Dominic Monaghan is fearless whether hunting for spiders in the Amazon or hunting for trolls online (his latest self-professed hobby). He’s made a career following his passions for acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and TV shows Lost and The Following. He’s followed his passion for the creepiest, crawliest critters in Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. And he brings that passion to his latest project, the brand new videogame/TV series hybrid from Remedy Entertainment, Quantam Break, where he plays William Joyce, a physicist who builds the world’s first time machine.
A devoted Manchester United fan (and regularly Paste Soccer correspondent), his own tastes skew more towards FIFA, but Monaghan is a gamer, and it’s a medium he hopes to continue working in. We talked to Monaghan about working on the new game, as well as his latest season of Wild Things.
Paste: So you’re getting ready to head over to Southeast Asia?
Monaghan:Yeah, I fly to Bali tomorrow.
Paste: Bali, wow. So is that for Wild Things?
Monaghan:That’s for Wild Things, it’s for the last episode of Wild Things. We’re gonna go and work with this orangutan sanctuary that I am a patron the past 12 years or so, and also try and work with komodo dragons, and see what else we can see. You know, Bali is an incredible part of the world, great food, great people, great surf, great weather, so yeah, I’m excited.
Paste: That’s incredible. Your life is like no one else’s. [laughs]
Monaghan:Yeah, it’s fun, man, but obviously, you know, I do a lot of really good stuff and I’m really happy that I’m able to make the show and everything, but I still have some complications. I mean, I broke my foot in four places at the end of last year, and I’m currently hobbling around on a gimpy foot, and I have to find a way this year to have surgery, while working it into episodes of Wild Things, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So, I do a lot in my life, my life is excellent, and I’m super delighted with all the things I do, but, I still have things that keep me awake at night. It’s not like paradise.
Paste: Oh, I’m sure. ... So the last episode of Wild Things—that’s just for the season, right? Do you know if there’s going to be another season?
Monaghan:It’s just for the season. We don’t know officially if there’s going to be another season yet, but I would assume something will happen in the next few weeks, with the ideas for a season. I think, in some way, I’ll make Wild Things for the rest of my life, whether it’s Wild Things specials, or whether it’s a Wild Things Christmas special or an Easter special, like a two-hour special, or whether we make other ideas. We’ve had these ideas of Wild Things Miniatures, Wild Things: Oceans, Wild Things: Kids, all these different franchises. So I’ll always be associated with animals in some way, crazy animals, because that’s a story that I think deserves to be told.
Paste: That’s great. I wanted to talk to you a little about Quantum Break and your experience filming, because this is a little bit of a different idea for the video game world, with these episodic breaks in between. So can you tell me a little bit about what the experience was like? Had you done a lot of video game work before?
Monaghan:(laughs) I had done a tiny amount on one of the Lord of the Rings games that came out a long time ago, where Billy Boyd and I played hidden, secret playable characters. So he and I did some voice recording and we did a certain amount of acting, and they captured our faces and stuff, but nowhere near as immersive as what goes on with the stuff that I’ve been doing with Remedy. This is a full-on performance—it was as immersive, if not arguably a little bit more immersive, than working on a film. They’re capturing minute eye movements, they’re capturing eyebrows, they’re capturing jaw lines, obviously, your voice performance, as well as your body movements, and you’re working in scene. So it was much more work than I expected it was going to be. It was much more immersive than I expected it to be, but I think, ultimately, it’s going to look just like me, and it’s going to act just like me, because it was me.
Paste: Had you played any of those games—the Alan Wake, or Max Payne kind of games before?
Monaghan:Yeah, I think I’ve played Max Payne over at Elijah Woods’ house years ago, where he was kind of introducing me to bullet-time gameplay, so I think I’ve played Max Payne. I’ve certainly watched Elijah playing Max Payne. I haven’t played Alan Wake, but I checked it out while I was there. But obviously I know Remedy, I know how seriously they take their jobs, and how much they love games, and how much of a long journey—the history of these guys. I’ve been working on this for the best part of a year, off and on, but those guys have been working on it for years.
Paste: It’s such an intense process—there’s so much to film. It’s not like filming a season of television, because you’re filming all the different options, and everything else that goes into it. So what was the filming schedule like?
Monaghan:We did quite a few days on a green screen stage, stunts, running away from people, hiding behind different buildings, falling, jumping, you know, the general stuff like that. We did specific scenes where I was working with Shawn or Courtney, dramatic scenes, and then I flew to Helsinki twice to capture my voice and to capture my face, and the stuff in Helsinki was probably the hardest. Tiny little booths, fluorescently lit, doing long versions of dialogue, but not being able to move outside of frame, and wearing a hairnet, and it being hot and sweaty, and, yeah, you definitely earned your wages doing that type stuff.
Paste: So have you gotten to see any of the story stuff? The cut scenes that you guys were filming? Or see what your guy looks like on-screen?
Monaghan:Yeah, I saw quite a few pieces of cut footage while I was in Helsinki, a very cool sequence where Shawn’s character is trying to navigate over a bridge which is breaking apart, and also some stuff of he and I running through what looked to be a kind of generic university or college campus building. Fantastic graphics. This game is pretty impressive across the board, but the graphics are absolutely incredible. The graphics are getting so much better in all platforms of gameplay, but these graphics were pretty on-the-money. Special effects, in terms of—this is a time-traveling, time machine-type game, so there’s a lot of ways that you can manipulate time, and the way that they’ve explored that has been pretty unique. I think it’s quite a difficult game, as well, in terms of gameplay. I don’t think it’s quite Metal Gear Solid difficult, which I always found to be quite taxing, but its not a game for kids, per se, in terms of its difficulty level. I found it on the edge of being quite challenging.
Paste: So you got to play some of what was done?
Monaghan:I got to control Shawn’s character and move him around and manipulate him, and have him do a little bit of combat with some characters. It was pretty cool, man.
Paste: Is this something that you can see doing a lot of? Something you’d like to do again, working on a video game?
Monaghan:Yeah, I’d like to. I’ve played video games, I’m a fan of video games. I play FIFA all the time, obviously. I’m a big fan of Skyrim and The Witcher and some UFC games. Old-school games like Goldeneye and Mario Kart, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, and things like that, I’m a fan of. If I’ve got everything done, and I’ve watched all my movies and all that kind of stuff, then I’ll stick on FIFA and kill a few hours playing FIFA, or playing The Witcher. So I’d like to keep doing video games, because it’s a medium that I think is very powerful, and a lot of fun—so much more immersive than movies.