For those that played RESIDENT EVIL BIOHAZARD, you will most certainly remember the maniac Lucas Baker, who, throughout it played numerous mind tricks and messed-up games on Ethan. Portrayed by JESSE PIMENTEL, the actor returns in RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE to play Salvatore Moreau. Although some may see this character as a villain, there's actually a much more human side to Moreau that will make you feel sorry for even having to fight him! STARBURST talks with Jesse to discuss Motion Capture, the Igor-like influences behind Moreau, and much more…
STARBURST: Going back a little, how did you initially get involved with Resident Evil?
Jessie Pimental: I’m just a journeyman actor. I moved out to Los Angeles, and started to pursue the acting career. I’m from California originally, the San Francisco Bay Area, and I live in New York now, but that’s a different story. I auditioned for everything, I didn’t have an agent, or a manager I would just submit myself. This is a good thing for actors to know. I submitted myself to every Casting Network, Actors Access, Backstage opportunity. I just happened to come across one that was Code Name Harawata. I didn’t know what it was. They said “Hey, can you come in tomorrow, and read” They sent me the script, and it was like this Southern, serial killer thing. From what I could understand it was some Japanese video game prototype that they were making, I wasn’t sure. They called it Code Name Harawata. I just thought it was a random gig, like I said I didn’t have an agent or a manager, so getting an audition on something big normally comes through an agency, but they expanded their search out to everyone, because I guess that they were looking for other actors. New blood, such as myself. So I showed up to the audition, not knowing what it was. Got the callback, and I booked the job. I worked on the project for two and a half years before I even knew it was Resident Evil! We signed NDA’s for all of these things, and they’re pretty good at keeping these things under wrap. Since I didn’t regularly play video games, I wasn’t privy to Raccoon City, Umbrella etc. I thought that it was going to be some regional game in Japan. Until I saw the trailer!
Looking back on that game, what did you enjoy the most about playing Lucas Baker?
It was a character that was generally in my wheelhouse. As any actor, I guess they want to play roles. You get into acting and you often find that you are relegated to playing a version of yourself. You do all of this work as an actor, you show up, and they say “Just be you, don’t worry about all of the work you did, just be you”. In the case of Lucas that was like a ‘real’ acting character. So to be in my mid-twenties, and to get handed a character for a big franchise that was also not me just playing myself, but something that I got to craft, and build, that was awesome. It was awesome getting to play something like that. I always saw myself as a character actor, so to speak. So you kind of want to navigate your career off of where you think you are going to work. To have my first couple gigs be in the Resident Evil franchise, as video game villains that are contrastingly different, it felt like my intuition was telling me correctly what kind of actor that I am. I get to do these rangy characters.
Also, why do you personally think that the game has become such a huge hit with gamers?
From what I interpret, they were plateaued a little bit. Resident Evil Biohazard took people by surprise. I think fans were thinking that Capcom was going to double down on some of the other stuff that they were doing, it was still going to be a little cheesy, or whatever. I don’t want to be too insulting though. Resident Evil has this Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel to it. Even though it’s a big game, it has this small feel to it as well. With one little location, and you are haunted throughout the game. So Resident Evil 7 was more like a plot to a horror movie than anything else. “Man looking for his wife, ends up being hunted by a psychotic family in the swamps”. So, when people played it, they really appreciated how Capcom read the tea leaves. They adjusted. There are big fans of these games, and when they get lip service, they are like “What the hell?”. However, when they reboot these franchises, Marvel is a good example, when they put people in charge that are just phenomenal, who know how to tell good stories while also serving the fans, that’s what they did in Resident Evil 7. With Resident Evil Village, it was like 7 threw the ball up, and Village slammed it home. When Resident Evil 7 came out, people were like “Damn, these guys, they’ve got something new going on, and they are re-inventing themselves.” Then, when Resident Evil Village came out, people felt like “Okay, this approach is here to stay!”
