As school yard ruffians go, they don’t get much nastier or insensitive than Bullworth Academy’s own Jimmy Hopkins. Rockstar’s 2006 “Bully” (or “Canis Canem Edit” as it would become known as in Europe), took the publisher’s then ominous flirtation with controversy and contention to new depths of public objection and universal vehement protestation. Only Rockstar could take the extreme spinelessness and cowardice exhibited by the common schoolyard bully and build an interactive videogame experience around him and his soulless actions. In Jimmy Hopkins, Rockstar perfectly recreated all of the oppressive cruel idiosyncrasies and insolent layers that are forever synonymous with the classic bad guy bully. Gerry Rosenthal was the man responsible for bringing this calculating, self consuming and impertinent bully to life. Gerry is the voice of Jimmy Hopkins.
TGL caught up with Gerry to talk about all things Bully, how he landed the role of Jimmy, what it was like working with Rockstar and why he’d love to work on a Bully sequel further down the road. As it turns out, Gerry is nothing like Jimmy in real life. He’s an altogether really nice and talented guy.
Here we go…………….
TheGamingLiberty: Hi Gerry, a HUGE TGL welcome to you. Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself, where you’re from and what it is that you do?
Gerry Rosenthal: Thanks for having me! I’m a musician and actor living in Jersey City, New Jersey, about a mile outside of New York City. I actually make my living mostly as a musician now, teaching private guitar/bass/piano lessons during the week and playing gigs with a bunch of different bands on the weekends.
TGL: You’ve quite a few TV credits to your name appearing in everything from Delivery to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. How did you find your way onto TV? Did you always see yourself breaking into the acting circuit?
GR: When I was about 6 years old, my mother took me into New York City to audition for an acting agent, and they liked me enough to send me out on some auditions. I acted in several commercials as a child, and beginning in high school, I started to audition for more TV and movie roles. Up until high school it was more of a chore, something that my parents more or less dragged me to, but beginning around 9th grade the bug bit me hard and I knew I wanted to be an actor. I studied History and Political Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick NJ, but my whole plan was to move to NYC after graduating college and pound the pavement looking for acting work. However, like most kids who have just graduated college, I immediately moved back in with my parents! I’ve been playing guitar and piano since I was 7 years old and always played with different groups for fun in college, so within 6 months of moving home I was playing in about 4 different bands in the New Brunswick NJ music scene. It happened slowly, but over the last 8 years my focus gradually shifted more and more towards music, to the point where that’s how I make my living today. I still go on acting auditions, but music is my life at this point.
TGL: So it’s fair to say that music takes up a lot of your time these days? We’ve seen the YouTube videos….
TGL: So how did you first get involved in the Bully project with Rockstar? Had you ever done any voice over work before?
GR: I have always auditioned for voice-over work and Bully was just one more audition that particular week. I had never done a voice for a video game before, so I remember getting the audition and thinking “Wow, this would be a cool thing to do!”
TGL: What can you remember from your audition? What were the team at Rockstar looking for when it came to the character of Jimmy Hopkins?
GR: I remember the audition went pretty quickly. They had me read some of Jimmy’s lines, and I remember it was a longer monologue, not dialogue with another character. I don’t even think there was a call-back, they just called my agent a week later and said I had the part. It’s funny, when I finally got to the studio to record the part I asked the producers why they liked my voice for the role of Jimmy. They said my natural voice sounded like a tough 15 year old, even though I was 25 at the time! I guess I’ve always had a naturally high voice…
TGL: So, how, in your opinion, would you describe the character of Jimmy?
GR: Well you know he’s clearly a jerk, but a jerk with heart! Overall, I think he tries to do the right thing, even if that means knocking a few people out of the way to do it.
TGL: Was it a fun process recording the voice? How long did you work on the project?
GR: There we’re about 98 “cut-scenes,” which are the scenes that open up after the player completes a mission. Each scene was about 2-3 pages, so we’re talking over 200 pages of dialogue. It probably took between 60-70 hours to record the whole thing. Typically the sessions we’re four hours, and I did about 16 of them over the course of several months.
TGL: What did you make of the controversy that surrounded the release of the game?
GR: I actually wasn’t really too aware of the controversy to be honest. I don’t play video games, or even own a gaming system, so I’m not tapped into the world of gaming at all. From what I understand there was an outcry against the game because of the title “Bully” or something to that effect – as if it promoted bullying – which honestly it didn’t really at all. Jimmy is more or less the little guy, trying to stand up to all the bullies around him…
TGL: Have you worked on any other games or TV projects since Bully?
GR: I’ve done a few other voice-over commercials, but no other video games or TV shows.
TGL: It was suggested in 2009 by the music composer on the game, Shawn Lee, that he was about to begin work on a sequel to Bully. Nothing has been heard since. Do you know anything about this sequel or have you ever heard anything about it?
GR: I don’t know anything about a sequel, but man would I take that gig in a second! It was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. My guess would be if they made a sequel though, it would be set at the college Jimmy goes to (if he could even get into college) and since he would be older he would therefore have a lower voice. That means they would probably cast a different actor with a lower voice to play the part. Although now that I’m 31 maybe my voice sounds like a tough 20-year old!
TGL: I take it therefore, if given the opportunity, you would return to voice Jimmy again?
TGL: What’s next for you Gerry? Any projects in the pipeline?
GR: I’m still auditioning for acting jobs a few times a month. I play constantly with my own original band called Big Wake. You can check us out at www.bigwakemusic.com. We just put out our self-titled debut album this past August; it’s available for download on iTunes through a link on our website. I also play with a Beatles cover band called Hey Bulldog–www.heybulldogband.com, and a wedding band called The Jersey Joint–www.jerseyjointmusic.com. We have lots of audio and video recordings up on our websites so feel free to check it out!
TGL: And finally, we have to ask, have you actually ever sat down and played through Bully?
GR: The good folks at Rockstar were nice enough to send me a copy of the game when it came out, but since I don’t own a gaming system I couldn’t really play it. I played it a few times at a friend’s house but I don’t think I made it farther than the first mission! It was definitely a trip hearing my own voice talking to the other characters during the in-game dialogue. But overall I’m pretty bad at video games. The last gaming system I owned was the original Nintendo, if you can believe it. The original Super Mario and Duck Hunt were the best. I can also beat Contra, but in order to do it I need to enter the special code to get 30 lives!
Check out Gerry’s personal website right here.