Gears 4: How gaming taught Liam McIntyre to be a Fenix
Gears’ leading man Liam McIntyre talks working with The Coalition and John DiMaggio, and whether he'd play a Fenix on the big screen.
The fourth instalment in the beloved Locust-lancing series, Gear of War, releases 11 October for Xbox One and PC. The first Gears of War game to release on Xbox One brings with it some huge changes to the series well-trodden formula. Not only has development been handed over to The Coalition (who handled the remastering of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition) but it also replaces old-man Marcus Fenix with his spritely progeny, JD Fenix. A huge change to be sure, but one that longtime gamer, Gears fan and Aussie actor Liam McIntyre has given his all.
We sat down to chat with Liam about all things Gears 4, including working with voice legends like John DiMaggio (Bender, Futurama) and nailing that balance of tough and optimistic with Gears 4’s leading lad.
Liam, how are you?
Great, thanks. Enjoying this lovely weather. How’s it feel being back in Australia?
The atmosphere was pretty crazy out there. Big turnout.
So what’s it like filling the shoes of such an iconic video game character, a Fenix.
I know. I was like “how old is this hospital?’”. But yeah, I spent a lot of time with Civ (Civilisation) and a whole lot on 64. I’ve been a gamer for a long, long time and to be in such a genre-defining and awesome game series is a dream come true. And to be a Fenix adds a lot more pressure to it. You go from "cool, video games!" to the son of one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. Cool, that’s no pressure at all.But yeah man, it’s been great. I get to put another spin on the Gears world. JD (McIntyre’s character) is a little more idealistic, a little less jaded by war and there are a few conversations where you really get to see the difference between old Gears and new Gears.
Interesting. So it’s grumpy old man Fenix versus this fresh new face.
Spartacus isn’t short of its own fandom, and you’re no stranger to conventions and the like. But how has the community responded to your casting in Gears?
Yeah, initial reactions have been very positive. That must be a relief.
In the face of very fiery and passionate fan base.
Exactly. There’s got to be some risk involved when steering the series in a new direction.
You’ve done some voice work in the past for Star Trek.
So now two games in, how do you find it differs preparing for a voice role to preparing for a live-action role?
I suppose if you were a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan, you would have a bit of an edge in the industry.
Yeah, right. So in that sense, you’re kind of the veteran with your years of experience gaming.
Speaking of veterans: did you get to spend a lot of time working alongside John DiMaggio and what did you take from his portrayal of daddy Marcus to help shape the character of JD?
Maaate. Great question. For me the biggest challenge was being cool because Futurama is my favourite show and he is Bender, so that was pretty sweet. I’m so lucky as a film and TV actor, because I get to work with John DiMaggio, Laura Bailey, Fred Tatasciore, all these voice actors that are just unbelievable at their jobs as role models. You watch them and you’re like “jeez, how do you do that” but it gives you grounds to ask questions and learn. I was very lucky to have some of the best people in the business to draw from.In terms of characterisation, though, JD was meant to be 21, right? So they wanted him to be this fun, young guy. And I was like, yeah but Marcus is such an ol’ bastard,. So you don’t want him to be jarringly young. If you came into that as older fan, you’d be like “jeez, who’s this kid? That’s going to be annoying to listen to for the next 10 hours.” So we played with it. We started him really high, like, too youthful almost. Then we said, he’s gotta sound like Marcus, we’ve got to match that voice. But then, that’s not JD’s story, right? JD is the young, hopeful one, not the grumpy, jaded one. So we brought him to this nice middle ground. Still heroic, I hope (laughs), but still a bit gruff. He’s seen a battlefield, but he hasn’t been in live-combat like Marcus has. And you know, Marcus is a dad, but he’s a dad who’s seen a lot of horrible stuff and tends to be a negative person. Whereas JD hasn’t seen all that and he wants to think the best of the world. He came after the Locust War, so he didn’t see any of that destruction. He’s seen a world rebuilding, a world of hope. So he’s going toe-to-toe with his dad about Marcus being more skeptical and JD being like, “it’s going to be okay, right?”. There’s an interesting melding of those two worlds when stuff starts to go down in this one.
Sure, I suppose that’s where Marcus’s world-weary attitude would pay off and JD’s optimism might not so much.
One final question: Gears 4 brings a new story, fresh characters and lots of famous faces. If interest for a Gears movie sparks up again, would you be open to taking on the role of JD in a live-action capacity?
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