Andy Serkis is joining the Warhammer universe, which fees like a perfect match of talent and IP.
The iconic Gollum actor and Venom: Let There Be Carnage director will play Vardan Kai, a Grand Master and Steward of the Armoury of Titan, who will guide the player-character in an upcoming video game called Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters. It is a tactical, single-player game where you control the powerful Grey Knights in a series of battles, under the tutelage of Serkis' Vardan.
In an exclusive sit-down interview with RadioTimes.com, Serkis reveals that Vardan is "a very authoritarian leader, and he doesn't suffer fools, and you don't see very much of a soft side to him. But he is someone who has to, by dexterous skills, manipulate this young novice to kind of carry out the tasks of the player, who he has a direct relationship with.
"So it's about kind of being encouraging, but to serve your own means basically. He does feel a great responsibility to Titan. He's got a very high-ranking position there, and he's high up in the Grey Knights. So, basically, it's very important for the novice, the person who's undertaking the journey, to come up with the goods. So it's juggling – he's just about keeping hold of his people skills."
Telling us about how he made his way into the mind of this character, Serkis says: "I always imagined him to be kind of made of granite. I imagined his face as if it was carved from stone, that would probably suit him. He doesn't crack at all, he doesn't really show off. He doesn't reveal any of his own personal emotions. And so I was quite interested in how you can maybe see chinks of humanity in there, but not a lot."
Although Warhammer wasn't around in Serkis' younger years, the actor does have fond memories of similar hobbies. "I was a massive Airfix model-maker when I was a kid," he says. "And also, there were these series of monster kits that you could buy. So for instance, the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Godzilla, King Kong – all of those came out in kit form.
"And I painted those for hours and hours and hours. I loved the whole notion of painting models. It did inform my childhood. I made lots of them. And then when my kids came along, you know, I managed to get them into it for a bit, but not long enough!"
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Serkis adds, "It is so rewarding. And I love walking past Games Workshop, where you see Warhammer, kids sitting around and enjoying the process of painting. It's such a therapeutic and engaging and sort of visceral thing to do."
Serkis is yet to see footage from the game (our interview took place in October last year), but says he is "super excited to see how it's gone" with this latest translation from the tangible world of Warhammer to the digital world of gaming.
This isn't Serkis' first experience in the gaming world, either. He collaborated with the British game company Ninja Theory on a brace of games, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, back in the late noughties.
Looking back on those projects now, Serkis says: "It was interesting, because when we started working on Heavenly Sword, there was a lot of debate about, 'Well, are gamers really going to want to get involved in story and character or are they going to not be bothered and just fast-forward through and cut straight to the chase and go straight for the gameplay?'
"But in actual fact, we really did at that time believe that if [the story] was strong enough and engaging enough and that you cared enough about the characters and that you were drawn in enough, that it would enhance the experience and you would follow the journey, so that was something I learned a huge amount about."
As to whether he'd like to get involved in video games again in a behind-the-scenes manner, Serkis seems optimistic about the future. "It was a sort of turning point, in terms of storytelling in video games, and also video game technology informing the film world. So, I would, yeah. I don't see myself not wanting to enter back into that world."
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters will release on 5th May 2022, and is available for pre-order on PC starting today.