Last November, I got to visit the set of Resident Evil: Afterlife when the movie was filming in Toronto. I was there with a few other online journalists and we got to watch some filming and also interview the cast. Overall it was a great set visit and you can read my report here. Anyway, late in the day we got to sit down with Wentworth Miller to talk about playing Chris Redfield. He told us what he did to prepare for the movie, the kind of research he did online, and how his character is different than the video game. While the interview wasn’t a long one, it was very informative. Hit the jump to read or listen to it:
As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. And if you haven’t seen the trailer for Resident Evil: Afterlife yet, I’d watch it first.
Question: Ali was saying you’d never shot a gun before, but didn’t you shoot a gun on Prison Break?
Miller: You know, if I had to boil it down, that’s the critical difference between Michael Schoefield and Chris Redfield. Chris can actually pull the trigger. Michael was never allowed to.
So he never actually pulled the trigger?
Miller: He pointed guns at people but the powers that be felt for him to actually shoot another character, it would force him too far into the dark side and the balance of good and evil on that show was pretty precarious to begin with.
So you’re under the spotlight this time. Fans have been looking for Chris Redfield for the last three films. How daunting is that and tell us about your Chris versus the video game Chris.
Miller: That’s a good question. A lot of different responses come to mind. They say that ignorance is bliss and I think the good news is that I went into this very much a clean slate. I hadn’t seen any of the movies, had never played the video games. I remembered, specifically the trailer, for the third movie because of that great shot of Vegas buried in the sand dunes. That was pretty iconic. But I’d never heard the name Chris Redfield before. I was quickly made aware that there was a rather large fan base out there for the movies and for the video games and this character held a special place in a lot of people’s hearts and minds. So I wanted, of course, to proceed with respect. The first thing I didn’t do is Google Chris Redfield because I didn’t just want to dive into the mass of what’s out there. But I did Google his images and we to a lot of different fan sites to see who Chris Redfield was, what images were popular and circulating. And I thought, “Wow, if what I’m seeing is an accurate representation this guy is right out of the WWF.” (Laughs) His arms are like the size of tree trunks. Four weeks to prepare for this movie. That’s not gonna happen. And then I went to the video games. I had the powers that be splice together a number of pivotal scenes, particularly from the first installment. I thought, “Wait a minute, that’s not quite the character that I’m seeing on my…” That Chris Redfield is maybe more accurately described as the “before” Chris Redfield. A little bit slimmer, but not only is there a physical difference there, aside from being clearly heroic and someone who can handle his business, there’s also something very sort of innocent about him as well. He’s still kind of freshly scrubbed in a way. So I had the images I saw online, I had what I saw in the video games and then of course I had Paul’s script. Paul’s, of course, the fountainhead as far as I’m concerned so I had to honor his Chris Redfield [and] assume my place in this particular universe and the Chris Redfield that he introduces is not only someone who’s been through a lot of serious crap, but is not emerging from a particularly dire set of circumstances. So I had to figure out how to make all of these different influences work and marry that with what I bring as an actor to the table. It has to be, in a sense, at the end of the day, my Chris Redfield. At the same time the fans very specifically had their say because when I got an email from the wardrobe department, they’re like, “Listen, we’re trying to come up with Chris Redfield’s gear, his sort of iconic look and we’re open to any suggestions.” I said, “Well, here are these images I found online. Let’s harvest from what’s already there.” So as far as what we came up with, it’s very much representative of a lot of those online influences.
How close did you get to those arms like tree trunks?
Miller: Still working on it. I’ll let you know in Resident Evil 5?
So what is that look and what does your outfit look like?
Miller: I guess this sort of thing I can probably tiptoe into. There’s already the paparazzi shots of us walking back and forth across the street to set. He’s got grey military fatigues. We paid particular attention to his, what we call his gack. The knee pad, the belts, the sword, the back gear. The plate, the little flashlight on the belt that our prop master geeks out over every time he sees. That’s where we tried to get as specific as possible.
Did you do sword training?
Miller: No sword training for this movie unfortunately. Something to look forward to.
Have you heard about how popular this franchise is in Japan and other areas?
Is it something that excites you and you’ve also mentioned the paparazzi taking pictures. Set photos are leaking more and more. Is that something you are made aware of?
Miller: It’s something I was aware of thanks to my experience in Prison Break, which was a hit in the U.S. but a modest hit. Overseas, however, it became kind of this international phenomenon. At one point we had 135 million Chinese fans downloading the show every single week, which is a mind-blowing number. As far as we were concerned, we weren’t just making Prison Break for a domestic audience. We were making it for an international audience. That’s the new playing field as far as we were concerned. So to be a part of something like Resident Evil which is, now it’s been out there for about ten years and has this amazing overseas fan base, felt a little bit to me like a really advantageous move, not just from the creative side because Chris Redfield is a fantastic character obviously, a significant part of this mythology… It was also a way for me personally as an actor to keep sending my work out there to the broadest fan base possible, to continue to reach fans overseas that knew me from Prison Break, liked me from Prison Break and were curious as to what I’d do next.
Can you talk about some of the big crazy stunts or fights or wirework you’ve done for this film?
Miller: We are in the middle of putting together, as I’m sure you’ve seen, this incredible fight sequence at the end of the film. And one of the complications I guess that the 3-D technology’s brought to the table is that, when you’re watching through that medium it’s as though you can see around the corner, so when you’re trying to put together your fight choreography, if a hit doesn’t land, the audience will be able to tell. So that told, in preparation for shooting my part in the sequence, is that there may be moments from before they yell “action” where I have to actually put my face on Shawn Roberts fist, wait for them to yell action and then react as though I’ve just been cracked in the jaw, which is very different way of doing things for me coming from a different kind of technology in TV specifically, so I’m looking forward to adding that to my tool belt.
What does Chris Redfield bring to the Resident Evil ensemble?
Miller: I think that, obviously a franchise like Resident Evil serves its purpose in terms of providing kick ass chills, spills and thrills. At the same time, if you haven’t invested in the characters on screen, when they get picked off it’s like fire over the sky. It’s brilliant but meaningless, and I think Chris and Claire, together, bring something particularly special and significant because they represent.
(The unit publicist whispers “Stop Talking.”)
Miller: They represent, obviously, a familial bond, which is something that everyone in the audience can relate to, get, and invest in. So in and amongst the gunfights and the zombies and the madness, here are two characters with a clearly understandable and identifiable relationship that the audience can go, “I know that, I understand that and I’m rooting for these two on that level.”
For more Resident Evil: Afterlife coverage: