Overleaper Star Thora Birch Talks the New Espionage-Thriller Podcast

Actor Thora Birch had a number of breakout roles as a young star, thanks to projects like Hocus Pocus, American Beauty, and Ghost World, but even after all of the projects she's been apart of, she's venturing into relatively new territory for the all-new podcast series Overleaper. Making the project even more exciting is that, rather than taking on only one role, Birch brings to life a number of characters, challenging her to embody various figures that are quite different but have unifying traits. The first episode of Overleaper is now available wherever you get your podcasts.

Overleaper centers on Special Forces Staff Sergeant Audrey Beach (Birch), a determined career soldier, rising through the ranks to the cream of the military crop. She doesn't have much else in life besides her daughter Lydia, who lives with her ex-husband after a difficult divorce. But Audrey's training could never prepare her for a top-secret mission in Afghanistan's Herat Province, where she faces the impossible: her own doppelgänger from another universe locking her up and leaving her to die...and taking Audrey's place in the process.

The Overleaper is Audrey, but in her timeline, she has suffered far worse pain. Her daughter Lydia is dead- murdered in a tragic military mishap- and her quest for revenge led her to sacrifice her loyalty to the United States. A dangerous country in her dimension aided the her vengeful mission, for a price: replace the Audrey Beach in our world and assassinate the President, no matter the personal price. With nothing left to live for, the Overleaper agrees. To defend the nation and protect her good name, the real Audrey must escape Afghanistan and traverse the globe, evading US authorities and international spies in order to thwart the Overleaper's plan. 

ComicBook.com caught up with Birch to talk about the new project, the opportunities it presented, and former projects she's like to return to.

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(Photo: Realm)

ComicBook.com: What was the origin of your involvement in this project? Was it the story, was it to get involved in a podcast, what was the big appeal that really hooked you in with this?

Thora Birch: Well, I will admit, it had me at the word "podcast," but once I delved into the characters and the story and the overall trajectory of where this story was going, the fact that it was a mixture of a thriller, sci-fi, all these elements and in a weird, weird way, even a true crime element, all these elements came together to me. But also, it happened so fast.

That was what was so interesting about it was that, basically one day I had this in my inbox, they were like, "Would you do it? Blah, blah, blah." And I was like, "Yes, absolutely." So I got in the vocal booth and they're like, "Okay, action." What was so cool about it was that I didn't have to do all this pre-calculated information about my character and this and that and the other ... They're like, "You're in the booth, say the words. How do they sound? Let it come out of your voice. Also, you have to be four different people." And I was like, "Fantastic."

You mentioned that just the idea of a podcast was immediately exciting for you. Once that hooked you in, and then you got involved in this podcast, given your countless experience in the world of live-action acting, what did you find to be the biggest gift of a podcast, this voice-acting performance, and what was also the biggest challenge that you hadn't necessarily anticipated?

I'm a little bit of a history buff, and I remember, not that I should, but I do, I remember a day where radio shows were a big thing, back in the '20s and everything. And this podcast space, the fictionalized podcast space is such a continuation of that. But we, with our technology and our ability to fix everything, we can do it so much better now, so that's an interesting space to live in because there are so many different stories that you can tell within that space, and science fiction happens to be one of the better ones. 

The fact that living in that space and also I am playing, like I said, four different characters. I'm playing Audrey and the Overleaper, but then I'm also playing Audrey the narrator and Overleaper the narrator. So trying to figure out how to differentiate that, but still make it feel continuous was a nice challenge, and it was a creative challenge.

You have a popular series like Orphan Black where Tatiana Maslany is playing multiple different characters, but gets to rely on each character looking different. So even if they sound almost exactly the same, they look different, so it's easy to differentiate them. What was your approach to finding that balance of playing these different characters who physiologically have the same exact vocal cords, if you will, but the listener will be able to differentiate when each distinct character is talking in the podcast?

