The Man Behind the Cain

Recently, DiabloFans was given the opportunity to interview - Michael Gough Michael Gough, the man who voice acts - Deckard Cain Deckard Cain. This interview is first and foremost an insight to the man behind Deckard Cain and his approach to playing Cain. With that in mind, there won't be any development details within. However, while we may not be able to learn too much new information about Diablo III, we did still some rather exciting things about the new game and it's predecessors.

To clear up any confusion, very recently we learned that the British actor Michael Gough passed away at the respectable age of 94. Our condolences to his family and fans alike. Most know him as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred in the Batman movies Tim Burton started before the current generation of Christopher Nolan movies. However, the Michael Gough who voice acts Deckard Cain, is still alive and well. So here we have it folks, the man behind the Cain...

: What got you interested in voice acting in the first place?

Michael Gough: Well... When I was in College, I got into the whole acting thing a little bit late. I was getting ready to graduate from college and kind of on a whim, I saw signs around campus for an audition for an original one-act play... And I thought 'well, that might be fun to try before I leave school.' Something that I always enjoyed was reading out loud, and I was into music, so I thought it'd be pretty cool to try. So I auditioned and got into one of these one-act plays, and it was basically just one performance, but it got me. It seemed like something that I might actually like to try to do, so I stuck around a few more years and ended up getting a Masters degree in Theatre.

I moved to LA and was trying to do the acting thing and going to auditions... The voice acting thing was something I never really thought about or was even that aware of at first. I can't even really remember how I found out about it, maybe someone suggested it. But I took a voice-over class and that really helped. It gave me an idea of what was going on in the real world of voice work. The woman who taught the class was really helpful, she encouraged me, and I ended up getting a voice-over agent, and started going to auditions. When I started getting a few jobs here and there, I thought maybe this is the path I should go down for a while. The seed was probably planted when I was a kid, and I’d sit in my room and play around with my voice, mimic the TV etc when no one else was listening. It was sort of a roundabout way and took me a little while to figure it out, but when I finally got into it, I realized that I really enjoyed it, and I was actually getting some work here and there.

DiabloFans: That's actually really interesting...

Gough: Yeah, I continued to do a lot of theatre here in Los Angeles. Something funny is that a couple friends of mine had a little local weekend radio show and they knew that I was an actor and I had just moved to LA, so they asked me if I wanted to do a couple of radio commercials for their show. So I had done those and had them on tape, and when I was trying to get this voice-over agent, (the woman that taught the class gave me the name and suggested I call) I called her for the first time, and she pretty much told me 'thanks but no thanks--not interested.' And like I was saying, the woman teaching the class was very encouraging, so she told me to wait a little while and try again, because she thought I was good enough to where the agent would be interested. I called back again in a couple of weeks and I guess I caught the agent when she had a couple of minutes and said 'I was encouraged to call you again and I have a couple of radio commercials I did and can play them for you now.' She replied something like, 'Well... Uh... well, OK.' I held my phone up to the cassette tape player and just played them over the phone and she was then interested and told me to call her back in a week or so. It took a while and I caught her at the right time, and played these little commercials for her, but it all worked out, and I actually still have the same voice-over agent, which is something you really need if you're going to do this. Anyway, that’s how I kinda got the foot in the door.

DiabloFans: Do you think there is a difference between doing the voice acting for an animated series and for an interactive game?

Gough: Well... Sort of... A while back, I think cartoons and animated things were, in general, a little more "cartoony." It depends on whether it's for Disney, or something that's got maybe funnier, more whimsical characters. In general, many video games are more "realistic," less cartoony and wacky. Of course there are exceptions to everything. One difference, for sure, is that video games are generally more violent and intense than cartoons are. Violence in cartoons is usually, y’know kinda fun and hammy, unless you're talking about things like Batman, Justice League, etc. Video game voice acting can often take a much bigger toll on your voice because it can be lots of violence, mutations, attacking, dieing etc... It's cool, but there have definitely been times that I have damaged my voice because you have to do so many takes. For instance, they might say, 'now you're being killed by fire, and we want to do short, medium, long, and extra long... and now you're hacked to pieces!' One thing that's really cool about video games is that sometimes you can get really, deeply into it, because it evolves and there are layers. There's so much more, depending on where the player goes, the story just keeps progressing.

