Matthew Mercer and Erin Cahill on the Insane Action in ‘Resident Evil: Vendetta’
Resident Evil: Vendetta, the third CG-animated feature film based on the smash-hit horror video game franchise, continues the attempts of Leon Kennedy (Matthew Mercer) to take down the undead and the seemingly endless array of Bio-Organic Weapons. In this feature, he’s joined by BSAA’s Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman) and professor Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill), who team up to stop an arms dealer from carrying out his plans for vengeance at any cost.
Ahead of Resident Evil: Vendetta‘s one-night theatrical special on Monday, June 19th, I had a chance to speak with Mercer and Cahill about their experience on the film. They each had interesting insights to share, especially with Mercer reprising the role of Leon for the fourth time and Cahill bringing a fresh perspective to Rebecca. Both of them were impressed, as I was, with the film’s level of all-out action and insane choreography, along with a healthy dose of jump scares befitting the perennially scary video game. We talked about all of this and more, but first…
What is the first video game you can remember playing?
Erin Cahill: I had one of those, the handheld…
Matt Mercer: One of those Tiger handheld ones? A GameBoy?
Cahill: GameBoy! I had a GameBoy, so I was all about Super Mario Bros., but I was an old-school Atari gamer when I was little.
Mercer: For me, the very first video game I ever played would have been Return of the Jedi on the Atari 2600.
When Mercer mentioned Tiger Electronics, I had a hard time not steering the entire conversation in that direction. Ever the gentleman and consummate professional, he indulged me:
Mercer: Yeah, the really crappy Tiger ones where it was just the black characters over the clear background. They were terrible derivatives of games that were popular at the time, but you literally just went left to right and could jump.
Cahill: What was that game, Frogger?
Mercer: They had a Frogger one. So many terrible Tiger games, but you played them because you were in the back seat of the car with your family.
Since Mercer and Cahill were on their way to E3 at the time, we had to pause and reflect for a moment on just how far video games have come in the 30 years since Tiger Electronics were the cutting edge:
Mercer: It’s crazy! Even just 10 years. I remember thinking to myself 10 years ago at E3, “Video games can’t possibly look better than this.” And, well, lo and behold.
Cahill: I was just telling Matt how I had never been to an E3 but had obviously heard about it for years, so I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.
For both of you, how did you get involved with the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise?
Cahill: I just got super lucky. A friend had done the motion-capture for the last movie and he said they were looking for a girl. He said, “Don’t pay any attention to what they say they’re looking for; why don’t you just go? I passed them your information.” I feel like I just lucked into it. I did Call of Duty kind of the same way; I just lucked into it. I got an audition randomly, out of the blue. That’s my only really diving into this kind of world and I’m in love with it! I’m so happy!
I told Matt that I’m basically going to follow him around like a puppy and soak up information from him because it’s such a cool world to be in, you know? I’m unbelievably excited to be joining the Resident Evil family.
Mercer: I played the first Resident Evil on a PlayStation in high school. I remember, those were the beginning of the survival-horror genre; I’ve been following it for a very long time. My introduction to it was through the games—I’ve played all of them—but the opportunity came up right around the time that Resident Evil 6 was in production. They were recasting some of the roles, Leon specifically, and so the audition came to me through my agency, and I immediately was like, “That’s my favorite character! Oh, I want to do this justice…”
So I began to go back and study previous performances and take inspiration from what had already been established, but also bring in my new spin to it. I had the opportunity to read for it, got the callback, and ended up booking the role, which was both exciting and terrifying! When you have a character who’s already kind of established and beloved in a gamer community, and you take over for that, they’re waiting in the wings of the internet to set you on fire. “Just make one mistake, one mistake and you’re dead, Matt.” So it was a little intimidating, but it was a blast.
I had a great time on that and I got a chance to work on [Resident Evil] Damnation and a few other Resident Evil projects. Leon’s now near and dear to my heart. This movie is no exception.
Both Mercer and Cahill had a chance to see the finished film before its release. They shared their insight on that experience:
Cahill: I was always excited, but after that screening is when I got really excited. I started interacting with fans. I thought, “This is next-level.”
Mercer: It’s always hard when you’re working on a project and you’re seeing it in bits and pieces, whether that be film, television, video games, animation, you only really have perspective of what you’re interacting with. It isn’t until you see the final product all together in one solid piece that you’re like, “Oh, holy shit, this is actually really cool! Wow!” I think we all kind of had that reaction to it once we got to see the final film all in one piece.
Cahill: I think fans are going to freak out. It’s so good. We knew what was coming having read the whole script, and still … I was sitting there with my sister, and she was so scared and kept jumping, and then I kept jumping even though I knew it was coming. I knew the scare was coming!
The animation in Resident Evil: Vendetta really is top-notch. I’ll get more into the specifics of it in my upcoming review (keep an eye out for it), but I wanted to know if Mercer and Cahill had done just the voice-acting or the performance-capture as well:
Cahill: I did both and I feel pretty lucky about that.
Mercer: Yeah, that’s pretty rad. I did facial-capture and voice on some of the previous projects. For this one, however, because they did the facial-capture and physical-capture together, I primarily just did ADR for the existing performance. Leon, depending on the Resident Evil project, is between myself, and either Jason Faunt, or Kevin Dorman, who also does the voice of Chris Redfield in this one. He did motion-capture in Damnation early on. Leon is kind of an amalgam of various people and then myself.
Matt, this is, I believe, your fourth time playing Leon. What have you been able to bring from the character’s history, and your own history with the character, for ‘Vendetta’?