OK! Jumping forward a bit, how did you then end up coming back for Resident Evil Village?
I guess they liked me after I did Lucas! They called me one day, and they said, “Hey Jesse, we’ve got this part, it’s kind of crazy, it’s a little out there, but we think you’re the right man for it”. So, the producer Rosanna Sun, is the person Capcom hired to run it. She is a great person. Once Rosanna finds you, she likes to work with the same people. She’ll throw stuff your way, and she’ll make sure you get a chance to stretch yourself. She hit me up with this role and said, “This is going to be a crazy one”. She said that she wanted me to watch The Name of the Rose - Ron Perlman’s character as a point of reference. She throws you places to go for research. She really appreciates the actor’s process. I looked at that part of Moreau and built something around it. It turned out to be right, and to work for them. So, they gave me this part to.
What excited you the most about getting the role of Salvatore Moreau?
Again, same as Lucas, here I am! Validation I guess. Acting is interesting, because at some point validation or vanity has to come into it. When I was a kid, I found out I was good at acting, and people applauded me for it, and it made me feel validated. From there on out, I thought that this was who I was supposed to be. Every time I get these parts, where it’s like “I know the kind of actor I am, I know what I’m capable of.” So, every time someone throws a character at you that is more of a challenge than, like I said before, being yourself, and it’s more them saying that they can trust me to do something in such a big franchise, it’s always an honour, and it’s something I want to make sure I’m really burning the midnight oil for. So playing Moreau was great. To follow up playing Lucas with that, with them both being back-to-back roles in the franchise, it’s pretty cool!
How did Capcom put the look for Salvatore together, and what were their influences/inspirations for the character?
I know that The Name of the Rose was one of them, because Rosanna told me that. So obviously she got that from somewhere. It went through a few different iterations, because they will book you, and still change the story up. That’s really smart; you don’t have to lock the script two years in advance if you come up with a better idea. When I first got it, it was very much like The Name of the Rose, Ron Perlman’s character is similar to Egor. So I knew that I was playing a character like that, who was dedicated to Mother Miranda. I actually thought that I was a good guy at first. I thought that I was someone who showed up to help Ethan, but was already mutated. I don’t know if I misinterpreted that wrong, or if they changed it. Finally, they ended up with the reservoir, and the fish, and the water. The next thing I know I’m a fish-man, which came later into the part. First I was Egor, and then it progressed. With the name Moreau you could tell that they were looking for an animal hybrid type character. Like The Island of Dr. Moreau. It was a book, and then they made a movie of it with Marlon Brando, and Val Kilmer. That was famously horrible, even though it was trippy. It was about a doctor who makes hybrid animal humans. So, they were trying to do that a little bit with Moreau.
Moreau feels like an outsider compared to Mother Miranda's other subjects, however, how would you personally describe him, or say that he differs from the others?
Another reason why I really loved him versus playing a Lucas Baker was that Lucas Baker was all bad! From the beginning we knew that if Lucas Baker wasn’t infected, that he was still going to be a murderer. He’s messed up. However, Moreau isn’t, he was a victim of circumstance. He grew up in a village, and that village was decimated, and there was a supernatural entity that he fell in love with. He wanted to serve Miranda, over time he became the monster that he was, but he was originally a school teacher. Within him, there is a man, who’s not a bad guy, but more a victim of circumstance. So being able to play that on the inside, he gives you this sympathetic feel for him. It’s almost like, you’ve got to kill him, but it’s reluctant because he is a poor guy. He is a hostage in his own right. You can see it when you fight him in the end. All of a sudden you see the body of the man on the inside of the fish, that you’re actually targeting. That’s the thing that you have to shoot to win. He’s a man, that’s really what he is, and that’s his life. So having that, that’s always going to make you play the character better, if there are different layers in there.
