Interview with the voice of Roadhog: Josh Petersdorf

Hey everyone, Maleok here! Today I have a wonderful interview for you on that was a long time coming for me. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with the marvelously kind and talented Josh Petersdorf, the voice of Roadhog. Please enjoy this glimpse into his story and work!




Maleok: In the most general sense could you tell us who you are and what you do?

Josh: Well I’m 34 years old, I’ve been an entertainer since…Well, I won the speech contest in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I was in the spelling bee, the plays, and was always performing. I have a 10 year old son, I had him when I was 24. Me and his mom split up when he was 2 years old, so that kinda took away my twenties so when thirty rolled around I moved to Los Angeles and began my career down here. I currently work at Universal Studios as my day job where I play Optimus Prime and Megatron, I also do the Grinch for the Christmas event. I used to record music which is how I got introduced to the entire recording industry. That taught me a lot of things, the biggest thing that taught me was how to “flip the switch” when you go to the studio. Being able to have that ability to go into somewhere where they demand high level work and turn it on all came from recording music. That’s the quick little bio on me: I love playing video games, I’m an old school dude, I love streaming older games like Final Fantasy VII and stuff like that!

Maleok: So you’re fairly new to voiceover itself, what specifically inspired you to get into that field.

Josh: You know when I grew up my favorite cartoons where Ghostbusters, Transformers, G.I Joe, and Gobots. A huge inspiration of my is Lorenzo Music, the voice of Garfield, and Frank Welker. Both of those dudes I grew up listening to them and my dad would always do silly voices for me growing up. I was really bombastic, I was a ham and class clown in high school. For voice acting I really wanted to do it because it was something challenging that seemed like the next step after music. I had landed a few jobs doing commercials with Dockers and had done some things with this company called Zero Friends with this artist Alex Pardee. I had been involved with my other friend Stephen Reedy who was kind of telling me without me realizing it, “Hey your voice is really good record this for me.”. I went to start taking classes and find an agent. Once you find in agent you hope in L.A that you kinda get your name in the hat and that’s all you can hope for you know?

Maleok: Was your background in acting or was this always your plan to get in?

Josh: Well, when I say I was a musician, I’m not embarrassed to say I was a rapper. I don’t look at it as realistic anymore even though it was so much fun, and I have tons of respect for anyone who goes all the way with music. I understand it man, I released a CD I did the whole thing. I was making music before the soundcloud and spotify generation where you were giving people your CDs in person. It was a lot bigger a deal to be making music back then. Most people don’t understand that back in the in the early 2000’s and late 90’s you couldn’t just make music like you can today. We had like a BR-8 that we were recording vocal tracks on a zip-disk then we would plug the BR-8 into fruityloops 1 where the beat was coming and them put that into Cool edit. We had crazy ways that we were making music. So when that happened I kinda realized I was doing a lot of battle rapping, which began the improv angle of my entertainment. So when I got the gig doing optimus prime at Universal it really thrust my improve full and center and it was, pretty much the greatest gig a voice actor could get as a day job. There is a bunch of guys that have been featured in video games, from Final Fantasy to Halo. One of the guys was in a Terminator movies as an ADR, so there is a ton of talent in the guys that do this. It forced me, 5 days a week, once I got that job to be, ya know, doing multiple hours of vocal work a day. And so that really…I used, I was able to use the skills of going into the studio and when you need to record the song and you only have 3 hours and you’re paying for the time, you didn’t have time to kinda fool around. You had to turn on your best stuff and I learned that skill by doing that. So when I was able to go to those vocal auditions I already knew how to record everything at home. I have my own set-up. I have a simple Pro-Tools and a re20 mic I used at my house.

I was able to transfer that and use that, the skills I learned, in the music industry and transfer them over to voice acting. I’ve always been an actor, I’ve always been in plays, I’ve always been that guy. I didn’t know where to apply it. Then when  I found the lane to apply it. It’s hard work, I went and saw my agent for a year straight, every week paying the 30 bucks to work out with 7 other actors,vocally and have her tear you down. I’ve never had someone do that, ya know. I’ve never walked into a booth, and somebody was “Aww who are talking to? Lift your hands up! Take your hands away from your waist! I don’t believe you, you’re full of s**t”. It was great, it was great to hear that. And this wasn’t somebody close to me. It was a business lady, this is what she does, what she is here to do. Micaela Stepanovich, my wonderful agent. Thank you Micaela. So I hope that gives you a little clarity on that one.

Maleok: You mentioned that you were a gamer yourself, where did that start?

