By Makeda Byfield
Fans of Supergiant Games may notice one voice that pops up in throughout the company’s games. Logan Cunningham brings life to iconic video game characters such as the Narrator in Bastion, The Transistor in Transistor, and Poseidon, The Storyteller and many more in Hades (which won a landmark five New York Game Awards this year). I was lucky enough to sit down with the talented star in between rehearsals and listen to his stories about his journey and lessons with acting. Cunningham also won the Award for Best Actor at the 10th Annual New York Game Awards this past January. As a high schooler, it was an honor to get to know the man behind the characters, and I hope that all the readers out there enjoy as well!
M: First things first…Hello! Would you like to start by giving a brief breakdown of your background in theater?
L: I guess my background in theater is just high school theater. I grew up in California in the Bay Area, San Jose, and went to a high school that had a particularly good theater program. That’s where I actually met Darren Korb, who is the audio director at Supergiant Games. But yeah, that was my first substantial experience acting in anything, and anywhere. And then I moved to New York for college. I went to Fordham Lincoln Center. I wasn’t particularly attracted to Fordham. I was attracted to New York and that was the New York school I got into. So that’s what got me here! During college, I kind of avoided acting because I didn’t know yet that that’s what I wanted to do. So I wasn’t studying it; I wasn’t taking classes, I wasn’t doing plays. But I would still be an actor as a favor to friends because I had a lot of friends who were playwrights or filmmakers so if they ever needed anything – I was just being an actor as a favor to friends who needed actors.
If you surround yourself with creative people or people who are making things, you’ll probably know some of those people! And one of those instances was Bastion. I’ve known Darren Korb and Amir Rao since I was fourteen. And all three of us happened to go to New York for college. After college, Amir got a job back in California at Electronic Art, so he went back there. But Darren and I stayed in New York. After a few years at EA, Amir left with a buddy of his (Gavin Simon) to form a start-up company which wound up being Supergiant Games. They started making a video game which ended up being Bastion. Darren came on board doing sound and then they had this crazy idea about some voiceover narration. They needed an actor, and I was the actor they happened to know. So just another instance of “oh, just gonna do a friend a favor, being an actor for free or very little money!” You do a lot of that when you’re just starting out – and sometimes it turns into something.
M: It seems like it all worked out! I found it interesting that you didn’t study acting in college. So what was the shift between you acting as a favor to your friends, and you deciding “hmm voice acting might be my path in life, and this is what I seriously wanna do as a career”?
L: I don’t know if it’s actually happened yet. It still really feels like Bastion, sort of. You know, “Let’s see where this goes!” And Bastion led to Transistor and a few other things. Along the way, I’ve had the occasion to be an actor in things that aren’t video games. I’ve done a little bit of theater here and there. There’s a great theater company here in New York called LAByrinth that offers classes (or they used to, I don’t know with Covid how they’re doing that now). But they’re a fantastic company and I’ve done some classes with them. I sort of got my foot in the door with them.
But voice over was never an ambition of mine! I never thought it was something I would do as full-time as I do now. I sort of struggled with it, in the beginning, it’s like “well, I wanna work on camera, I wanna work do live-action stuff. I don’t mind doing voiceover every now and again. But I don’t know if I want it to be like, my entire identity.” Now, I don’t know! I think I’m more comfortable with it than I was.
M: How did you become more comfortable with your voice, especially when this was not something you ever saw yourself doing in this capacity?
L: I just kind of had to. Because it was my job, I just sort of had to! Especially on that first game Bastion; there were only seven of us on that game, including me. I didn’t really do anything; I just said stuff. But we all needed to be, especially as the game was getting finished, we all needed to be on deck. And we all had to play the game ourselves on our own time and take a bunch of notes. There were a bunch of bugs, so we had to find all those and report them. Playing that game means I’m listening to myself all the time, so I had to get over that! I kind of didn’t have a choice, so now it doesn’t bother me.