DiabloFans: Right, right, you mean like the lore and historical background?

Gough: Yeah, exactly. But when it comes down to it with cartoons or video games, you're just looking at whatever the character is and using your imagination, with the director's guidance. Something to mention, with cartoons, you would actually record with other people; the other members of the cast, so you have people playing off each other. Video games, you're usually recording everything by yourself. I think maybe there were a couple where there were a few actors at one time, but for the most part, you get to play off the other people much more in an animated cartoon much more than in video games. Just about all video games that I’ve done, you're recording by yourself, along with the director and the writer/producers, but you're the only actor there, so you're just basing it what they' tell you and the context of what's going on. You can think of it as the equivalent of green screen of acting for voice-over.

DiabloFans: Just glancing through all the games you've done, there's quite a bit. What character do you think you portrayed the best and why?

: Deckard Cain is definitely one of them. He's a great character! Another one that has kinda gained some kind of cult status is from Gears of War (1, 2, and 3). Even though it's not the same character each time, it's the Carmine brothers. The first one, Anthony, gets killed in the first game, and then his brother, Benjamin, appears in the second game and he also gets killed, and then in the third one that's coming up you have Clayton. So the brothers are going in alphabetical order. Hopefully it’s a big family with lots of brothers!... I'm not exactly sure if Clayton, the third brother, lives or dies, it's a secret. They left it open to a big fan vote, to see whether he should live or die, so I don't even know. It won’t be revealed until the game comes out. They're all a lot of fun though. Something I did recently that was a lot of fun was called Saints Row and there was this one character that was this kinda funny old cantankerous, lecherous guy... There was Vampire: Bloodlines which had another character that sticks in my head. Saddler in Resident Evil is another. There was also one for the Wii, called Medieval Games and it was the role of the narrator. He was really fun as well. He was like an over the top, sarcastic, English, Monty Python style character. It's all really cool, especially when you something you can sink your teeth into. Some games there are just lines where you're saying things like 'Incoming!' or 'Suspect in custody Sir', lines that may not have a lot of context at the time

DiabloFans: How was your work with the Call of Duty/Gears of War type games differ from your experience with Diablo?

Gough: For me, with Gears of War, there was a lot more intensity and violence. While that can be fun because you can cut loose in a way and be extreme, it can take a toll on your vocal chords. Otherwise I'm not really sure how to answer that, because you just get into a different mindset with each different character. For the first two Gears of War, the Carmine brothers are pretty much younger gung-ho guys, eager to jump into anything, but still kinda scared and in over their heads. “SIR, YES SIR!” types but with complexities.

DiabloFans: They're kinda like the newbies, as I understood it really.

Gough: Yeah, exactly, and that's about as far away from Deckard Cain as you can get. He's old, wise, been around for a hundred years, etc. Another thing about Deckard Cain is that his character has evolved with the third Diablo, because way back in the beginning, he was basically your guide. He'd tell you where to go, and beware of this and that, and you need to accumulate this much of X, and he's just sorta evolved as a whole. There's been some pretty heavy emotional stuff with him in Diablo III and it's really cool that it's expanded like that.

DiabloFans: What do you like most about the role of Deckard Cain?

