"She calls people to their highest level of function" -- Amy Walker on voicing Hearthstone's Elise Starseeker

The League of Explorers has arrived in Hearthstone's newest expansion, Saviors of Uldum. A highlight of the expansion is a new legendary card, Elise the Enlightened, a new card based around Hearthstone character Elise Starseeker.

Amy Walker, who voices Hearthstone's Elise Starseeker, was interviewed by Inven Global's Nick D'Orazio regarding her thoughts on the new Elise card, provide insight on the work of a voice actor, and reminisce on some of her favorite characters she's voiced. 


Would you just please introduce yourself to our readers? They have heard your voice so many times but maybe they never got the chance to hear you, the actress.

I’m Amy Walker, actress, singer and voice actor, writer, and Elise Starseeker. 

You know, you seem to really enjoy accents. Can you explain why and when you started loving accents and how this came to be your job?

Yeah, absolutely. The main thing was growing up with Disney. Growing up on a small island in Washington state, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to many different kinds of voices and accents and people. But Disney, thanks to those villains and all sorts of people, I was introduced. You know, Mary Poppins (English Accent), for example.

I started paying attention when I was quite young (Southern Accent), because you never know where someone’s going to be from (Austrailian Accent). So it’s really important for me to be authentic with how I express a character (French Accent). They’re all real to me, so you know, it’s important.

So what accent did you channel, or were you first inspired by when you very first heard that you were going to have to create the voice for this role: Elise Starseeker. How did you find her voice?

Yeah, I love Elise and it was my, I think second or third character for Blizzard and I worked with Andrea and she knew I could do trans-atlantic accents, if that’s what you would call it. Kind of a timeless, not quite British accent and not quite an American accent, but, you know, somewhere in between. She has this sort of accent present in the 1940’s and 50’s, and so I kind of started there and then gave her this real empowerment.

I love how Elise just takes life by the reigns and just dives right in as the intrepid explorer and captain really. To me, she's very much like Indiana Jones. And I always wanted to play Indiana Jones, and I’m a woman and I got to! A character like this is  so much fun.

Do you play games yourself? Are you familiar with Hearthstone as a game? What is your relationship with video games and gamers both before and after this role?

Yeah, I mean, that’s a continuous question because I actually downloaded it last night because I really wanted to play. In this day and age, there’s so many worlds to dive into in what I've chosen as a profession. Acting has so much to keep up on and I spend most of my time watching film and television and things, but for a game, you know, as a game world, this really speaks to me because there’s some kind of sweetness about it.

And it’s so funny, it’s really fun, and so I would like to explore it. My boyfriend got really excited about that too. So to be continued on that question, but I have not yet played it.

So in that case, I would like to give you some insight and then in return maybe you could give me some insight on things that I’d be really interested about. Does that sound fun?

Yeah, absolutely!

Elise has always been one of the more powerful characters in the game. In the competitive game and in the people that play this game for tournaments and for money, they’ve heard your voice many times. Sometimes when they hear your voice it means that they’ve won and they’re very happy about it but sometimes it’s the other opponent.

With that in mind, how does it feel to be such an important part of the game’s competitive history? And now moving forward with yet another iteration of Elise, it’s really proving to be one of the game’s most popular characters. How does that feel as a voice actor?

I’m in tears! That’s really exciting to me! To be a part of people’s lives and mean so much to them, you know, because we’re all made of energy and I pour my heart into everything that I do and I pour my heart into her voice and my passion. So if you’re hearing that from the character, it’s absolutely there, it’s absolutely for each one of you individually and my heart is with you and I love that my voice gets to be in your ears.

Are there any interesting behind the scenes types of stories or details, or what are some of the realities about this particular voice acting job that you don’t think fans know about or maybe you think is a really interesting story or detail you think fans would want to hear?

Well, it’s an odd job because you’re kind of in a room by yourself with an image of the character, in my case, Elsie, to embody. I like to wear particular shoes or particular clothing that day that can give me her boldness and how she may hold her body, and there are certain things that I like to do with my body because the voice starts there. Just like a flute, how you shape the instrument changes the sound that emanates from it. 