M: You mentioned that you don’t even know if you want to do on-screen stuff, that this started as helping friends and fellow creatives. Would you ever want to move from behind the screen and act on camera?
L: Oh for sure! And I do, in a much smaller capacity. I was in a short film called Good News, which is online. Somehow, that made it into the New York Film Festival in 2019, which was awesome and fun and one of the last times I was in a movie theater before all this.
M: That’s a great way to end off your pre-Covid life, making it into the theater! Let’s go back to your voice acting stuff and then we’ll steer away from that. You’ve been the in-house voice actor for Supergiant Games for a while and we see how the success has grown into this big phenomenon that it is now. What was it like for you to be with the company while its fandom and success grew?
L: It was exhilarating. The experience of making Bastion and seeing it become what it became, I don’t think anything will compare to that experience. Because I was working with friends! It feels reductive to say it was just a Cinderella story, a rag to riches story, but it sort of was that. Very much a once in a lifetime thing, and getting to go through that with the friends you’ve known since you were 14.
M: That’s really touching. Is there anything or anyone that inspires your character choices, even when you’re not in a Supergiant Games production?
L: Sure! I mentioned LAByrinth Theater company before, and one of my favorite actors in the world (who passed away a few years ago), Philip Seymour Hoffman, was part of LAByrinth. He was actually a co-co artistic director for like tenish years. He’s the reason that they sort of got on my radar at all. Anytime that I get any sort of fatigue with it or I don’t feel as into it as I need to be or anytime I need that inspiration, I’ll just watch something that he’s in. Or I’ll watch Al Pacino. I feel like I watch movies the way that people listen to music. I’ll put on a movie that I love with an actor that I love and I’ll just watch like a scene or two. That’s all that I need to sort of get that inspiration.
M: During your acceptance speech at the 10th Annual New York Game Awards, you thanked your parents. What have you learned from them that helped your acting career?
L: My parents met in college. They went to USC, both born and raised in LA. Right out of college, my dad got a job with IBM. And that job was based in San Jose, so they were now living in San Jose. They settled there. And that’s where I grew up. And San Jose’s how I know Amir and how I know Darren. So I have my parents to thank for that. But also, they let me move across the country to New York. Then they allowed me to stay here. Because Darren was here as well, we actually became roommates, we were living together in Brooklyn which is when we started working on Bastion. Without (my parents’) support, that probably wouldn’t have been possible. You have to thank your parents just for your very existence, but you have to thank them for your continued existence as well sometimes and that’s very much my situation.
M: Last but not least: what advice would you give to a young artist who wants to try voice acting? Or in general, a young person who wants to just try something new?
L: Don’t lock yourself into any particular thing. I was just watching Ethan Hawke in an interview and he’s just written a book. I think it’s a novel, fiction. But he was asked, “You act. You’ve directed You work in the theater. You do movies obviously and now a book. Is that on purpose?” or whatever. And Ethan Hawke talked about the way he sees it. He thinks back to when his dad was taking him around to colleges and they looked at the University of Texas. They were giving the campus tour and it’s like “there’s the architecture building, there’s the business building, there’s the administration building or whatever. And there’s the arts building.”
And Ethan Hawke is like “I’ve been in that building my whole life. I’ve stayed in that building, and that’s performance, that’s photography, that’s dance, that’s whatever.” So I think it’s perfectly natural for actors to try directing, to try writing. That’s something the LAByrinth Theater Company championed as well, which is another thing that drew me to them.
But as far as getting into voiceover work, I don’t know. But getting into a creative field of any kind, the performance arts certainly, I think what you need to do is just find your people. And New York is really good for that. As far as major cities in America, it may be the best one for that. Because it’s so easy to find your people here – when we could see each other. You have to find your people, find your community. If you simply just hang out long enough, you’ll know people. You’ll get to know people. And work with your friends! Because one of them is probably gonna make it.
Makeda Byfield is a Bronx high school senior majoring in drama. She is our newest NYVGCC writing intern, and this is her first feature interview for the Circle.