William Watterson, an LA-based SAG/AFTRA actor, has a well varied career in theater, film, television, commercials, new media, videogames, and training videos at 40 years old. Beyond that, this musically gifted actor also plays the guitar, bass, 5-string banjo, and drums. Watterson recently shared some updates, insight, and great experiences on his recent projects, especially as lead character Jim Peyton in the new adventure video game Lost Planet 3.
You play Jim Peyton, the main protagonist in the latest installment of the Lost Planet videogame series, Lost Planet 3. Please describe how you were cast for the role.
I submitted [an] online to audition for a project called ‘Video Game Demo’. The character was described as a ‘blue collar construction worker and reluctant hero. Believes in doing what’s right, but doesn’t take unnecessary risks.’ I loved that description, that was someone I wanted to lock into. I taped an audition, sent it in, got brought in to read in person, and we made the demo. Spark and CapCom went back and forth on it as the game went forward in development, and ultimately I got the call to reprise the role when they went into production.
Did your experience working on L.A. Noire help you get and/or prepare for this role?
Oh, yeah. We had just wrapped that, and it was buzz worthy for its groundbreaking use of MoCap and facial scanning technology. At the callback for the audition, they were asking me all about the process. It helped to be in the know, and they knew they could trust me not to get weirded out by the tech.
This prequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and Lost Planet 2 occurs on the same planet, E.D.N. III, which has an ice-age like environments and indigenous “aliens” called Akrid. How did you incorporate the physical challenges in this role (e.g. stunts, fights, mech (a.k.a. Rig) use, etc.)?
Lost of stretching and staying hydrated! And healthy snacks. The MoCap suit goes away after awhile, and it’s just you on a stage, going for it. They say fall, you fall. They say jump, you say how high, until you make your day. Stunts are my favorite, so visceral, so immediate. You don’t have to worry about performance because the performance lies in not breaking your neck. They had a great chair on innertubes that rocked around real good for the rig cockpit. Crew members would hop up and down on it when the rig was taking its blows. That’ll get you where you need to go! And for the snow elements, I just thought about my White Christmases growing up in Cleveland, and that bitter wind off Lake Erie that steals your breath and refuses to give it back.
What research did you complete for the role as Jim, a colonist working to mine materials and send them to Earth?
They filled me in on all the jargon–NEVEC and what it stands for, the backstory with Jim building and designing the rig himself and having such pride in it, the energy crisis, all of that. Most of what I needed to know was in the script. It’s ultimately pretty simple—he has loved ones to provide for, and work on Earth is no longer an option. The rest is happening in real time, all the discoveries, the twists, the betrayals, so I just discovered them along with Jim. The hardest part was raising the emotional stakes of the family. I don’t have a wife and son. But I miss people, and I love people, and the writing was so solid and the cast so present, you just find it.
What did you experience during the various production processes like face capture?
Unlike LA Noire, this shoot combined facial capture, motion capture, and live sound all at once. So once you’ve got the dots painted on and you don the super suit and get wired up, it’s just playing the scene. And not looking into the mirror to see how silly you look. There are some physical discomforts, but I’ve shot a western in the snow wearing paper thin period clothing and worn a Godzilla suit in the desert heat, so it’s not like the discomfort is unique to MoCap. It’s all fun, or I wouldn’t do it.
Please describe what you can about the story-driven narrative and any possible collaboration you had with the writers, game director and creative director, Kenji Augur.
I know Spark and CapCom did a lot of collaborating from the very beginning, there was a lot of back and forth. They both had a vision, and it was about lining up the details and making sure everything fit in the Lost Planet canon. There was a deliberate shift into a first person narrative with a (hopefully) relatable protagonist, and a much denser story, elements the first two games didn’t really explore. Everyone was on the same page on that from the get go. We did improvise a couple times on set, and I know at least two of the off-the-cuff moments between Gale and Jim made it in the final game. I’d heard, as they got to know our work better, that the writers increasingly wrote for our voices, but they knew what they were after from the very first demo. Just look at the original description of Jim from the audition three years ago!
What can you share about the characters Grace Peyton and Diana Peyton (wife and daughter)?
My scenes with Diana are my favorite in the game. Lisa Jay created some very special moments. Grace and I communicated mostly through messages, so we didn’t get a lot of time together, but without spoiling too much, we definitely connected when the time came. Both of those characters have very exciting arcs, they go through a lot. None of which I can spoil here, sorry!
How did your experience in short films (Tent City, USA) and television (Hollywood Wasteland) help you in your Lost Planet 3 role?
Every chance to act is a good one. You will always learn something—what not to do, how to protect yourself, how to stay sharp and energetic. You’ll learn SOMEthing, from any actor, any director, any set. Sometimes it’s great to have lower stakes on things like student films and a web series, where you can take bigger risks and where the mistakes won’t cost you so much. And the rougher a go of it you have, the more you appreciate the good gigs.
Please describe your spokesman/acting experience and current duties for Jever beer (German) and Burger King’s Texican Whopper (European) ad campaigns.
Jever was a dream come true. I’m in their TV commercial and was in a print campaign for the beer. We got to shoot on these gorgeous islands off the north coast of Germany, and in the west of France. I just visited the brewery in the town of Jever this month, and got to take an amazing tour. It’s for moments like these that I’m in this business.
The Texican Whopper campaign got pulled the second it hit the air—it offended the Mexican ambassador to Spain, and that was all she wrote. But it did lead to this political cartoon depicting President Obama in the lanky cowboy role that I played: