Interview with David Lodge: Voice of Ivern, Galio and Skarner
Wed 7th Dec 2016 - 9:47am
Today we have an interview with David Lodge, one of the voice acting pillars that keeps the lore and personality of League of Legends alive and kicking. David has now voiced three champions including Skarner, Galio and most recently Ivern, the Green Father. Along with the League champions, David would also be known for several other characters including Jiraiya from Naruto, Kenpachi from Bleach and even General Nazgrim in World of Warcraft. I got to ask him about his experiences with voice acting as well as more specifically his efforts with Riot.
Did you have a different job before becoming a voice actor?
David: I’ve been working since I was fourteen, but after making it out of college and moving to LA, yeah I had a lot of jobs. A waiter, cleaning houses, anything you can name. I eventually wound up in tourism business and travel around the world. I’d been doing marketing and sales and at age thirty I landed my first cartoon series. I also worked on SeaQuest, Santa Barbara and The Glass Shield on camera so I had an on-camera career for a while doing small parts, but is was more lucrative to get into voice over.
When you were just starting out, what were some of the trials you overcame to maintain your voice acting career?
David: One of the biggest trials is financially because you need to work two jobs. One job during the day. Then at night you gig like I did with twenty years of improvisation on stage, and that didn’t pay any money. So one of the hugest trials for actors is to work full time like everybody else and then try to have a career on the side you hope you can at one point switch to quitting your main job, which for me at the time was wearing a suit and selling things to entertainment companies. So that’s a real trial, trying to work two jobs. The other real trial for voice actors is balancing work with family. I’ve been voice acting professionally since age thirty and then what happened. My grandfather and grandmother died, I decided to get married and have kids. Then you’re trying to work to keep your career going when you’re not a major celebrity. So those are real trials, having a family and kids and having other family members dying. As a matter of fact, my very first part two series my father had a massive heart attack and I just left the recording session saying my family comes first and I said I’d go back and record the lines later.
It definitely sounds tough to balance family and work like that. Looking back on some of your more fond memories, do you have a favorite character you’ve portrayed or favorite performance you’ve given?
David: My favorite job is the one I’m currently doing all the time. When you’re an actor whatever you’re currently doing is your favorite job. Ivern for sure for League of Legends. Jiraiya the toad sage for Naruto for which I have a huge fanbase. Superman as a Russian in Superman: Red Son which is on Youtube, it’s really cool. If you guys also play World of Warcraft I play General Nazgrim and Archimonde. Dragon’s Prophet where I play a dragon. Sly Cooper where I was Toothpick. I’ve done so much work but I guess my favorite would be Jiraiya because he’s such a grand scope character.
Definitely some cool characters in there. So with all the characters you have voiced including several champions for League of Legends in the past including Galio and Skarner and even a Legendary skin for each of them. Was recording for Ivern a much different experience or was similar to your past performances?
David: Yeah. Skarner was a couple of years ago and at that time Alex Yee (a really cool creative director) went into the studio with me and we worked on him. Skarner was just this crystal kind of scorpion character and he had a lot of battle lines. Short lines that didn’t leave a lot of room for character development. They liked my work a lot so they brought me back for Galio and I added more depth to that character and a bit of dark comedy, he had a more developed background. Now Ivern had a complete history going on with LoL Universe talking about how he became Ivern. He was a slayer of people and cruel and mean. Then he cut this tree down and became the sweet Ivern we know and love in game. So Ivern is without a doubt more complex and much more interesting.
And that was reflected in what they asked of you with the direction and recording?
David: Yeah! What happened is I got to do some improvisation. When you come up with a new character one of the problems they have is they really aren’t sure which way to go. They have an idea, sort of like making a pizza. They know they want cheese and they know they want sauce but they don’t know what all the extras are on top of the pizza. So that’s where I come in with improv skills fleshing out the character, asking the questions. One of the key questions for an actor to ask is what are the top three qualities of this character? What’s the tone? Does he talk slow or fast? How old is he? Every attribute that you would find in a demographic you would ask about this character and then you create it. So I got to improv while performing the character and added things that the director didn’t necessarily expect.