That's a great question, because, honestly, the thing is, you would think that if you're standing in a silent vocal booth or whatever, you don't have that much to do, but it became an incredibly physical role. It's more about making sure the audience understands the differences between which part you're playing, but also you have to physically be there. You have to make it real. And that's what's so great about the booth is it is almost like an actor working in front of an entire green screen or something like it. 

It's not that different. It's just that you're using only one muscle and one outlet that you have. You might be going off the rails and acting all kinds of kooky, but at the end of the day, it's only because you want your voice to sound a certain way. So that's where it becomes a little bit delicate.

This podcast has inter-dimensional rifts and jumps to alternate realities, and now in theaters is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and you have a movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once recently coming out. There's been this surge of alternate dimension explorations and adventures, so what is it that you think is so appealing and so fascinating about stories that audiences seem to be really connecting with right now?

I feel like the podcast era that we all live in now is so perfect for these types of questions and exploring these ideas, like what would it feel like to live in multiple dimensions? What if there was alternate universes and all that stuff? I feel like people in their car going to work, just taking time out and listening to these types of stories, they get to expand their imagination. And that's what I love about it. I mean, that's what I've experienced when I listen to podcasts it's just like, sometimes people talk about such crazy stuff that I just can't help but entertain those ideas and be excited by them and I think that's a beautiful thing.

I'm hoping you come along with me on this journey and I don't sound too insane when I put this idea out there, but I think the idea of doppelgangers is incredibly fascinating. I am not a famous actor, so I am not particularly recognizable to the--

You'll be famous soon.

I might not currently be recognized walking down the street when there's seven billion people out there, as opposed to you, you're a little bit more recognizable than I am, I would say. But have you ever thought about the idea that you could have someone out there who, maybe not be a doppelganger, but who looks exactly like you?

I could actually go one step further. I was at a convention and there was a beautiful, beautiful little girl and she came up to me and she wanted me to sign her autograph, only because she was like, "She has the same name I do." That's what this Thora said. And I asked the parents, "You didn't name her after me?" They said, "No, no, no." I was like, "Okay, that's cool. Good." But she was so cute and so adorable. And you know what? She was very smart and very talented. So if that's my legacy, I'll be happy with that. There's a little Thora out there. She's the only one.

Thank you for humoring me and not thinking, "Is this guy asking if doppelgangers are real?"

No, no, no.

There's many more episodes on the way and the first one's out now, did you have a particular favorite episode or particular favorite encounter or scene to record for this series?

I think my favorite part was probably my first day. My first day was so weird and I didn't know what to expect, and I hadn't really exercised my abilities in this realm in this way. So yeah, my first day was definitely my favorite.

With scheduling, you weren't able to get involved with the Hocus Pocus sequel in a major way, is there any chance of, maybe not a full-blown starring role in that movie, but is there any chance that you might have gotten to do a cameo or some nod or reference in the upcoming movie at all?

Everybody tried so hard. Everybody tried so hard to make that happen and it just didn't, but everybody tried so hard. That was everybody's intention. But you know what? At the end of the day, just between you and I, I'd probably rather play Winifred in the future. I'd probably rather play Winnie.

We'll keep that in mind for a Hocus Pocus 3. So many The Walking Dead fans loved your work in that show, with the whole concept of these spinoffs, these anthologies, is that a franchise you could see yourself returning to you, even just for a one-off anthology episode?

I don't think anyone will entertain it, but honestly, I do have a personal dream type of fantasy idea about the origin story of Gamma. I think it'd be fascinating. So, I mean, I'm not ruling anything out.

Maybe Season 2 of Overleaper, they'll jump into a dimension where The Walking Dead exists, maybe a dimension where Hocus Pocus exists, and we can just unite all of these Thora dimensions.

Gamma is the granddaughter, who's also Gamma.

We can hop on the phone early next week and we can start brainstorming to make this happen.

I think we should do this. We need to make this happen.


The first episode of Overleaper is out now wherever you get your podcasts.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.