If you’re a gamer, then you would have surely seen numerous posts about Lady Dimitrescu over the last handful of months. This maniacal, towering character - and mother to three - has already become iconic in the RESIDENT EVIL franchise. As you attempt to escape her claws and entitled voice in the labyrinth that is otherwise known as Castle Dimitrescu, you'll soon discover why. MAGGIE ROBERTSON talks with STARBURST to reveal how the voice came together, what it was like to work on RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE, and why she thinks the game has become an instant classic…
How did you first get involved with acting?
I fell into it, similar to Resident Evil. I was in high school and a friend of mine wanted to audition for the school play. She didn’t want to do it alone, so she asked me to audition with her as a favour, and then I ended up getting cast, and she did not. The reason why I stayed an actor is because I was always one of those kids that didn’t know what she wanted to do, because in fact I had a wide variety of interests. I didn’t know how to pick just one. What I love about acting is that it allowed me to do it all. Acting is unique in that it stimulates your mind and body. It’s a full-body experience, and I’ve never experienced anything like that.
And with Resident Evil Village, how did you get involved with that particular project?
From there, I kept acting, went to college for theatre, then was acting professionally at the regional theatre in Washington, D.C. Then from there I decided to go off to grad school, I moved to London to get my Masters degree in Classical Acting from LAMDA. I was doing a whole lot of Shakespeare, and I love Shakespeare so much. Then from there I moved to Los Angeles in 2019 right after I graduated, and I booked this job that same year. I think it was about six months after I moved to LA, which is absolutely insane!
Were you a fan of Resident Evil before working on Village? If so, what are your memories from this legendary gaming franchise?
No, I was not a gamer growing up, so I had never played the games before. However, even I had heard of Resident Evil the franchise, because it’s so massive. So, once I figured out what game I was in, I was aware of how big this would be. But nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened afterward. I knew it was going to be a big deal, but I never knew it would be this big!
Lady Dimitrescu is terrifying, and she has a great back story. However, for you, what did you find the most interesting about the character?
I love playing villains generally, because I am crazy, and I love playing crazy people! But I love Lady Dimitrescu because she really is such a vibe. Capcom has done such a great job in creating a really visually striking and interesting character. Even before she opens her mouth, you look at her, and there’s a very clear character presented in front of you, which I think is really cool. So, the first time I saw a visual for her, I was like “idea, idea, idea” in the sense that I was inspired immediately by what I could bring to this character. I love her because she is incredibly dynamic and multifaceted. She is this regal, graceful, delicate, composed person. Underneath she is dominated by her emotions. She cares very deeply about what people think, and how she is perceived. That’s why when Mother Maranda picks Heisenberg over her, that cuts deep actually. So I love that, I think it’s important to see them as human beings and empathise with your characters. You can’t judge a villain if you’re playing them. You have to be able to flesh them out and make them real. So she has all of these different layers. She is refined, but also still has this real potential for violence and danger. She’s powerful. I like all of that, and I love that she is a mother. I can’t get over the fact that she is a mum. I think that is so special. She is an incredibly loyal person, and she fights so hard to protect the people that she cares about. She’s probably one of those people that it takes a lot of work to get into her inner circle, to be considered family to her. However, once you are, you are there for life, and she will never turn her back on you. I love that, I’m biased, but I love her. She feels like a friend.
How did the actual voice for Lady Dimitrescu come together, and what was that like to work on with Capcom?
It’s interesting, a lot of what I did in the final performance was what I brought into the initial audition. So that’s kind of cool. When I was thinking about the voice, what I really wanted to bring, is that she has this deep sense of pride, superiority. She considers herself as a class above the people around her, and so I wanted to make sure that that came through in her voice, and that she had this kind of arch, elevated quality of speaking, and that’s what landed me in this sort of mid-Atlantic/trans-Atlantic accent, that’s neither American or British. I wasn’t consciously thinking, “I’m going to do a mid-Atlantic accent” I was thinking about all of these different character aspects of her, and that just naturally lead me to fit more inside of that dialect. That’s how I landed on that, I wanted to make sure that she was elevated, heightened, and had this kind of elite-quality of speaking to her voice.