Josh:Let’see thats a funny question. So, the first game I’d ever played was, uh, I was seven or eight years old. My parents got me a Nintendo. It was the first Nintendo and it was the Duck Hunt Mario. I burned a blister into my left thumb playing the first day. I loved it. I loved it. Soon after my parents played that night, all night. And they got to the world 1-4 and beat Bowser and it said that trademark ‘Your princess is in another castle’ and they gave up video games from that moment on saying never again. They quickly learned that you could use video games against their son as a method of privilege. I think the Nintendo was in the cupboard locked more than it was on the shelf being played. But it was really fun. Of course I graduated into Super Nintendo. I had two sisters who were 5 and 10 years younger than me, I got to get the Lion King and on genesis and Aladdin. We went through that era, and then we were playing Super Mario World and of course Final Fantasy 3 and Chrono Trigger, and all those wonderful games. Secret of Mana for Super Nintendo. That is where I was born a gamer. The Nintendo 64….Mario Kart into the Playstation one. You know what was cool about you guys is that when all of us were in college getting our lives together we still had the wii. Final Fantasy 7 and 8 were a game changer for me and I’ve been enjoying playing that. I think I was in High school and oh those were the rough years, 1999 and 2000. It was awkward and you didn’t know what was going to happen. Of course I’ve gone all the way. I worked at Toy’s r us so I had first dibs on the Playstation 2, then I had the PS3. I had a Dreamcast, I had it all. I was playing Phantasy Star Online on dial up at my grandmother’s house. We went there bro.

Maleok: Moving on to work with Blizzard specifically how has the experience been working with them, especially being a fan?

Josh: Phenomenal, phenomenal. A dream come true. There are some things in life you can’t put words on. That one was one of those things. When I started playing WoW it was very therapeutic for me. I started playing in 2007 or 2008, right after Burning Crusade came out. I was at a rough point in my life. Me and my son’s mom just split and I was kinda down, ya know, I was a little upset over it. As anyone would be. And I was kinda refocusing my life to be a better dad and to be a better person. So WoW came in, and I was playing all those nights with a lot of my friends. I was still young you know. I was only 26, 27, really. A lot of my friends were still going out drinking and stuff. I don’t drink so I was just staying inside raiding SSC, raiding Carazoth(SP?) like a boss. I’d laugh now at all the people making fun of me and be like ‘ha ha’.

So when I got the call, the first thing was for Road Hog. When I did the Road Hog audition, I didn’t hear about it for at least 4 months. There was a radio silence and then my agent called me and was like Hey….” I’ve a couple of things before that, but nothing really big so it was tough for Blizzard to get on board with me for a little bit. When they googled me or my history they were like” who is this guy, he is a relative no name.” So they were basically courageous and were like ‘we are going to give you a shot.’ And my agent was very clear to tell me that they were going to give me a shot. If you mess it up, you are never working with them again.” The voice I had done was to was very, like, there was controversy. I had sent some files over to my agent. The wrong file was sent to Blizzard but they really liked the wrong file kinda deal. So they were like ‘Wait this is the wrong file? Is he able to do this voice, we really like it’ And my agent was like ‘I think so.’ I got into the studio, met Andrea, who is the head casting producer/director for blizzard and she is an incredible woman. Positive to the max, such a force of great creativity in the studio. And she just got to me to be, we just hit if off right away. We were like click and we were like cool, felt very comfortable and I went in there and I did the first Road Hog session and “I’m the one man Apocalypse” came out and all the good ones came out. The benefit was that when I was in the studio, they were talking about stuff and I could, ya know, they had the game directors on the line and other people who were live in Irvine who wasn’t in the studio listening and in between takes, I was able to kina rub shoulders and be ‘What was like goldshire, and blah blah this over here.’ And they were like ‘This kid kinda knows what he was talking about in terms of our realm, you are one of us. And I was like I am totally one of you. So you know, it was just really wonderful man. The team over there has been so incredible. Blizzard is such a family, it sounds cliche to say, but it really is. Once you get in there everyone is so  cool. I’ve meet Liam. What a great guy, he is such a nice dude, and when I recorded all the Jayce start weaves stuff Liam was just chillin. It was so real Mofo’s just don’t understand.

Maleok: So for most games, like other big games, like League of Legends, whenever they bring somebody in, its a 1 time thing and they sorta have to retroactively make interactions with characters, where obviously with Blizzard it’s a very active experience I would imagine. They have so many new voice lines and events coming out how active with the company are you?

