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Features - Jeff Gurner Interview
Jeff Gurner
Name: Jeff Gurner

Manhunt Character: Skinz #6

In Manhunt he hunted you down, cussed you out and beat you to death with baseball bats and nail guns as a member of the Skinz. But away from all that he likes to spend his time playing bass guitar in his band, Lisa Jackson & Girl Friday. In addition to voicing videogames and acting he has appeared in numerous stage productions including 'The Lion King', 'Harold & Maude The Musical' and 'Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story'.
Thanks to Mr. Gurner for taking time out to answer our questions. You can check out the official website for Lisa Jackson & Girl Friday here.
- In Manhunt you played a member of the Skinz, which is a favourite among game players. Did you have a problem at all coming to terms with the gang? Where you able to adlib or was it all scripted?
Nah--it's just acting. Certainly I loathe Nazi skinhead (or any hate-based) dogma and propoganda. I'm proudly Jewish and my fiancee is Latina, but as an actor it was interesting to tackle the character. I do recall, however, that there were certain lines drawn, by the producers, in terms of what racial epithets would be allowed in the gangs' vernacular, and yes--we were allowed to improvise a bit in achieving that end.
- Do you have a favourite line of dialogue you used in Manhunt? There was Skinz member that was doing a number 2; did you have to record the grunts/dialogue for that?
Nope--sorry. Far as I recall, I wasn't responsible for any fecal grunting. Don't remember a favorite line, but I do recall it was a looooong session with lots of screaming.
- Was there anything or has there ever been anything that you have refused to say for in game dialogue?
Not yet. I'm tough to shock. If the game called for a personal endorsement for, say, selling crack to schoolkids, I'd probably have to put my foot down, but otherwise--I look at any acting job as a chance to get into a different head space.
- Do you have a process of getting into character; do you take influence from anything or just run with it?
Well, a bit of both. I definitely knew where I wanted to go with this type of character, but the actual preperation is different than say stage or film. It's all very fast. You're in, you record it, you're out. So with no actual rehearsal process, you really do just run with it.
- There was an early version of the game that featured several character changes did you have to redo any voice work for the final version, or are you only aware of the released product?
Not that I recall. Just the one day of work.
- What is your most memorable moment of working on Manhunt?
It was just a fun vibe. I had worked with the director before, and he was pretty free about letting me do my thing. I do recall it was pretty cool that my recording session followed Evan Seinfeld's. Not because I'm a fan of Biohazard, but because I AM a fan of Evan's wife...
- What is the typical direction given to you when recording the voiceovers? Do they show you video footage, give you a character profile or is it all up to you to come up with the character?
You usually do get a character profile with pictures, and sometimes they'll show you early versions of cutscenes. The direction depends on the director. Sometimes they'll flat-out give you a line reading, and other times they'll really let you stretch.
- Having recorded the voice over for quite a few games, do you have a favourite?
I really dug doing Max Payne. It was my first, and the character, Jack Lupino, was a blast to do. I did a couple characters in a game called Mafia that were fun--one in particular, Ralphie, was cool, because we gave him a really heavy stutter. I also recently had a great time doing a handful of very diverse and interesting characters for Neverwinter 2. Can't go wrong doing wizards, monsters, and the like.
- Do you play video games yourself? If so what are some of your favourites?
I never did till I recorded Max Payne. I wanted to check out the final product, so my girlfriend at the time bought me an X-Box. BAD call on her part, because we lived in a studio apartment and I saw the sun come up waaaaay too many times while playing. I particularly like first-person shooters, action adventure, sports and horror games. I've tried tried tried to get in to RPG's, but they just haven't done it for me. BIG Halo fan, Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, Half-Life...that kind of game--good shooters with solid characters and plot. Also--even though it's a major part of Manhunt gameplay, I'm not a fan of stealth games.
- How long was the recording process for Manhunt?
Manhunt was about 5 hours as I recall.
- Does the recording process differ from game to game? You have recorded dialogue for a few Rockstar titles, each varying in origin of creation (American, Canada, England & Scotland) or is it the same process with the same people for every Rockstar game?
Pretty much the same. Go in the booth, put on the cans, say the words. It gets different based on the director and the producers.
- How early into development of a game do you come in to record the dialogue? Is it just months or years before the game is released?
Not sure. All I can tell you is that most games I've done have come out around 6 months to a year after the recording session as I recall.
- Is it weird to think that every day, all across the world someone is digitally killing you?
Good question! Doesn't bother me, but I do remember that my little bro actually got Max Payne before I did, and he called me to say that he'd just gotten to my character and once he'd killed me--he went back to kill me every possible way he could kill me! Getting back at me for beatin' on him when we were kids I guess...
- What was it like the first time you heard yourself in a game?
Very Cool. Was Max Payne, and they had put a ton of cool effects on my vox. Sounded even cooler than I had expected.
- Have you ever had fans recognise you (from various games) as soon as you talk?/td>
Can't say I have. Besides, I seem to specialize in accents, dialects, and yer basic maniacal tones. So it's kind of far off from my real voice.
- Do you have a problem working on violence video games? Over the past few years video games have become subject to a lot of blame, Manhunt being one of the most prolific in recent times, and of course the Grand Theft Auto series. Do you think a game is just a game or is it something more?
Look--I don't blame Doom, KMFDM, or any other target assigned blame by a grieving parent trying to make sense of a tragedy like Columbine. Something like that is always going to have people screaming for a scapegoat. But in my opinion it's certainly not the fault of the music, film or gaming industries. Being a parent certainly isn't easy, but when something like Columbine happens...well in my book you look to the parents who DIDN'T KNOW (!?!) that their kids were buying weapons, building pipe bombs, suffering bullies, and playing games and listening to music very specifically rated for an older audience. That shit all falls squarely on the shoulders of Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris and their parents.
- How does voice acting compare to regular acting? Is the process the same or do you need to go that one step further since you only have use of your voice?
Well if anything it's one step less, since you don't have to create a physicality for the character. You still dig in, make it organic and try to give a truthful performance--you just don't have to shave, change costumes, or memorize lines!
- What do you enjoy more? Playing music, acting or doing voiceovers?
Love 'em all. Different ways to the same high...and no cubicle or necktie when I go to work baby!
- When not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
Playing with my band, Lisa Jackson & Girl Friday, being a hard-core news junkie, reading, and hanging with my beautiful fiancee, Michelle.
- What future projects do you have lined up? Anything you can talk about?
Far as gaming goes, just finished Neverwinter 2. As far as everything else goes, I'm always recording commercial vo's, audio books, and the like, and going in and out of town for theatre jobs. Also, the band just released our first music video. It rocks. Oh yeah--and I'm DEEEEP in the throes of wedding planning!
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