Gough: I do like the fact that he has a wry sense of humor and the fact that he gets a little cranky and impatient, even though he's there to help you, and impart wisdom. When people aren’t paying attention y’know he’ll complain that 'No one ever listens!' and he’ll get frustrated. It's fun to have little things that just give some humor. For me, it's always fun to play a character like that, that can get a little angry and cranky. Really for me, one of the first characters I ever got to do had some of that...Gopher from Winnie the Pooh. He’s the one who whistles when he speaks, and part of his appeal was that he’d get kinda worked up and cranky sometimes. “I got work to do, and I got tunnels to dig, and you guys are making too much noise up here. I gotta get back to work!' It's fun to play irritated and pissed... but still have a heart of gold, which is really what Cain has. The fact that he's wise and wants to help you; he's got all this wisdom and information that he wants to impart, which is one reason why he gets frustrated, because people don't listen to him. 'I know how to help you,” he’s thinking.

DiabloFans: Some of this humor you talk about, is it something you incorporated, or was it scripted?

Gough: Maybe a little of both. Way back when, the character didn’t necessarily have a lot personality. I think I was working on something else for one of the companies that was under the umbrella, and Blizzard said they said they were coming out with this new game, there's this character we have in mind, and we’d like you to give it a try... Something maybe like a Sean Connery sound. As it took shape I think I created a good chunk of his personality and humor, and as it evolved, more of it also got written in.

I don't know if you've ever heard the Deckard Cain Rap; It started out as kind of a throwaway joke one time after a recording session-- the composer at Blizzard had already laid down the backing tracks. They had some lines they had written down, and they said they wanted to try it as just a joke. I started recording the written lines and coming up with some ideas of my own down and just started rapping... I think I can take credit for about half the lyrics that ended up in the actual rap. That was really fun.

DiabloFans: As far as the Rap goes, is it something that they came to you about? Or was it something you thought about prior to and hadn't done anything with it?

Gough: I can't take credit for the idea, no. It was something that they had thought of and like I said, whoever did the music and the backing tracks for it, they were already laid down. I'm not sure what they thought they were going to do with it, maybe they wanted it as an Easter egg or something... But it was certainly their idea to do a Cain Rap. I've even heard some of the lines lifted from it on YouTube and then used to make prank calls. He's been a really interesting and fun character and unlike anyone else. Years go by where there’s no involvement with the game, but he's an enduring character, and I love being able to bring him to life.

DiabloFans: How much creativity were you allowed as a whole? Say, between the accent, lines, misc sounds, etc...

: Once there’s a script, I don't think I have a lot of creative license to change the lines too much. Certain sentences or grammar or sounds may be different once spoken, once the character’s established you stay pretty true to the lines in this case. With Diablo III coming out, there's more emotional value to it, I guess you could say. It doesn't necessarily change the voice and the accent, but it makes him sound a little different just because there is more going on underneath. Cain is going through things that maybe he hasn't really gone through before, which makes him sound a little different

DiabloFans: Now that he's so much older in the third installment of the series, did that affect how you approached his character?

Gough: Yeah, yeah, that was another thing they actually wanted, too. He has aged, so he’s in a different place. I'm not really at liberty to give too much away, but perhaps he sounds like a slightly older version of himself.

DiabloFans: I know you're probably not allowed to get into specifics, but will you be voicing any characters besides Cain in D3?

Gough: Ummm.....! I did do a couple of other things, I can't even remember what they were called offhand, but they were a - Barbarian Barbarian type race. It was mostly not even spoken, it was more a language of sounds, grunts, yells, growls. I saw some pictures of what they look like and they were very y’know, bestial and scary so I did do a few other voices, but Cain was definitely the main thing.

: In the third game, he has an adopted daughter. Did Cain change at all because of that? Maybe how he interacts with her, or anyone else?

Gough: I think that is certainly safe to say. I don't really know everything else that is going on around him-they're giving out as little information as they can, so they didn't tell me anymore than I needed to know. But yes, I think his relationship with her definitely gives him a new dimension, because there is just more on his emotional plate in this one, than there has been before. He now has different things to be concerned about, at different points in the story, and his life, and all that. I definitely think that has an effect.

