of project has been the most giving to your skills? In terms of the range in your performance.
Toys, no question. I love what I get to do in games, especially with the powerful stories I get to contribute to for Telltale, but I’ve never had more a demanding project than Furby. With good game writing, my job is just to get it off the page, but with toys, my script may say /annoyed noise/ which I completely have to interpret, produce and deliver with the assistance of talented developers and one of the best recordists I’ve ever worked with (Scott Paulsen). Those toy jobs are really me performing; pretty much anything I want to try, I can. If it doesn’t work, I get to try again, and the range of those is far beyond anything I’ve ever done in any other genre. And don’t get me started on the foreign languages!
In Season 2, we saw a darker and more broken side to Kenny. In your own opinion, do you feel that his actions were out of necessity, or were they due to his emotional state being tarnished?
Both, certainly. He suffers a lot, as does the entire cast, but Kenny suffers all of it on screen, so I actually have to capture those moments and they leave an imprint on him and the player. Just given the nature of the story, everybody’s in a dark place, but Kenny’s on screen misery, anger and pain compounds that darkness and makes him feel much less stable.
Including Kenny, which character of “The Walking Dead”, thus far, has been your favorite and what traits of that characters makes you choose them?
Absolutely Clem. The level of restraint Melissa Hutchison brings to the role from that treehouse through whatever ending you chose is utterly brilliant. She has a few very emotional moments, I’m honored to share a few of them with her, but so much of her performance is in the subtlety–the little detail, pauses, stutters and quiet moments. She’s been knocking it out of the park since the beginning.
Is there anything that you can tell us about the upcoming third season? Any possible appearance from Kenny?
I know more than I did last week, but there’s nothing I’m able to say about it. My personal opinion is that we will not see Kenny in S3, but that is just my opinion.
If Kenny ever transitioned into the series, perhaps in a cameo or spin-off role, would you be open to the chance to portray him in live-action?
Of course, but I seriously doubt I’d be asked to read for it.
You’ve voiced characters in various games from “The Godfather” franchise. What kind of a challenge does it bring, to attempt to convey a known character from the films, such as Frankie Pentangeli?
Voice matches in general are very tough. I’ve done quite a few of them, with various degrees of “matching”. Sometimes a client wants a dead on match, other times just a feeling of the original character. That particular role in the Godfather was just a feeling, I don’t believe I had much reference of the original character in the session. They’re always quite fun and are probably among the most exciting jobs I get to do.
Do you ever see yourself transitioning from voice work into live action film? Perhaps even motion capture in gaming?
Sure, mocap is a distinct possibility and I’ve done a bit of it, it comes up quite often in interactive work. On camera I’m not actively pursuing, mostly just because VO keeps me busy and I really like the anonymity I get to enjoy as a result.
What have you learned from your portrayals, that have become an influence and inspiration on your daily life? Have you learned any skills, or facts from your characters?
Well, more than learning from my characters, I learn from the folks I work with–the writers, directors, producers, engineers and actors. I feel incredibly fortunate to get to do this for a living and work with so many talented people and I’m constantly learning what not to do, how to do little vocal tricks to make particular sounds, how to convey a particular emotion, etc. From my characters, I suppose I just reinforce what my strengths and weaknesses are…
If you could choose any character to portray, in known media, who would it be and what makes you choose them?
I don’t think I really have one. I consider every gig an opportunity to bring something to a project, be it a corporate video (I do lots of those) or animation (I don’t do much of that). I’ve played some characters in projects I never thought I would, so I’m constantly surprised at what I get hired to do. I think maintaining that excitement keeps the job interesting every single day.
Aside from acting, have you ever considered another position in the creative process, such as a writer, or director?
Not really. I do teach a little bit and that’s quite fun, but I’m not a very good writer. I’ve never tried directing, but I suppose it would be fun and a lot like teaching…
What sorts of tips and advice can you convey to those that wish to enter the vocal performing arts? What lessons have you learned that you wish you knew when you started out?
Take classes from a reputable school or teacher, listen to everything you hear in games, movies, TV, radio and online and peruse www.iwanttobeavoiceactor.com. That is Dee Bradley Baker’s omnibus of VO and it’s an indispensable resource for folks interested in the job.
Thanks so much for the insightful questions and the kind words!