By Marty Mulrooney
Following on from last year’s incredible remake of Resident Evil 2 (which Alternative Magazine Online’s review described as “a brilliant reimagining of a beloved classic that is sure to please fans and newcomers alike”), Capcom recently released a remake of Resident Evil 3, which first appeared on the original PlayStation in 2000 (UK) as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. To celebrate the launch of this reimagined return to the zombie-infested and Nemesis-stalked streets of Raccoon City, AMO is proud to present an exclusive online interview with actress Nicole Tompkins, who plays badass supercop Jill Valentine!
Hi Nicole, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hello hello! Thank you so much for having me!
Tell me a little bit about yourself; when did you first decide that you wanted to earn a living as an actor?
I have been pretty passionate about the craft from a very early age and like many, started as a theatre nerd as a kid! At a certain point I realized that my passion for performance and storytelling could be a career and I didn’t look back!
You were born in Texas but currently live in Los Angeles – what’s the acting scene like there?
I’m very lucky to reside in Los Angeles where there are so many opportunities for different kinds of performance. It was here that I really fell into doing more voice-over work which lead me to video games and motion capture!
You’ve acted in stage musicals, for television and in feature films; do you have a particular past project that you consider your ‘big break’?
Well, I might admit playing Jill is probably up there on the list of breaks! The opportunity to play such a badass woman in an iconic and beloved series is something very special! But I also think playing Idril in Middle Earth: Shadow of War gave me some amazing experience on the mocap stage and probably bettered my chances of being trusted with Jill! I also have a live-action film, Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made, that has very recently gone viral and is getting a lot of attention!
You most recently provided the new voice of Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil 3 remake, along with performance and facial capture work. I loved your performance and this is by far my favourite interpretation of Jill to date – congratulations! How did you end up auditioning for the role?
Thank you so much! That means a lot. I went through a pretty standard audition process that involved reading for the director and creative team as well as alongside other actors like Jeff Schine! It was a relatively rigorous process as they wanted to find the right person to bring Jill to life in this iteration of her world. Thankfully I hit it off with Capcom and the creative team and the rest is history!
Are you a gamer yourself? Had you played any of the Resident Evil games prior to accepting this role?
I do enjoy games and gaming and have quite a few console set ups that I have particularly been enjoying while being home and waiting for the world to heal! I was very familiar with the game series and knew how much it meant to so many people!
Where did the recording process take place and what did it involve?
We worked both in Los Angeles and Japan with many days in full performance capture on the stage as well as many sessions in the booth! I always love when we get to act alongside each other working physically on the stage. We had a fantastic cinematics director, Steve Kinibelhy, and the rest of the cast was a dream.
I imagine it was a very physically demanding role?
What makes you say that? 😉 Yes, Jill does get tossed around a bit in this game. There are so many teams that come together to make the final product look as badass and exciting as it does, but to do justice to a survival horror story you’re going to have to throw yourself all in!
Did anyone ever stand in as Nemesis while recording? 🙂
Nemesis was mocapped by the very talented Neil Newbon who also gave life to Nikolai! We love to joke that he is never not my enemy and we wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a close friend, and we had a lot of fun in all of our scenes!
Do you find it more difficult as an actor to portray a previously-established character?
I think I was well protected from the possible pressures of portraying someone that already means so much to so many people. I had an amazing team around me with a very strong vision and while I did want to pay respect to past iterations of Jill, I was really able to bring myself to this role and approach her story with a sense of presence and naturalism.
What would you say Jill’s defining characteristics are?
I would say that Jill is super resilient and in many ways incredibly selfless. She is making the best of a really bad situation and she is driven to do what is right.
I found the chemistry between Jill and Carlos very natural and a lot of fun; what was it like working with Jeff Schine? I actually interviewed Jeff a few years ago when he was the lead actor in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, so it seems he’s well-suited to acting in video games with zombies in them!
Jeff is a gem. I don’t think he ever has a bad take, but don’t tell Carlos I said so. He is a natural and a total pro with a wonderful sense of humour and a true love for what he’s doing. Anybody would be lucky to work with the fantastic Jeff Schine!
How would you describe the relationship between Jill and Carlos?
While they are very different people I think they reach a level of mutual respect for each other. As much as they poke fun at each other, I think the levity and humour they hold reveals a lot of humanity between two professionals, and dare I say partners (not my partner 😉 ) in a pretty serious situation.
Did you have much contact with Capcom while working on this project?
This is Capcom’s baby! Absolutely, they have final say on everything and a lot of talented people come together to make such an awesome game.
How much freedom were you given by the director to put your own unique stamp on Jill?
I think from very early on Steve and I had a mutual understanding for what Jill was going to look like, so I felt very trusted to bring my A-game to every moment. The process is always incredibly collaborative so we did in many ways have the freedom to play and make suggestions. We also started with a strong script and vision which is such an asset!
Jill’s likeness was provided by model Sasha Zotova. Is it strange seeing your expressions appearing on somebody else’s face?
Video game characters are often based off of a scan of a face model, or the imagination of a development team. I’ve had the joy and privilege of playing all different kinds of characters in different mediums, from animated animals to a badass like Jill Valentine. When I see Jill on screen, I actually see so much of myself in her, which makes sense as her mannerisms and expressions, the way she moves and breathes, are all from my performance. So I don’t find it weird at all! There were so many people involved in creating what you see on screen and that is the joy and power of voice-over and animation!
Do you have a favourite moment in Resident Evil 3 remake?
Oh my gosh so many. It’s almost impossible to pick! I really love some of the interactions between Carlos and Jill as they were very natural and fun to play with and bring to life. I also really love the final moments with Nikolai. The power dynamic between those characters is pretty interesting and ultimately pretty satisfying.
Would you like to return as Jill in future Resident Evil games?
In a heartbeat. I’m a call away.
What’s next for you Nicole?
Stay tuned and come hang out with me on social media @NikiLeeTompkins! I have several unannounced projects in the pipeline that I cannot wait to share! In the meantime you can enjoy Antrum, which is streaming and available on VOD now!
Thank you for your time; I’m a big Resident Evil fan and I loved your performance as Jill Valentine. I will look forward to seeing where your acting career takes you next!
Thank you so much! That means a lot! It has been so rewarding to interact with fans of the series! To many more epic days surviving Raccoon City.