Talking about Motion Capture itself, were there any major changes with how it all came together compared to 7? A different studio, a different approach, team maybe? The technology gets better every time. They have cameras everywhere. In Resident Evil 7, Todd Soley who plays Ethan he would wear a helmet with a camera on it, for us to reference. So we were always talking into the camera. So I show up in Village, and we’re all acting, I’m looking at Ethan and I’m talking to him, and it finally dawns on me about halfway into the workday “Wait a minute, you’re not wearing a head camera, who am I talking to? How are they referencing this.” The team looks at me like I’m an idiot, like “You don’t have to do that anymore! They pick it up, 360 degrees, you don’t even have to wear a headcam.” Since they’re picking it up, they can literally figure it out based on the coordinates of where Todd is. It’s crazy. It’s always really cool to see this technology develop.
Moreau was a shot in the dark, we kind of felt like there was a guiding light with Lucas Baker, there were some obvious things, like a Joker vibe. Moreau was like “What are we going to do with this guy?” So playing him in the Motion Capture, at first I wore a big suit, then I didn’t have to wear it once I learned how to walk like him. I wanted something that would restrict my movement, so that I could walk like him. The physicality of Moreau was very difficult. It was a strenuous thing, so I thought that I might as well wear something to force me into it. When we were shooting, I didn’t want to give myself a chance to straighten my back out, so I wore that suit. Then it got to a point where the suit in itself was restricting my movements for certain angles that we needed. I worked on the character enough, so I could then take the suit off.
What was the most rewarding scene that you did in Resident Evil Village?
Definitely the scene where Moreau comes out of the water, and says to Ethan “You’re trapped, the exit is underwater.” In this scene we got this really great close up of Moreau, which was a very deliberate action on my part. I wanted to make sure that the timing had me come up to his face, and say it. So I was really close to Ethan. I really dropped into the character, and Todd and I had a great time shooting that scene. Then seeing it translate onto the screen, you’re like “Wow!”. There’s this communication between the editors, the video game developers, and the actor too, where they all knew that that close-up was a moment. It’s weird, because I knew what I was going for, and these video game developers were able to watch my performance and literally translate it onto the character. It’s me, but it’s not me. They could do whatever they want with the footage. They could edit it so that I never even look into the camera in that scene. They got that moment, and they understood the close up. The intention behind it. So it was like this seamless process. Where my intention literally translated onto screen, as if there might as well not have been any Motion Capture there. That was a true acting moment. It made it through, and the acting was intentional on my part. So that’s definitely my favourite.
For those that haven’t played it yet, why should they play Resident Evil Village?
It’s a massive franchise that’s doing right by their fans. That’s something that is very valued nowadays. It’s a crazy game. It’s very immersive, and it definitely takes you on a wild ride. You’ll play it for a few hours, and you’ll step outside and you’ll feel like you’re transferring into a different world. That’s one of my favourite things about video games. It’s an enthralling story, with great acting, and great people. Like I said, Rosanna Sun was great. Everyone that runs Capcom are all so kind and sweet, they come from Japan and we always have to have an interpreter. They are the nicest people, and they are such fans of our work while we are doing it. It’s so validating. From the top down, there isn’t a bad egg in the bunch. It’s a good story, and a good company to support. A good group of people, trying to do their best.
What else can we expect to see from you as an actor in 2021?
Because of COVID things shut down, so I am just doing a lot of auditions right now. We’re still in pre-production stage, but I’m producing/writing a TV pilot, that should be out by the end of the year. Besides that, I have a couple of scripts that I’m writing that we are going to produce. Nowadays, if you’re an actor, creator, you can’t just sit around and wait for someone to give you a part, because we can all make movies at this point. I really switched it over, instead of burning the midnight oil trying to get parts – and COVID was a big part of this – I just thought that I’d like to create my own content from now on. Auditions will come, parts will come. When Resident Evil 9 comes, they can always call me. They can throw whatever else they’ve got at me. So yeah, in the meantime, I’ve got a couple of projects, but it’s a little premature to talk about them.