With Capcom and Spark Unlimited’s PS3, Xbox 360 and PC sci-fi action game Lost Planet 3 finally headed into stores August 27 here in the US (August 30 in Europe and Australia), I had the great opportunity to shoot a few questions over to WIlliam “Bill” Watterson, voice and motion capture actor for lead character Jim Payton (who by the way isn’t related to THAT Bill Watterson, which is why he’s called William here). You can probably call him Bill if you run into him in person (just don’t ask him to draw you a picture of Calvin or Hobbes).
Anyway, below the jump he discusses voice acting (with a few tips for you thespians out there), music, LP3’s western influences, booze and how to get social with the man himself in a few places online…
Greg Wilcox: Lost Planet 3 isn’t your first time at the “Hey, I’m in a video game!” rodeo. Do you like or prefer performance capture or do these gigs just fall into place like other acting work you’ve done?
William Watterson: I didn’t set out to crack the gaming world, I got a lucky break from a good friend who was working on LA Noire and needed an extra body on set to help them make their days. But once I got in the suit, I didn’t want out! I love on camera work, I love live theater, I love playing in a band—but if I was told I’d be wearing a MoCap suit for the rest of my life, I’d say ‘where do I sign?!?’ The stories being told in video games absolutely rank up at the top with those in film and television, there’s no question.
GW: Was working ensemble style and filming sequences as you would a film or TV show difficult without actual sets to interact with, or was the cast always game for anything? Also, was this a “stick to the script” deal or were there improvisations allowed?
WW: Always game. It always felt like a team effort, everyone willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. That’s what you want for every project, and we had it in spades for this one. I’ve done improv, and green screen, and every audition is a performance that requires you to create environment and props in your head, so that’s all part of acting. It’s no different than playing Army or D&D or Cowboys and Indians as a kid. Some of the lighter moments lent themselves to an improvisation here or there, and Gale and I had worked together since Spark’s earliest demo for the game back in 2010, so we had a great rapport, and I believe at least two of our off-the-cuff barbs made it into the final game.
GW: For the aspiring actor/actress types reading this, what would you say the best and worst things about doing video game voice and performance capture are?
WW: Great question…the suits don’t hide a thing, so you better get comfortable with your body type REAL quick. The hardest part is volume of dialogue—20 or more pages a day, as opposed to 2-5 in on camera work. That’s also something I like about it, because the repetition in on-camera work can grind your brain away. But you’ve got to be sharp and prepared and ready for anything. The best part is, anything goes—you can be anywhere, anyone, doing anything, at any given moment. And when you see the final product with all the different departments contributing to bring the initial performance to life, it will absolutely freak you out. In a good way.
GW: Thanks to YouTube, I’ve noticed you also play a couple of instruments and can speak in a few interesting accents. Did you ever think of bugging the team at Spark for another part in the game or at least ask if Jim could have a musical hobby in his down time?
WW: I wanted to be Crazy Neil soooooo bad, he’s my favorite character, but they were very invested in Jim being unique, undiluted, the focus. Plus my Australian needs some work…
GW: Have you recently had the chance to sit down with some or (or the entire game) yet? If so, let the fans in on what sort of experience they’re in for in terms of the single player side of things.
WW: I actually don’t have a copy. If you know where I can get one, lay it on me! But from what I know of what I’ve seen during my visits to Spark, have some tissues handy, because this game will break your heart. It broke mine.
GW: From my play sessions with the two demos (last year and this past May), I’ve noticed that the game feels like a sci-fi western in some respects – was this the direction from the beginning or did it eventually roll that way based on the different performances as they evolved?
WW: My understanding is that was the focus from day one. John Carpenter’s The Thing, Firefly, the country music Jim digs, some of the character design—even his name, ‘Peyton,’ is a reference to Lawrence Kasdan’s Silverado. That was very much the intention. I always felt like I was in a western, that vibe exploded off the page, from the very first audition piece. I wore my cowboy boots to the audition, if that’s any indication.
GW: OK, it’s Happy Hour! In Germany, you’ll probably have a Jever Pilsener (on the house, most likely) – what’s your beverage of choice here in the States?
WW: I’m a bourbon man. Bullit, Maker’s, Knob Creek. Four Roses Single Batch is my current favorite. Goes down smooth. Too smooth, sometimes, if you know what I’m sayin’.
GW: What’s next after all these interviews and crazed fans chasing you down for autographs? Are you planning a break or is more work (game or otherwise) coming up?
WW: I’m honored to say I’m working with Clint Eastwood next week on ‘Jersey Boys.’ Blowing some bass on camera. And I’m putting my hat in the ring for any gaming work out there, I want to play in these worlds for the rest of my career.
GW: Speaking of fans – do you interact with them at all (social media, signings, etc.)? If so, where can they catch up with you (online, at least)?
WW: Haven’t done any signings, but I love the conventions—E3 and ComiCon were a blast. I go to these things as a fan, so I sure as hell want to go as a participant. I’m at @BillTweeterson on Twitter (I know—genius, right? How do I do it?), and I co-host The Smodco Smorning Show on Tuesday mornings, you can always live tweet or email the show. I’d love to hear from you.
GW: Finally, as a working actor, do you even have time to get into video games or is it more or less a hobby or passing interest these days?
WW: I’m still an Atari 2600 man at heart. Warlords Drinking Game at my place any time, I will destroy you. I’ve got PS3 and will be tackling Uncharted 3 and LP3 soon enough, but I kind of need my hand held to get a working knowledge of the controls. You’d think a bass player would have better hand-eye coordination, wouldn’t you?
Well, not if you’re playing a striped bass… they’re kind of hard to hold on to, especially when freshly caught – ha ha. Hey, Capcom! Get that man a FEW copies of the game so he can sign them and give them out on that Smodco Morning Show, I say! Also, I stink at Warlords after the first three rounds because I get too hyper when my castle loses a wall, so adding a drinking game to that will make me eat a controller when the going gets tough. THAT said, thanks SO much to Bill for taking time to answer my goofy questions and big thanks to Mckenzie at Guttman PR for getting this ball rolling.
Remember: Lost Planet 3 rolls out next week on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
– Greg Wilcox