Actor Tony Todd Answers Activision’s Call of Duty in Black Ops II Game
The horror icon worked with developer Treyarch in Los Angeles to provide performance capture for Activision’s latest Call of Duty first-person shooter.
Actor Tony Todd has been keeping busy with his Hollywood film work, but he built time into his schedule to make his first foray into video games. Todd provided the voice and performance capture for Admiral Tommy Briggs in Los Angeles developer Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II game. The latest installment in Activision’s bestselling game franchise transports the first-person shooter action to 2025. Todd, who plays a central role in the game’s campaign mode, talks about going virtual in this exclusive interview.
What games did you play growing up?
Millipede was my favorite when I was in college. Before that, I played a lot of pinball. I collect Gottlieb games, and I play classic pinball. I hustled my way through college playing pinball. You don’t want to challenge me.
What were your thoughts on how far video games have come over the years?
Since I first played with Intellivision, I can remember the boxing on that was little stick figures just moving back and forth. I’m also a huge sports gamer, so if you just look at where basketball has gone during the generations of games. I can remember when it was computer basketball. I was even obsessed with it then. Now you’ve got sweat coming off of Kobe’s face and the wrinkles in the jersey. Everything is becoming more and more real-life like. Now having done the mo-cap, I understand how and why those textures are being clothed and look more human-like.
What’s it been like doing the performance capture?
It’s challenges for us, as actors, in little wetsuits. We have to make that real for people. I had to do a couple of scenes of a moving hologram that’s on a control table. Fortunately, they showed me a piece of what it looked like so I could learn how to effectively interact with it. It’s crazy.
How did your work in Hollywood films like Platoon help with the performance capture?
It didn’t help so much with the motion cap, but it did with knowing what it is to be military, and all that. Dude, I’ve played almost every position except for President. When I did The Event, I was head of the CIA. When I did Chuck, I was head of the NSA. For a guy that’s a hippie at heart, I don’t know where they think of this.
What was the performance capture experience like for you?
I’m really impressed by a bunch of utility guys who practically work every day and are asked to step in for different roles in this game. I watched them, and they were totally comfortable with this whole mo-cap process. They uses this system that’s basically three-dimensional and gets all sides of the performance all at once. I’m a traditionalist. I’m used to a cameraman and that slate, and I know that definitely isn’t motion capture. I learned something, which is good after 22 years in the business.
How has performance capture helped you as an actor?
I don’t yet. The verdict is out on that, because I have to wait to see the finished game. I did catch a glimpse of what I look like in the trailer, and they gave me a mustache. They also made me 6’7” and I’m only 6’5”, for the record. So there’s a little bit of an out of control factor, but I’ll wait and see.
What opportunities do you see video games opening for actors today?
I think once the Screen Actors Guild reaches an agreement with different game units so that we could have a little taste of that profit, participation will get even better, and more and more people will want to do it. I’m probably going to have a mixture of feelings, because I see the money game companies are making. I’ve been acting 22 years now and certain roles come to me. One of the things that motion capture and/or voice acting does is allow you to continue your career, change it, or bring a new aspect to it.
What did Hollywood scribe David Goyer bring to the story and your character?
David brought a sense of depth and dimension. He’s obviously a well-established screenwriter, but he added a sense of mystery. The script is very much a Hollywood script in terms of it’s just filled with big action elements. I don’t know how much this would cost to film if we were to do it practically. I know the game cost a lot to make, and I know it will make a lot of money. Call of Duty makes billions and billions, okay? This game is going to make a lot of cheese for some people.
This game takes place in 2025. What do you think that adds to the gameplay with being able to use drones, robots, and futuristic weapons?
It’s a good thing, since I played Saints Row: The Third, that I know what a drone is. I’m not just saying stuff that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know what a drone is. Some of the games I play, like Saints Row, where the reaper drone has been my downfall -- I think it’s a way of distancing ourselves from the current situation. Having been involved in a few other sci-fi things, they know how to deal with props and to use their imagination with “What if this works?” in investing it with the right amount of attention and detail. I think it’s the right time for this type of game to drop during the holiday season this year.