Josh: I am very active with the company thankfully and gratefully and very blessed given the opportunities they have given me. I’ve been featured in Starcraft, and Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and Overwatch. So I have done the grand slam and the only one left is Diablo. But I’ve been really fortunate and they’ve surprised me. I’d get a call ‘Hey come on down and come down and try these characters’. We are doing Starcraft this week and Hearthstone next week and then we are going to do some more WoW and, uh, it’s been really fortunate because they kinda do have a nice close knit circle of extremely talented people. So they can kinda just pull up a name and they know they are going to get something amazing from whomever they bring in. And me especially and so lucky and happy and fortunate on cloud 9, to the moon. See gamers like us have an advantage as some of the other guys and girls would attest to also, I know what this universe is. I know what this universe is supposed to sound like and feel like. I know what I would like to see in this universe and I think I have a general fan population would want to see also. So I think that was a huge advantage for me, especially when I did WoW and was doing Maxwell Tyrosus. It was just ya know “Greetings Priest”. It was like “I grew up with that” I grew up with that so to hear myself saying these things was amazing!

Maleok: So the reception of Overwatch has been phenomenal obviously, how does that feel for you personally being a living part of it.

Josh: Well I’m so proud. I think of it as such a team effort because there were so many hands that went into that game, it was a polished masterpiece. The polish on that game is so amazing. The reaction has been really good. I have been really proud that people ask about Roadhog, and that I actually do see memes and pictures of him. They really do like him. I see the gender bending too, I don’t care. I think that’s great, more power to them! It just proves how powerful of a message that a character can be, and people are listening to what you’re doing and they do give a shit. A lot of people who I tell that I’m Roadhog say, “Are you kidding me I loved Roadhog!”. That makes me feel really good. My buddy and I have this joke where we say if I’m ever having a bad day I just need to load up my twitter feed and look for a compliment! *laughs*  The fans of Blizzard, and especially Overwatch, have been very very kind. It’s a newer community and every community has its toxicity of course but I feel that this community is very cosplay driven as well as all inclusive. I’m really enjoying it.

Maleok: This is one of your first named roles in a video game, do you think that this has opened you up to doing additional voiceover in the future.

Josh: Absolutely! I’ve done stuff for League of Legends, I did their MSI or Mid Season Invitational video this year. I was the Sean Bean soundalike voice. That was really cool that Riot came along. I also did some stuff for Breakaway which is the new game that Amazon is pushing. It has definitely opened up the door for more opportunities for me.

Maleok: Obviously Roadhog is not a good guy per say, but do you feel any sort of connection with him as a character when you voice him.

Josh: Umm, yes. When I saw him in the graphic representation of him I thought to myself what he would sound like. One thing they were stressing was they didn’t want pig sounds, no squeals and snorts or things like that. They also never really pushed the accent on me because I feel that they liked where I was going with the voice. I think it worked, and it was one of those, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of things. We did two different 4 hour sessions for Roadhog, and the first one was kind of laying the groundwork, a lot of the original lines you hear like, “We’re all animals…”. The second session was a lot of grunts and efforts. There were also some funny lines for when Roadhog gets frozen by Mei’s gun where he shivers as well as when he was burned or electrocuted. I can see why they didn’t keep them in there. *laughs*  I definitely felt connected to him when he did his laugh, the hiss and the way he wheezes. That was inspired by a good friend of named Adam Beezely (SP?) who does Megatron with me at Universal Studios and he would do those Corey Taylor from Slipknot gasping sounds. So I remember going in and doing the Roadhog session and they stopped and kinda looked at me somewhat curious kind of like, “What is he doing?”, they told me to keep rolling and that it was good. It was fun to kinda be able to have someone put you in a long room and say, “Just run, and we’ll take every good part of this and just roll with it.”.

Maleok: So we touched on this earlier but how have fans treated you and how do you usually come across them.

Josh: Hmm…Death Threats…*both burst out laughing* No no no, fans have been really wonderful. I’ve got a lot of people who message me on Twitter who show off the costumes that they do as well as artwork. The guy who’s been playing as Hanzo with a nerf bow and as Winston with bananas I tweeted at him saying, “I’m waiting for the one with the hook.” which he liked. *laughs* The fans have been amazingly welcoming and nice. It really puts a smile on my face so thank you to all of you who have appreciated and supported and been a part of this with us. Thank you!

Maleok: I always love exploring this next train of thought with people, how does it make you feel that tens of thousands of people hear your voice every day; So many people love Roadhog and have him as their favorite or main character, how does that prospect make you feel?

Josh: Great! The coolest part is when you think that ten million people bought the game, which means ten million people have heard my voice. That statistic alone is baffling. I got to buy it for my son this year and sign the cover of the game. I’m like that’s a 1 outta 1, nobody has that. He loves to brag about me to his friends I go see him at school and I’m on the playground and the kids want my autograph. I feel so bad because I feel like a nobody, you don’t want my autograph! But I mean, if you’re gonna twist my arm I guess. *both laugh* Thousands of dollars those will be sold for on ebay, thousands *laughs*. It’s been a remarkable experience, it’s been great. The thing that makes me the most happy and proud is that people enjoy it and like what we did. I’m a huge supporter of make-a-wish and we do a lot of that stuff at Universal Studios, I really like helping children who are medically or mentally challenged, I have a soft spot for those children. That is kind of the reason I like play Optimus and one of the reasons I continually do the Grinch and put 2 ½ hours of prosthetic makeup on my face every morning for a month. I have these memories of children I met, I remember this girl whose name was Destiny who had MS and maybe was mentally challenged or delayed and was 9 or 10 years old. She was strapped in her chair because she couldn’t move a lot and I kneeled down and touch her hand and said, “Hey Destiny it’s me the Grinch!”. I’m there doing my Jim Carrey impersonation and I feel her hand limply touch mine and we smile for the picture then I look back at her in her eyes and feel her little hand kinda squeeze my hand beneath the glove and I just thought this is why we do this. You know when I see Blizzard fans and you know maybe you had a bad day or your girlfriend left, or your mom was yelling at you, or your running outta your luck you can come play our game in our universe and if my voice and the voices of the others cheer you up I’m happy.

Maleok: Finally, my traditional last question is, do you think you will be doing this for the rest of your life?

Josh: Well I hope so. I laugh and I tell my girl that my ultimate girl is when I’m 60 to be like George R.R Martin sitting in a cabin writing fantasy novels. *both laugh* My ultimate goal is to be like old and sitting at the lake with a word processor and a new type of keyboard where we type in the air. I really hope to be this for the foreseeable future. I quit smoking cigarettes about a year ago, I’ve insured my throat and I’ve been wanting to dip my feet more in commercial stuff. I did a gig with the San Diego zoo as well as some stuff for Shock Top and made headway there. I feel like the industry is a big ocean but you know what I got myself a little boat and I got a paddle. I’m better off than a lot of other people. A lot of people ask what to do to become of voice actor, and the number one thing I tell them is to never give up. I know that sounds like a John Cena cliche like loyalty respect never give up, but it’s true! Don’t ever give up because for me I can handle failing but I can’t handle quitting. It’s a big way to look at it. You’re going to have to work for it, it’s not going to fall into your lap. If you’re serious about it then it doesn’t matter what town you’re in there is a voice acting class you can take once a week to sharpen you up, because guess what it’s voice acting. That is it. Having the voice is one thing but being able to act and turn your voice into something that is believable is a whole other thing. You know what maybe in the beginning it doesn’t seem like there’s hope and maybe for some people the endgame isn’t a spot in a Blizzard game, maybe it’s just making it to radio. I always tell people to not give up, believe in yourself, and take classes. It’s all about what you’re willing to commit to and whatever you are willing to commit to you will see a change. It took me a year before I booked my first gig and it was this tiny little thing and then the World of Warcraft came another year after that. I had to go to see my agent for a year every week I paid 25$ and rehearse with 7 other people. One day there was literally was a night where I could pay another 125$ to come and meet these other agents and have some one-on-one time. That was kind of a symbol to the agents that this person is serious because they are spending money to come talk to us. There were ten people who showed to to that and honestly for 8 out of those 10 it wasn’t worth it. They just went and paid 100 bucks and the agent said you aren’t ready to be before me. However for me and another person it was perfectly worth it. Me and the other guy were able to say, “Remember me I’ve been coming to your workshop class.”. A real agent will never ask you for money, and will work on commision. Their job is get you booked so you make money and they make money. You have to be careful though because there are a lot of traps in Los Angeles. I feel bad for people who come to the city not knowing about the people who might try to exploit them. There are snakes in the grass and snakes in the glass man. *laughs* I’m getting all philosophical and my girlfriend is looking at me like “Shut the fuck up”.

*all laugh*

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I'm a video game journalist and I love what I do. Interviewed more people than I can count on both hands (and feet) Including: Imagine Dragons, Liam O'brien, Nicki Taylor, and more!