When most people think of Thor, they probably think of Chris Hemsworth, who stars as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actor Travis Willingham is just fine with that.
“There are worse things to be compared to,” Willingham said, laughing.
Willingham is no stranger to playing Thor, however. He has voiced Thor in a variety of projects from animated shows to various video games, including Marvel’s Avengers, releasing on Sept. 4.
“It’s pretty wild because I grew up with comic books,” Willingham said. “Thor was one of the characters I found the least relatable in those days because he’s a demi God and he spoke in this classically stilted sort of way.”
But after playing Thor in multiple projects, Willingham has been thrilled at the different directions the character has gone.
“In the past decade, they’ve just done so much with the character and the property,” Willingham. “He is just one of the most entertaining to play because he still has some of that disconnect. You’re never really going to fit in on Midgard when you’ve done your upbringing on Asgard.”
Willingham joins an all-star ensemble cast in the Avengers, including Sandra Saad, Troy Baker, Nolan North and Laura Bailey. And, although he’s no stranger to playing Thor, he found joy and fun exploring parts of his character he hadn’t before.
“For me, taking someone like Thor who has such an intimidating persona and visage and finding the nooks and crannies that make him unique and relatable and interesting has been the thing I’ve enjoyed the most,” Willingham said.
Many are familiar with the Avengers thanks to the comics and films, but Willingham said they worked to provide a new take on the heroes.
“It’s important to distinguish ourselves immediately,” Willingham said. “You come in and the characters’ relationships are different. It helps keep the audience at the same level. You see they’ve had some success, because they’re being celebrated. Clearly, the danger hasn’t passed and it’s up to us to hint at what was and what’s coming.”
Playing Thor was a childhood dream come true for Willingham, but not one he originally thought possible when he began his acting career. He arrived in California ready to take Hollywood by storm.
“I moved to California in 2005 with the same aspirations that anybody does who moves to California,” he said. “I wanted to be the biggest film and TV star that there’s ever been. That did not happen.”
Willingham did start to get voice acting roles, though he found out it required a major adjustment.
“I came from theater, so I’m a very loud person,” Willingham said. “My wife will tell me I can hear you from across the store. Tone it down. I’m used to projecting as loud as is needed to reach the seats in the back of the theater. It’s something I’m very proud of. In voice over, that’s not worth anything.”
Willingman learned that voice over required a different skillset.
“They’d tell me, hey you’re yelling and the mic is right in front of your mouth,” Willingham said. “I had to learn how to be subtle and create enough sound and deliver a performance with the minimal amount of breath or voice possible.”
But as he grew more comfortable, he fell in love with voice acting.
“It turned out to be my passion – the nerdy stuff I did as a kid, the comic books I read and getting up early to watch Thundercats, G.I. Joe, all of it,” Willingham said. “That made my inner self happier than some grand aspiration of being some A list movie star ever would. I’ll be doing this for as long as they let me.”
With the release of Marvel’s Avengers close, Willingham is excited to see the reception from fans. While he knows it’s impossible to please everyone, he’s confident that many fans will be pleased.
“You trust in what you did and the experience that you had and hopefully people will enjoy it,” Willingham said.