What do you remember the most about seeing this character on screen with your own voice for the first time? How rewarding was that experience?
I was kind of lucky, they had shown me one of my final scenes before the game even came out. So I was able to see it, and just ooh and aah appropriately at all of the right times. It is definitely bizarre to hear your voice and see certain movement qualities that are yours but to not have your face on it. It’s interesting, navigating that. On the whole, I’d say that I actually enjoy it. What it means is that I have that degree of separation. So when I watch the final performance, I’m not thinking critically as an actor about how I can make it better. I’m able to just sit there and enjoy and watch as a fan. I find it very freeing, because I can enjoy and celebrate it. In fact, I think this performance, this game, this character, has taken on a true life of its own. She very much feels like something much bigger than me now. Now that the game has been released, I’ve let her go into the world and let her flourish, and blossom into the person that she is today. That’s super cool, because with everything that fans are bringing to their fan art, they’re adding layers, and deepening this character. So it does feel like she is becoming a thing of her own right now. I really like that, I think it’s great.
Leading on from that, what do you remember the most about your first day on set for Resident Evil Village?
The first day on set was so cool! You’re in the Velcro space suit as I like to call it. It’s certainly magical and so surreal. That was the first time that it felt real to me, like “I know I booked this major job, and now I’m doing it”. So that was really cool, and you’re working at this fabulous studio. On the first day you’re like “Okay, I’ve never done this before, so I really hope you can pull this off, let’s see, hope it works”. So there is that pressure on your first day. All in all the cast and the crew, everyone that I interacted with were so welcoming, and understanding, and willing to break things down for me if I didn’t know technically what was happening or what I needed to do in a particular moment. The first scene we did was actually the big family scene in the game, and so in that scene, I say Dimitrescu about five hundred times, because I guess she loves the sound of her own name? Loves to say it. I never heard how to pronounce it, and I never received the official pronunciation until I arrived on set that day. It certainly took a minute to get my mouth around all of those letters and whatnot. I was so nervous about messing it up and ruining all of these takes! So in-between each take, I would literally be in the corner, chanting to myself like a crazy person, “Dimitrescu, Dimitrescu, Dimitrescu”. So that’s how I spent my first day in the volume!
Can you tell us about what the Motion Capture technology was like to work with on this game in particular, and what do you think that this type of acting process has brought to Resident Evil Village?
Motion Capture is really cool, and there is so much mo-cap magic that you can do, which I had never known before. There are certain things that you don’t realise. I can only speak from an actor’s perspective because I don’t necessarily know all of the technical components that go into things. One of the things that I didn’t realise is that you’re wearing this helmet, which has a face camera right in front of you. So even if I was moving around, there would always be an object directly in front of my gaze. Sometimes I felt like I was going a little cross-eyed because there was always something directly in front of me that was pulling my eye. The flip side of that is that you can’t put anything in front of that face camera that would interfere with your facial capture. Things like applying the lipstick had to happen on the outside of the camera. Or sucking Ethan’s blood, I had to be miming that. I couldn’t actually connect to his arm. So all of these things are interesting. You have to be aware of where cameras are, and how the data is being captured so that you don’t accidentally cross your arms, and cover up a marker that’s on your chest, because that data won’t be read. So there’s little technical adjustments that you as an actor have to make, and understand, in order to have the best performance capture. In terms of how it impacted the game, there’s something really special about human connection. You’ll never be able to replace the human being in acting, because we are automatically, subconsciously, picking up on so many gestures, mannerisms, inflections as a human being, that you just don’t get otherwise. So I certainly think that it’s impacted the game positively. The people are able to bring so much more to these characters, because they are responding instinctively, and they’re interacting with each other. Vibing off of each other. Something that Heisenberg does then gives me an idea to do something else, that maybe wouldn’t have existed otherwise, had that person not been right in front of me, whom I was interacting with. You can’t replace live humans!
