Interview with voice actor Doug Cockle and a behind the scenes look on the actor himself as well as his voice behind the well-known video game Witcher
Whether one has read the series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, played the games released by CD Projekt Red, or watched the newly released Netflix series, one has most certainly at least heard of the well-known Witcher series.
Readers, players, and viewers alike will follow Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who is a mutated human being who has the abilities to kill the monsters no normal man can. Alone in their professions, witchers must find what work they can for little coin. Geralt is a different sort of witcher for he is destined for something greater… to protect someone greater.
This is a series to be experienced in the fullest and I had the great pleasure of speaking with the voice of Geralt himself from the video game series by CD Projekt Red, Doug Cockle. Doug is an actor, director, and acting teacher who lives in the United Kingdom and has given a voice to the Witcher many have come to know since his first video game debut released in 2007.
So, without further ado, may I introduce Doug Cockle, the voice actor of Geralt of Rivia in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher, The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings, and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
Alicia: Tell me about you: about Doug Cockle. Tell me something about yourself you would like to share with fans, yet you haven’t shared with many people before.
Doug: What do I like to do in my free time… I play guitar very poorly, but I like to play guitar. I do play video games, not as often or as much as I would like. I just recently, finally, finished Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I’ve been playing it for two years off and on, so I finally made it to the very end. It’s only the third game, I’ve played all the way to the end. I’ve played Witcher III all the way to the end, I’ve played Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and this beautiful game, if you like stories, Alicia, What Remains of Edith Finch. I don’t remember the developer’s name, but What Remains of Edith Finch is one of the most beautiful narrative games I’ve ever played. I literally wept at the end of it. It doesn’t take too long to play. I did it in one sitting, one day, about seven to eight hours. But be prepared for an unconventional game. It’s more like an interactive graphic novel. You can probably get it on Steam, as well. I play games, I play guitar. My wife and I like to go on walks with our little dog, a little border terroir. His name is Digby. I have two teenage boys, seventeen and fifteen. I’m having fun with all of that, as well.
Alicia: In all honesty, I remember being confused, yet somewhat intrigued after reading The Last Wish for the first time. Even after reading the entire series the first time, I kind of felt the same way. After rereading them, that is when I truly fell in love with them. What was your first impression of the Witcher books when you first read them?
Doug: I was excited to read it because I started recording the first Witcher game before The Last Wish had been translated into English. Or, if it had been, it wasn’t available and I didn’t know about it. Or I was just lazy and I didn’t actually go looking for it, I don’t know what it is, but I think it was spring of 2005 when I started recording Witcher I, but it wasn’t until we were about a quarter, maybe halfway through recording Witcher II that I actually got a hold of The Last Wish. The Last Wish and Blood of Elves came out kind of around the same time and then Baptism of Fire was later, if I’m remembering the order they came out in correctly.
I think I was well into recording Witcher II, the video game, when I first read The Last Wish, so I had already kind of been introduced, in CD Projekt’s way, to Sapkowski’s world, but I hadn’t read any of the books yet. When I first read The Last Wish, I was confused, as well, partly because, as you mentioned in some of your reviews, CD Projekt used the books as a basis for the video games and they used a lot of the lore and everything else, but they also deviated to some extent from what Sapkowski wrote. It was like being reintroduced to a world I thought I knew. And because The Last Wish is a series of short stories, really, in many ways, and I was expecting a novel, I think I was about halfway through the book when it clicked for me and I went, “Oh, this isn’t a linear story. This is a collection of stories from this world.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve only read it through once, I believe. I’ve dipped into it again. Sometimes when I don’t have anything else to read, I’ll open it up to a chapter and just read that chapter, but I don’t know if that counts as me doing a second reading.
I loved the characters I was meeting. I loved the character of Geralt. As you mentioned in your review, the connection to fairy tales, it was very obvious to me as I was reading The Last Wish the first time through and I just loved it. I just thought that, “Wow, this is cool. I’m being reintroduced to something that I thought I understood.”
Alicia: Even now knowing that you didn’t even get to read the first book until halfway through the second game. You did an amazing job brining Geralt to life without even really knowing his book character.
