James Horan is a man of many talents—with more than 120 film, television, and video game acting credits to his name, it is difficult to know where to begin. Well, for me, he is Colonel Arthur Cummings from Gods and Generals, a character that holds distinction as the first of many officers to order a charge, when he reluctantly does so in the battle of First Manassas. But to others, he is the voice of their favorite video game characters, as James is mainly a voice artist, supplying anything from actual character dialogue, to narration, and even singing; I hear he does a killer Elvis impersonation!
When I contacted him about his filming experiences in G & G, he agreed to share them, and as you will read below, he even discussed what it was like being on the set the day of 9/11, something that the actors in the Extended Director’s Cut on-stage panel talked about briefly back in July. James has also appeared in television shows such as Star Trek: Enterprise, and more recently, in the films Flags of our Fathers and Dying God. I would like to thank him for taking the time to conduct this interview, and sharing such great stories!
GC: What did you do to prepare for your role as Colonel Cummings in G & G?
JH: Basically not much–I had long hair at the time, which the director felt would be fine for the character, and I thought it was an interesting look. I did do some research online that Arthur Cummings had been a lawyer in Abingdon, VA before the war, and after his service to the Confederacy, he returned to being a lawyer there. He seemed like a decent man who was fighting for a cause in which he believed, and a way of life that he felt was being threatened. I of course had seen the original Gettysburg, and re-watched it a couple of times to immerse myself in the period.
GC: Did you have any knowledge or interest in the Civil War prior to filming?
JH: I had seen Ken Burns amazing documentary on the Civil War, and had seen several other films, including the aforementioned Gettysburg. Of course, being from Louisville, Kentucky, I had heard stories about the war and it’s effect on Kentucky as a “border” state, and how the war forced families to take sides, sometimes causing brother literally to be fighting brother. I went to school in Danville, Kentucky at a small college called Centre College, which was founded in 1819, and one of the oldest buildings on campus had been used as a hospital by the Union army for a time. The Perryville battlefield was near the school, and I’m sure many skirmishes took place around those parts. But I wouldn’t describe myself as a “buff”, no.
GC: Can you tell us what your overall filming experience was like?
JH: It was great. I was only there for one week, I think, but I made quick friends among my fellow actors. I met Stephen Lang, who has gone on to do some amazing work, most recently of course in Avatar. He told me he would have liked to have me around longer in the movie, as he felt too many of the actors around him were a little on the younger, greener side. He said he wanted someone around him with more “mileage”, and I took that as a compliment! The director was also very cool to work with, and the overall experience was wonderful. Except for the fact that my last day of shooting was Sept. 11 of 2001, the day of the great tragedy in New York City. Many of the cast and crew were based in New York, so of course they were deeply personally touched with concern for their family and friends. One of the actors told us his father worked in the World Trade Center, but he didn’t know which tower, so he was nearly beside himself, understandably. Thank God we later learned his dad had followed his instincts and got out of the building once the attack had taken place, even though he had been told not to leave by security. It was very surreal to be watching the destruction on the one television at our location, which was in the middle of a huge field in Virginia. All of the cast and crew huddled around the tv, watching what looked like Jerry Bruckheimer special effects. All filming stopped, and after a time, the director summoned everyone together, and asked if we wanted to continue shooting or take the day off. It was nearly unanimous that everyone wanted to keep making the picture, because they felt they were telling a great story about an important part of American history, and history had certainly been made that day. I remember thinking that the toppling of those buildings in New York was probably the worst attack on the American mainland since the Civil War had wrought such destruction on so many town and cities.
GC: You have supplied the voices for many characters in video games over the years. What is that like? Is it easier than acting in a movie?
JH: I’ve voiced characters in over seventy video games, and yes, I find it very challenging and fun. Having been trained for the theater, I particularly enjoy creating characters with just my voice, as I’ve always felt the voice is an integral part of any role I create. It is “easier” than acting in movies, since no one cares what you look like in a game, but I like to bring the same level of professionalism and care to the voice work as I do to the on-camera stuff.
GC: Do you have any upcoming film/TV/video games projects coming up? Please tell us about them.
JH: I’ve just finished working on several voices for the upcoming game Diablo 3, which I know many of the fans are eagerly awaiting. Can’t reveal details, as I’m sworn to secrecy, but I’m sure the game won’t disappoint, and hopefully my voice acting won’t either! Recently I contributed several voices for Batman, Arkham Asylum, and I also worked a lot on Dawn of War in its various incarnations. If you visit my IMDb page, you’ll find a full list of the games I’ve done with details on who I voiced—I can’t remember them all. And that’s a good thing—I’d hate to have done so few I knew them all!
Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Horan for conducting this interview! You can check out his official website here.