sdcc 2016

Gears Of War 4's Liam McIntyre On Going From Spartacus To Fenix

by Brian Shea on Jul 22, 2016 at 06:27 AM

Gears of War 4 marks the return to the main storyline of the franchise. The story brings us our first in-game glimpses of life after the war with the Locusts. We experience this post-Locust War world through the eyes of JD Fenix, son of war hero Marcus Fenix.  Much like new developer The The Coalition with Gears of War 4, JD Fenix must live up to his namesake and step out of the shadow of those who came before him.

Luckily for voice actor Liam McIntyre, that situation is nothing new. He stepped into the role he's perhaps best known for as the title character in Spartacus after original actor Andy Whitfield became too ill to perform and eventually passed away. Whitfield was a fantastic fit for the role, but even under unfortunate circumstances, McIntyre took to the role and delivered exceptionally strong performances to wrap up the series after two more seasons. 

I recently spoke with McIntyre about his thoughts on the similarities between his situation with Spartacus and JD's situation following in his father's footsteps. We also discuss his favorite weapons in Gears of War, as well as the differences in the exercise regimen between the two roles.

You're jumping into this role and taking on a character, JD Fenix, who is filling some pretty big shoes in his father, Marcus. 

Liam McIntyre: Oh my God, man. I seem to have this thing where I get given these incredible, honor-filled positions of massive responsibility, I had to fill in for Andy [Whitfield] when he got sick and now I get to be the son of the great Marcus Fenix. That kind of seems to be my thing. And how amazing is it to be able to be the son of Marcus Fenix? Like, in a game that I used to play as a younger man all the time, it's just one of those dream come true kind of jobs. It's so amazing.

So you can probably relate to the character with living in the shadow of the one who came before you.

Totally! Absolutely. Especially with Spartacus. Everyone is always like ,"What was it like following Andy?" and it sucks. It's just so sad. JD, in a much more fantasized and dramatic way, has got that thing where he's got the absolute legend of the franchise – the war hero everybody knows and there's statues of and stuff like that. He's the kid, and it's a tough role to play. It's kind of a really smart decision by Rod [Fergusson, series co-creator and head of The Coalition] and the team because for all of the fans of Gears of War, Marcus is the guy. So you've got this kid who's following in his father's footsteps both in the game world and the real world essentially. You've got this guy who's proving himself to his dad, to the world, to the fans... it's exciting. It's the right place to bring a character in, and it's great!

Obviously Spartacus was an intense role. This doesn't look like it's letting the foot off the gas pedal very much.

No, it's great! Obviously it requires a few less stunts in the booth – a little less jumping and a little less wire-work – but in terms of the frenetic pace and the high-drama and the violent, action set-pieces, and stuff like that, it's in the same kind of spiritual universe. It's a very stylized, exciting, violent, brutal, tough, but still very well-plotted game. It's an exciting thing to play through and it's exciting for us to do because if you're in something that you love you kind of turn every page as the actor like, "Oh my God! This is going to happen! Oh my God! Wait until people see this!" It's nice to be in something where this is happening.

Above: Watch our video interview with Liam McIntyre and Gears of War 4's other actors.

How did this opportunity come about? You've been a big fan of the series and they just suddenly came up to you, and said they wanted you to do Gears 4?

Yeah, pretty much! Or rather "We want you to audition for Gears 4 and then see if we like you," which is fair. It's something I told my agents a while back: "I know you guys... TV and all that... yes, but I'm a huge gamer and if that's a thing that's around, please let me know." So, they did, fortunately, when this opportunity came around and I knew a couple of the guys, so I got to audition for them. Fortunately, they liked what I was putting down, and it just kind of worked out and it was just fortunate.

Is this the first game that you're voicing?

Yeah, technically. I was doing something that didn't go and then I did a couple of voices on Star Trek, which is like the Star Trek Online game, which is really fun. Yeah, in terms of this scale and a full character, yeah, this is the start.

Then how did having a veteran cast of voice actors help you make that jump?

Oh man, they're so good! Like John [DiMaggio, voice of Marcus Fenix] and Laura [Bailey, voice of Kait Diaz] are so good at what they do. I've had that experience in movies where you get to stand beside Sir Ben Kingsley or Antonio Banderas and go, "Wow! You are so good at your job!" To be able to stand next to John DiMaggio and hear him do his thing is like "Oh my God!" You watch this guy who has such control and such ability to communicate with his voice... and Laura as well. Really just so talented. We were a trio some of the time, Eugene [Byrd, voice of Del Walker], myself, and Laura. You know, Eugene and I are both actors on TV shows and that sort of stuff, and this was sort of one of our first forays into voice. We would just sort of sit back and watch her do her thing. She'd just turn up at the mic and bang, bang, perfect line-read and step back. We're like, "How does she do that?" It was a great honor. And Futurama is like one of my favorite shows of all time, so part of me is sitting there like, "Don't freak out. Don't freak out. It's just Bender. No big deal!" It's been an amazing journey.

When you came into the project, were you wondering where they were going to take the story next?

Yeah! Well having played through all of it; the trilogy has its own ending. I think Rod and the team were smart to sort of reboot it, but in a progressive way. Rod didn't go, "Let's restart at the beginning and pretend this never happened or go to a different planet or anything like that. Let's keep it in this same reality and see what happens next." And what they're doing with it, I think it's really great. I like to hope that this is the best story of the Gears franchise. It's got incredible emotional beats and a really interesting plot with so much going on. I truly love it so I hope people really get on-board with it.

What's your favorite weapon?

I would say the Lancer, except for the fact that a couple of the new weapons are pretty sweet. I mean, when you can chop people down with saw blades like a pinball machine, it's pretty badass. Everybody else probably goes with the Boomshot, but I don't know. I'm more of a range guy; I don't have the reaction time. So I'll jump around a corner and die, so my multiplayer skills are not there. I won't be eSporting too well [laughs]. Don't know that I'll be making a bunch of bucks from that. But you know, you can chainsaw people and it's Gears... you can chainsaw people in half! Nothing wrong with that! [Laughs]

I'd probably go Lancer or Hammerburst myself.

Yeah, Hammerburst! If it was CoD, I'd always do the three-shot like "dun-dun-dun" and it feels like I have more control and less recoil. I don't know, the Lancer's just more iconic. 

How does the exercise regimen for Gears of War 4 compare to that for your role in Spartacus?

You know, it's not as brutal! The boot camp for Gears of War was not as hard. There were less sit-ups. [Laughs] I'll tell you what, doing games is a lot easier on the body. Unless I can convince them to do mocap for the next one... and then it may be much harder on the body! So we'll see. But yeah, exercise way, I would probably say that the Spartacus workout probably has the edge on the Gears of War 4 workout. Unless you're talking about the characters who are ridiculously massive! There is some serious benching going on there! The real, actual characters of Gears of War 4 would probably have a legit workout program that would be brutal. There'd be a lot of chicken in there, a lot of low-carb diets, and there would be a lot of heavy weights. [Laughs]

So who wins in a fight?

Out of Spartacus and JD? Well, JD has a gun. I don't know if you noticed, but it's going to be a lot easier to win when you have a gun and a chainsaw than a guy with a sword.

What if it's just fisticuffs?

Fisticuffs... probably Spartacus. That's going to be rough... JD just doesn't have the speed. He's heavy. He's strong and he's like a tank, whereas Spartacus will probably get around the back and shank him.

Gears of War 4 launches on October 11. Are you looking forward to it? Let us know in the comments below!