The Walking Dead Interviews : Cissy Jones aka Katjaa
The Walking Dead Cast Interviews
Actor Cissy Jones
Character Katjaa (also voices Joleen)
Cissy Jones is an avid gamer, excellent voice actor and owner of two ninja cats! This Idaho native landed not one but three roles in TellTale’s massive hit The Walking Dead. She makes a brief appearance as Jolene in episode 2 and again as Brie in Episode 4 (interesting fact Brie was the competition winner to get her likeness recreated in game) but is probably best known for her role as Katjaa through episodes 1-3. Katjaa along with her husband Kenny and son Duck group up with Lee and Clementine in Episode 1 and play a big part in the first three episodes.
Cissy’s character Katjaa is one of the most interesting characters in the game, most of her time is spent sitting in the background and defusing her hot headed husband Kenny but at the same time she manages to leave a huge impact on the player and a lot of this is down to Cissy’s excellent performance.
We are delighted to get the chance to chat to Cissy about her career so far and to also get her thoughts on Katjaa’s decision in episode three.
So be warned if you have not finished episode three yet keep this interview until after you have it completed.
A very broad open question to get us started but can you give us a little introduction to your background?
I learned my survival skills growing up in the rugged outdoors of Idaho. Ok, I grew up in the city of Boise, but there was lots of outdoorsiness to be had.
My journey has led me all over the American West Coast. My husband and I now live in Los Angeles with our 2 ninja cats – bred to alert us to the oncoming zombie hordes.
How did you start in the world of voice acting?
I always had the bug, especially for animation. I blame the Simpsons. Then one day I just bit the bullet and started taking classes and I totally fell in love. Never looked back.
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?)
I love video games, but I’m a terrible player. Seriously, I always get impaled or hexed in the first 5 minutes. I love watching the gameplay though. When I worked for Trion/Rift, they gave me a free beta version – it was really painful how bad I was! My friend had to videotape his gameplay so I could see it all unfold. With TWD all I can say is, thank god for YouTube.
I haven’t asked TTG for a free copy yet… maybe that’ll be my Christmas present??
Do you think voice acting is more difficult than onscreen acting as you have to carry the whole role with just your voice and can’t use body language or facial expressions to help convey emotions?
I think each type of acting requires a different skill set. I will say this: you do learn to find crazy ways to emote, sounds you never knew you had in you. It’s especially awesome during a make-out scene – the back of my hand has seen some serious action!
Have you noticed a dip in the industry in recent years?
I know people who’ve been in the biz for a lot longer than I who would absolutely say yes. Fortunately I personally haven’t noticed it yet.
What other projects have you worked on that our readers might be familiar with?
People may not realize it, but I was also Jolene in Episode 2 (that crazy chick in the woods). I’ve also been lucky enough to work on Rift (Trion’s MMORPG), the spooftastic Grotesque 2: Dungeons & Donuts, and Men in Black III to name a few.
I also do commercial & narration work here in the States.
How did you find working with telltale? Are they as awesome as we all believe?
The people at TellTale are passionate about what they’re doing and they are so fantastic to work with – even if I do often find myself questioning their mental well-being after whatever grisly scenario they’ve just put the characters through! In seriousness – everything from the writing to the direction to the care with which each character is crafted is precise and spot-on. And, thankfully, all of them have a great sense of humor. Otherwise those sessions would probably end with me needing a stiff drink and a Xanax.
How exciting is it to land a role in a game and then see that game do so incredibly well?
It’s completely unreal. I’m so grateful that people are responding this way to these characters, these storylines. It’s just wonderful to see the overwhelming support from the fans and the critics. I’m still pinching myself.
How do you approach a role like the one of Katjaa in the Walking Dead? What have you to go off when trying to get into the character? Is it just the script or do you have a visual representation of her (videos or art work)?
I saw a photo of Kat when I auditioned for her, but getting the accent was what I was most concerned with. I have a Belgian friend, so I just stalked him for a couple of weeks and studied his face every time he spoke. I recorded some of his dialogue and would listen to it before heading to a session just to get back into it. You think I’m kidding.
I also had amazing directors – if something wasn’t quite right, we’d work on it to make sure it was perfect.