Mercer: What’s cool about Leon is, I connect to him on a lot of levels. He’s kind of a Boy Scout mentality, though I’m not much of a Boy Scout, but the idea of the morality of wanting to help and save other people to your own detriment, the self-sacrifice for the greater good. I feel that’s a very strong theme with him, and the intent to try to make the world a better place. He started as a wide-eyed, “I can make a difference” type persona, and as the series goes on, every victory doesn’t seem to make much of an impact. There’s always a bigger danger, there’s always another outbreak, there’s always another terrible enemy that rises up and causes more destruction and death.
As the series goes on, you watch Leon really begin to struggle with the idea of, “Can I even make a difference? Is it even worth stepping up? Do I have the ability to have any impact or is this all a moot point and not worth it?” His arc, as it’s gone on, especially since Resident Evil 6 … in Damnation, you got to watch kind of the seeds of that; you go from the cocky Resident Evil 4 Leon, to him truly seeing the horrors of war and the loss of people who trusted him to lead. In Resident Evil: Vendetta, those demons are definitely coming to fruition and he’s having a hard time deciding whether or not it’s even worth getting up in the morning to do what he feels is right. And that struggle is kind of inherent, a crux to his personality in Vendetta. It’s really nice to be able to play that kind of combat vet frustration and a person who can still rise up and be a hero as much as they doubt themselves, and the strength they have to impact the world around them. It was a more interesting and deeper arc than I anticipated when I first took on the character.
Erin, this is your first time playing Rebecca, who’s appeared in numerous games in the franchise. How did you make the character your own?
Cahill: It’s so funny, we did a reddit AMA the other day, and fans were asking, “Oh, did you study?” I feel really lucky. I had watched Damnation and a couple of them, I knew about the video games, and I’ve seen all the live-action movies. Basically I’m versed in the Resident Evil world, but I’m not a gamer. I’m terrible. I’m not ambidextrous or something, guys, I don’t have the thumbs. I can’t figure it out!
So I didn’t know about Rebecca until after I booked the job. I feel so lucky that I got it, because she already has a cool fan base, and that I didn’t know, because then I didn’t have that extra pressure. So I just got to do what felt natural with her and do what felt right, but they directed me to make my voice a certain way and do certain things. I loved playing her. She’s so sweet, but so strong, so smart and wrangles the boys a bit.
I have so much respect for what Matt does because ADR-ing over someone … I was trying to get my own breath and movements and make it sound authentic and do what they wanted. That’s a whole other beast.
Matt, if you could have Leon’s motorcycle skills or his gun-kata skills, which would you choose and why?
Cahill: That’s such a hard choice.
Mercer: Oh, man. That’s an interesting question because I have an aversion to both motorcycles and guns. No, in all seriousness, I’d probably say motorcycle skills because it would allow me to ride a motorcycle and never get in an accident. If you’re that good on a motorcycle, you’re gonna ride a motorcycle the rest of your life without any issues. Gun-kata, it’s cool-lookin’, but I hope I never end up in a situation where I have to use those skills. Maybe it’s the optimist in me that’s pushing toward the motorcycle.
The action-choreography in this movie blew me away. It’s funny you said “gun-kata” because the first thing I thought was, “This is Equilibrium on steroids.” Everything I loved about that beautiful dance of combat that they establish in that film and brought it to an entirely epic level in this movie. It’s incredible.
For both of you, since this is an action-heavy movie, about how much of your time was spent acting out dialogue, and how much was acting out grunts, shouts, and cries of pain?
Cahill: For me, and for my character, there was a lot of time when I was making a lot of [effects noises]. It felt like 50/50, although I did have a lot of tech-y kind of dialogue, science-y kind of dialogue.
Mercer: It depends on project to project, for video games in particular. Depending on the genre, there can be a lot of combat sounds. So for Call of Duty, a lot of those are combat shouts, you know? “Grenade! Bogie on the right side! Bogie on the left side! Bogie at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock! Bogie by the red car! Bogie by the blue car!” Oh my god, how many bogies and where are they all coming from?
You get all those variations and then you get the various combat grunts, like you’re being stabbed with a knife, and now you’re being shot in the side, now it’s a light impact, medium impact, hard impact. Now you’re on fire. Now you’re on fire for 10 seconds. Now you’re on fire for 20 seconds. Now you’re falling off a cliff, on fire, while getting struck by lightning. So that’s definitely it’s own unique skill set.
For this film, because there are so many action scenes … yeah, I’m sure if you were to put a camera in the booth, you’d get to watch us be absolutely ridiculous people just watching the screen going [makes a series of grunts.] Oh, that’s my job right now? Okay! It’s a little absurd, but like most things with acting, you have to put your shame at the door and just do what’s necessary to get the job done, even if it involves making ridiculous noises for 30 seconds.
Are there any upcoming projects that either of you would like to tease or talk about?
Cahill: I’ve got a movie coming out on Lifetime this Sunday night called Hush Little Baby, so that should be really fun. I’m the female lead in that. In a couple of months, I have a movie coming out called Youth Group, which is a rom-com with Stephen Baldwin and Donald Faison and Joey Fatone, who’s adorable; I’m also the female lead of that one, too. That’s fun. I’ve got this—animated horror—and then the live-action thriller, and then a rom-com coming up.
Mercer: You can hear me in the Overwatch video game franchise, which is always updating. Otherwise, I run a show called Critical Role where me and a bunch of other voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons on Twitch every Thursday.
Resident Evil: Vendetta arrives on Digital Tuesday, June 20th, followed by the July 18th release of the film on 3-Disc 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD.