Hey everyone, Maleok here. I had the chance to chat with the marvelous voice actor behind Reinhardt from Blizzard’s hit shooter Overwatch (among many wonderful others). I hope you enjoy this peek into his life. It was a pleasure to connect with him!
Maleok: First and foremost can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background and what got you started in the arts?
Darin: Okay. Crusader – online. I’ve been a working actor since 1981. I’ve done shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatres and national tours. A lot of commercials, some tv, and a really bad movie in the 90’s called “American Tiger”. Oh so awful. But, I pretty much knew this was what I was going to pursue as a profession since High School. I did shows at my school and at my sister’s all-girls Catholic school. They had a fabulous theatre and would fill out the male cast by auditioning boys from other schools. I still credit the director, Marilynn Bogetich, with starting my passion for this craft. She really believed in me, and I got to do some great roles. And my parents always took me to Broadway shows from a young age. Theatre has always been an important part of my life. Seeing how different artists interpret the same work. My wife and I saw a truly amazing production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2006. Tim Supple directed. It was done in English and six Indian languages. And you didn’t need subtitles to get the beauty of the text. It was just stunning. That is the kind of work I want to be involved in. Work that immerses the audience in the world and thrills them. Delights them. I wish you could have seen it. It just stayed with me and still inspires me. Looking at something differently and making a unique choice that excites an audience. I try to bring that in the recording booth with me.
Maleok: When did you get your first, named, voice-over role?
Darin: It was 2010, the first Skylanders game. They were doing ads that Jorma Tacone from Lonely Island was directing. I auditioned in New York and was cast as Gill Grunt. Officially, he got his voice in the second game, but those ads led me to Gill and I’m still doing him. I remember the audition. There was a sheet of all the male characters and my agent said to pick three. I did and thought no more of it. You have to be physically in Los Angeles to get most video game work. But they liked what I did and I am so glad they did. That little fish changed my life. About three years ago, my wife and I decided to try Los Angeles. We thought we would be in LA three, six months, and then go home. The competition is very stiff and it is a hard market to break into. But, I guess my background and training helped and here we are. All because of a fish.
Maleok: Speaking specifically of voice over and theater, do you have a preferred medium?
Darin: I love acting. I love being onstage, but I must admit I would NEVER get even an audition for any of the voice-over roles I play had they been onstage or on camera. Getting to perform characters like Reinhardt in Overwatch or Ardyn Izunia in FFXV – that’s where the years of stage experience paid off. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now had I not done what I did before. Sorry, that sounded kind of like Yoda, but you get the meaning. In voice-over, I can use my skill to play anyone, and that is exhilarating. And I still get in my own way. When the audition for Ardyn came around, I wasn’t going to do it. They didn’t say it was Final Fantasy. There was a picture. And I just thought, “Well, he’s got a kind of young scoundrel thing going. That’s not me. They’d never use me. I can’t play that.” But the scene was so good, and my wife told me to just go for it. I based him kind of on a friend of mine from the original company of “Rock Of Ages”. And now, I can’t imagine not playing Ardyn. He is just so theatrical and delicious. And voice-over let’s me do that.
Maleok: Moving on to your experience with Blizzard, how has the experience been so far for you?
Darin: They are my champions. I would not be talking to you if it weren’t for Blizzard. I am a big Diablo player from way back, so I always loved the company and what they do. When I first got to Los Angeles, my wonderful agent, Heather Vergo, told me to take some workshops because I didn’t know the rules of voice-over in Los Angeles and people didn’t know me. One of the first I took was with Andrea Toyias from Blizzard. She brought Orc copy and I walked into the booth and did my thing. And Andrea believed in me, and I owe her everything. Getting to be a part of the truly stunning worlds that Blizzard creates means the world to me. I went to my first BlizzCon the year Overwatch was first shown. I had done a session for Reinhardt, but hadn’t seen more than a drawing or two of what he would look like. So, it was November 7th, my birthday. I walk into the convention center with my friend Kym Canon just as the Overwatch presentation starts. They show the first cinematic and I’m floored. Then they show that first gameplay trailer. I’m watching. No Reinhardt. I think maybe he didn’t make it into the game. Then, the last one to appear, here he comes around the corner. And the music is swelling and I just teared up. I’m doing an exaggerated version of my father’s voice for Reinhardt and I wish he could have lived to see that moment. It will always stay with me. So, yeah, Blizzard … they are my champions.