If you don’t mind me saying a bit about Katjaa as a character (with a big SPOILER ALERT):
I loved Katjaa from the moment I got the audition. She is a kind, thoughtful woman who has no room for hatred in her life. I feel I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of those kinds of women in my life, so I drew a lot from them. She’s also a woman who’s always had to calm down her hothead husband, so she tries to not get easily overwhelmed. Of course, she starts to break (who wouldn’t) but her optimism at the beginning was refreshing. Until of course her final action – which, odd as it may sound – I understood that choice for her. As much hope as she tried to have, watching her only child die (not to mention watching the entire world die… then reanimate) was just too much for her to take. I hated that she left Kenny because I don’t know what kind of crazy that will make him going forward, but I understood that choice for her. That despair just crushed her spirit.
Did you turn to the comics or to the TV show to get a feel for the tone of the Walking Dead?
Absolutely, yeah. Robert Kirkman has created such a rich and tragic world; it was easy to find that necessary tone through studying his work. Not to say that it didn’t give me insane nightmares.
Your character plays a pretty big role and in true Walking dead fashion it’s a role full of tragedy? How much of the story is revealed to you one the first day of recording r do you have it revealed as the recording for each episode starts?
TellTale was really smart about the information they would share with us. Even though they knew we would be privy to more information than the public, they wanted us to be just as shocked with the final episode. I found out how Katjaa would die during a recording session for Episode 2, but I wasn’t told when. (I was really pulling for her to make it to Episode 5 – silly me.) The night before her final recording session, I received the script to prep me for what was to come. Man, I cried like a baby reading through that stuff.
The interesting thing to me was learning about other characters through my sessions. For example, doing the voice for Jolene in Episode 2, and learning everything she went through before Lee meets her and her background with the people from the dairy farm – geez, I felt for her. No wonder she was batsh** nuts.
What is the recording process like? And does it vary much from company to company?
It’s always a different scenario – sometimes the producers/directors are with you at the studio, sometimes they’re on a phone patch, sometimes I’m in my soundproof booth at home wearing my footie pajamas recording alone.
Do you get to record with the other actors or is everything done solo?
Video games are usually recorded solo in my experience. However, the directors at TTG do a really great job of setting the scene for each line so that the tone is understood. Is this a light-hearted moment? Am I about to off myself? What kind of scream do we need to get; the one where I’m being held at gunpoint, or the one where I just learned I’ve eaten human flesh? One of the many things I LOVE about voiceover is that every day is certainly different…
Do you get to hang out with the other voice actors?
Some of my closest friends are voice actors! They’re a lovely bunch of people. I’ve known some of the other actors in TWD for a while, like Nicki Rapp (Lilly) and Gavin Hammon (Kenny), and I’ve gotten to meet other solely because of this game, like Melissa Hutchison (Clem) and Dave Fennoy (Lee). It’s an instant camaraderie after an experience like this!
What’s next for Cissy Jones? Have you any other exciting projects coming up?
There are some top-secret video game projects coming up, and as much as I wish I could share with everyone this industry is notoriously secretive. Let’s just say, 2012 is certainly ending on a good note for me… unless of course the Mayan Prophecy comes true and the world ends. That would pretty much trump my good news.
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?
Sadly I have not been to Ireland – it’s always been on my list of places to see! My gene pool is a hodgepodge of Irish/Welsh/British, so I’m hoping to get back someday and see “the Homeland”. Everyone I know who has been says it is absolutely the most stunning place on earth.
If you would like us to include and contact details in the published piece please add them below. This can be anything personal or professional that you would like to have out there for people to get in touch.
I have a facebook page at facebook.com/cissyspeaks, and twitter @cissyspeaks. I’m not a prolific poster or anything, but I do like to put fun things up every now and again. I’d love to hear from your readers!
I’m also involved with a group of voiceover ladies around the US called the Voxy Ladies at www.voxyladies.com. We do fundraisers and fun voiceover events all over the place. So if you’re looking to hire any ladies for your next project, we’ve got a great pool of talent!
Thank you again for this opportunity. I am so proud of The Walking Dead, and I’m so grateful that people love it as much as I do. Although I gotta be honest; I’m absolutely certain I’d make a terrible survivor.