Marvel’s Avengers: Behind the Performance - Ashly Burch / Kate Bishop

We speak to award-winning actor Ashly Burch about taking on the role of an Avenger, the importance of trusting the director and hitting the mark for a fan-favorite Hero.
By Duncan Heaney

A new Hero has joined Marvel’s Avengers: Kate Bishop.

This skilled archer arrives with a bow, some experimental AIM tech, and a tongue that’s sharper than her sword.

Tough, smart, and witty enough to even put Tony Stark on the back foot, she’s brought to life by an incredible vocal performance from Ashly Burch. We had an opportunity to talk to the actor about her love of the character, how she approached the role, and her techniques for hitting the bullseye in the recording booth.

Image credit: OuterRimsPhoto

Hi Ashly. We understand you jumped at the chance to play this character in Marvel’s Avengers

They had me at Kate Bishop, honestly! (laughs)

I’m a big Kate Bishop fan. When I saw that she was the character I was auditioning for, I got so excited because I love her in the comics!

What is it about Kate that makes her so appealing to you?

I think the great thing about Kate in the game is that she's funny, she's snarky and she's badass, but also visibly hurt by a sense of abandonment from the Avengers. They went quiet on her after A-Day, and she carries a chip on her shoulder about that.

It adds a really interesting bit of color to her character. She presents a very impenetrable front, but in reality, she has a little bit of a gushy center. She does want a sense of family and community, and feels a bit rejected and abandoned at the start of the story because the family that she thought she had disappeared on her. She carries that with her.

I also feel like her relationship with Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is layered in that same way. There’s a jokey and ribbing exterior, but she has a genuine care for him that makes her really vulnerable.

So I think that combo of the bravado that she presents herself with, alongside this sensitivity when it comes to feeling like she’s not part of the team - or wanting to feel like she’s part of the team - makes her feel really well rounded and complex.

Is that something you relate to?

Well, I think that part of being an actor is finding a way to relate to whatever character you're playing.

Even if there's a character that's very divorced from how you present yourself, or who you think that you are, there's probably some sort of synchronicity there that you can tap into.

I'm different from a lot of my characters… but I also share certain traits. For example, with Chloe in Life is Strange, there’s a universal experience of grief or feeling displaced. I know what these things feel like, even though I’m not a blue-haired teenager living in the West!

So I think part of our jobs as actors is to find the universal quality that the character has, tap into that, and tap into our own lives, and imbue all that into the character. We do a disservice to our characters, male, female, or non-binary, when we don't see them as complete people.

Image credit: OuterRimsPhoto

One thing that defines Kate in the game is her sense of humor. Was that something fun to portray?

It's always fun when you get to play comedy. That's not always present in games - sometimes there's a lot of heaviness, certainly in many of the games that I’ve been in. So anytime there’s an opportunity for levity, it’s great - and Kate is really funny!

I get excited about stuff like that. Not just the complexity of the character, but the sense that: oh, this is gonna be fun! I’m going to get to play. I’m going to get to try stuff and be weird and wacky.

How much did you get to play in the role of Kate Bishop? Did the team give you room to improvise?

Oh yeah, totally. I don't remember everything that I improvised, but they definitely let me do it. I'm pretty sure the ‘boop’ in the trailer when I flick that guy's head is one. I think I’d seen mo-cap for that and I said ‘boop’ as we were recording lines, and they kept it!

They really let me inject my own personality into Kate and try stuff out. There’s a lot of really fun banter in particular between her and the other Avengers that I got to play more loose and try stuff with. It was really fun.

Image credit: OuterRimsPhoto

You definitely feel that fun in the performance…

Sure, but to be honest, it’s not just about what I'm bringing but also the team I'm working with.

Developing a sense of trust with the director is really important, because the more comfortable or safe you feel, the more you can explore and try stuff, while sticking within the parameters of what the project needs.

