Phil LaMarr (Vamp): Metal Gear Solid took visuals, storytelling and performance in gaming to a whole other level

In an interview by Fragged Nation co-hosted by YongYea and Korrupt Ronin, actor Phil LaMarr talked about playing Vamp in the Metal Gear series.

Phil talked about how professional voice work became more of a factor in game development. “There came a point where video games started using union actors. […] I think the first Metal Gear was a high-water mark in that respect, since it took not only the visuals of gaming, but the storytelling and the performance level to a whole other level.” The emotionality and complexity of the story required professional actors for the characters. “You needed a higher level of performance in order to tell that story the way that the creators envisioned it.”

Vamp-MGS2

How did Phil get the role of Vamp? He already knew about the game because he played the first one (he also played 2 but did not beat 4 because it was too hard), and he loved it. He had worked with Kris Zimmerman before for cartoons. “She was auditioning people for Metal Gear [Solid] 2, and I said: please, you’ve got to let me audition for something. I need to be a part of this.” Phil Lamarr said he first auditioned for someone like the DARPA Chief (he probably means either Peter Stillman or Scott Dolph, the DARPA Chief already died in MGS1 and wasn’t in 2). “We’ve got this other character, we’re not really sure what we need for this.” She described Vamp to him, and Phil tried to come up with a vampire type voice that was not typical (although he may not really be a vampire, his presentation is certainly vampire-like). “If you’re a vampire you’re dead. If you’re dead you don’t need to breathe. What does someone sound like if they’re basically talking without breathing?” Kris Zimmerman’s reaction to Vamp’s voice was something like ‘ew, I think that’s it’.

Phil didn’t expect Vamp to return after MGS2, but was really glad he got to play the role again for MGS4. “Especially playing a villain, you don’t expect to ever come back. But the fact that they did bring the character back was just a wonderful gift.” It wasn’t difficult to find the voice again after the gap between MGS2 and 4. “[MGS]4 was actually easier than working on 2.”

Did his performance have any influence on the character? Phil doesn’t think so. “Almost none at all. Because the game was created and animated with the Japanese voice actors. We came in after the fact, we basically dubbed it. So for me to pretend that I had any impact on the animation or the design would just be breaking my arm to pat myself on the back.” They had to make their lines fit into the game as it was, over the Japanese voice track (for MGS2), and video footage of the Japanese mo-cap actors (for MGS4) (as the hosts noted, for MGSV it’s the other way around, with the English voices being the basis and the Japanese voices being the dub).

Vamp-MGS4

When talking about working with Quinton Flynn (Vamp vs Raiden in MGS4), Phil said they did the recording together, which really helped. “Because of the nature of this rivalry, I mean, it’s Batman and the Joker. Essential enemies. I’m his nemesis. You’re of the same, you know, nanites [nanomachines], and we are on two different sides of it.”

What makes Vamp special? Phil explained he doesn’t get to play a lot of villains. “Vamp was definitely the first time I got to play a serious bad guy. And also just, again, being a part of Metal Gear. And a really cool, if I may say so, part of Metal Gear. That’s a great character.”

To watch the full interview, follow the link at the bottom.

Source: Yong

  • Raymondius

    Nyx, as you already know, at 6 o’clock (GMT + 2) EU Press share their opinions on MGSVPreview. I can translate the spanish and some of the french comments on the subject for you, and I’m sure many MGI users will be willing to help too. 🙂
    Edit: And sorry for the off-topic!

    • That would be great, thanks! Can you mail the translations?

      • Raymondius

        Yeah, sure! 🙂
        Is your mail address private? Or can you write it here?

        • You can just use info@metalgearinformer.com. 🙂

          • Raymondius

            Nice! Let’s see what they are allowed to say.

          • Yep. Have you already found some people to follow?

          • Raymondius

            I am actively following the hashtags (yesterday I was able to find all Yong’s tweets just by doing it) but yes, I’ve got a bunch of names too just in case I miss something. Spanish press mainly, some of them pretty big fans.

          • Ok, great!

          • Raymondius

            I’m doing some of the italians tweets too, language is pretty similar and they are the most talkative.

          • Raymondius

            Do you have it? Did I sent it properly?

          • Yep, thanks!

          • Raymondius

            Great, they were the only ones talking today, but many others said they would comment on 9th June. So I will do it again if necessary. Sorry for the grammatical errors, by the way.

          • Is the part about the hospital attack (from Meristation) correct now?

          • Raymondius

            Yup it is! BTW a small detail, that “shock I guess” was my anotation, he just said “knocking capability/power”. 🙂

          • Replaced it with ‘stun’. Would that be right?

          • Raymondius

            Absolutely, damn, should’ve written that in the first place. 😛

          • He, that is what google translate suggested. Sometimes it’s useful after all (usually not).

          • Raymondius

            Raymondius 0 – 1 Google translator

            WordReference ftw haha

          • Nah, a real person’s translation is always more reliable.

  • Eric Otness

    I’m not sure how storytelling really went to a whole new level with Metal Gear, considering they just retcon the heck out of the story, many times for no real reasons (I can forgive the third zero from the MSX2 games being retconned as well as the Soviet Union’s existence being retconned, since there was no way Kojima could have known that the USSR would collapse 9 years earlier than projected, but NOT the other retcons).

    • Retcons have nothing to do with it, he’s talking about the cinematic presentation and quality which was something new at the time.

  • PrinceHeir

    I would say Uncharted, The Last of Us(despite being overrated as hell) and Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil 4 were the ones that push cinematics to the next level for me.

    Resident Evil 5-6 tried, but there’s still something missing about them that made RE4 special.

    “Did his performance have any influence on the character? Phil doesn’t think so. “Almost none at all. Because the game was created and animated with the Japanese voice actors. We came in after the fact, we basically dubbed it. So for me to pretend that I had any impact on the animation or the design would just be breaking my arm to pat myself on the back.” They had to make their lines fit into the game as it was, over the Japanese voice track (for MGS2), and video footage of the Japanese mo-cap actors (for MGS4) (as the hosts noted, for MGSV it’s the other way around, with the English voices being the basis and the Japanese voices being the dub).

    See at least Phil knows.

    • Although RE5 had some really cool camerawork, especially during the fight scenes (they used a special technique for it).

      • PrinceHeir

        Yeah i would say the Wesker fight scenes were really cool as hell.

        I actually wish Capcom would make more scenes like this for RE.

        • Gatsu

          I love this battle and Wesker is one of my favorite characters ever :).

          • PrinceHeir

            Did you buy Revelations 2? I might have to get on that ^^

  • Gatsu

    I think he nailed the voice for Vamp, it fits really well.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    MGS4 really aged well, even if it is showing its age now, even compared to MGS V.

    • Yeah, that game still looks great.

      • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

        Wonder how Kojima sees it now. Personally I see it as the title he regrets for his whole career. He will never let himself live down how that title was supposed to be what MGSV is.

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