Interview With William Watterson (Voice Of Jim Peyton From Lost Planet 3)

We had a chat with William Watterson. William plays Jim Peyton the lead role in the upcoming Lost Planet 3 game and also did the motion capture work for the character. We chat about the process of filming motion capture, the character itself and voice acting. How long have you been acting and when did you catch the acting bug?

William Watterson: It’s funny, I remember doing puppet shows for the family and going to drama camp as a kid and all the usual stuff, and loving it, and then it went away. Eventually I started performing again when I found rock ‘n’ roll in high school, and I stuck with that for years, until finally moving to LA. I didn’t even move here to act—I just missed performing, and wasn’t going to walk down the band road any more. I’d say I’ve been acting with a genuine professional focus for 7 years, but being in rock bands went a long way to helping me find my voice, my confidence, and whatever presence I have as a performer. You also sing and play the instruments, what instrument do you play?

William Watterson: I blow bass, like Floyd in Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem. I also play some clawhammer banjo. Why not? Your recent project is the anticipated Lost Planet 3. Can you tell us about the audition process and how you landed the job to play Jim Peyton?

William Watterson: There are a few websites where actors can submit themselves for consideration on (usually) smaller projects, and I put my hat in the ring for what was then just a demo for a game. I recorded myself doing an early version of the Jim monologue that started off the original E3 demo. I didn’t know it was Lost Planet, I didn’t know the scope of the project—it was all under a pseudonym. Spark hit the demo out of the park, and Capcom hired them to make the game, and eventually, after they did their due diligence looking at other guys for the lead, I got re-hired to reprise Peyton. So, a lot of luck and a lot of faith from the developers got me here. There was actually a time when the characters had much more of an anime vibe, some very cool designs, but they shifted their focus to photo realism, and fortunately for me, I looked somewhat similar to the character designs, so I got to keep the gig. What can you tell us about the motion capture process of playing Jim Peyton? How was it like the first time you put on the suit?

William Watterson: I had worn the suit for literally months during the production of LA Noire, so it wasn’t new to me. The helmet cameras and the recording of live sound were new elements, but ultimately, it’s just another costume. A really weird costume that can be quite revealing, I’ll grant you that, but still just a costume. Anytime you put on gear that isn’t yours, it’s easy to convince yourself you aren’t you. How long were you in the motion capture suit in terms of hours and months?

William Watterson: A typical day was between 10 and 12 hours, but that includes getting in the suit and having the dots painted on your face and getting synced up in the computer and all that. We broke it up a lot, it was usually 2 days here, 2 days a month later, 2 days a few weeks after that. I don’t know if that’s because the writing was changing as the game developed and we had to wait for the later chapters to come to life, or if it’s because everyone got sick of seeing my butt in the spandex pants. How was the motion capture acting different from other forms of acting that you have done?

William Watterson: Once you get over the gear, it really wasn’t. It was very similar to green screen work or black box theater, where you have to rely on your imagination for the environment and set. We played out entire scenes with all the actors present, and had to get all our dialogue and blocking right because we were recording live sound and capturing each scene in its entirety. So really, it was more akin to theater, albeit with second and third chances to get it all perfect. In film and TV, scenes tend to be broken up a lot more and shot in pieces for an editor to assemble, and if you get each little piece right, you can move on, you don’t have to get the whole scene in each go. But we had to get through the entire scene for the guys and gals to manipulate after the fact. Which was always nerve-wracking if you had the very last line in the scene, because you couldn’t help thinking “man, I could totally blow this perfect take we’ve got going if I screw that up!” What attracted you to Jim’s character and is there anything you can tell us about Jim’s character and what he will bring to Lost Planet 3?

William Watterson: Jim’s no action hero. He’s a working man who always tries to do right. His priorities are his family, providing for his family, and getting to see his family again. That’s it. When those priorities are threatened or challenged by the unusual discoveries he makes on E.D.N. III, that’s when you really find out what kind of man he is, what he’s capable of. That’s why the stakes are so high—he’s a family man thrust into the role of warrior and leader. And that creates a conflict within Jim that I’m not sure ever gets resolved. No spoilers, but on some level, there’s something profoundly tragic and heartbreaking about Jim’s story. Or maybe I’m just getting emotional because my journey with the game is finally coming to a close… You are also the voice of Jim Peyton as well as his motion capture actor. Did you find it easier for you in the booth to perform the voice knowing the physicality you perform for the motion capture?

William Watterson: For sure. We found the relationships between the characters together on the stage, and we could take that with us into the booth. I knew what Jim looked like, how he walked, how he moved, what kind of swagger he had, what he thought of everybody, how everybody made him feel. It made the booth a much less lonely and clinical place. How did you approach your voice performance Jim? Did you decide on which voice you will use?

William Watterson: It’s all in the writing—there was a line or two in the original audition piece that lent itself to a western twang, a folksy cynicism, and that’s where all the rest came from. Throw in a Han Solo shrug here, a Mal Reynolds cowboy barb there, and an Indiana Jones eye roll for good measure, and you’re on your way. Since your latest project is a videogame. We have to ask do you play any videogames and if so what is your favorite genre?

William Watterson: I’m just getting into it now, mainly for the storytelling. The actual gameplay is still a challenge for me, I came up with the Atari (which I still own and play), and I’ve been left in the dust a bit since. But I love the idea of inhabiting a world and getting invested in its characters. And any chance to go on an adventure is a chance I’ll take. Uncharted 3 is first up. Then Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite, not sure which will come first. And I still have some LA Noire to play, even though I know what happens. It’ll be like hanging out with old friends, a little digital reunion. Is there any gadgets or weapons in Lost Planet 3 that you would love to try out?

William Watterson: In real life? I could sure use me a grappling hook. I live in Downtown LA and I could swing from roof top pool to roof top barbeque to roof top pool all summer long.