The Voices of Fallout 4: Jan Johns [Interview]
March 31, 2017 1 Comment
Well, we have made it folks. Welcome to our last installment of The Voices of Fallout 4. I really want to thank everyone who has logged in to the series, especially all of the extremely nice people in the multiple Facebook groups who have shown their support and allowed us into their world. There are some crazy die hard Wastelanders out there who have united together to show their support for this amazing franchise. You are all wonderful, and again, thank you so much! And today’s interview is one we are bringing especially for you.
Hardcore enthusiasts of the Fallout franchise know Jan Johns. She has had some great key roles in Fallout 4, but this is definitely not where she started. Jan is actually a very key figure in what may be the franchise’s most esteemed addition, Fallout 3. She is responsible for no less than 16 different voices in Fallout 3. Basically, if there is a character in this game that was a female, she was probably it. And she does them flawlessly (no matter what she says about them herself, she is far too modest!). In our beloved Fallout 4 world, she can be heard as Ellie Perkins from Valentine’s Detective Agency, the out of place/actually sort of decent person Scribe Haylen with the Brotherhood of Steel, and the vengeance seeking Colette who roams Diamond City looking for reasons not to kill you.
While Jan has had a fabulous career in so many different areas, from musical theatre to on screen acting to even more voice over work, for Fallout fans, she will always be best known as a living legend within the hierarchy of this world. She is also a very cool and sweet person in general. And we are so damn excited to have her wrap up The Voices of Fallout. It has been a great ride showcasing these 10 amazing voice over artists. And we can think of no better way to close it all up than sharing a few words from one of the finest acts the Fallout world has ever known.
So please enjoy some very nice words from the legendary Jan Johns!
How did you find yourself in your current line of work as an actress and voice over mastermind?
Mastermind…that makes me sound like a bad ass. I like it. I will love to point out that I have a long ways to go before I could ever consider myself a “mastermind,” but I’ll take the compliment. 😉
To answer your question, I was and am weird. I never fit in as a kid. I spent a lot of time alone. Also, I loved music and found that I could mimic singers which always got attention from family. I would spend hours by myself listening to musicals and Disney compilations over and over until I could sound as close to them as I could. I did the same thing with stand up comedians, movies and cartoons.
I studied musical theatre in college and went on to perform in musicals, plays, tours, on camera and soon after voice over. Voice overs were always what I wanted to do. I just didn’t know how to get my start. That being said, I still don’t. It’s such an individual and winding road of discovering who you are, working really, really hard and meeting the right people. There is no right way other than to do the work, be open and kind.
I understand that you have recently voiced an actual Fisher Price toy? I’ve always been fascinated with this idea, and always wondering who these people are. So what toy did you voice for? And how does this process work? Is it similar to film or video game voice over work?
I still can’t believe I got to voice a toy for Fisher-Price! It was a joy! As far as my experience with voicing for games, it is a bit different. You’re not really reacting to anyone else. You are just communicating clearly for the child. The child is the focus. I realize I am stating the obvious, but truly the child is the focus in that the client (there were probably 8 people patched into the ISDN for this record) had very specific feelings on the sound of the character. It needed to be warm, clear, pure and engaging. We collaborated together until we found the sound they wanted and then we ran with it. That’s actually my favorite way to work. I love collaborating with the client in hopes of helping them reach their vision. When you get it right, it is very satisfying. Wow, I sound like a dork.
You jumped into the Fallout world on the 3rd installment, and voiced what seems like EVERY female character in the game. How was this initial experience for you back in 2008? Where people constantly recognizing your voice in public?
Terrifying. I was so happy and scared to death at the same time. The night before the record my dear friend Wes Johnson (he’s the whole reason why I even got into voicing for games), coached me through what a session would be like and to focus on the acting not the voice. He helped me and continues to help me so much. He’s a great coach and friend.
I will say that the session in retrospect was crazy. The lines for Fallout 3 were entirely on paper (at least in my experience) and it was just like the rest of the sessions I’ve done for gaming…stone cold. No heads up on character, lines, story etc. Like I said…terrifying for the first time. I just wanted to do a good job. They basically handed me the lines of every young female character they had at that point. I’m not sure, but my guess is that they did that with lots of the additional voices just to see what worked and sounded good together. I learned that fear can be a great motivator. Thankfully, the team at Bethesda is pretty freaking amazing! The nicest people you could ever work with. That being said, so far I have been lucky enough to have been directed by very kind people for all the games I’ve worked on. I’m grateful they gave me a chance. I’ll always have a soft spot for Bethesda.
Oh, no one ever recognizes me from Fallout 3. I listen back now and cringe. I wish I could’ve given the gamers better performances. It just went so quick and (other than one other game) it was my first experience.
I will say that Sierra Petrovita was my most organic performance in Fallout 3 in that she is closest to my personality. I was stoked when they brought her back in the Fallout 4 DLC. I had no idea until the session when the voice director said (not knowing Fallout 3), “okay, today you are voicing this chick Sierra…” I lost it. That record was a wonderful day, truly. There are sessions that fondly stick in your mind and for me that is one of them.
And how about Fallout 4? What was it like delving back into this world with some brand new characters?
OMG I was over the moon!!! I had auditioned and they never tell you the name of the game (as they use code names), but when I first read the word “caps,” I might have pee’d a little. I was so excited and hoped I booked something on the game.
Fallout 4 was so different than 3 for me. I was still terrified as I always want to do a go job and make their job easy, but I had loosened up quite a bit as this was now, not my first rodeo.
I had a set of specific characters as opposed to a stack of voices I had to fly through. Also, no paper. The lines were all up on a LED screen in the booth. It’s a nice way to work as the lines are easy to see and get through quickly.
Haylen, was so noble and I got the chance to dig deep with her. I love her. Her passion for justice and loyalty to Danse was such a joy to voice.
Ellie Perkins was fun to voice and tragic as she searched for Nick Valentine.
Collette was gritty and I love her bite. Which made her all the more tragic when she let her vulnerability shine through. While I was voicing Fallout 4 I was going through a crisis with my Dad back home. He went missing and was very sick. It was a very scary time. He’s doing much better today, but that experience really helped me go further with all of the characters in Fallout 4. Knowing that fear and pain helped me color the performances. Also, selfishly I was able to let some of it out in some of my sessions.
Also, on Fallout 4, I met and became friends with a few of the voice directors so that was a huge bonus. Friends are good.
Has anyone else told you that they were so excited to murder off your character Ellie Perkins (although, not possible) in Fallout 4, or was that just me? Haha. Seriously though, have you received much notoriety as the woman behind so many characters in the Fallout world?
People have tweeted or said to me at conventions that they felt bad killing my characters. Some have apologized and some admit enjoying it. So, you’re not alone. 🙂
I definitely have received some recognition for the amount of characters I have voiced in the Fallout world. However, I think it’s mainly because of Wes Johnson including me on a lot of his panels at recent conventions. I’m telling you, he an amazing human being!
So what does the near future hold for you? Anything our readers should be on the lookout for?
Right now, things are slow in the video game world for me. I have voiced a few commercials recently for Sonic and Food Lion. I was up for something that probably would’ve changed my life recently, but it wasn’t in the cards. I was pretty heartbroken, but at the same time I see the gift in even being considered for this particular series and network.
I do have something a little fun coming up. I’m on an upcoming episode of The Loud House on Nickelodeon. Working with Chris Savino is so much fun. He is a kind and super creative soul.
My mantra is: I want to voice the characters children grow up with and adults belly laugh to. I hope one day that this could be a regular occurrence. As of now and like most actors, my job is to audition and grow in my craft. I am at it every day. It’s not easy, but I love it so much.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
This morning on a walk my dog Mollie thought it would be a great idea to pick up a giant palm branch and run with it. She carried all the way home (almost 1.5 miles). I took a video of it cause I could not believe it and knew my family wouldn’t believe me. She makes me smile. Honestly, she’s my best friend. I spend so much time alone talking to myself she’s probably the only being that can put up with me. 🙂
Check out Jan Johns doing her opening monologue as Ellie Perkins, courtesy of Video Game Source: