With Blizzcon kicking off, all eyes will be on Michele Morrow, who will be co-hosting the Virtual Ticket, Blizzcon’s answer to the question, “what if I want to attend Blizzcon from the comfort of my couch?”
Michele Morrow started her career as a horror movie actress, with more than a dozen titles to her name, and when she made the leap from horror to gaming she quickly rose to the top as one of the most in-demand hosts for video games and nerd culture. CGMagazine sat down to talk to her about her role as Alleria Windrunner, as well as her experiences with hosting Blizzcon’s Virtual Ticket.
CGMagazine: So, just to begin, tell me a little about your career. How did you get started and what made you want to go from being an actress to getting into voice acting?
Michele: Well I’ve done voice acting for many years; I booked commercials and stuff back in maybe the mid-2000’s. I moved to LA in 2000 and just did some voice over acting, a bunch of different stuff, but it wasn’t until about 2007 that I had a really bad accident and unfortunately was in a neck brace for about a year. I had a small fracture in a facet joint and I had a really bad sprain. So they removed my first rib, and it made it so I couldn’t really do anything, so I got really into video games. I started playing a lot more (I played a lot as a kid, but I kind of rediscovered them) and got back into gaming. So that sort-of led to more video game voice overs as opposed to just commercial voice overs.
CGMagazine: What was it like voicing Alleria Windrunner? Were there other influences within the Blizzard universe that you wanted to model or did you bring your own thing to her?
Michele: Well Alleria is one of my favorite characters in all of Blizzard lore, so to be able to voice her in Hearthstone was just a dream come true. And I mean, I auditioned for it, I went through many phases of it, they changed the way they wanted her to sound a few times so we went through the direction. Alleria is a character who really hates orcs, she’s extremely rebellious and cocky, she’s a master marksman so you really have to bring a little bit more of that grit. She is a High-Elf so normally you’d have a little bit more of that regal sense about her; she still has that regality but she’s been missing for a very long time from the universe. This is her very first appearance…ever, really since Warcraft 2, so it’s really cool to give her life and bring my own spin to it, but also what Warcraft and the directors wanted from it.
CGMagazine: Do you feel you reflect a little bit of Alleria’s personality?
Michele: I mean, I like to think so! You know, her sister Sylvanas Windrunner is what really got me attached to World of Warcraft. That was the original thing, because Sylvanas had lost her body. She was the banshee queen and she had gone to great lengths to get her body back. So that was a story that really resonated with me because at the time, I was in a neck brace, at home, banished to a life on the couch. So I would read Sylvanas’ story and I found it to be really inspirational. And I really liked her, and I attached to her greatly; so when it’s the opportunity to voice her older sister who has been missing from the lore, who Sylvanas loved so much, and has done so much for Azeroth it was a great honor. I think we did a really great job on it and I’m excited about it.
CGMagazine: And are you, potentially, going to voice any other characters in the Blizzard universe?
Michele: I sure hope so! I mean, the new expansion is coming out, but they haven’t announced any kind of castings or anything like that, so we’re just kind-of waiting to know that stuff. But, yeah I would voice anything in the Blizzard universe and all the games! I’m a huge fan, as well as I’ve hosted conventions but I’m just such a massive fan. And it’s just exciting to do!
CGMagazine: You gotta keep your ears open for that Starcraft: Ghost resurrection.
Michele: Right!? That would be great. Not many people know about that little thing.
CGMagazine: So tell me a little bit about your experiences with Blizzcon. Did you go there before you were a host?
Michele: Oh yeah! I was a huge fan, so it was really weird because I love co-hosting the Virtual Ticket, for sure, it’s a great time! I get to interview every major dev and just really be in the middle of the action. Last year was my first year; this year will be my returning year, and one of the things I really miss is just being able to go the panels. I mean, I can watch them, but there’s a certain charm to being there. Like, I was there for Red Shirt Guy at the lore panel! There were things where I would go every year. I think I started going in 2009. So just as a fan, moving over to the host position was a dream come true. I was actually in the middle of a raid the first time I found out that I had actually been accepted to host. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to get it, and I did and everything changed.
CGMagazine: Well that leads in perfectly to my next question: what’s it like hosting the Virtual Ticket?
Michele: It’s a lot of work; it really is. We have a lot of developers who come up to the desk and we have community members coming up, too. We want to make sure we cover every single game; that we answer the community’s questions, making sure we’re covering everything about the franchises and asking intelligent questions to everybody that comes up to the desk. So there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. Pretty much my life for the past month, my “job,” has been playing video games non-stop; which is totally fine with me! So it’s been a lot of prep, and when you’re actually on it and doing it, I mean this is old-hat for me, I’m used to it, being broadcasted live is not something I’m totally unfamiliar with, so this was a very easy transition coming from the acting side of things, and the improv side of things. I had been hosting for a little while with different outlets, so to go into this was not too far of a jump for me. The broadcast part isn’t difficult, but the prep and planning…I’m such a perfectionist with all of it. I love the lore and all the games and all the IPs and everybody who works there, so I just want to do the best job I can.
CGMagazine: As well as conventions, do you enjoy hosting eSports events? Would you do more? Are there any more that you’re going to be a part of?
Michele: Well, there are some things I can’t talk about, but I will say that hosting Heroes of the Dorm on ESPN2 in April was life-changing. It was changing for me; it was life-changing for eSports in general, at least here in America. We finally saw live collegiate eSports on television, on a major network! They had shown canned parts of Dota 2 on there, so that had been done before, but not quite at this level. This level of hitting into the mainstream was fascinating. And seeing the reaction from the people back home, because people back home would turn on ESPN2 and they’re like, “so why is there a dragon fighting on my screen?” It was awesome to read through the tweets and see how everyone was engaging and people would say, “I don’t know what the hell I’m watching, but I can’t takes my eyes off it!” And that’s people who don’t even know what the game is. The people who know what the game is were losing their minds!
So standing backstage on the finals, game five, it was UC Berkeley vs. Arizona and they ended up picking up a very unlikely hero, The Lost Vikings, and I’ve never seen the game director Dustin Browder so excited; he was just jumping up and down with excitement at the fact that The Lost Vikings had been chosen. So it’s interesting to see these students who are all competing for their college tuition and it was cool to see them really get into it and find different metas within the game, be excited about it, and the whole deal. I think eSports is going to BLOW UP in 2016. And I’d be stoked to be a part of it.