Interview with Craig Sechler about his return as the admirer-fan in Starfield
"The Adoring Fan sounded like the dumbest idea I had ever heard," Craig Sechler recounts as we discuss his experience being cast for The Elder Scrolls...
"The Adoring Fan sounded like the dumbest idea I had ever heard," Craig Sechler recounts as we discuss his experience being cast for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. He credits audio director Mark Lampert for breathing life into the now-legendary sidekick. "He encouraged me to take it to a point that was practically ridiculous. And I did, and he said, 'Yes! That's it! Yes!' And I said, 'Mark, I don't get it. If we do this thing and I do it the way you want it, people are going to hate this character.' And he said, 'Now you understand.'"
The Adoring Fan is an obsessive stalker who latches onto you after you conquer the Arena in Cyrodiil. No matter how much you try to get rid of him, he keeps coming back - it doesn't matter if you maim him, burn him, or send him into the clutches of Oblivion itself. Combine this strange immortality with his exaggerated personality, and Bethesda had a winning combination - a character that fans love to hate. So much so that they still send Sechler fan art, memes, and clips of them killing the Adoring Fan in devilishly creative ways. It's no wonder he was allowed to reprise the role for Starfield.
"We had one day of [recording], and I was pretty nervous because I hadn't done it in a very long time," Sechler says about his return after 17 years. "My voice could have changed, and I didn't know what the script would be like and how my lines would be, or if it would be the exact same character. Luckily, it wasn't. It was almost as if the Adoring Fan could evolve in some way." Sechler smiles as he recalls the first read of the script. "I had all the good lines!" he laughs. "Everything they had me say was funny."
In Starfield, you can have the Adoring Fan as a member of your crew and a permanent companion if you choose the corresponding attribute at the beginning of the game. That means he can accompany you throughout the entire journey. However, his role was originally planned to be much smaller.
"After the first day, I considered it a success, but it was a bigger success than I thought," Sechler says. "When they heard the result of that day, their dialogues, the new character, and my interpretation, they liked it enough to say, 'Let's expand his role.' That's the most beautiful thing an actor can ever hear. So I worked for a few more days, and it got even better."
Now that Starfield is out, the love for the Adoring Fan has been reignited. Although much of this adoration comes from a sadistic motivation, Sechler accepts it.
"The various ways of bidding farewell to the sidekick became a thing," says Sechler. "I was just happy about the recognition. I found it great. And even today, with Starfield, I still have people sending me things and asking, 'What do you think about this?' And then they tell me that they're going to eliminate or obliterate my character. They say goodbye to their buddy in very ingenious ways, and it makes me laugh because I crack up when I see it. They do it so well."
The way actors interact with fans has changed significantly over the years. In the past, you could only meet them at conventions, stand in line for a quick hello, and maybe get an autograph or a photo if you paid for it. Nowadays, everything has changed with social media, and Sechler welcomes this new world thanks to his children.
"My daughter convinced me to join this TikTok thing," says Sechler. "She said, 'Dad, it's time for you to get into the 21st century. I read all these things you get from people all over the world, telling you how much they've always loved your stuff. Why don't you publish something where they can get to know you and have a glimpse of you?'"
My daughter made me do the dumbest, cheapest thing with this [admirer-fan] wig that I'm wearing, and it has 220,000 views. I mean, it's really weird. But the best part is that I'm getting lots of comments from people I call my friends, and this influx of congratulations and praise and really nice things from people who have told me how much they enjoyed [my work]. So now I've arrived in the 21st century. I don't know what the 21st century thinks of me, but I like it. It's fun.
Since the release of Oblivion in 2006, Sechler has met many fans, but thanks to TikTok and the internet, he can now get to know a much wider variety of people, something he tells me he appreciates.
"Every single person I meet is wonderfully unique and artistically talented and supports me. They have helped me so much," says Sechler, pointing to fan art behind him hanging on the wall in his studio where he films his TikTok videos. "I received this artwork on the back from a 13-year-old girl seven years ago. Her father sent me seven pieces of art she had made of my characters, and it's still hanging on the wall along with her first letters."
Her father drove her up, and meeting her was one of the best moments of my life. [My fans] keep writing and supporting me, and I can't mention them all, but they constantly help me. They enrich my life.
However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows in the world of voice acting. Currently, SAG-AFTRA is preparing for strikes in the gaming industry due to poor pay and the rise of unregulated AI. The actors hope to stop the non-consensual use of their voices, which threatens jobs. Sechler served on the SAG-AFTRA committee for ten years, but he has recently retired alongside Sheogorath and Ron Hope actor Wes Johnson, who is taking his place. That being said, he still supports the strikes and wishes them success.
"I also work and pray for the health of the entire community," says Sechler. "So if a strike were to happen, and it could still happen, then we all want both sides to get what they need. It's not about what one wants, but about what is right and best."
But we need to get to the point and talk about things that are extraordinarily important, including things that I can hardly talk about, such as Artificial Intelligence. But every industry is now facing AI. That's why we want compensation. That is one of our main demands. We want to be compensated when someone takes our voice, which is a part of ourselves, our performance, and then uses it for other purposes. I am confident that we will find a solution that is beneficial for everyone because this industry is simply amazing and wonderful, and it is still expanding with so many promising opportunities that we don't want to hinder its progress.
The admirer-fan has left behind an interesting legacy. Once, he was the annoying character we all loved to push off cliffs, but now he is a cherished symbol of The Elder Scrolls series, leaving his mark in Bethesda's latest flagship, and much of that is thanks to Sechler's performance. In the past, we used to throw him to the wolves, but now we can leave him to the summit parrothawks of space and have fun with it.