Today, in honour of her role in the latest DLC for the Marvel's Avengers game, we are choosing to highlight one of the gaming industry’s unsung heroes – Ashly Burch.
Most famous for her role as Horizon Zero Dawn’s iconic heroine, Aloy, and Chloe in Life Is Strange, Burch has lent her voice to a shedload of video games over the years.
Now, she finds herself in her most well-known role to date – playing Kate Bishop, the female Hawkeye, in a Marvel's Avengers DLC chapter titled Taking AIM. Here's how our conversation went...
"I love Kate Bishop"
When we hopped onto Zoom chat with Ashly Burch before Christmas, she seemed surprisingly positive in spite of the horrors of 2020. With Kate Bishop joining the cast of Marvel’s Avengers only a few short weeks ago, she revealed just what an honour it is to virtually don Kate’s iconic costume.
Burch told us, “I love Kate Bishop. I've loved her ever since she first appeared in the comics. So it's… I mean, it feels weird to say it's an honour but - it is! It's pretty cool to be trusted with such a seminal character.”
As a long time reader of the Hawkeye comics, Burch reveals that she always had a voice for the voiceless Bishop circulating around her head. Now, Ashly finally got to give Kate the voice she always imagined she’d have.
“It's funny, because I had a voice for Kate in my head, just from the comics. So the goal was mostly just to try to bring that voice in my head to life for this character. What's cool is that Kate is pretty unique - distinct from the other characters that I've played… particularly like Nebula in Ultimate Alliance 3."
"One of my favourite Marvel characters ever"
"She and Nebula are, er… pretty different,” Burch says with an infectious laugh. “I tried to just focus on Kate as a character and it's helpful that the writing is really good and really funny. And there's so much to play with. I just tried to do her justice, really and do the writing justice because she's one of my favourite Marvel characters ever. I wanted to make sure that I was bringing her to life the best I could.”
While Marvel’s Avengers failed to set the charts alight when it launched last year, this Anthem-esque outing wasn’t without its high notes. Square Enix’s Kamala Khan is arguably one of the best Marvel characters in any medium, bringing a relatable sense of geekery and joy to what might otherwise have been a po-faced action game. For Burch, she knew she had to really bring her A-game if she was to rival Sandra Saad's award-winning Khan performance.
“The series itself has such a good sense of humour. But I think, from the comics, with Kate, that's always just been a consistent trait of hers - and I really like that about her. She has all the bravado and the strength and the prowess of any other Avenger, but she's got this really great, sarcastic kind of devil may care attitude that I really responded to. If a character is legitimately funny, I can't help but like them.
"The Avengers of actors"
With the likes of Troy Baker and Nolan North among the cast of Marvel's Avengers, Burch found herself acting alongside the gaming industry’s very own supergroup.
“It's a pretty incredible cast. It sort of is the Avengers of actors,” she tells us. “There's definitely a level of like, okay, you're in the presence of some pretty incredible folks. So there's definitely a sense of like, bring your best.
“I didn't, unfortunately, really get to record with any of the rest of the cast - that happens sometimes with voice acting, you can just be alone in a booth. But it's also just helpful knowing who's playing what character. So, you know, if I'm acting, if Kate is interacting with Natasha, it's like, Okay, this is Laura [Bailey]. And that informs what I'm doing, you know? Or if it's Travis [Willingham, who plays Thor], you know, that informs what I'm doing. So yeah, I definitely felt very grateful, very honoured to be in such a cast of really iconic folks.”
Yet, with Marvel’s Avengers hot on the heels of The Last Of Us Part 2, Burch had already found herself working alongside Laura Bailey and Troy Baker in recent memory (since she played Mel in TLOU2).
"The Last Of Us was amazing [...] and heartbreaking also"
With Naughty Dog’s more theatrical, motion capture approach not adopted for Square Enix's Avengers, Burch explains the difference between mocap and booth acting, and why certain titles still don’t choose to implement it.
“I've done motion capture for a handful of games, but it sometimes just depends on what the production needs at that moment. And, you know, what their budget allows or what scheduling allows and that kind of thing.
“I think, increasingly, more bigger budget narrative-focused games are implementing motion capture and having their actors work together, which is awesome. As voice actors, we are trained to be able to produce a fully fleshed-out performance in isolation, but it's always extremely, extremely gratifying to be able to be on the stage and do motion capture with other actors. So The Last Of Us was amazing for that reason… and heartbreaking also.”
Playing Mel in The Last of Us Part II, we won’t spoil why she found the experience heartbreaking, but as she has throughout her career, Burch delivers a stellar performance once again. Yet despite filling the shoes of countless iconic virtual characters, its Kate Bishop’s sessions that kept Burch smiling.
“I really love the superhero banter in Marvel’s Avengers. I love a good banter session! I feel like all of Kate’s conversations with the other Avengers are really fun. They're really well written. And I got to do a lot of playing around and improvising and just having a lot of fun with those sections. So I feel really proud of those. And just very proud and honoured to be Kate at all. So yeah, I hope people enjoy it - I certainly did.”
Interview access was made possible by Virgin Media, UK partner of Marvel's Avengers, and provided its customers with exclusive early beta access and in-game outfits.