However, you have to do things that aren’t going to make sound. I can't wear leather pants or anything that's going to jangle because you would hear that in the mic. So I like to do movements, especially on action sounds, but I have to do them with an economy that gives my body and my spirit the sense of the action without moving any distance away from the mic or creating a sound that would impact that audio. I really enjoy that challenge. 

Can you give any examples of the types of things you would wear or some of those movements that you would use to channel Elise’s energy?

Thanks to my experience in martial arts, I like to have my right foot forward and my left will kind of be raised on the ball of my foot, so I’ve got that stability. And then I’ll often do a hand up in the air with a small but fierce movement, or I’ll stand with my arms to the side for kind of a powerful chest stance for something that’s more, you know, present and commanding.

However, if it’s an exertion, I have to be feeling that in some way. I mean, the hardest ones are the deaths — hopefully no one will ever have to hear that — specifically, the hardest one is to have some sort of trailing sound where you don’t actually move away from the mic but you’re feeling your own demise.

How many ‘death screams’ do you give them, like how many times do you do that?

The deaths are hard because they are particular, especially for Hearthstone, because the card being a different kind of thing. And you know something else you might do three to five deaths by fire, three to five deaths by stabbing, but the card is really particular, and so that one tends to take a little while.

Maybe next time I’ll get it in three, but, usually for a line you’ll do it in three takes and then if there’s a note you’ll take that and give more but I don’t know, maybe, six to ten just to get the particular decay, the right amount and to get it to sound like exactly what they’re looking for.

Do you have any opportunities to improvise or to take the character in your own personal direction?

You know, they’ve worked so hard to refine all of those words that they’re excellent as is. I think maybe there’s been a couple of moments maybe where we get rid of a contraction, because Elise tends to speak without using them. It’s all done and very specific, and often I’ll get a writer or writers in the room. I have a lot of respect for the writers. Their humor is a lot of my favorite humor, and it's so fun. I'm always laughing.

Can you talk to me about how did you feel about the differences in Elise for this expansion? 

Yeah, I’m really excited about this new expansion because she feels to me like she’s taking more of an action-oriented role. Previously we put a lot of teacher-type role-building in there, which is wonderful too. I love teachers, and that was fun, and part of the whole Indiana Jones thread for me since he's a teacher. But this time around, Elise feels a lot more just leader and action-oriented.

I'm sure I can’t say much but it’s exciting. She embodies the power of a woman or person to have fun being inspired.

If Elise was real and she existed, do you think you and her would be friends? 

Oh totally. I want to go, I want to go on her adventures.

But they’re dangerous! They’re extremely dangerous!

*Laughs* I know! But she’s just like, I trust her, you know She’s got it going on. She’s got a great team, and her wits about her, and I know it’s crazy dangerous, but...

Speaking of that team, Elise is part of this group of adventurers. They're ready for anything and they take any adventure as a challenge, right. How close, or do you ever get to work with the other voice actors that play some of these other titular characters in the league of explorers? 

Yeah, it’s really isolated. I haven’t met any of them. Depending on who’s recorded first sometimes i'll get to have references leading me into a response but sometimes it's the director or a writer giving me the line, so my experience of them is the little icon and the writing. I heard samples, and they’re great voices. I’m excited to meet them, but it's an odd business in that way. It's really rare to find any kind of voice recording where people get to do an actual table read.

What are, do you think is the hardest part of the job that us normal gamers just don’t get?

Well, like you said the last time I voiced this character was 4 years ago, so dialing back into that takes a minute. They play some samples and you get in but I think mostly we don’t even get the script until we’re there. It’s a very visceral experience, and it’s really about going with your gut.

As somebody who meditates likes to feel the energy of any character I play or write, it’s helpful to just kind of dive in with my whole body and self. Blizzard has fantastic directors, so if there’s anything that's not what they’re looking for or we get an idea in the room, someone may have an idea on a different way to go about a certain line.  For example, it could be the same words, but they might have a really different meaning if it’s emphasized a different way.

