Our recent coverage of Erin Robinson’s Gravity Ghost provided an opportunity for us to speak with several of the individuals whose talent is highlighted and crucial to the development of the atmospheric indie game.
Best known for his role as Rucks, the omnipotent narrator of the hit indie game Bastion, Logan Cunningham, of Supergiant Games, sat down to talk about his experiences with voice acting and, among other things, his roles in Gravity Ghost.
Jesse Tannous: You came into voice acting pretty recently. How did you get into voice acting?
Logan Cunningham: I started with Bastion, that was my first anything. That came about really just through the way I grew up in San Jose California. Amir Rao and Darren Korb have been friends of mine from there, I’ve known them since I was about 14, Darren and I went to high school together Then the three of all us all went to New York for school for college, to different colleges. They were just my old friends from California that I had in New York, which was really cool.
After college Amir went to EA, and Darren and I stayed in New York and we’re still here. All I knew was that my friend Amir quit his job and created a startup and they were making a video game and he asked me to help. They got to the point where they wanted to try some voiceover. Like a shoestring operation with very little money to go around, so Amir just kind of called in favors and looked around and saw who was around he knew who could help with this game. Darren was already involved doing all the sound and music at the time. Also, Darren and I were roommates, so it was kind of a perfect situation. I was just the actor that they happened to know.
JT: Are you still trying to reach your ultimate goal of becoming an on screen actor or has voice acting taken over?
LC: Voice acting has taken over in the sense that it accounts for 100% of my income. I’m trying to do more theater and eventually get to on camera film and TV. As mysterious as the path towards being a working actor at all is, who knows when that’s really going to happen, but that is the ultimate goal for me.
JT: Is there a particular genre of films you’d like to be involved in?
LC: I don’t know, I’m a bit of a movie and film buff, I guess I have been since high school. That’s when I think I first started looking closely at movies and discovering what good ones were what bad ones were. I like a lot of the smaller stuff like indie films.
This year I’ve been slowly working with this theater company here in New York called Labyrinth, which is like an off Broadway company of some renown, they’ve been around for just over 20 years. Their most famous member probably was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I was right in the middle of doing this sort of acting workshop thing with Labyrinth when he died in February, and I was pretty surprised how much that affected me.
JT: How did it affect you?
LC: I admired him as an actor a lot, he was something of a role model for me as just in terms of how to live like an actor, how to have a life as an actor, because he moved effortlessly between film and theater and was so involved in both and gave himself completely. But he was also important for sentimental reasons, because when I first started getting into movies and first started thinking about them intellectually he was in a lot of those like Magnolia or The Talented Mr. Ripley. So he was pretty important to me.
One thing that surprised me was my initial reaction which was disbelief. I thought it was a hoax at first. Then getting really kind of angry about it, and angry about all the stuff he had yet to do that we’ll never see, so I kind of had this selfish reaction to it. I felt a lot of things.
JT: How did you get involved in Gravity Ghost?
LC: Through another actor in the game named Sarah Elmaleh who’s a voice over artist in a bunch of independent games. She’s worked on many Wadjeteye Games. We did two Wadjeteye Games together Primorida and Resonance. So she was already working on it and they needed to cast a role or two and she recommended me, and I recorded an audition and it just kind of worked out.
JT: What kind of character are you playing in Gravity Ghost? How does it compare to your previous work?
LC: I play a young guy who is a love interest for one of the characters and I play the main characters father. That was interesting, playing a young character and an old character. That’s the challenge of voice acting overall, all you have is a voice, you have one tool and everything has to come across in just a voice. I’m still learning about it and I’m not sure how good at it I am, but I guess the reason I keep saying yes to anything voice related is just to keep doing it and learning about it because it seems to be a nice club to have broken into. It’s something I never thought I would do, I thought maybe one day I’d become an actor who did voice over on occasion, but at the moment that’s pretty much what I’m doing.
JT: Is voice-over something that is fulfilling to you?
LC: To be completely honest I find voice acting to be really really hard. It’s harder than people think, and the ones that do it well are amazing to me, because I find it very difficult. For me, it’s very frustrating, I don’t get the sort of satisfaction and the ultimate pleasure that I can get from acting on stage or acting on set in front of a camera.
I miss so much when I’m doing voice over. It’s like you’re amputated, I miss my body, and a costume, and props, and especially other actors. I think the biggest difference is the lack of other actors in the room, you’re always alone. I know for voice over in animation often they will record actors together, but in video games you’re almost always alone, and I’ve always been alone in the video games I’ve done. So I miss the connection of another person, another actor.
The second thing is you don’t do is memorize, you very rarely memorize in voice-over and that is frustrating to me because you are still just reading. For anybody that’s ever done a play, there is a huge difference between the last day when you are off book and you get that script out of your hand and you just have it in you. Being on book, having a script you have to read, and having to act at the same time, there is an obstacle there, at least there is for me. Unless I’ve learned it, I feel like I can only be so good, once I learn it then I feel like I can get cooking.
