By Marty Mulrooney
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of Alternative Magazine Online, following a decade of reviews, feature articles and interviews. To celebrate this milestone in style, AMO is proud to present an exclusive online interview with Nick Apostolides, the actor that played Leon S. Kennedy in the recent Resident Evil 2 remake!
Hi Nick, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
THANK YOU for taking the interest in getting to know a bit about me! Honoured to be here.
Tell me a little bit about yourself; when did you first decide you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
My life has been a fun one – I led a very creative childhood and was fully encouraged to by my amazing parents. My hobbies still range quite a bit. Depending on the day of the week, you can find me cooking, drawing, playing guitar, rock-climbing, building, crafting, editing, running, training and of course, playing video games!
I’ve worked in various industries and in 2009, I had a fruitful career going in hospitality (I was a club-level concierge at a 4-star hotel). A large part of my job was simply getting to know my guests. New faces and regulars alike would ask if I’d ever tried acting, and would urge me to give it a shot. They felt I was extremely genuine and spoke with “honest eyes”. I’ve heard the phrase “when you are told something three times by three different people, the universe is trying to tell you something…” I heard it about 50 times, and so I listened, quit and adjusted my course to try acting.
What’s the acting scene like in Boston and what sort of projects have you previously been involved in?
The acting scene in Boston was small, but fierce and loyal. It was all I knew at the beginning and I quickly fell in love with the community. The support network there is unbelievable and it’s probably what kept me going early on. I began acting in student films and one by one, the quality of my projects got better.
I quickly transitioned into the “indie” film scene which provided more access to larger roles in larger budgeted projects ranging from music videos, to shorts, to features. Within three years I was on the cover of two local magazines. The Boston indie scene is something I’ll ALWAYS respect. What it may lack in its exposure and reach, it easily makes up for in the crucial hands-on experience that it provides. I began training on the battlefields of Boston. It prepped me for the fight with the wolf: LA.
You’re a middle child with two brothers; did you all play video games together growing up?
Yes, I have two of the best brothers a guy could ask for. They are each unique and very different from each other. I am 18 months apart from my older brother Steve, and 12 years older than my younger brother David. Ironically, it was David who took a huge interest in gaming early on… (OK, maybe I selfishly pushed it on him a bit haha). Nonetheless, it was my first role as a teacher, and although we had PS1 by then, I started him off at the beginning… took him back to the roots… Mario Bros. on the NES! He had to graduate to PS1!
You’re also a Resident Evil fan; do you remember your first experience with the series?
Do I?! Of course. Oh I loved my games back then, and the RE franchise easily became my ALL-TIME favourite. In my early teens I had heard someone in school talking about this zombie game called Resident Evil. I asked my mother if I could get it and based off the title alone, I got a big “NOPE”. So, I slept over at a friends house who had RE2… and the rest is history. The opening scene with the zombies emerging from the roaring fires in Raccoon City will forever be etched into my memory bank.
How did you end up auditioning for the role of Leon S. Kennedy in the Resident Evil 2 remake?
I had seen a casting call for Resident Evil 2. I thought it was a fan project, or short film (because RE2 had been out for 18 years). When I received the audition, a closer look revealed that it was for Leon, for mocap, for voice, FOR THE ACTUAL REMAKE of the game… I died… then quickly revived myself because it was TIME TO LOCK ‘N LOAD and book that job.
How did you feel when you found out you had been chosen for the part?
Words still cannot express that feeling. My knees went weak; I had to sit after the phone call. Pinched myself. It was honestly a blurry time, but I can tell you this – somewhere in the whirlwind of emotion, I took a moment to reflect on my time in Boston where it all began, and was overcome with gratitude and appreciation for where it led me.
I thought your performance was fantastic and it seems to have been really well received by the fans too – congratulations! Do you have any idea why the original voice actors weren’t asked to return?
Thank you for the kind words – I’m happy you enjoy my portrayal! I will first say that I am completely and utterly humbled to sit at the same table as the amazing VO actors who have long breathed life into Leon S. Kennedy. He wouldn’t be a legendary character if it hadn’t been for them.
For reasons I may never know, Capcom decided to go non-union for this project – that may have played a part. I know they needed a voice that could pass for 21 years of age, right out of the academy. The former voices had a bit of a deeper register. I have also read an interview with one of the producers explaining that in order for this to be a complete re-imagining of the original, they needed to start fresh and build it from the ground up. Using a previously-established voice for Leon wouldn’t fit in that vision.
Do you think it helps being a fan of the series when tackling such a well-established character? Or does it simply add more pressure to get it right?
Yes, and probably yes! Being a GIANT fan absolutely helped me to understand this young Leon immediately and his relationships with the other characters. And you know damn well that I let them know this during the casting process. Who knows, it might have had some weight in Capcom’s final decision.
