Extended Interview: Nathan Fillion Talks Destiny, Halo, And His Passion For Gaming
Nathan Fillion is best known for his work on beloved TV shows such as Castle and Firefly, but he's also voiced some memorable characters in gaming, such as Halo's Buck and Destiny's Cayde-6. Fillion is an avid fan of video games, especially the FPS genre. We recently chatted with him about how he got into games, if he'd ever want to play Nathan Drake, and his favorite games of all time.
[Editor's Note: This is an extended version of an interview that ran in issue #283]
What's your history with video games?
I didn't have a game console when I was a kid. Kevin next door had ColecoVision and an Intellivision. He also had a Vectrex – this was a little mini stand-up video game [system], which was quite amazing. I would trade him stacks of comics to borrow his Vectrex. I only had a Telestar, which was a little [system] that would connect to your TV and you could play Pong on it.
So when I was growing up and PlayStation came out, that was so advanced that I couldn't even imagine what was going on with games at that point. Then the Xbox came out, and when I went out and got it, the following day I had a hernia surgery, so I was down for a couple of weeks. I remember there were a few games that I really wanted that I sought after. I was like, "Give me that one, that one, and that one, and why don't you throw in this Halo one?" I didn't even know what it was. I just saw a guy with armor and a chief with a gun on the back and thought, "That looks alright." It changed everything. That game was the be-all and end-all of gaming for me.
I was public about loving that game so much, so when they came out with the second installation Bungie gave me a ring and asked me if I wanted to do a couple of lines in the game. I think we called my character Sergeant Reyn olds. I had a few lines and people went squirrely and had a great time with it. [Bungie] called me up later and said they wanted to do something bigger and invented the Sergeant Buck character. Now Sergeant Buck has become a Spartan. I love that [series]. To be a part of it – amazing, so much fun.
You voiced Cayde-6 in Destiny, which became a popular character in The Taken King. Can you talk about injecting humor into the franchise and how the recording style was different for The Taken King?
I think [Bungie] had a great game, but they were looking at it in a way that – and this is just my opinion – as, "We're off to a great start, it can get a lot better from here." So with that colossal update they did, they were able to say, "Here's a great place where this story can go."
Gamers now are far pickier about their entertainment. You have to be entertained. You have to know why you're infiltrating this enemy spaceship to get something back, why it's important, and how it plays into the drama of this war. Watching the story unfold becomes so much a part of playing the game, and it allows you to invest. I enjoy investing in the stories of the game, and I think Bungie's done a wonderful job on the story in Destiny...and of course I enjoy swooping in at the last minute, recording the voice work, and then taking all the credit.
Cayde-6 had such a warm reception. Would you like him to be a part of Destiny moving forward?
Heck yeah! I mean he’s a great character. He’s a lot of fun to have around. When I’m playing the game, he kind of has my attitude. Not me as the guy who voices him, but me as the gamer. He’s not a patient guy. He wants to move forward. He’s not into politics; he’s into action. He will do something secretly, steal his ships and steal another thing, cloak it, and send a guy on a secret mission that’s not been sanctioned by their group. That’s the kind of guy he is, and he says, “Look! It turned out great!” It’s only a bad idea if it doesn’t work.
Would you like to continue and do more voice acting in video games? How’s it been different for you than working on a TV show or movie?
Doing voice stuff is super duper easy. You don’t have to memorize your lines. You don’t have to get pretty. No one is looking at you. You don’t even have to wear pants. You just go in there, sit down at the microphone, record your stuff – give it two or three takes, and go on to the next one. When you have a fantastic group, and I’ve been very fortunate with the work I’ve done through Warner Bros. and some of the superhero stuff I’ve done with Disney and Pixar – they’ve been so wonderful to me. They have such amazing staff doing this work, the recording staff, the directors, the voice casting, and these video games I’ve been doing are no different. They’re really good at their job, and they care about the game. They care about the story and they want it to be great. I love going into a job where everybody wants it to be great, and they’re invested and they love it. It’s a great feeling and it makes really easy because everyone is just doing their damndest to do the best job they can.