So, if I was like a little sheep that wants to wander and do 20 minutes of improv, I knew they could let me play as much as necessary but get me back to the scene (laughs).

So which element of the role did you most enjoy?

I keep harping on about the banter, but I really love the banter. It was so fun to record!

As someone who likes Marvel, and likes the Avengers, to be joking around with Tony Stark or Thor was really fun! But there's also just so much character and so much personality that comes out in those moments.

I feel like you get a lot of amazing Kate stuff in the main story, and then those bantering moments make all the characters feel more real and multi-dimensional.

I’m pleased with the whole experience - it’s been really amazing - but I particularly enjoyed those sections because that’s the stuff that as a player, as a viewer, I love to see.

What was the most challenging thing about the role of Kate Bishop?

Well, there’s always a period of calibration when you play a new character - you have to understand what her highs and her lows are, and play with the funniness or snarkiness so that it doesn’t become pat or tired… basically, make sure she feels like a real person.

That’s always the challenge - just making every character feel real and grounded - even when the setting or story isn’t particularly grounded itself.

Image credit: OuterRimsPhoto

She’s not the only Marvel character you’ve played, of course. You recently portrayed Danika Hart in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales for example…

Yeah, I have actually. That's interesting - I didn't even think about that. I've also played Nebula a couple of times in other games. It’s funny - I’ve dipped my toe into a few different little pools in the Marvel realm!

What’s cool is that they're all very different characters. Danika Hart reminds me a little bit of Kamala Khan actually - in that she’s so excited to be part of that world. I wouldn’t go as far as to say she’s a fan girl - well, maybe a bit of a phantom Spider-Man fan girl - but she’s really dedicated to helping people through her podcast. I liked playing her.

Kate’s really different because she has this bravado - this sense of: ‘Don’t worry about me - I can do it on my own’, but in reality she really wants to have that community with the Avengers.

So that’s a big difference - Danika is already embedded in the community, while Kate is pretending she doesn’t need one.

And Nebula… well, she’s a villain half the time, so that makes her distinct (laughs).

Image credit: Patman_Parkour

How challenging is it to do all these characters as voice-over rather than motion capture?

I only started doing motion capture a little bit later on in my career, so voiceover is my bread and butter. It's sort of where I live.

I think I've had enough time, experience and on-the-job training to be able to really embody a character using the tools that I have in the booth. What’s amazing about voiceover is there's so much you can communicate through just your voice.

It’s great to do both, of course, but there’s so much rich, awesome stuff that can come from a vocal performance.

Image credit: OuterRimsPhoto

Do you have any rituals or vocal techniques that help you find your characters?

I do vocal warm ups, but I find that once I’ve established a character, it’s pretty easy to lock back in.

Kate was not super-hard for me to find - she’s so well-written and fun and I already knew her from the comics.

I do really weird stuff when I’m in the booth mind you…

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Like what?

Well, my friend Jessie Ennis from Mythic Quest taught me a trick, which has helped me immensely for making more space in your mouth. Basically, you stick your tongue out and say your line. (Sticks tongue out) Like thid!

What it does is make more space in your mouth, so it's easier to articulate - and it’s really useful, especially if you have a lot of techno jargon, or if I’m playing a helper character that’s explaining all this stuff to you.

When I do stuff like that, it makes it really easy to get through the more chunky lines. And sometimes I’ll do stuff like… (blows through lips) in between lines.

Voice actors do a lot of weird stuff (laughs)!

Many thanks to Ashly for speaking to us. Her performance makes Kate Bishop as endearing as she is formidable - but why take our word for it when you can hear it for yourselves? Kate Bishop is available now for free in Marvel’s Avengers (as are all future characters).

For those of you yet to jump into this exciting Super Hero saga, you can buy the game now from the Square Enix Store.

If you enjoyed this chat, make sure you check out our other discussions with the cast of Marvel’s Avengers:

Finally, to stay up to date with news and information about the game, make sure you follow the team on social media.