The pressure I felt wasn’t during the audition process. It hit hard after I booked the job – because that is when the responsibility landed on my shoulders to do this iconic character justice. I did my part, the developers did theirs, and they encouraged me throughout the entire process. They wanted me to have 100% faith in them and most importantly, myself. They made sure that doubt didn’t fit into the equation.
How would you describe Leon? What do you think his defining characteristics are?
Well Leon has had quite the arc in the RE universe, and it seems to be far from over. In RE2, we are introduced to a young, fresh-faced, by-the-book rookie cop who just wants to do the right thing. I would imagine that he had a positive childhood filled with good life lessons and maybe that’s where he gets his moral compass. He’s also bright and driven and his innocent naivety quickly takes a back seat to his training, his wits and his ultimate mission: to serve and protect.
Capcom is of course a Japanese publisher and developer; how much contact did you have with the studio?
Being a life long fan of Capcom, it was (and is still) surreal to be working with them. Only a select team from Japan came to our filming sessions in LA. I worked closely with RE2’s cinematics producing team from Capcom, and a cinematics co-directing team. Together they helped shape the tone and atmosphere in the game’s “cutscenes”. It was collaborative throughout the entire process and it meant so much that they took my ideas into consideration. That’s a dream come true to a fan like me! The end product blows me away. Judging by the general fan reaction out there… this team did a HELL of a job! KUDOS!!! They should all be incredibly proud.
As well as providing Leon’s voice, you also brought the character to life via motion capture. Where did the recording process take place?
The process took place in LA, roughly between early 2016 and early 2018.
What did the recording process actually involve and how did your background lend itself to mocap?
Environmentally speaking, mocap is very different from the film acting I was used to. There are no “sets” per se. We didn’t film in an actual police station, so while acting, you have to use quite a bit of imagination. The acting process is the same however, and we bring just as much emotion and real connection into every scene as with any other project. It’s 2019, and ultra-realism is what we aim for in games today. I come from an action-actor background, and it definitely helped me to land this role as one requirement was firearms experience. I had to be able to move and act like a young cop. During this whole process, that was the easy part.
Your performance feels incredibly natural; how much freedom were you given by the director?
I do strive for naturalism for sure. Our cinematics director is an extremely talented guy. He gave incredible guidance throughout the process and taught me quite a bit. He was also good at recognizing our unique essence and allowed it to shine in each of the actors. I believe this lends to that naturalism you felt… and I’m glad you did!
Although you provided Leon’s voice and motion capture, his likeness belongs to someone else; was this decision made to stay faithful to the character’s original look and design?
I don’t know much about this decision, but Leon’s look has been received well by fans so it works. I can tell you that they incorporated a few of my facial features and quirks which I think is hilariously awesome – Leon’s brow furrows EXACTLY as mine does and they even added a few facial moles on his face… something I had joked about with the producer!
What was it like working alongside your fellow actors, for example Stephanie Panisello as Claire?
Haha it’s always fun to act with people who can geek-out about the project like Stephanie – we are huge RE fans together! All of the actors were phenomenal to work with. They were talented, prepared, creative, passionate and we all seemed to have solid chemistry – that can’t be said about every project. The recipe worked, and that lends to an overall positive player experience. In the end, that’s what we want. We all poured our hearts into RE2 Remake.
How would you describe Leon’s relationship with Claire?
Leon and Claire are just two unlucky yet skilful survivors who were thrown together into an extraordinary situation. They didn’t have a tremendous amount of time to bond in the game but I think the fans are happy when they escape together. Some might argue that there’s a little love interest brewing there as well.
How about his relationship with Ada? If I had to chose one word to describe their relationship it would probably be complicated!
Now that’s a different story. Half of Leon’s energy in RE2 seems to be spent trying to solve the enigma that is Ada Wong. Throughout the entire RE timeline, it seems their relationship is one I’d never wish on anybody! I don’t think he ever truly knew her intentions and motivations, but I think he had real feelings for her. They saved each other’s lives, multiple times in a night. Wouldn’t you?
Would you like to return as Leon in future Resident Evil games?
I will answer that with an emphatic YES. I’d be honoured.
You also recently lent your voice to Life Is Strange: Before the Storm; what’s next for you Nick? Do you have any more video game projects lined up?
I’ve got a few interesting projects happening now and coming up, yes! In addition to a new mocap projects, I am also a 20-year builder/handyman and I am filming a humanitarian show right now that travels all over the world and helps communities in need with creative solutions. I am one of four builders on the show and I am honoured to be a part of this project – it has a far-reaching impact on many lives. I’ll share details as soon as I can! Unfortunately, this industry loves secrets and I won’t be able to provide more details at this time… but stay tuned!!!
Thank you for your time! I’m a big Resident Evil fan and I greatly enjoyed your performance as Leon S. Kennedy; I’ll look forward to discovering your future roles and projects!
Thank you SO MUCH once again for reaching out. I appreciate you, I appreciate the fans and I hope you all enjoy every playthrough! I’ll see you in RACCOON CITY!!