Interview / Carlos Ferro, voice actor, The Godfather II

Carlos Ferro is a man that most gamers know, maybe not by his face, but by his voice. He’s lent his voice to such titles as Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, the Saints Row series, Scarface and perhaps, most famously, Gears of War, where he got to yell, “What’s up, bitches?!” as Delta Squad’s Dominic Santiago. On April 7th, Carlos will be making gamers an offer they can’t refuse as Don Michael Corleone in EA’s The Godfather II.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the man and his voice to discuss his career, videogames and all manner of nerd shit. I even tried to pry secrets from his mind, but I fail as a Jedi. However, I did discover we both think a Big Trouble in Little China game (developers, let’s make this happen) would be the greatest thing ever made. Hit the jump to get the skinny on being Dom, filling Pacino’s shoes and selling bleach as a moth.

TVGB: You have a rather extensive acting history. How’d you get into it?

Carlos Ferro: I was born and raised in San Francisco. When I was out of school I thought I was going to be a professional DJ forever. That’s what I thought I was going to do, it’s what I was doing for a gig. It was going well and I thought I was going to be a music producer. In the night club I started meeting local celebrities and in SF, because it’s a smaller market there’d been, at that point, three shows shot in SF. That’s it. And TV and show business always seemed pretty far away; you might as well have been in the midwest where TV stars and celebrities were something you’re not close to. What happened, being a DJ, I started meeting people that were on doing commercials, and it wasn’t local rug commercials, and episodic TV.

Once I saw it was something attainable it became really attractive so I started doing homework instead of pursuing any kind of degree in music, communications or broadcasting — which was an option at one time. I started looking into what was the route everyone took that was local and doing alright. It wasn’t a short route. It was as long as anything that’s a professional career, so now my DJing was not just my job; it paid my way through school as I started going to professional training programs. It really was timing and I ended up training with the best teachers, going through the best programs offered and paying dues like anyone else. I liked the idea of the process of trying to write something so I worked with other writers, established playwrights and directors and I ended up coming to LA to do a one man show about a LA legend. I played Sal Mineo, who was murdered so it was a really dramatic story, but the idea was more to tell the story and do the process and go right back to SF. But, I ended up coming to LA and opportunities came up. While I was doing the show, I did my first soap opera.

TVGB: Which one was that?

CF: Santa Barbara. It’s not even on my IMDB because it was a silly, silly thing.

TVGB: A classic one.

CF: You remember Santa Barbara?

TVGB: I remember the intro coming on when I’d be at my grandmother’s.

CF: I have wonderful tape of me coming onto Bridgette Wilson who ended up playing Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat (the movie). That was my first brush with the videogame industry.

I’ve been fortunate in how opportunities come my way. Videogames were a very different industry even 10 years ago. So, when the next-gen consoles were probably in-development, I owned an Xbox. To me, the original Xbox was the new hotness. I had always said they were fulfilling the promise of where videogames were going to go after the Atari 2600; where it would eventually get to you navigating a movie. Well, it’s close, but with voice, in terms of job and acting, it still, even for a gamer or would-be gamer like me, it never seemed like there was an acting job, but there was definitely opportunity. It’s in my nature to being a geek to tell people, wanting to listen, if it has to do with pop culture, comic books, superheroes, spies, action figures, games, I’m in.

TVGB: Nerd shit.

CF: Nerd shit. Let me know, I’m in. So, sure enough, when the next-gen consoles were being developed, I think there are going to be more Xbox games than PS2 games and I didn’t know there would be a 360, PS3, much less a Wii, in the concept of actually bowling. When I started getting scripts from my voiceover agent, that said “secret” CD-ROM project, I don”t think the industry was treating it like it’s treated now. It was more like, “Do you want to read for something on a disc that kids are playing?” And I was like, “It’s called ‘James Bond‘ what? Fuck yeah!”

TVGB: Have you always been a gamer or was it the coming of the Xbox that got you?

CF: My gap is being a child and finding my away around an Atari. I mean, a little kid, it didn’t matter to me if it was Pac-Man, that tank assault…whatever it was called.

TVGB: I don’t know, I had a Coleco. I was cool.

CF: Right there when the 5000 series Atari hit was when I had the gap and didn’t play again until the Zelda games and that was because my nephew was a Zelda freak.

TVGB: So you’ve always kind of flirted with games, but never been balls deep in them.

CF: Balls deep was Xbox and it went from there. In some of the circles I run in, that’s kind of like being an expert. With my friends, they’re like, “You’ve got an Xbox?!” and they think I got a 360 because I do the games and it’s, “no.” I got an original Xbox because I wanted to play James Bond: Nightfire, X-Men: Next Dimension; games I was in or properties I was into.