So instead of just voicing the character, you helped create the character with Riot?
David: Yeah. We worked hand in hand. Of course they had a certain idea in their head. When you go to work on these games, what few people realise is that there’s this studio. On one side of the glass there could be one person or twenty. In this case there was about a group of ten people on the producer side of the glass. The writers, the creators, the directors, producers and then the voice director. On the other side of the glass is just little ol’ me with a microphone so everyone has a different feeling or opinion so what I have to do with the voice director is to get everyone to agree by consensus on what they want and what they don’t want. From there I help build the character and make suggestions. I might say “Ivern is this way, but what about a little comedy?” and they tell me to try it. We go three takes in a row and they say they loved it. We work in concert as artists together to make it special for the players.
Ivern is a much different champion personality wise than either Skarner or Galio. Where Skarner and Galio are more somber, Ivern seems like more of a happy-go-lucky guy. Did you enjoy recording more for Ivern or the more stoic characters?
David: It’s hard to answer that because each character calls for a different kind of performance. Skarner couldn’t have a sense of humor because it didn’t make sense for his character so you enjoy him for what he is. Galio who was more complex was still very dark and stoic. There was a small amount of dark comedy in some of the statements he would make at times. But I have to say I like Ivern because he’s all over the place and who knows what he’s going to evolve into and you never know what he’s going to say or do. In that sense he’s much more fascinating and fun to play.
Yeah, makes sense. So what would you say are some of Ivern’s best qualities?
David: I think everybody enjoys Ivern being powerful yet he’s very loving to nature. He’s upbeat and funny. The key to his whole character though is that it’s a morality play and it’s reflecting the times that we live in. This character wasn’t just a random idea. If you think about it right now we are facing the war in Syria and a world with a lot of problems and strife. Ivern was a bad guy in his previous life and his character is a message saying that anyone can reform and respect nature and love the planet. I don’t think that subtext is lost on the players. So many games are all about death and destruction but Ivern isn’t about that at all.
Have you heard anything from Riot about coming back to do a legendary skin voiceover?
David: All I can say is NDA, NDA, NDA. If I knew I couldn’t tell you and I don’t know so I can’t tell you. There are a lot of things in this interview I can’t say because of NDA. Even when I went in to play Ivern I had no previous information. All the game companies do not give you any information prior to showing up and they are very secretive about what the future holds. So I have no information and if I did I couldn’t tell you.
No worries! So what has your interactions with fans of League been like compared to some of the other titles you’ve participated in?
David: I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on Twitter. I’ve tweet out a lot of things about League and my avatar is even Ivern right now so I invite people to go there and have a look. The fans are loyal and fanatical. It’s a special breed. League of Legends is one of the most played games in the world and it’s a great game. The world championship for League has catapulted it over the top and it’s so incredible to see where it is now knowing where it started from. The fans are definitely fanatical.
Definitely crazy fans, but a good crazy. So what would you say is your personal favorite thing about voice acting?
David: I’ll tell you this, having worked a real gig wearing a suit and tie, going to work and being on the clock. My favorite thing is that I get to be an artist and I get to work with a lot of different people and I don’t work with the same people every day, though I might seem them once or twice a week. I get to go to work and bring a variety of characters to life. One minute I’ll be in League of Legends as Ivern, the next I’ll be in World of Warcraft or something else. Right now, I’m on a Disney Junior show called Goldie and Bear. As an actor I can go from a preschool show to playing monsters with all this wide range and that’s the fun part. I get to come home a celebrate.
Final question, do you have any words you’d like to share with your fans?
David: Yeah! I’d like to say thank you for playing League of Legends. I hope you guys enjoy Bramblefoot the Green Father, otherwise known as Ivern the half man half tree and you explore and find the secrets of nature. You guys can follow me on Twitter and watch me on Youtube. Thank you for everything!
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