Apple TV+ has come out strong, giving a slew of well-produced, fun to watch programming. One of the standouts so far is Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, made by the creative team behind Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Mythic Quest takes what we all know and love about the games industry and tackles it in the fun but critical way that you would expect from a Rob McElhenney project.
Set within the halls of an MMO game studio, and focusing on a megalomaniac creative director named Ian (Rob McElhenney), Mythic Quest deals with everything from QA, monetization, crunch, and the normal chaos that plagues big budget video games. Yet, despite the criticism of the industry, the show has a lot of heart and feels like it is made and acted by people that know and love gaming.
One such person in the writer’s room and on the screen is Ashly Burch, who plays one of the main QA testers for Mythic Quest, Rachel. Known for her voice acting work in games such as Borderlands, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Afterparty, she is no stranger to the games industry, and even got her start on the web series “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin‘?” Now taking centre stage on this major new comedy, Ashly took some time out of her hectic schedule to talk about her career, Mythic Quest, and what she hopes to do next as her career continues to evolve.
CGMagazine: Let’s start with your show on Apple TV +. How did you get involved with Mythic Quest and what drew you to the project?
Ashly Burch: I just got a call, kind of out of nowhere while I was visiting my mom. My agent called and said that Rob McElhenney wanted to talk to me about writing opportunities. This is my first on-camera show so I didn’t know Rob and I didn’t know that the show existed. I think what happened is that when his team were looking for writers and since they knew it was going to be a show about video games they were looking for people who knew a lot about them. I have a web series with my brother and it’s a comedy video game web series. I think that came up and Rob watched some of the shorts and thought that I would be a good fit and then called and asked to meet with me. So needless to say it was a very exciting phone call and I was not expecting it. But I met with Rob and then I was on the writing staff. And that was that. It was fast and unexpected and exciting. I still can’t believe it happened.
CGMagazine: Could you tell us a little about your role on the show?
Ashly Burch: Yes, I’m also in the cast. And I play a character tester named Rachel in the show.
CGMagazine: How does it feel to be on both sides of the camera for this particular project?
Ashly Burch: I love it, honestly! It’s pretty amazing because people have asked me before if I had to choose, what would I pick, writing or acting and I just don’t want to answer, because I love both for different reasons. I love that I was able to fill in both roles on Mystic Quest, and I love the series so much, it was just so fun. I’ve learned an insane amount from both sides. The writers’ room was filled with a murderer’s row of the funniest people you’ve ever met, and our cast is filled with some of the funniest, most talented actors you’ve ever met. So it was a master class on both sides of the aisle, and I feel super grateful to be able to do it on both.
CGMagazine: What can people expect from the series?
Ashly Burch: It’s a sitcom about a game development company. And of course, it’s created by Rob McElhinney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, who are all Always Sunny alumni, but it’s also got a lot of heart to it. I think I would say it’s a hard comedy. It’s very funny, but different from Sunny in that it’s very much about the dysfunctional family of this workplace. And there’s a lot of sweetness to it along with a lot of heart.
I also think it’s very honest about the experience of game development and being a gamer. But if you don’t have any knowledge of that industry or that art space, then you’ll be fine. It’s accessible to the layman that doesn’t know anything about games. And for people that do know about games, there’s enough of a love letter in there that I think people will feel like it’s genuine and authentic and representative of that experience. Because we wanted it to be authentic. We’re hoping that it’s appealing to all types of people and It’s very funny. So if you like comedy you will enjoy the show!
CGMagazine: Now, I want to change direction for a second. You have done a lot of voice acting for games. How did you get into that? And now that you are doing on-camera work, is that still your passion?
Ashly Burch: Voice acting is something that people often kind of fall into. I have wanted to voice act since I was 13. So that was sort of my stated goal. I love games and I remember playing the original Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation — the first game I ever played and seeing the credits for voice acting in it. I realized then that you could have that as a job and at that point in my life, that’s all I want to do. I dived into it and also the web series that I have with my brother, we started back in a time when there were like five sketch shows on YouTube, and two of them were about video games. So it was easy, much easier to get discovered back then. We got a little bit of popularity in the game space and I think that name recognition made it easier to transition into voice acting.
It also helps that my brother wrote Borderlands 2 where I that I played Tiny Tina. That was my first role and it kind of came from chaos. From there, Tiny Tina was also sort of my calling card for a little while, to show that I have this skill set. That’s how it started. As I said, it was what I wanted to do when I was a kid and so when I started being able to do it, I was elated. There’s sort of a fun thing that happens and it’s like, “Wow, this is the thing. I wanted to do so let’s see what happens next.” And so I have just been open since then to what opportunities arise. From there I’ve been able to write, and now I’m getting to act in the show, and my current MO, is to just see what happens because that’s worked out pretty well so far. Also to be open and excited about learning new things and trying new stuff. I love games, and I love voice acting and doing performance capture for games. So that’s something that I don’t I would never want to give up. because I just love the space so much.
CGMagazine: You’ve had such a unique journey, to end up where you are now. What lessons have you learned along the road? What lessons could you teach someone that might want to follow in your footsteps?
Ashly Burch: It’s so funny because first of all, there’s just no guaranteed way. We got so lucky about the timing of when we made our stupid web series. If we had tried to make that now I don’t know if anyone would have seen it. But at the same time, I do think that making your stuff is the greatest lesson and the greatest schooling that you can have. You’re guaranteeing that you have something to show people when opportunities arrive, and also you’re learning firsthand. If you’re like us and you’re taking the sketches from writing to filming to editing, you learn so much about the process and what’s needed and what’s not. I think making your opportunities is extremely helpful.
Even if it doesn’t become a massive hit, at least you have gone through the process and you’ve learned something and you’re making stuff which is what you want to be doing anyway. Making anything at any scale, even if it’s a five-minute podcast, I think is great. You are honing and developing your skills and then also you’re creating a finished product, and you’re getting to do what you want to do. Maybe not at the scale that you want to do it yet but you are still doing and I would recommend that.
Also, you have to make stuff that makes you happy, or that is exciting to you. If you try to just sort of do the paint by numbers, thinking that this could go viral, or thinking that this is what people want, but some so many people are trying to do this. And so the only thing, the only real leg up that many of us have is that we are us and that we have are the only person that has the same perspective as us. There’s a whole thing about the idea that there are only four stories and they’ve all been told, and what makes storytelling unique in perspective. Just trusting that you have something that you want to say and having the courage to say it, and to not be derivative out of fear. There is a lot to be said for trusting the process of developing your skillset, around honing your voice and of sticking to your perspective, because that’s what’s going to make you stand out.
You can read the full interview in the print pages of CGMagazine #40