TVGB: Would you say doing voicework for the games is what got you into the games?

CF: The short answer is “yeah, definitely.” I know I’m the kind of person that would have an Xbox no matter what and choose the games that had things I liked, but the idea I was auditioning for these things and saw them come out with the graphics at the level they were, I was like, “Fuck, that looks good!” I would’ve gotten it anyway, but sure, it’s definitely a motivator to hear me be the third guy in the third level that fights Pierce Brosnan or that I’m Forge. It was a major thing to be in X-Men; I was stoked to be fighting in a game and I’m the fucking voice!

TVGB: Did you have a nerdgasm?

CF: Totally. Beyond. And it’s like that with any game. I’d get just as excited about games I wasn’t in because of the property. Even if the game wasn’t very good, I got excited about a Starsky and Hutch game because, “They make a Starsky and Hutch game? I’ve gotta see this!” So yeah, being the voice actor made me want to play more, but the reality is I probably would’ve had them anyway.

TVGB: You seem to do more voicework now than actual on-camera stuff.

CF: The business has changed. A lot of actors change agents like they change underwear and I’ve been with the same commercial and voiceover agency since I moved here and the theatrical agency was like underwear — I’d bop around. Not to get into the boring stuff, but strikes and changeovers in agencies have the tendency to put people off of what they love to do and why they’re doing it and I ended up finding commercials and voiceovers a really good fit for me. I think it might be the nerd or geek thing for me, I always got excited about being on shows like Doug, but never got excited about saying, “He went that-a way!” It’s not being elitist or a snob, but I got excited about what I was a part of and the creative process. When I was doing a lot of theater, I auditioned for the shows I was interested in, not to just pad a resume. It’s always been about the work to me but LA isn’t that kind of town. If you want to pay your bills, you have to work on what you can and for me I was very fortunate that voiceover became lucrative and I got as lucky as I did with the projects I was working and that I maybe didn’t have to pound the pavement as hard and when things have come up that I’ve gone out for that are on-camera, it’s been stuff I’ve been excited about. I worked on this feature, it was a comedy, and when I talked to the director he’s like, “You know you’d be really funny in the movie.” I was a lot more excited about working on the animated part of it. I want to hit that out of the park rather than be in a sketch I don’t really care that much about. Some people are a lot more interested in face time and stuff like that. I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve done on camera but I don’t know that all voiceover actors are as excited about their work as I am.

TVGB: Do you think voice acting lets you open up more?

CF: It’s the coolest job in the world. John DiMaggio (Marcus Fenix, Gears of War) says it all the time and I’ve worked a lot with him, he’s one of the most talented voiceover actors I know, “This is a gig that we come in at a good time of the day, we don’t have to shave, we just have to have our voice in check and know what we’re doing.” The craftsmanship and the team that works on it, it’s a real beautiful collaboration in terms of what comes out in the end and the response of people that get to play these games or watch a cartoon. People will bust my balls for working on Beverly Hills Chihuahua, for example [points to me], but for me, I get excited working with all these actors I have respect for in the booth, not on set. And who knows if I’d ever work on set with any of these people, so the opportunities, I don’t poo-poo them because they’re not on-camera gigs. Some people, would rather be in one scene with Jamie Lee Curtis than work days/months in the VO booth with people that they have all this esteem and respect for. I’m not that, I’m the latter.

TVGB: Do you feel more at home doing VO?

CF: I definitely feel at home. I always feel at home when I’m happy with what I’m doing. It’s never been a good fit for me to just do the work for works sake. I did a gig last year, on-camera, and after the job (it was shelved) on my drive home, I was in a foul mood and it wasn’t because I wasn’t playing an X-Man; it was because I didn’t like the time and energy I put into it and what it was inevitably going to be — it was not gratifying. Sure, there have been VO jobs that are silly. I’ve done gigs where I’m not a superhero, spy or bad guy and it’s quick, easy money, but I think there definitely has to be a part of you, as an artist, that’s being gratified creatively. I’ve been very fortunate that me and Josh Ortega (writer, Gears of War 2) can start writing a comic book, which is one of my lifelong dreams. That’s what gets me excited; I’ll enjoy failing on that, if I do, where as being a series regular on a horrible show that’s poorly paid and has horrible hours — there’s no way I’d ever go back to struggling. I want to be clear that I definitely don’t do the gigs for the gigs sake, I definitely have to be excited for it.