Harvey Smith on working with Sam Rockwell in Dishonored 2

Chris Stead 30 September 2016

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Hollywood heavyweight Sam Rockwell stars in the upcoming Dishonored 2 and we asked the developer Arkane Studios what it was like working with such a legend.

Sam Rockwell is pretty awesome. The 48-year-old has been in the acting game since 1987, and he has racked up a stack of stellar roles in that time. Who could forget 'Wild Bill' Wharton from The Green Mile, or Sam Bell from Moon, or Guy Fleegman from Galaxy Quest?

Mpw you can add a new character to that list: Dishonored 2’s Mortimer Ramsey. Rockwell is lending his unique voice to the latest blockbuster from Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios, alongside the likes of Vincent D'Onofrio, Rosario Dawson and Erica Luttrell.

We recently conducted an interview with Dishonored 2’s co-creative director Harvey Smith, who is preparing for the release of the game on November 11 for PS4, Xbox One and PC. During the conversation I asked Smith what it was like to work with Rockwell and he was happy to offer some insights not only into the way the actor operates, but also how he has learned to work with voice actors over the years. Here is what he had to say:

Dishonored 2’s cast is really impressive and in particular, we’re fans of Sam Rockwell. Can you talk through the experience of working with him?

When you work with actors you try and give them the most universal part [of the character]; you don’t dive into the lore and tell them about all the history [of the world]. That was a mistake I made early on when voice-recording people, as mostly it just distracts them. So what I did instead was say things like: your character is Mortimer Ramsey. He is from one of the old families in the city that used to be aristocrats in a very high position, but then kind of fell from that. His father lost it all, so now he is somewhere between a commoner and an aristocrat as a guard captain. So he sits with the men at the officer’s club drinking and smoking, but to him social status is very important and he is bitter that his father lost it for the family. He is bitter about the fact that he has to send men out on patrol in the rose garden.That is enough for Sam to get the character and think “OK, so I am a fallen aristocrat who is an entitled dick that came from old money, but now has to work for a living and he doesn’t like it.” Sam got it immediately.

He was in New York doing a play at the time and was sick, but I was in California with the other actors. So he had to call it in, but he was a pro. He was like “sorry guys my voice is going, but I am going to do the best I can and I understand the part.” So we started talking through the lines and as he found the character’s voice, he would start delivering them in ways we didn’t expect. He’d inflect differently and experiment with how gruff the guy was and polished he was. After ten minutes of doing rehearsal like that, and 30 minutes of talking about it in total, he was like “I’m ready to go, let’s do it.” He was great to work with.

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