We were lucky enough to catch up with Aussie Liam McIntyre, voice of J.D. Fenix in the upcoming Gears of War 4.
What was it like to have to take over from Andy in the lead role of Spartacus?
Liam McIntyre: It’s about as horrible as it sounds. It’s a tough one in the sense that, on one hand you get told ‘you know all those dreams you had for a decade? They’re about to come true, but only because someone else has had all this stuff happen to them,’ and I would do anything to have a career, but I would also do anything to not have that stuff happen to Andy, cause he’s brilliant. It was really scary, but at the time I didn’t think about it; you try and do the best job you can. He did such a good job making that character awesome. It was really sad, but as they say in showbusiness, the show must go on. We did our best, the group was great, we tried to make something he’d be proud of. The show was so amazing. It seems to be my style of things – to be the new guy in these established things, like now I get to be the son of Marcus Fenix.
You also got to have a go on The Flash – have you always been a comic fan?
I’ve been pretty lucky. I really love history; I used to play a lot of Civilisation, and play as the Romans, and then I did Spartacus, I was a huge fan of batman, and I loved spiderman comics, and to get to be in The Flash was awesome. I’ve been a huge video gamer since I was 4 or 5, now I get to be in a video game. I’m very grateful. There’s this child part of me just going ‘what!? This is amazing!’
Was working on Wizards of Aus as insane as it sounds?
I’ll tell you what, the guy that did that is the biggest genius I’ve ever met. Michael Shanks. We’ve sort of moved in the same circles, from back when I was at Village Cinemas, we’ve all been mates for a while. To see them put that up, and then for them to be like ‘hey, did you wanna be in it?’ and I was like ‘do I wanna be in it!? That’s so freakin’ cool!’ It was so funny – the stuff he did pretty much on his own, that would normally take a conceptual group of 200 people 30 months to make – dude, that’s amazing.
Gears of War 4 isn’t your first crack at a video game voiceover, is it?
Yeah, we did a little ‘freemium’ Spartacus game called Spartacus Legends, which was fun. I remember, we had a round-table meeting, and I gave them six or seven options of games I would like them to make based off the Spartacus franchise. There was only one type of game I said specifically don’t do, and that was a Mortal Kombat clone, and they kinda did it anyway [laughs]. To be fair, it was a pretty good Mortal Kombat clone, as much as I personally would’ve liked it to be like Skyrim or something I guess that wouldn’t really have worked. I also had a sneaky side project as a couple of voices on Star Trek Online, [which was] nothing like Gears of War 4 in terms of AAA, premium, massive quarter-deciding, profit-making games.
How did the gig with Gears come about?
It’s crazy. I actually worked on something that never saw the light of day with that company. Then they got put on GoW. They were like, in the traditional acting way, ‘do you wanna audition?’ I guess they liked whatever I was throwin’ down, ‘cause they said yes, and ‘the rest is history’. I was just lucky, it’s been the most amazing ride.
How much pressure did you put on yourself knowing you were playing John DiMaggio’s son?
Like, all the pressure. All the pressure you can find, just throw it on there. My favourite show of all time is probably Futurama. I was like, ‘wait a minute. Hang on.’ Of course, games are all about massive secrets, so I was like [to the team] ‘hypothetically, am I gonna be working with John DiMaggio?’ and they were like ‘oh I dunno, we can’t really tell you if he’s gonna be in the game or not,’ and I was like ‘whaddaya mean you can’t tell me?!’ There was all this suspense, but obviously it’s worked out. I mean, he’s Marcus Fenix. If you’ve played video games in the last decade, you know Marcus Fenix, so no pressure [laughs]. It’s fun; he gets to be the young, hopeful son – you know every millennial kid that goes ‘the world can be a better place!’ and you get the grumpy old father going ‘no. No it can’t. Everything’s sh*t. It creates these great moments where he’s resentful of his kinda-crappy dad, who’s just won so many massive wars, and then there’s this kid going ‘no, the world can be better.’ He’s kinda got a few bones to pick with his dad, which you get to explore – it’s a very modern-world drama.
How much interaction did you get to have with your co-stars?
‘Cause Eugene [Byrd] plays Del, my buddy, with us two being from TV primarily, we thought we’d all be in the booth having a big old chin wag. They said to us ‘y’know, it doesn’t always work that way, you have your day, and they have their day.’ We pushed really hard to have us all in the same room, and they got to do it a few times for the action sequences and stuff like that, and they were great. For an actor who isn’t used to that, I have so much respect for people like Laura [Bailey] and John who are unbelievably professional, so good at what they do – to really create that world, and that experience and that natural dialogue feeling when there’s nobody else there. They’re kind of winging it in a booth on their own, and that’s a gift. That’s a real skill we had to develop; obviously we had good teachers, and role models. When we got a group of three or four of us it was so much fun, you come up with all this interesting stuff, ‘cause you’d do what’s on the page, and then kind of go ‘can we throw this away and have some fun?’ and you’d pick up a few good moments, and be like ‘oh, that was actually really good.’ It was a really fun but challenging experience to bring all that stuff that’s in your head across just over the microphone.
I imagine you thoroughly enjoyed working with someone as prolific in the gaming industry as Laura Bailey?
Yeah, right?! She’s so great. My audition was with her, actually. I heard her speak and I was like ‘wait a minute, oh my god, I know who you are, I was just playing Halo!’ I’d have days where I’d try like 20 or 30 different options for each line, and the producer would be like ‘stop, please, no more talking, stop speaking, we’ve got plenty of things to listen to,’ and she’d get up there, stand at the mic – and bang, bang nailed it. Then they’d say ‘we’d like it a little bit more sad,’ and boom – ‘just a little bit more,’ nailed it. Like, how? She just completely smashed that, within a millimetre of accuracy. You can see why she’s so good at what she does.
What’s your preference – voice acting or the live-action stuff?
Do I have to choose? Rough. I dunno, being on camera is fun because it’s very freeing. You get to be different people, and dress up, and do all those things – it’s a very visceral and tactile experience, which is a real joy. Then there’s something amazingly freeing about being a voiceover actor – I would love to do it. There are so many interesting properties, that exist now in the space; GoW is obviously growing up a lot, and the story is much more complete and full. I mean before, they were great, but there’s some really great stuff in it now. Uncharted is a great story, and The Witcher is a great story, and there are some really great tales being told. There’s the lifestyle as well – you just get to go into a recording studio, do that and come home, as opposed to going to Bulgaria or mainland China and filming for six months and hopefully coming home to your family still [laughs]. There’s different lifestyle things to being a voiceover actor as well.
Given that you’ve name-dropped Skyrim a couple of times, I imagine you’re looking forward to the remaster, but what else is on your radar for the rest of the year?
I’m super excited, because obviously I would’ve wanted to play Gears 4 anyway, but now I’m excited cause I’m in it. I get to play Gears early, so hopefully I get to play it before Civilisation VI comes out, ‘cause I’ve played that since I was like 6 years old. It’s gonna take over my life. This is out 11 October – that’s gonna be intense, but I’ll get there with a nice plan – sleep is overrated anyway.
Finally, are you looking forward to picking up the controller and taking the reigns as yourself?
That’s amazing. That’s the hardest part; ‘excuse me while I just play with myself’, that’s not the thing I wanna be saying to people. It’ll be cool. Gears of War 4 – October 11 on Windows PC and Xbox One. Enjoy. That’s my plug.