Maleok: The reception of Overwatch has been incredible thus far How does that feel for you personally having been a part of it?
Darin: Seeing the love online and the beautiful fan art and glorious cosplay, I still can’t believe I get to be a part of that community. I was just at New York Comic Con and Thomas DePetrillo who made that incredible Reinhardt cosplay invited me to the group photo shoot. Then, I was asked to be a part of it. Everyone was so kind. And I am always floored by the skill of the cosplay artists. And Thomas and I did a Reinhardt & Reinhardt video. How amazing is that? Getting to be in the middle of all that joy … it was pretty overwhelming. If I can give a little of that joy back by doing Reinhardt’s voice, well, hammer down, job done. Catchphrase.
Maleok: You’ve mentioned in the past that recording Emperor Valkorion really opened things up for you, do you think that Reinhardt has had a similar impact?
Darin: Well, the first big role I got when I got to Los Angeles three years ago was Blackhand in World Of Warcraft: Warlords Of Draenor. There was a great cut scene that people were excited about. Then I was cast as Valkorion and I also narrated that stunning “Sacrifice” trailer as him. People started to wonder who this New York theatre guy was. And I got lucky. DOOM and Overwatch released very close to each other. Reinhardt and Samuel Hayden – very different characters. People were surprised it was the same actor. Then the reveal of Ardyn Izunia. It’s a big year for me. But even in sessions for other games, people will mention that they love Reinhardt. He did help people in the industry know my work a little more. I’m striving for a broad range of characters, and he is so different from the other roles I play. I have been playing a lot of baddies – love playing villains – and Reinhardt is just about honor and doing what’s right. Such a positive character. He’s Don Quixote in a lot of ways. Always tilting at windmills. Never giving up, and being just all heart. I am so thrilled that people have taken to that. And there are lots of great projects coming up. I am having a wonderful “third act” to my career.
Maleok: Do you feel you connect with Reinhardt, or he to you, either personally or in some facet of your family or life?
Darin: Well, as I said, there is a lot of my father in him. My father was Russian but born and raised in Germany. For many years he was a men’s clothing designer with shops on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida. I grew up there. And my father always had artists and actors over to our home. He knew everyone, and they all told such amazing stories. He was larger than life in many ways. He went thru many hardships, but they never stopped him. He was a big, serious man but was capable of great joy and had a silly side that most never saw. Yeah, there’s a lot of my father in Reinhardt.
Maleok: How have the fans been to you, as far as convention interactions, fan mail, social media etc.
Darin: People have been so kind. I used to go to conventions as a fan myself, so being on the other side has been kind of surreal. My first appearances were for Valkorion, and the SWTOR community was extremely welcoming. EA was kind enough to send me to Germany last year for GamesCom, and I met so many wonderful European fans. I even got to sign my first lightsaber. And now with Overwatch, there is just so much love. That’s what I’m getting. Just wonderful people who share their love of these great characters, and I’m getting used to using Twitter. That’s the best way to interact with me. I try and answer everyone. Hopefully I do. Everyone has been very kind.
Maleok: Do you ever think about the fact that tens of thousands of people hear your voice everyday, and that Reinhardt is many people’s favorite, or main, character? How does that rather daunting prospect make you feel.
Darin: This will be a short answer – It makes me feel great. I’ve been onstage in three thousand and four seat houses. Performed for so many people. It will still never equal the amount we can reach through animation and video games. It means the world that my characters are connecting with people. It’s why we are artists and storytellers.
Maleok: Finally, as is tradition to ask, do you think you will be doing this for the rest of your life?
Darin: This will be a shorter answer – Yep. Hammer down.
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