When we first met actress Michele Morrow in 2010, she was inching her way across the shallow field comprising the Hollywood crowd that plays World of Warcraft. It appeared to be a successful combination for Michele; in fact, for a while it seemed the horror flick star might actually be becoming best known as "that actress who wants to play Lady Sylvanas in a WoW movie," courtesy of a vocal Facebook page created by an enthusiastic fan.
While Sylvanas doesn't now appear to be spawning in the upcoming WoW movie, Michele's been popping up not only in Azeroth itself (with a commemorative NPC on Wandering Isle) but on gamer and nerd websites across the internet and in gaming-related film projects slated to begin hitting in 2014. Reconnecting with Michele at BlizzCon 2013 unspooled a reel of geekery worth investigating anew, as well as relatable tales of the sort of down-to-earth, casual raiding and in-game friendships that so many players enjoy as the WoW experience today.
Realm Thorium Brotherhood (US-Horde)
WoW Insider: What's going on in Azeroth, Michele? Are you still playing your hunter?
Michele Morrow: I am, and we're raiding. We're doing flex raiding mostly. We're kind of a casual but serious guild; we take raiding seriously when we have time to raid. We raid one to two nights a week, depending -- usually two. We're not super far into it, but a lot of our raiders are because of oQueue and what not, but our guild sticks together, which is really nice.
We beat Nazgrim this last week. We're way behind, obviously, in schedule -- but we were cheering and everyone was super excited. We bring the fun back to the PvE RP server. (laughs)
Sticking together -- that's the automatic win right there.
Totally, and what's really cool is our guild is growing. Every day, we're getting new players in ... It's been a lot of fun. And then we have Matt [Mercer, voiceover actor and the voice of WoW characters including Halion and General Vezax] who raids with us who's really funny. Every now and then, we'll have his boss [that he voiced in game] come along, and so we yell at him ... to do the voices. He's fantastic; you'll love him.
(Read our upcoming interview with Matt in next week's 15 Minutes of Fame.)
Michele, you're so connected with the WoW and gaming and geeky community there in Southern California -- and it turns out they're all connected with you and with us, too. You got involved in one of your latest projects, the upcoming Pen & Paper & Laser Guns webseries, all from a chance meeting at the WoW Insider meetup in 2011, isn't that right?
Yeah, that was really cool. Jeff Reitman, who's a standup comic -- his wife Laurel ... her cousin ... It's so crazy: A comedian's wife's cousin was doing a webseries in Los Angeles, and she just randomly said to me at the WoW Insider party, "My cousin's in this webseries. You should connect with him in LA." And people say that all the time in LA -- it's like "oh, okay, you know ..." And I actually met with the guy because they were WoW people and I thought why not, and I met with him and he had such a great idea for this script.
We shot a pilot ... and we put together kind of the nerd, the geek crew that we have here in Los Angeles: Chloe Dykstra, Matt Mercer, Marisha Ray ... and we put everybody together -- and it was all born out of meeting somebody at the WoW Insider party.
We're happy to have been the birthplace for that! What's the series all about?
It's sci-fi. It's a board game, but it's tabletop and it's still something I think the World of Warcraft community will be able to connect with. It's a bunch of friends who are playing a tabletop game. We start off in the sci-fi world, [cut to "real world" table talk, then back to real-life events that coincide with the sci-fi game].
And we got to shoot on [the set of] Firefly, which was awesome.
Wow! Major geek points there ...
Oh my god! We walked around the set and we were just like, "God, there's something about this place that seems so familiar." And then they guy who was running the place goes "Oh yeah, it's broken-down parts of Firefly," and we were all like "WHAT?!"
So we all went and changed out of our clothes -- they wouldn't let us shoot with our costumes on, so we all went and changed and then did our big damn heroes pose on the dock. And then I had a big scene where Wash dies in Serenity, so it was just such a cool moment just being there.
Ties within ties within ties ... And speaking of ties within ties, you and your boyfriend had NPCs named for you in WoW last year. What's the story on that?
I couldn't believe it at first; I thought it was just a drawing or an illustration of myself, my boyfriend and our two cats in the little house on the Wandering Isle. ... I was like "Wait, this is in game?!" And I did laps around the hotel room, and then I started crying. (laughs)
At the time, we were going through -- our house flooded, ruined most of what we owned. My cat Azrael got lead poisoning. We had nowhere to live for about four months while they were doing construction. It was crazy. We had to take a hiatus from WoW.
It was really difficult. Actually, I would just log on to Vent every now and then and talk to my guildmates, because they're such good friends. And so we'd log on from time to time to say hi, but we couldn't play because we didn't have a strong enough connection, and plus we were dealing with our cat was in and out of the hospital. Azrael is my baby. When I play my hunter, I have an orange cat, like a lynx in the game, named Meow, and that's supposed to be Azrael. That's my cat; that's my baby.
So [getting the NPCs named for us] was an exciting thing. We just know at the end of the day, we know we always have a home in Azeroth, and that is the coolest thing ever.
Let's talk about another angle on being in the game: When word hit that a WoW movie was in the works, you became known as that actress who wanted to be cast as Lady Sylvanas. There's even a Facebook fan page supporting your casting for the role! When did you first find out that your dream role would probably not come to pass?
Well, I found out about a year ago. I kind of knew where the script was heading toward when they switched from Sam Raimi, and I heard from other sources that it was looking like Sylvanas was not going to be in the script.
