Actress Lea Thompson Discusses the Casual Gaming Phenomenon (Q&A)

The star of 'Switched at Birth' talks about going virtual in Big Fish Games new 'Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake' video game.

Actress Lea Thompson took some time during her hiatus on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth to bring a new age medium to life in Big Fish Games’ Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake. Thompson stars in the game with her daughter, Madelyn Deutch, who plays a ghost-hunting reality show co-host. The casual game franchise has been played by over 100 million people worldwide. Thompson talks about her live action video game experience in this exclusive interview.

The Hollywood Reporter: What video games did you play when you were growing up? 

Lea Thompson: I mostly played Pac-Man, but I played The Sims with my kids when they were growing up. They still play The Sims, and they like that, but now of course they like Mystery Case Files (laughs).

THR: Do you have a favorite memory from playing Pac-Man back in the day? 

Thompson: You know, I just did a movie that was set in the ‘80s, and they had all the different games: Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, all those things. There was something really visceral about standing up and playing those games, y’know? I just remember having a lot of fun doing that, but losing a lot of money (laughs).

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THR: What are your thoughts on how far games have come since those arcade days?

Thompson: It’s absolutely shocking. I don’t have a son, but I have nephews who play the really developed games. A lot of movies now look like video games to me, the line is really close.

THR: And do you play any games now?

Thompson: You know what? I’m just so darn busy, I don’t. I play a lot of Scrabble with my brother online.

THR: How did you get involved with Big Fish Games’ Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake?

Thompson: I don’t know, they just asked me to do it for some unknown reason. They thought I was perfect to play the “psychic” – a new age psychic. I’m always really excited to try something new in my profession that I haven’t done yet.

THR: Did you do any research on mediums for this role?

Thompson: Not really. I grew up in the ‘70s in Minnesota and my mother was like the same kind of character. Like a new age psychic with crystals, and incense, and trances, so I didn’t have to do a lot of research.

THR: What was it like working with your daughter in this new game?

Thompson: It was really fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to act with her, but it was really fun to watch her act. I have two daughters that are actresses -- and so I’m kind of their coach. So it’s really fun to watch them in action, and she had a really fun character.

THR: Have you been able to keep up with the latest video game technology through your daughters over the years?

Thompson: Yeah, and also through my nephews who are really big gamers. And also my fan base is into games – you know from Howard the Duck. I go to a lot of science fiction and monster conventions and things like that, and different groups that really have a passion for these kinds of games.

THR: What do you like about the Mystery Case Files franchise?

Thompson: I like that they have real actors in them, and that’s fun for me. I love seeing how they incorporate the real acting in the games, and the puzzle solving.

THR: We’re seeing a lot of video games being turned into Hollywood movies nowadays. Do you think Mystery Case Files would make a good movie, or maybe a TV show?

Thompson: Absolutely! (laughs) People love mysteries. I did some mysteries for the Hallmark channel – Jane Doe mysteries – and people really watch them over and over again, and they just love that.

THR: Why do you think we’ve seen such an explosion of casual games on everything from PC, to tablets, to smart phones today? 

Thompson: Casual games are a great way to spend time when you get bored. It’s hard to keep people off all their little games. I play Scrabble with the sound mixer and the boom operator here while we’re working. It’s a way of spending time that you don’t have to get totally involved in, and you can come back to.

THR: Over half the gamers today are female. Why do you think Big Fish Games is attracting a wide female demographic? 

Thompson: At least with the Mystery Case Files, there’s certain scientific research that shows how women like to look at faces. They really like human faces, because you can read so much about what’s going on with a person, and so I think that’s why women like these games.

THR: What opportunities have you seen video games open up for actors today as games become more story-driven?

Thompson: I know a lot of actors are employed with the voices and the motion capture, when they put the dots on you. A lot of actors are gaining a lot of popularity, and making a living doing that kind of work, which is great because you do really need actors. There’s a lot that human beings can invent that writers can’t and animators can’t. Even when they did Snow White in the ‘20s they used an actor.