An Interview with Gianni Matragrano! (Namo)
I asked Gianni Matragrano, of Namo fame, if he would be willing to do a quick email interview. He kindly agreed! Here are his answers to the questions I'm sure everyone has been dying to ask!
What's something about Namo you relate to and what's something that's the complete opposite to you?
Well I'm still pretty young, about 28 I think, but to me I feel a connection with Namo's whole thing of having done all kinds of crazy stuff in his life and now, a bit more tired from it all, trying to see and act on finally seeing the patterns in all of it and find some peace. Except the opposite to me is that he has the wisdom to actually do it, whereas I still struggle to turn down a good dare.
Did you have a model or images in mind when coming up with the voice for Namo?
Honestly not too much, I felt like the character design and description really gave me the stuff I needed to figure out what might sound good with him. I did actually draw some inspiration from Soldier 76 of Overwatch for the core voice sound, but not too much on the acting, as the character's personality is pretty different. And even with the voice, the intention was never really "Soldier 76 impression", rather just stuff about that voice's identity which I felt would work really well with Namo. My main inspiration for Namo was Namo himself.
Were there any challenges you faced when voicing Namo?
A little, it can be tempting to really "perform" a line and have too much fun with it, but I felt like with Namo's personality and where he's at with this whole story, he needed to be a bit more reserved in his delivery and say things more plainly. His words delivered almost like his view on a lot of his actions - get in, get out. He is usually saying the words that he wants spoken, and that's it. Not to say he's completely devoid of personality or humor - which is where the challenge comes in, you still want to bring in that spark of who the character is at the same time as depicting who the character is presenting themselves as. But it's a fun challenge to work with, and what I love about characters like this is that their typical reservation can make some moments shine in very memorable ways.
What are the types of characters you enjoy playing the most?
Honestly I always struggle with this question when people ask it because I genuinely feel like variety is the spice of life and my honest favorite thing is just doing stuff across the board. It's awesome to be able to go from being a really goofy redneck to being a cute little space alien to being a grizzled war vet in a single day. Even commercial narration stuff is pretty fun and has its own art to it which is very satisfying when you hit the mark. If I had to pick a favorite, I suppose it might be ones who are able to have high energy output and sarcasm. Just saying very sassy things and being way too pleased with yourself about it. There's something very special I enjoy about being That Bitch. At least that's my answer today, but tomorrow, who knows.
What are some vocal performances that you really enjoy, of your own or otherwise?
I narrate the entirety of a text based game called Kyle is Famous and that one was genuinely hilarious for all 20,000 words of it. I love how that came out and the material worked really well with my own sense of humor and delivery style, and really allowed me to have a lot of fun with it and deliver some really excellent moments. As for work other than my own, honestly every time I hear anybody I feel like I get a bit inspired. There's something great in every performance to appreciate. But to pick an example here, I'd have to say Stephan Weyte in the game called Blood. His work as the protagonist, Caleb, is truly the stuff of legends and in my opinion it's as good as VO can get. Furthermore, he also voiced the cultists, and this in particular inspires me. Because something that Blood does better than pretty much every game in its genre, is that when stuff is popping off, it is POPPING OFF. It's wild. Explosions are happening, the room is filling with bullets, Caleb is laughing, and dudes are on fire and screaming for their lives like they really mean it. And a big part of why that chaos feels so good is Stephan Weyte's masterful delivery and commitment to the wild energy and tone of that game. I draw a lot of inspiration from Blood in my work.
What vocal warm-up do you most enjoy?
What was your approach or thought process when auditioning for Namo?
Like most things I do, not much thought. One thing I try to do with auditions is, if there's a bunch of characters, demonstrate a wide array of range and different stuff I can do (without ignoring character descriptions of course), that way the person doing the casting knows what I can do, and might tell me "hey, could you do the voice you did for X but for Y character instead", or hell might just throw me at some random extras and stuff they needed to fill out at some point. So I wanted Namo, along with all the other characters I auditioned for, to sound distinct from my other auditions. But honestly, other than that? I can't say there was much thought. I do (probably too much) stuff purely by feel. I try to really get the vibe of the character and deliver the exact energy I'm getting from what I'm seeing on the page. Namo wasn't hiding anything from me.
What are you watching right now?
My screen, so I can respond to these questions? What else would I... Oh you mean like shows and stuff. To be honest I don't watch a lot of stuff, I need to watch more but typically I finish a work day and just wanna game for an hour or two before bed. I've been playing Slay the Spire finally. Honestly a lot of stuff I watch is due to my wife sitting me down to watch something of her choosing with dinner or before bed or something. So to answer the question, we watched The Green Knight recently and I really loved it. I love very solitary feeling movies like that, and that main guy, he's so cute. Such a handsome man. We also watched the new Dune, which I thought was really cool and felt adequately weird for Dune. And of course, there's always more Star Trek to watch, so we've also been going through Star Trek Enterprise, which perhaps doesn't match up to the legacy of TNG or the mastery of DS9 (nothing can hold a candle to DS9 end of discussion), but Enterprise is honestly super charming for a lot of its own reasons and I've really been enjoying the exploits of Captain Yeehaw And His Sidekick Yeehaw Junior.
Any general thoughts on the experience recording Catalyst Wake that you'd like to share?
It was just great. It was just everything you hope for when you book a gig. The material was clear and well prepared, the people were a delight to work with, Anjali was an awesome director and genuine pleasure to speak with at all. They knew what they were looking for and they knew how to get there very efficiently, all the while feeling like such a nice interaction. When I think about what a nice session is like, I think about Catalyst Wake.
Any upcoming projects you'd like to shout out?
Well people should definitely be on the lookout for [UNDER NDA] and [UNDER NDA], and if they're fans of [REDACTED] they should definitely be excited for [EXTREME NDA, LAWSUIT INITIATED...]. Other than that upcoming stuff, look out for me in eventually every Retro FPS game, current victims include Viscerafest, Postal 4, Selaco, ULTRAKILL, Fallen Aces, Blood West, Gloomw-- Well, you get the idea there. But aside from that, I'd say look out for Cards and Castles 2, a very fun card game where I voice Lieutenant Joff, who has a similar-ish sound to Namo (but with a much different personality) if anyone is a fan of Namo's voice. Also Hero.EXE recently got fully funded wherein I voice a Monarch named Profit, he's a super fun role. And a bunch of other great stuff which I feel bad for not shouting out but I don't wanna sit here and just list off my whole website to you. Other than that I'd warn you to not look at my YouTube channel if you wish to retain any respect for me and keep your sanity.
Hang on, I see the cane off stage, but my overly lengthy and rambling answers weren't enough, I still have more to say. Catalyst Wake is a really cool project with so many unique ideas and characters, it's a very fascinating universe that I'm excited to see more of and honored to play a role within. You've done great stuff here and thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of it. Okay, that's it, I have said enough words now. Thanks for reading.
Thanks so much to Gianni for his thoughtful answers to my questions! I really admire his intuitive approach to voice work.