Originally with the fan page -- I didn't create the fan page. It was a page that an early supporter made for me. ... It was a random thing. And I was a Fangoria convention for a horror movie and they asked me, "If you could play any character, past, present or future, what would it be?" And this was four or five years ago and I was playing Warcraft, deep in the trenches of Warcraft, so I said, "Lady Sylvanas, World of Warcraft movie!" I just said it -- and it snowballed from there.
I didn't mean to create an army of any kind; like Lady Sylvanas, it wasn't anything I intended to do. All of a sudden, I found myself with people who were supporting me and behind me, and I felt this responsibility in a way. At first, I didn't know what to do with it. The girl who was running the page at the time, she ended up getting a little overwhelmed because suddenly this influx of people started to come in as more and more World of Warcraft press was covering it. And so my boyfriend and I took over the page, and I just sort of rode the horse that was moving.
And then the movie comes to fruition and you're like, "Oh! ... Cool! ... Shit!" (laughs)
So is the door closed on playing Lady Sylvanas?
We're looking pretty far down the line on when Sylvanas would actually show up, so you gotta wait it out -- there are so many things to take into account at that point. That's fine, we'll see. We'll see how it goes. (laughs)
What many people don't realize is that the real reason they keep seeing your name pop up in the WoW community is that you're currently involved in so many gaming and geeky projects. Update us on your documentary with Nerdist and Legendary Pictures about people who gain therapeutic benefits from playing WoW.
The therapeutic element of WoW is something that's always been very important to me because that's how I played World of Warcraft when I first played, when I injured my neck. [Editor's note: Morrow broke her neck during stunt work connected to Basement Jack.]
That's when I got into Lady Sylvanas's story. It was her quest to get her body back. I understand the vengeance and the anger behind what happened to her. Obviously, hers is much more amplified because of the death that she had, but there's something very hard about when you lose your body. So her story resonated with me very strongly.
It does sound like a natural connection. What's the approach you're taking?
I'm a producer on the film. It's called The Road to Azeroth. It's about a woman named Terry Bolt; she's got terminal cancer. We're meeting so many people who play for therapeutic reasons. They're playing because they're injured; they're playing because they're sick. And it's giving them a social community to connect with. We have the A storyline of following her. We've got some other people that we're going to be meeting -- I think Quad is one of them -- and showing how therapeutic it is for other people as well.
I'm so glad that someone like Nerdist and Legendary [are behind the project] -- because Legendary Pictures is doing the World of Warcraft movie, and they own Nerdist Industries. So it's the perfect thing, and I could not be more excited about it.
Can't wait to see how the project develops! And haven't we seen your name in print, too?
Yes, I've been writing for HelloGiggles for over two years now. It's more female-centric, and I try to write more about gaming in a female point of view but I try to really not make it gender-fied as much as possible, even though they want me to write more about female ... issue ... stuff? (laughs) So I try to tackle it in a way that's unique, but I hate the term "girl gamer." I'm sure you understand that. (laughs)
Yep. I feel you.
It's so annoying. Why do we have to put gender in it?
But yeah, HelloGiggles has been great for me. And from that, I started writing for Nerdist. I kind of write whatever over there, randomly; I'll write about World of Warcraft, mostly ... more like culture commentary is what I do.
And how about a peek into what's going on next year with the launch of BiteSize TV?
BiteSize TV is so awesome! I'm so excited to be a part of it. I was one of the first hosts hired there about a year and a half ago. ... They liked [co-host] Chloe [Dykstra] and I so much that they offered us a network within the network. They've got BiteMe, which is a comedy one, they've got a style one, a Hollywood gossip one ... So we are heading up the nerd culture one.
The name of the show is called Chaotic Awesome. We'll be having a lot of guests on. We'll still have stuff like [our older material] App Attack and Chicks with Joysticks, but it's a little repurposed.
Michele, where does WoW fit into the craziness of 2014?
My goal has just been to get all of my friends to play World of Warcraft -- which is working. (laughs) And we do open recruiting! We take anyone from casuals to hardcore, but we definitely don't do elitists. If you're super hardcore and you want massive progression, we're definitely not the guild for you. But if you want to chill out, you want to hang out, you want to have a good time, you want to laugh and raid and do it like that, then absolutely. My only rule is don't be a dick.
If you're interested in the guild, the easiest way to get in touch is to write me a private message on my Facebook fan page or write me in game on my server. Facebook will always be faster, though.
As far as playing the game, our goal is to kill Garrosh. That is the goal. That is what we want to do. We are on the third wing now -- and god, let us do it, please! We're so close! I think everyone's geared enough now.
I love it. I love hearing everyone get excited about whatever it is. It's nice because it's a way to get out of the Hollywood bubble and the toxins. You feel like you're in a normal world again. LA is just a whole other deal -- it's a whole other thing. It really is. It's a monster. It's a beast. And to have people -- they're like family. You listen to them bitch and deal with some random thing ... It's just fun. It makes me happy. It makes me laugh. It's a good time; it's a good guild.
Sounds like you've come a long way with both your guild and Warcraft as a whole.
When my accident happened, as many times as I like to say I wish I could take back one day of my life -- if I could take back one day -- would it be the day that I busted my neck? I used to think that, and then I think no, I wouldn't do that because at this point, I've got such an amazing group of friends that I would not have. None of this would have happened. I wouldn't be a character in a video game. I wouldn't have this great support system and group of people. I wouldn't know all of these new friends if I hadn't have hurt myself.
It was hard at first. I've regretted that day so many times. (laughs) And then it hit me that man, I'm not happy it happened, but I definitely wouldn't change it now. It's made me a different person.
Find Michele on Facebook (where she's giving away two Alterac Brew Pups -- watch for SpiritHoods promos and deals, too) or on Twitter.
"I never thought of playing
WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.