DiabloFans: Something Blizzard was shooting for in Diablo III was how NPC's would react to the classes differently. Did this show in Cain a little bit also?

Gough: I'm... not sure. I'm not really sure who and how many people he is interacting with necessarily. Like I was saying before, I record all of these by myself and the other folks from Blizzard, like the Voice Director and Writers who are there to help, but I am the only voice actor. A lot of what he has to do is more of an inner thought process for him, where he is not necessarily interacting. But again, there are lines that you do, and you have no idea how they are going to be used later on, so i'm not quite sure if I can answer that satisfactorily

DiabloFans: Jumping back to the earlier games, I know that you were also the - Sorcerer Sorcerer in Diablo I. You mentioned that the characters did not really have personalities, so how did you differentiate how you portrayed these characters?

: Sometimes this happens, in cartoons and video games, where you can play more than one character. You just have to keep notes in your head and hopefully you can come up with something that is different enough so they don't sound like the same person. I also remember from the earlier ones that there was a Blacksmith that had kind of an angry, Scottish accent. He had a little bit of a different accent than the Sean Connery thing, which is sort of Scottish, but this guy had a real, 'HEY, you there! Get over here! Oooh, look at this great bloated...' As long as the list of characters doesn't get too long, and of course the director and writers will help make sure you're on target, you can differentiate pretty well.

DiabloFans: Moving on to some Diablo II, how long was the process? About how many hours did you spend having to wrap up all these lines for Cain?

Gough: It's hard to say. Even for Diablo III, there have been several different sessions because they change things around, have you back in to redo some things... A session will typically last a few hours, and I can't even really remember how many there were for earlier ones, or even this one. I do remember one session, where I was doing the other voices besides Cain for Diablo III, which was all of the grunting and stuff... and that just killed me. Luckily it was on a Friday so I had the weekend to recover. It's hard to say how many hours in total. People who play the lead character of a big game, like the guy who played Marcus for Gears of War for example, that can be pages, and pages, and pages...many, many hours. I've never really done one that long, Cain isn't really the lead character who is in the game all the time, so it depends. For me, it's usually 3-4 hours at a time, and then depending on how many sessions there are...hours add up.

DiabloFans: So it's not something that you can just do in a day or two and just be done? It's something you have to work on for weeks at a time and then maybe go back in later on?

Gough: Well, often you are pretty much done in a day or two. This one [Diablo III] has been a little different, and same with Gears of War. They'd have you come back maybe in a few weeks, and/or over a period of a few months you'd go back in a handful of times. There have been other games like that, but a lot of them are one, two, maybe three shots and you're done. Like I said, I haven't really played the lead in any of these things, but based on the number of lines, it could potentially be many, many sessions.

DiabloFans: What has been your favorite line as Deckard Cain, in any of the three games so far?

Gough: [laughs] I can think of some of the rhymes from the Rap, but for the games... I would have to say, just because it's fresh in my mind and it had a little more weight to it, and I can't give anything away, but I think the last lines that I spoke for Diablo III may have been my favorite. Of course, mum’s the word. Beyond that, anything where Cain’s feelings and personality get to come out, where he's impatient, yet passionate. There is one line from the Cain Rap, it was one of the ones that I came up with, something about Baal... Something about how Big Bad Baal was first in line at the Evil Sale, [laughs]. Really, all of Cain's lines are enjoyable because he does have such a definite outlook on things. I do remember what was going on with him during the most recent recordings for Diablo III and it was nice to have the added emotional dimensions, but again...can’t give anything away.

DiabloFans: [laughs] That's fine. I have to ask, you've been doing different voices here and there, (Shrek, - Griswold Griswold, the Gopher) do you remember all the voices you've done? Or do you forget some and remember the more important ones?

