In recent months, Marvel’s entered the podcast realm with a couple of fairly big titles. First came Wastelanders: Star-Lord, and the equally entertaining Wastelanders: Hawkeye launched earlier this month. This latest series, which also runs 10 episodes, features voice actors Stephen Lang as Hawkeye, Sasha Lane as Ash, and Michelle Hurd as Mockingbird, among other talent.
The actual plot riffs off the Old Man Hawkeye story from Ethan Sacks and Marco Checchetto. Set 30 years in the future, Hawkeye is a sideshow freak, re-living the worst day of his life over and over — until that’s upended by the Brotherhood Traveling Circus and an appearance from Ash. This sets a grizzled Hawkeye on a mission to kill every person responsible for the deaths of those he once loved most.
In an exclusive interview, AIPT spoke to Hurd about the necessities of projects like this, her approach to voice acting, and her love of superheroes, among other tidbits.
AIPT: Were you familiar with Bobbi Morse and Mockingbird before you took on the role?
Michelle Hurd: I’m sorry to say I was familiar solely because of Shield — sorry! There it is. And I will say, though, just to out my husband, who is an actor, Gary Dillahunt. When we were going to move in together and we were sort of packing up each other’s apartment, I opened up a closet door in his apartment, and lo and behold, there were all these rows and rows of long rectangular white boxes with these sleeves in them. And I was like, “Hmmm, what do we have here?” And I said, “Are these comic books?” And he’s like, “These are my graphic novels” So I have learned through my, my husband, the importance, the value, I completely understand the importance of comics.
It’s a joy to do this. I had such a blast. And, you know, she’s a really cool character. I’m feeling pretty diesel, just having done it.
AIPT: How has the response been since the podcast has aired a few episodes now?
MH: I’m doing Star Trek right now and we actually just did a week of night shoots, which is why I’m a little bleary-eyed. But I did get a few of my crew people coming up to me going, “Hey, Michelle, is that your voice over there?” So it’s lovely.
Marvel fans, and people who follow these are just warm, they’re really kind of cool. I want to do her justice. I just wanted to make sure that I was respectful to who Bobbi Morris is and give her that kind of power, that kind of strength, that kind of empathy and heart.
What I loved about this is that you really saw the struggle of a mother in all intents and purposes. What I really loved about that aspect of it is that, in this modern world, we have mothers come in all kinds of forms whether it’s biological or chosen being a mother is a full-time task, and it takes your heart, it’s like, watching your heart walk away. I was really hopeful that I could keep that in there and have her strength, I wanted to have a combination of the strength, the love of Clint as well, and of that complicated relationship. Allowing a child, a young adult to have their own space, but show that frustration as well as being just sort of a badass.
AIPT: And then you have the larger story of the Wastelanders and society as we know it crumbling. What was the appeal of Wastelanders to you when Marvel approached you for this gig?
MH: I like to be hopeful. My parents, I’m black and white, and when my parents got married it was still illegal for that. During this time period during these last couple of years, it’s been really painful to see the things that have been going on.
My father has since passed, and I spoke to my mom and I was like, how do you do it? How did you guys do it? And she said, because you know, we have to have hope and we’re on the right side of history and we’re not going anywhere.
I think that these stories, it’s reflective of what’s going on right now. I don’t like the words of overwhelmed or, you know, end of times, but it’s challenging. It’s a really challenging time for us. And I think that the beautiful things about Marvel and sci-fi and all the things that I’m exploring right now are we can tell these stories in a way that it’s sort of entertainment, but perhaps we might take a moment to sort of think on how it’s reflecting in our current times, and if there’s anything that we might be able to do to change the tide.
AIPT: Yeah, plus the post-apocalyptic story. It used to be clear this is science fiction but then we just went through a year with masks and, it feels like we were in a sci-fi story.
MH: It’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean, it really is, I said to my husband, “Is this the end of days?” Like, we wouldn’t know the end of days, right? And because if you’re in the end of days, unless there’s a pig flying or locusts out my window. I don’t know if I know the signs. But yeah, it’s wild to look back at how people thought the future apocalyptic world would be and think it would be so distant from where we are now. And it’s just not that distant anymore.
AIPT: This is why work like this is helpful. Like you were saying, it can sort of cue us in on “maybe we should try to avoid this.”
MH: That’s one of the things that I love being an actor, and being in this industry is, I do feel like art can hold a mirror up to society, and we can be reflective, and hopefully, through entertainment, and through sort of telling these sort of stories we make people think, and maybe just have a bit of a broader perspective of life than just what’s happening in here and how our actions are sort of impacting each other in the world.
AIPT: As an accomplished actor doing a podcast is almost like going back 100 years when there were radio plays. Was that part of the appeal of doing Wastelanders?
MH: One hundred percent. One, I just did a week of night shoots. Ending Saturday at 6:45 am! So yeah… yeah.
You can imagine how back in the day with radio plays, that everybody would lock in there. Everybody would lock-in, because it’s storytelling, and it’s storytelling in a more elevated way. With a little child, you’re turning a page and you’re showing the pictures. On the stage, I’ve got my outfits and the set. With a radio play, it’s only your voice and sound effects. So you really have to put a lot into bringing out the emotions and making that sound alive. How do you see the person by just me doing the voice?
So truthfully, it’s one of my absolute favorite things to do, because also as a person of color who looks like this, I get to, you know, bring to life, so many different kinds of characters, because I’m not restricted by what I look like. It’s just how I sound and if I can bring the heart and the personality through my words, and it’s a beautiful acting challenge. It’s like painting on a canvas with your voice. Truly one of my most favorite things to do. And I’m so honored to have been a part of this.
AIPT: Was there any improv going on while you were recording?
MH: You know, no, really we stuck to the script. You know, the only improv sort of thing would be when we had to make sort of sound efforts you know, like “Ugh, agh, arg, huh, ah!”
AIPT: So you had to do a B-roll of just grunts and groans for five minutes?
MH: Oh my god, yeah. It’s the craziest thing because you start off making these sounds and then like, somewhere in there a few minutes later you’re like, what am I doing?!
AIPT: Did this scratch an itch that you want to sort of exploring in movies or TV as far as becoming a Marvel superhero someday?
MH: Is that a real question? I would like to just do procedural, play a cop all day. No, not at all. I love this stuff. During the pandemic, my hubby and I ended up rewatching all the Marvel films chronologically. It was just fabulous. For myself, as an artist living in this world, it’s literally where I go to escape. I did get a chance to visit Marvel by playing in Daredevil. I was D.A. Samantha Reyes and, she died. Spoiler alert. And it is Marvel so you never know, right?
AIPT: There are people constantly saying that the Daredevil actors are going to be part of the MCU officially at some point.
MH: At some point, right? Well, yeah, I would. I would be a very happy girl to be a part of the Marvel universe as a superhero.
AIPT: If you could be a superhero what would the power be that you’d like to have?
MH: My nephew’s always asked me this. I would have the power of healing and destruction.
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