Oh yeah and there’s some hard names to pronounce in Hearthstone.

Yeah, but I love it. I’m a nerd.

You've been the voice of many Blizzard characters. Can you share just you know maybe some of the most memorable characters or some of your most favorite ones?

Absolutely. The first one I did was Corvas Bloodthorne and my first day, which incidentally was my first VO job in LA. There were about 9 interns watching, they were like, ‘Hi! By the way we have an audience today and you will be drinking poison and stabbing your eyes out!’ You know, like drinking demons blood which transforms you into an almost demon, and then stabbing your eyes out, and that’s your day!’ I was like okay, let’s do it!

The joy of imagination, even with something so traumatic as stabbing your eyes out and drinking demon blood, was a whole lot of fun. To have an audience made it very memorable as well.

▲ Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment

For Lunara, I first, I think my first session with her we patched in from London and I was doing my one-woman show on the west end. I had booked this role and so it was really fun to just take the tube down to the lovely studio and be directed from LA in London, get to be Lunara, and then go do my show. It was a total highlight for me.

Lunara is my favorite character of all time.

I love her.

She's by far my favorite Heroes of the Storm character. I play her so much, and she laughs all the time! What was your inspiration for Lunara's taunting laugh?

I just found a ten minute video of her laugh on youtube that someone made.

It's pretty iconic.

It just came out, you know? I had these shoes at the time that I would wear that were high-tops with a bit of a heel, and there was something about those shoes that felt like Lunara's hooves to me. In my imagination, I always had the whip in my hand when I was wearing them.

I think it was my first director who said to me, "She is the thorn that protects the rose." Lunara's protection of the earth is hugely important to me, so I totally resonated with her right off the bat. The humor we get to do in some of the doldrums of the game really cracked me up. The laugh itself came from the joy of besting somebody *laughs* and of course, the fun of it all.

What are your favorite types of characters to voice? Do you have an ideal role that you'd like to play in gaming?

It's so cliche to say a strong woman, but I want to play a woman who is an empowered person or being. I have a penchant for the ethereal and the otherworldly.

I'd like to play somebody who is wise who imparts wisdom while also being fallible and human at the same time. The writing is getting so nuanced and beautiful in gaming that I love when we get to see the cracks of how hard people worked to become who they are, as well as the failings that we all have. I personally grow and learn a lot from that experience, and it can be a very powerful type of role to witness and to play.

Characters like Elise possess a courageous strength that allows her to throw herself into situations with the confidence that she'll survive. Do you think playing characters with these attributes has impacted you as a person or rubbed off on you at all?

For sure. I can't voice it if I can't embody it. When I practice, I try embodying that courage, that love, and that confidence in oneself to know that you're going to make it through. To know that you're not alone as well, and have a team with you, is a powerful thing to experience. I certainly reminders like that personally *laughs* everytime I get cast, I think of who hired me and think, 'Well, they believe it. Now it's time for me to really believe it!' You've gotta do that in order to get cast, or even audition.

When there's a role that becomes available and you get to embody those qualities, it's very powerful and it's real. It's helpful in times when I need that extra reminder for myself. I auditioned for this role the other week, and I needed to embody her message because of what I'm stepping into in my life. I was in tears at how the universe brings what we need to us when we pay attention.

I don't have any control over whether I get cast, but sometimes, all you need is just those few minutes. Playing these roles and feeling them is sometimes all you need, and it's powerful.

I would like to end with a fun question for our Hearthstone mega-fans out there. Do you have any favorite lines that Elise says in all of Hearthstone?

I like how she says 'Explorers.' That's what we all are, and when you go at it with that spirit, it seems really exciting. I'm going to take that feeling into my day.

It's almost like she's challenging you to explore by calling you one.

She is, and I think she knows that. She calls people to their highest level of function. She sees the best in people, so that's her intention.

Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans who are reading this interview?

I'm so grateful that people play Hearthstone, and play Elise, and are enjoying it. For me, that's a very personal, real, and powerful connection that we share in being part of each other's lives in that way. Go forth and Explore!

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