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Voice Actor Laura Bailey Talks Black Widow, Marvel's Avengers, And Being Married To Thor - Exclusive Interview

Laura Bailey works a lot. As a voice actor, she's covered more territory than almost any other performer in the last decade. She's been Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. She's helped make the critically acclaimed YouTube show Critical Role become one of the most successfully online series out there.


And, of course, she's Black Widow. If you were thinking of Scarlett Johansson just then, please understand that for every time she put on the spy gear and kicked butt in the MCU, Laura Bailey was doing the same thing while voicing Black Widow in cartoons and video games. She's been playing Natasha Romanoff as far back as 2013's Avengers Assemble.

Looper sat down with Bailey to talk about playing Black Widow in the video game Marvel's Avengers, which saw her team up with friends, colleagues, and her husband Travis Willingham, who plays Thor. We also talked a little bit about what it's like having action figures made based on characters you've both played and helped to create.

Laura Bailey on becoming Black Widow

You've been playing Black Widow for a very long time. IMDb says you've been doing it since 2013. Would you say that's accurate?

That is accurate, if that's what it's saying. Yeah. Avengers Assemble was my first foray.


How does the process change, how does the character change, how does the voice change over the years?

I don't know if the voice print has changed drastically. I mean, just my voice has probably matured, so, so has she. But every iteration is a little bit different, depending on what storylines they're pulling from. And this project is just very grounded in a way that I've never been able to experience with Black Widow before. And I think it's because we shot it on the stages. We were suiting up and fully embodying the characters, as opposed to just being in the booth with each other, like I'm used to.

So that's the first time that you've ever done that?

Yeah. For her.

Is that different from the usual? Because you voiced Black Widow in the past, did it feel different? Was it a different process for you?


It just felt better. It felt like an upgrade, if I'm going to be honest. All the things that I imagined being able to do, you have the body stance when you're in the recording session and everything just because you have to, if you want to emanate that sort of presence, but being on the stage and able to pull out the weapons and feel as badass as she is. It was awesome.

Is there a word or a phrase you use when you have to get into Black Widow mode?

One of the things we always joked about in sessions was hands on hips. Because it's just like a posture, as soon as you go into it, you feel you've got that swagger. 

The best parts of Black Widow in Marvel's Avengers

Do you feel like your idea of how the character is, who she is, has changed over time? It's got to be challenging because there have been so many different versions of her. What's your research process? For this game, did you read comics or re-watch something or go back and look at other work that you've done to prep?


All of that combined, yeah. I know that [creative director] Shaun [Escayg] pulled from different storylines. I know Shield's Most Wanted was one of the elements that he pulled from, so I looked at that. The thing that makes this project unique is that they take from everything, but they've created their own story. This is really a standalone world of the Avengers and the things that they're doing. So I got to experience this internal struggle with her that I've never gotten to do before just because of everything that happens with A-Day. A lot of really terrible things happen and Widow feels responsible for it. She feels like she should have realized what was happening and she wasn't on her game enough. So she does what she does best, and she pulls away from everybody and says, "I'm going to fix this. I'm going to make this right on my own, on my own terms." And she goes back to being a spy, playing both sides.


What's the best thing about Natasha Romanoff that you feel like you've pulled from and you think, "I played this character long enough, I can make this a part of me"?

I think one of the things that makes her so wonderful to play is that she's experienced both sides. And being good, being a hero is a choice. And that's something that I struggle with, always making the right decision going... "What's going to help others?" And you know, it's really easy to just do the selfish thing and only think of yourself in certain times. But yeah, that's something that I have definitely learned from her — and some other characters as well.

What happens when Black Widow marries Thor?

It's really cool that you and your husband have been Avengers for so long.

Yeah. One of the first things that we worked together on out here in California, because we both came from Texas, Troy Baker, included. All of us moved out a little year after year, and found ourselves out here. And then we all got to work on that show together. Troy of course was playing Hawkeye in the animated series, but now he's playing Banner in this.


The idea of a married couple being Thor and Black Widow is wild. When you're cooking dinner, do you critique the voices? Do you do the voices to each other? What is that process like?

There are so many voices. There are so many voices in this household. We don't even notice it anymore. And our poor son, he's just gotten so used to it. It's all he's known.

How many voices has the child, who is not that old, already locked in? Just the learning and the genetics, I have to assume that there's a couple already in place.

He hears voices... I don't know the visual recognition, if he has that or if it's just hearing the voice, but he'll say mommy and daddy when he hears, even when we're doing crazy accents or whatever, he'll be like, "Mommy." Although sometimes he thinks that random things that aren't us at all are us, I think because we do change our voices.


He does really good animal noises. He's already learning.

What would Black Widow sing at karaoke

I told a friend of mine last night "I'm interviewing Laura Bailey," and she got very excited. It's always interesting the reason why people get excited because it's always the last thing you'll expect. The thing that she jumped on was, "Oh, there's this song from World of Warcraft that she sang that I love so much." Hypothetically, Black Widow is in a karaoke situation...


I was not expecting this question.

What is Natasha Romanoff's go-to karaoke jam?

Oh my gosh. I feel like she'd have something so cool, like "Barracuda" or something. Maybe like "Son of a Preacher Man," it's a strong go-to in a karaoke situation.

Be honest, can you do a better Thor voice than your husband?

In no way. Not even a "verily." It would be terrible. Just terrible.

I would be willing to bet if I ask the reverse question that he would at least pretend to be able to defeat you. He would be wrong, but he would try.

He probably would. He would be wrong, but I do have Mjolnir just sitting here that I can lift. So. I am worthy.

If you were going to play anybody other than the character that you usually do, which character would you try to play, just to mix it up?


I had this conversation with Troy [Baker] just a little bit ago, because my initial response was the Hulk, because it just felt so awesome, the jumping around as him just feels really, really good — but [it would be] Kamala Khan. She's so much fun to play with, and Sandra [Saad] was such a perfect choice for that role. She really embodied her so fully.

Playing Black Widow with friends

Could you explain what it was like putting on the costumes and working all together? How many people were actually in the room doing that?

It's a big group. I mean, it was the full set when we would film. Every Avenger was there. But I didn't know for sure that I'd be able to do it. Shaun called me when he came on board for the game and he called me and said, "How would you feel about being Widow for me?" And I was, I think, like two months pregnant at the time. And with the way production was lining up, it looked like they were going to start filming right when I was seven to eight months pregnant, which... it's pretty heavy action. I didn't know if that was really going to be something that I could do and I didn't know how long they were going to be filming or anything like that. So at first I thought I was going to have to not be in the game, which I was heartbroken about because Travis and Troy and Nolan and all of them were getting to play together. And then luckily it just ended up working out that Ronin was born and, literally, within the next month, month and a half after... Actually, it was probably two months. After he was born, I was able to get on the stage, and actually I was able to film and everything. It was awesome.


So what was it like?

It was playtime. It was all of us that have gotten to work together so many times in the past. So you all had that natural camaraderie that the Avengers have. It felt instantly like we all knew each other and we're meant to be there. And then Sandra came in playing Kamala and she is just so enthusiastic and she hadn't done motion capture before. So in addition to her being new to that world, she really brought that to the character, because we felt kind of mentor-y to her on the stage, as well. And it worked out so naturally.