Gough: I have a pretty good memory for the sound of the voice, not necessarily the lines. Yeah, I would think so, unless it's just something totally deep in the memory banks, But then, once I hear it, it would come back to me. It's funny, somebody just recently mentioned to me that they had seen a video/DVD of the Felix the Cat cartoon series, which was 15-20 years ago, early 90's maybe. There was one episode where I did the voice of the Bermuda Triangle. You see a triangle, with arms and legs, and a big fat nose, and he's floating in the ocean. He decides he wants to swim to shore and hit the big city...he doesn't really say anything, he just sounds like a big goofy moron. They just said that it was one of their favorite characters of all time, and he doesn't even say anything, he just makes these goofy moronic noises and laughs But it is something that I remember. So if someone says 'Hey, can you do the Bermuda Triangle?' I’d be able to...yeah not too much of a stretch to sound goofy and moronic! I think I have a pretty good recall for most of the characters, especially anything that was like, recurring or lasted for awhile. Somebody else recently asked me to do an interview regarding the character of Colonel Spigot from the Disney show TaleSpin. Another really fun character with delusions of grandeur etc. I think I can recall most of them. Do you have any requests?

DiabloFans: It's just crazy that you can do all these kinds of voices. You've done Gears of War, Call of Duty, Starcraft... I just don't see how you can do all these different voices.

Gough: Well, I imagine if you threw a whole bunch of them together at once and you listened to them, you might notice that there are some similarities. Again, I’m not sure. As a kid, it was just something I played around with sitting in my room. Even watching TV, just trying to mimic whatever was on TV, and having a musical ear really helped also. Hearing something and trying to figure it out and play it as a vocal thing... there's the whole thing about what your voice can possibly produce. But then of course it’s not just about the sound of your voice...there’s the intention and truth behind each character and the whole acting aspect that goes with that also, so you can create a character that is believable and engaging. I actually also just came today from a voice teacher/coach to help keep my voice in shape, partly from the damage I've done to it from all the screaming and abuse etc. from video games. That's definitely something you need to be careful of and I’m trying to at least keep it where it is now, so that it doesn't get any worse. It's funny, you asked me about Tassadar, and I’m not really sure I remember the actual sound but I remember the intention and that he was heavy and dark. And vocally, the sound can even depend on the time of day. Because I just came from the voice lessons, my voice can go a little deeper right now, it’s more flexible. Sometimes I can't get it down that low at all... And sometimes it's a lot higher. The time of day, or even what I’ve eaten that day can affect my voice. I'm knocking on wood because I’m lucky to have been able to do this for as long as I have and to make a living out of it. There are a lot of ups and downs, lots of auditions, struggles, working to keep it all going, but I feel real fortunate that I discovered this and have been able to do it for awhile...and I’m definitely happy and grateful about that.

DiabloFans: Lastly, do you have any plans to make an appearance at this years' BlizzCon? I know that you were there last year.

Gough: Hey it’d be great ! Last year was the first year I had ever gone. I got a call from Blizzard and they said they were putting together a group of the voice actors from different games and they invited me/ If they give me an invite again, I’d love to. I was pretty blown away by Blizzcon really. I usually go to the NAMM show every year, which is the big annual music industry convention in's just unbelievably enormous and huge. I've also been to ComicCon a couple of times, but BlizzCon was amazing because really it's just centered around a handful of games and it was pretty incredible to see all the people and all the monitors and all the gaming that was going on with all the tournaments, the panels etc....basically to see all this focused fervor and passion. It was insane. And that’s a good thing.

I think we can now get a better feel of how Deckard Cain interacts within the world of Sanctuary, in the third installment of the game. As you've already read above, Cain has a lot more on his plate this time around, which means he's going to be crankier (and just as funny) than ever! Something else to take note of is the reference to the Barbarian race Gough "voiced." I wonder where they will play into the game this time around?

I'd like to give a big thanks to Michael for taking the time out of his busy schedule and answering all of our questions. I hope you all had as much fun reading through this as we did conducting it... Because nothing is funnier than asking a question and receiving a response from Deckard Cain.


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