JT: Do you plan on branching out and doing other projects or build some sort of social media community?
LC: I don’t see something like that happening in the near future. I tend to avoid anything that would cultivate some sense of me as a personality, or persona. I don’t know, the only way I really parlay the voice over success with the rest of my life is that it supports me, I’m making a living, and using it to keep existing and do what I do, which is trying to do more of everything else.
JT: What has been the most rewarding or fulfilling experience in your acting career so far?
LC: You know I would really have to say the first one, it would be Bastion. We really had no idea what we were doing and I was just making a thing with people I liked and people I respected. Amir, Darren, and Greg Kasavin, these are three of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known in my life. There is nothing better than creating something with really good friends and having that thing turn out really well. At least we all loved it, we made the thing we wanted to make and we were happy with it. Then we got to release it, and you have no idea what’s going to happen. To have it do what it did was just a bewildering, wonderful little dream. If five years from now I’m cast in some hit show or amazing blockbuster movie, I don’t think I’m really going to have another creative experience like Bastion.
JT: How have you enjoyed working with Supergiant?
LC: Working with Supergiant as a voice actor is a unique experience, it’s incredibly luxurious in a way. We just do it and do it and do it, in terms of recording sessions or doing takes. You just don’t have that luxury in other situations or other voice over jobs, or at least I haven’t. Most other studios or games will book their actors for a day or two, and you get through it all and that’s it, we don’t do that at Supergiant.
I will most likely be working with them for as long as they ask me. Which is an exciting idea so hopefully a few years from now I’ll have a little handful of games that we made and were happy with that people have enjoyed. I’m so aware of the fact that it was and is a happy accident. There is no plan with me, I don’t have a two year plan or a five year plan, and there is no dream role for me out there. When I want to do something I know it when I see it.
JT: What attracted you creatively to Gravity Ghost?
LC: Not so much roles, but the game itself the project itself. I’m a big fan of atmosphere and tone, and just from the small amount of footage that was out at the time, this was late last year that I worked on Gravity Ghost. I just watched the trailer a bunch, I read about the game and it sounded interesting. It felt like something I wanted to be a part of, and I was attracted to it for whatever reason on some kind of gut level.
JT: It doesn’t sound like you know quite yet what elements specifically attract you to certain projects. Is that something you’d like to figure out for yourself one day or are you happy going off your gut?
LC: Probably some combination of those things. It’s a different reason for different projects a lot of the times. It’s very specific to that situation. Sometimes you’re at a point where you just feel like working. You wanna do the thing that you do and you haven’t done it in a while. If you write you can do that every single day, you can wake up and just start doing that, or you can paint every day, but with acting that’s impossible. You get good at something by doing it and doing it and doing it, but with acting, as a performing art, it’s almost impossible to have that regularity or discipline. That’s what attracts me to the theater because you can get very close to doing it night after night.
JT: How often do you get requests from fans to say something in Ruck’s voice?
LC: In my regular life almost never. When I’m at something like Pax that could happen like a handful of times a day. It’s great it’s fun. It was hard for me to do for a while, I would be asked to do the voice and I couldn’t think of what to say. So I finally had to just pick a favorite line or something and that’s what I do now.
JT: Do you ever narrate your life when alone at home now?
LC: I’ll do random voices sure, but not from anything I’ve done. It was an interesting coincidence when Bastion was happening, one of the early character notes for Rucks that I got from Amir, was Al Swearengen from “Deadwood”. Just a few months before getting that note a friend of mine had lent me his DVD’s of “Deadwood.” I just burned through it in like a month or something and completely fell in love with it, and fell in love Ian McShane’s voice.
I developed this actor crush, it was the most amazing deepest thing I’d ever heard. I had never really seen him in anything before so I was interested in a new actor. So I just kind of walked around my apartment doing Ian McShane’s lines from “Deadwood,” and it was this weird like vocal exercise thing because it kind of stretched and deepened my own voice so when Bastion came out of nowhere I was actually pretty well primed to do that.
JT: You mentioned you wanted to give a shout out.
LC: I want to give a shout out to everyone who has gotten Transistor and is enjoying it. Seriously it’s been really great to see, just going on Tumblr and doing a Transistor search and see all of the crazy fan art and fan fiction. One of the really nice things about Bastion is the Bastion fandom that exists. There is a smallish but dedicated and fervent fandom for Bastion specifically on Tumblr and we’ve gotten to meet some of these people in person, and they are just awesome. The same thing seems to be happening with Transistor but there is just so much more of it already, it’s a strange thing to be a part of, but it’s amazing, so thank you to all those people.
While Cunningham's ultimate goal is set on developing his talent for performance art in film and theater, he is clearly invested and dedicated to his friends at Supergiant Games, whose fans will likely be excited for whatever comes next.