Liam McIntyre is an Australian Actor who got started off in Australian shows such as Neighbours and Rush. He quickly moved onto a more permanent role in the hit US show Spartacus. Fast forward to 2016 in which he finds himself as the Voice Actor for the lead role of JD Fenix in Gears of War 4.
We had the privilege of chatting to Liam about his extensive love for gaming, the joys of playing JD Fenix and the challenges that come with voice acting.
COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR HISTORY WITH GAMING, PRIOR TO LANDI THE ROLE OF JD FENIX
“My first console was the Commodore 64 or I’d play Links 386 Pro Golf. Then I upgraded to the NES and the SNES. I don’t think I ever owned a MegaDrive, but I remember playing Mortal Combat over at my friends. I was a huge fan of CIV And SimCity throughout the years. I have vivid memories of playing Tekken, in which I remember beating the Australian champion one round at a Timezone one year. More recently, I’ve been playing Overwatch and I’ve been addicted to a mobile game called Tap Titans (Which I hate myself for, as it’s not a real game). Obviously, right now I’ve just started playing Gears of War 4 and I’m absolutely loving it.”
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU WHEN YOU FOUND OUT THAT YOU’D BE PLAYING JD FENIX IN SUCH A WELL-KNOWN FRANCHISE?”
“So, it’s the coolest thing ever when you’re such a big gamer and you’ve always had the dream of creating a game or being in a game and then someone turns around and says “You’re going to be in one of biggest franchises ever”. I basically turned around and said: “Wait, who am I playing?” The son of Marcus Fenix, just one of the biggest gaming characters of all-time. Then suddenly it got a little stressful and I felt a lot of pressure to not screw it up and disappoint the hardcore fans of the franchise.
Overall, it’s extremely cool as I get to be a whole new voice in the Gears universe. Up to this point it’s been genuinely characterised as incredibly tough, battle-torn men who are crushing enemies. Now we’ve moved the story to JD who is a young kid, who’s got a grumpy, angry father and JD hasn’t seen any of the war or hardship that he has gone through. JD is still a tough soldier, but he’s fighting this war because he thinks he’s making the world a better place and doesn’t want to be like his dad. He definitely doesn’t want to be his dad, yet throughout the game, he starts to see some of the terrible things that his father has experienced over the years, which evolves the person that he is.”
HAD YOU PLAYED GEARS BEFORE LEARNING THAT YOU’D GOTTEN THE ROLE?
“Yeah, I’d definitely played the original Gears back in the day and then went back and replayed through all of them when I learned that I had the role. Then I also went back and played the Remaster which obviously came out after I already knew that I had the role. Gears was a genre defining game, defining cover-shooters and certain shooting mechanics, so I definitely knew what a big deal it was.”
JOHN DIMAGGIO AS MARCUS WAS ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY. DID YOU GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK TOGETHER IN GEARS 4?
“They actually kept that secret from me for quite a while. When I found out, I was obviously trying to hide my fandom of Futurama. When I asked if Marcus was in the game, they wouldn’t tell me for a long time. Then, one day, he just walked into the studio and obviously I had to keep that secret for a long time as well. He’s one of the funniest people that I’ve ever gotten to work with. He’s one of the best people that I’ve ever seen do voice acting and for my first major game, it was such a great honour to just watch him and think “So that’s how you be excellent”.
There’s an Easter Egg in the game that I won’t spoil fully, but essentially John made a massive rant about Tomatoes which ended up making it into the game in one specific part.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JD AND MARCUS?
“One of the things that I like about being JD is that you get a better view of Marcus. Obviously, because he’s not the main character, you get to sort of see his personality from the other side. The differences start with Marcus only knowing war. He’s seen everything and the world has beaten this guy down and every kind of happiness seems to get snatched away from him. Then you have JD, who’s a person of his own and has broken away from his conventional thing that he’s supposed to be doing with his life. He’s a very millennial kid in some ways. He wants to do everything differently and make the world a better place. He’s definitely a lighter character than his dad and he doesn’t want to carry his father’s energy or to become his father because he seems that as a negative step. The cool thing about having the two characters in the story is that you get to see the two characters collide in an epic story. You’ll see JD trying to understand his father and the choices that he has made in the past. There’s definitely a deep level to the story, which I found amazing.
WITH MORE AND MORE WELL-KNOWN ACTORS DIPPING THEIR TOES IN THE VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY, DO YOU FEEL THAT THE MEDIUM IS FINALLY STARTING TO BREAK OUT OF ITS NICHE AND INTO THE MAINSTREAM?
“Yeah, I think people give video games a hard wrap. I think they’ve been out in the mainstream for over a decade. You look at Hollywood Box Offices and you hear about movies making a billion dollars in which in your head you think “Cool, GTA made 3 billion dollars”. In reality, video games are just huge. I think the key difference these days is the ability to tell a video game in a story has come along leaps and bounds whether it’s Gears of War or Uncharted, I think actors are definitely clueing into the fact that you can now tell uniquely amazing stories because they’re not just things you watch, they’re things you do. So while I’m playing JD Fenix, the player is actually JD Fenix who is making him do things. You’re no longer a passive observer.
I’ve loved video games for so long because I feel like I’m in the middle of the action rather than on the outside watching in. You can tell different stories this way. It doesn’t necessarily make it better than TV or Movies, but you get to deal a different kind of stories and feel a sense of adrenaline. That’s definitely the heart of video games and why people are starting to realise that video games can tell better stories.”
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES AROUND VOICING A FICTITIOUS VIDEO GAME CHARACTER?
“The level of concentration and intensity required. On one hand, there’s a definite joy to it because it’s fun. You have moments of focus and moments of relaxation. It doesn’t require you being switched on for 6-7 hours at a time like on a TV shoot. Communicating this world that you can’t see and also knowing that people won’t be in the same world as you, is a definite challenge. Being able to project a certain emotion when people are only telling you what’s happening instead of seeing it like on a film set, you definitely have to think about how you’re going to make it come across in your voice. There’s a large amount of effort in the way that you actually make it real. You record a moment and think it sounds great, but then when you hear it back and think that it doesn’t sound right. There’s a real learning curve to developing your character, but I’ve been lucky to work with an incredible cast and I’ve been able to learn so much from them.”
Gears of War 4 will release on Xbox One and Windows 10 over the next few days. The limited edition 2TB Xbox One Console will release on Thursday, October 6th. The Ultimate Edition releases on Friday, October 7th and the game hits the general public on Tuesday, October 11th.