Drew Hobson: Let the Games Begin
by Kathya Alexander
When Drew hobson got the opportunity to audition for a video game in 2012, he was thrilled. A self-proclaimed comedic nerd, he was working with a children’s touring company when the theater manager heard that a video game company was struggling to find an African-American voice for the main character in a new game. immediately thought of Hobson. Hobson therefore recorded the hearing on his home equipment and sent it.
“And I got the lead role. And that was amazing because the main role, where you start at the first part of the game, and you can play throughout the game, is African American.
The game was State of Decay, an open world zombie survival game, where Hobson’s character is called Marcus Campbell. He said he fell in love with the folks at Undead Labs who made the game. “And they were kind enough to put me in pretty much every incarnation.” When the game makers released State of Decay 2, for example, while they couldn’t make Hobson the main character again, they always kept him as a background character.
Both games have been very popular around the world, including Australia, South America, Brazil, and several countries in East Asia. Hobson estimates that, combined, State of Decay and State of Decay 2 have probably sold over 10 million or 15 million copies. “Knowing that my voice is floating in many different places around the world makes me smile,” said Hobson.
Born and raised in the Central District, Hobson sees himself first and foremost as an artist of color. “My father is black and native, and my mother is white. And I went out on the lighter side. My brother and sister are both about three shades darker than me. He said people from more ethnically diverse areas know right away that he is mixed. But whites, when they see it, “They just see a white person.” And because he works in an industry where most of the casting directors are white, Drew has lost roles because people don’t know he’s black. “They’ll look at my picture and say, ‘Oh, he’s not black, no. So I’m just going to go with this other guy. So it sucks. Because I know it’s happened at least a few times.
This does not only happen in the voiceover work, but also in his cinematic work. Hobson used State of Decay as a launching pad to get an agent. He had guest roles on three different TV shows, Grimm, Librarians, and Country Z. He said he’s most often cast as a bodyguard or thug because of his height – 6ft 2 or 3, and between 250 and 280 pounds. And the kind of thug he plays most often is Russian.
“So the two on Grimm and Librarians, I played Russians. And it always tickled me. Black Russian, ”Hobson laughed. Although getting the guest roles was a dream come true, Hobson said it was always frustrating trying to make it known that he was black and Indigenous and not get that recognition.
Hobson has wanted to act since he was 7, when he went to see the movie. The Goonies. He just knew he wanted to be a part of what was happening on screen. So he started taking acting lessons and doing school plays. “I went to Summit K12 and then to Franklin High School in the famous drama department,” Hobson said. Then, after earning a theater degree from Western Washington University, he returned home to Seattle.
“I sat down and had a conversation with my mom and told her I wanted to be a professional actor. So I was preparing to starve, live off Top Ramen, and basically struggle. And she stopped me dead in my tracks in the conversation and said, ‘Don’t ever say that. Because you are preparing for failure. If you are one of those people who are lucky enough to know what they want to do and what they love to do, then you just find a way to make it work. And that was a really deep time in my life because I was like, “Yeah, she’s right.”
Hobson’s conversation with his mother provided direction for the rest of his life. As he used to DJ in college dorm dances, he found work with a DJ company. And because he loved to do karaoke, he became a karaoke host a few years later. He also started playing, first with Babylon Theater in A tram named Désir, then doing Shakespeare in the Park with Green stage. After that, Hobson started acting with a company called Productions of the last sheet, a touring children’s theater troupe with whom he is still 15 years later. Last Leaf is taking the theater to small towns outside of Seattle that don’t have a lot of local theater. They turn folk tales from around the world into short plays. So, not only do they bring theater to smaller communities, but they also bring international culture.
“A lot of times we’ll be the first theater production parents have ever seen, which is really amazing. I don’t make a lot of money with it, but it’s something that I’m very passionate about. And I just want to keep doing it for a while.
Hobson considers some of his most rewarding jobs to be with children. Another rewarding job was the times he was recognized and able to do theater and film (not just dubbing) as a person of color. Two of those major opportunities were through Tyrone Brown and Brownbox Theater.
“Tyrone involved me in two projects. One was Hoodies where we did short pieces related to or around the issue of Trayvon Martin’s death and the horror of your land. And then Tyrone ended up throwing me in Zooman and the sign where I got to play an African-American father whose daughter was killed due to gun violence… Having the opportunity to be part of an African-American production was definitely a dream come true for me. It was incredibly rewarding. And the subject was so powerful back then. It was so difficult and emotionally difficult. But beautiful, absolutely gorgeous, ”said Hobson.
It was when he spoke of his past and current work with young people, however, that Hobson became most lively. In addition to Last Leaf Productions, between 2005 and 2011 Hobson taught theater and playwriting to young people. His work with Open house theater, a touring group that teaches children safety rules to prevent sexual abuse, began teaching him as a substitute teaching assistant in Seattle public schools. He has also taught theater and playwriting to young people through several different organizations, including the former Rainier Valley Youth Theater, Efficient Southeast Development (SEED) and several schools including Cleveland, South Shore and Franklin – its former alma mater. And teach with Hovering red eagle, a dramatic troupe of young Native Americans that is still active today, connected it to its native descendant roots Mattaponi and Pamunkey.
In recent years, Hobson had attended the Emerald City comic and a con video game called PAX, where he did a few voiceover panels and public appearances. “So the first two passengers I went to people didn’t necessarily know who I was. But when they heard my voice, they were like ‘Marcus!’ ”
Of course, the counters closed due to the pandemic in 2020. Plus, “I lost all my jobs when the pandemic started. Kids’ DJing and theater, karaoke entertainment and teaching, ”said Hobson.
But Hobson tries to stay positive. He was fortunate enough to do some voiceover recordings at home for a few commercials, and he made a video game last year. “And my career is on a really interesting precipice right now. Because I have just filmed an advertisement which could become very important. We are waiting to see.
In the meantime, Drew can also be seen in the shorts. Color TV, no vacancies, and Closure hour. His voice can be heard in other video games including Golem (PS4 VR), Guild Wars 2 (PC), BattleTech (PC), Fire Emblem Heroes (Nintendo Mobile), Chaldea (YouTube), as well as several video commercials and radio. . Here is the link for his latest ad.
Catherine Alexander is a writer, actor, storyteller and teaching artist. His writings have appeared in various publications such as ColorsNW Magazine and Arkana Magazine. She has won several awards, including the Jack Straw Artist Support Program Award. His collection of short stories, Angel in addiction, is available on Amazon.
📸 Featured Image: Drew Hobson, a DJ, film actor and voice over artist, who considers his most rewarding job to be teaching theater and playwriting to young people. (Photo: John Ulman, courtesy of Drew Hobson)
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