You’ve worked on popular series, such as Firefly and Castle. Which do you think would make the best video game?
Firefly, obviously. You got space ships, horses, guns, an evil government, smuggling, crimes that you can commit. You’ve got people you can help and you got the Reavers – the baddest of them all. That TV Show is screaming for a video game.
Has it been cool to see the resurgence of Firefly on the board game circle?
I am so pleased that Firefly doesn’t die. I’m so pleased that every year I meet more fans. People keep finding it, going on 14 years now! New fans are coming all the time and they run the same gamut of emotions that we all did when we first watched Firefly. “It’s great! Where’s it going? That’s the only season!? Why did it get canceled?” Everybody has that same journey. I think that’s what brings fans together. We’ve all experienced that same roller coaster ride that people want it to continue to live by resurrecting it through board games or on TV shirts or by collecting cards or posters, what have you, and people won’t let it die, and thank god. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
[Up next: Fillion shares his top-five games and his Jade Empire regrets...]
Pictured above: Fillion as Spartan Buck in Halo 5
Nolan North is one of your friends. Does he think you should play Nathan Drake in a movie adaptation of Uncharted?
Nolan and I are trying to pitch that I play the role and he voices it. I feel like I've got the look, but Nolan...that's Nathan Drake's voice. It's perfection, so I'd be disappointed to hear another voice.
You were in Jade Empire.
So long ago. I think that was one of my first video games.
That game is so beloved. How stoked would you be if the series got revived for a sequel?
I would love that because the lines I had were written in such an unusual way. It was almost like broken English. And I talked to some friends of mine who also did voice work on it, and they just said, “Oh yeah, we just changed our lines to make them smoother and make more sense.” And I said, “You can do that?! They didn’t tell me I could do that!” So all of my lines sounded like broken English, “Why is it that you tried to break into my gate?” I’d love another crack at that.
What are your favorite video game genres?
I’m a first person-shooter guy. There are some shooters I have a difficult time with. Grand Theft Auto isn’t a first-person shooter, it’s third-person, but I’ve never been good at Grand Theft Auto. The way the world swims with the joystick – I’m terrible at driving in that in the game, I’m terrible at shooting in the game. There’s something about Halo, about Destiny that I feel I have control. I can do what I want to do in the game. I need to get from here to here, jumping and attacking these guys. If I can dream, I can do it, and I like that.
Do you ever bring your gaming gear when you’re on set for when you have a break?
I have done that. That’s how I played Uncharted a couple of times. I didn’t have time to play it at home, so I brought it to work to see if I can do that. I tried it for about two weeks, and I found a little too distracting to have video games at work because I get involved. I sit down and I want to play something through. And I need that time to memorize lines. There really wasn’t a time where I could sit down and say, “I don’t have to do anything right now.” I was always doing something. There’s a lot of work to do on these darn TV shows.
I'm going to have to put Halo up there. I'm going to put Destiny on my list. I'm not as good at Destiny as I am at Halo, so it's not going to be as high. I loved Call of Duty: Ghosts. That was a really good game. I loved the missions that you had to run. Those were a lot of fun. A lot of the Call of Duty [games] I really enjoy. I played Batman: Arkham City; I really enjoyed that. And for the last one, I'm going to go way back in time to my Sega Dreamcast, it had a game called Toy Commander, where you played in various rooms of a house as little vehicles and you had to shoot other people driving around in little vehicles with crayons, then pencils, then pens. That was your upgraded weapons. I really got into that game.
Is there a video game you'd like to see adapted to the big screen so you could play the lead?
If we're dreaming then why don't we just make the Halo movie and I'll play Spartan Buck? I've got the helmet just so they know. If they're out there listening, that's just as much budget as we don't have to spend. I'm sure they're looking for a Nathan Fillion type, which means I probably wouldn't get it. That's just how the industry works.
For more on Nathan Fillion, check our interview with him, Alan Tudyk, and Felicia Day about working together on Con Man: The Game.