What were the actresses that played your daughters, Bela (Bekka Prewitt), Cassandra (Jeanette Maus), and Daniela (Nicole Tompkins), like to work with, and how do you think that they helped shape the gameplay in Castle Dimitrescu?
First of all, they were fabulous. I feel very lucky that they are my family in this game, and that I am now getting to spend so much time with them. They did such a great job. With the daughters, the trap that you can fall into is making them all the same, and they do have a lot of similarities, but what I think is so genius about the performance is that, and I think Bekka Prewitt talked about this in one of her interviews, they actually sat down and thought very consciously about who each of them were, and how to differentiate them. Bela the eldest is more of that, she wants to be in charge, she wants to be the leader. She is a bit of a teacher’s pet I guess for mum. Then you have Cassandra, who is the middle child. She’s a bit more sadistic, wild, and untamed. Then you have Daniela, the youngest, who just wants attention and love. All of that comes through in their performances in a really cool way. It was such a blast working with them on set, and you could see it coming to life when we were doing our scenes together. So much maniacal laughter, it was amazing.
Resident Evil Village has been an instant hit with both fans and critics. However, for you, looking at the game, why do you think it's become just so well received already?
Capcom have created a world that is so incredibly detailed. It’s visually stunning. Part of the reason why the game has had this continued success for so long – we’ve sold over four million copies at this point – is that when you are playing the game, you’re not just interested in the characters, you are also invested in the world. Players are just wanting to stick around in the castle, or other areas of the game, and just explore, because there is just so much detail there. There’s always something new to discover. So that’s what I think is super special. They’ve done a great job as well with the characters, making each of them visually striking, and unique. Bryce Dallas Howard talks about this in The Mandalorian documentary on Disney+ about how every character in the Star Wars franchise has a silhouette, and you can see them from a distance, and you know who that character is. Capcom have done a similar thing with these characters, where each of them is a silhouette. Each of them is very visually unique, and striking, and tells a story. You know who they are as a character, even by just looking at them. In terms of why the game – even before release – was popping off like crazy, taking over the internet, that has a lot to do with it. You look at them, and you are already in a world. You are already taken and transported into this vibe, which is what I call it. Lady Dimitrescu is a vibe! So that’s really cool. Once you get into the game, you then have these characters that are really dynamic, multifaceted, and interesting. If they were just visually striking, then it would have only gone so far. The fact that once you get in there, and you have these characters who emotionally are interesting and dynamic, that’s what keeps you there, that’s the longevity.
Tough question time: what was your most memorable moment from playing Lady Dimitrescu and why?
It’s got to be the table flip. That was a dream come true moment for me, because who doesn’t want to go to work, and get to be told that they will flip a table? I was like “Really? Okay!”. That was a fun scene for me, and it was also interesting because you have to be careful not to hit important cameras and tech. All of that stuff that is super-duper expensive. We had to be careful about where it landed, and how hard I could throw. People were off-screen, ready to catch it, just in case it went awry. I definitely had a lot of fun, probably too much fun. They were like “You need to calm down Maggie, we’ve got it!” I said, “Okay, okay, I’ll chill!”
What else can we expect to see from you as an actress in 2021?
No projects that I can talk about just yet, but mostly on the horizon are these Streamily signings that I’m doing with a lot of the other Resident Evil people. I’ve got some individual prints up on my shop at www.streamily.com/MaggieRobertson or you can go to www.streamily.com/residentevil. So I’ve got those individual prints there, and then we are also doing a house Dimitrescu trio signing with myself, Bekka, and Nicole. Then we’re doing a little special doodle for Jeanette on there as well. That’s my main thing at the moment. I’m all Resident Evil, all of the time. It’s pretty great!