Doug: I did know the character pretty well because, in Witcher I, I had the developers there, about four or five of them in the studio, two of them, I think, were writers. There was a producer and there was someone else. They filled me in quite thoroughly on who this character was and some of the lore. As we were recording, they would explain what Geralt was talking about in the game. So I got to know the character and the world through doing Witcher I in a fantastically, in the best possible sense, claustrophobic week of recording. Long days, we were doing, like, nine to ten hour days, as well, so I had a really good introduction to the world through the developers of the video games. So I wasn’t completely left to my own devices, but also, you could say that Geralt, and he is like this in the books, as well, that he is kind of the classic anti-hero. He’s kind of a reluctant anti-hero and that’s a character I have played many times in other games and things like that. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it on television, but I would love to.
Alicia: I think that’s what also makes Geralt so likable because, a really big thing in the books and the game, is his love for Ciri. She’s his daughter by choice and, for the people that he loves, he would do anything: he would kill, murder, travel the entire world just to help those he cares about.
Doug: And the whole idea in the Witcher III trailer, one of the first ones when he’s talking about degrees of evil and the famous quote, you know what it is, “Evil is evil, the boundaries are arbitrary,” all that stuff. I think that sums him up pretty much in a nutshell. That’s almost like his philosophy.
Alicia: I agree. That was actually the trailer that got me into the third game, for sure.
Doug: Did you go back and play the first and second game, as well? You must have because you talk about them, didn’t you?
Alicia: In all honesty, I’ve never actually played them only because, unfortunately, my computers have never been able to support PC games and I don’t own an Xbox for the second game. I’ve watched playthroughs of them and I know the stories and they do kind of have nods towards the book series, but they almost seem to do their own thing and then, once you get into the third game, that is when it starts to get back into the book lore. At least, that is what I noticed.
Doug: I haven’t played the first or second game either for exactly the same reasons. I didn’t have the console for the second game. And the first game, I loaded it onto my computer and steam rose from my hard drive. I was actually able to load the opening cinematic and play it and then, as it got halfway through the opening cinematic, it just couldn’t handle it anymore. And I wasn’t going to buy a new computer to play the Witcher.
Alicia: You’ve read all of the books at least once, right?
Doug: I’ve read all except the latest one, the Season of Storms.
Alicia: Do you have a favorite of the Witcher series? If yes, which one and why?
Doug: It’s been a long time since I’ve read Blood of Elves… I think Baptism of Fire was my favorite Witcher book. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s because of the whole storyline. It’s the first one that really properly brings Yennefer, Geralt, Ciri, and their different storylines fully together. I enjoyed Blood of Elves, I enjoyed The Last Wish, but I think Baptism of Fire was the one where I went, “Oh, yeah, this is getting good!”
Alicia: In your spare time, what do you enjoy reading?
Doug: I love fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy. I think it might have been fourth grade, I had a really cool teacher. He was just this really cool hippie teacher guy, loved kids, and loved J.R.R. Tolkien. He spent a little portion of each day in our class reading from The Hobbit. I fell in love with this Middle Earth world and, eventually, I read it myself, and then I went on to read Fellowship of the Ring and all of those books and loved the films. Anyways, fantasy has always been my thing, but growing up, I also loved reading books about dogs, like Jack London’s White Fang and Call of the Wild. Then I went on to read loads of Jack London, actually, but I haven’t recently. I should go back to them, honestly.
Right now, I’m reading the Mistborn Series. I’m reading it on Kindle. I love the Kindle, but the problem with Kindle is you can’t look at the cover of the book without having to scroll back through all of those pages and stuff, so you forget sometimes what you are reading, you just remember the story you are reading. So I’m reading the first in the Mistborn series at the moment and I’m really enjoying that. One of my favorite books is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I read the two and half books, there is kind of a half book that is all about the girl in the sewers which is really Slow Regard of Silent Things, is what I think it is called. We’re still all waiting for the third book to come out. Apparently he’s written it, he’s just not happy with it, so he’s not releasing it.
Alicia: I’ve been told to read The Name of the Wind.
Doug: It’s amazing. If you like fantasy, it took me a little while to get my head around it, but once I did, it was just an amazing journey through that book.
Alicia: Have you ever been able to meet Andrzej Sapkowski in person? If you have, what was the experience like? If not, if you could get the chance to meet him, what would you like to say to him?
Doug: I haven’t had the chance to meet Mr. Sapkowski. I would like to and, if I did, I think I would just want to say, “Thank you,” for the Witcher and the wonderful character of Geralt.
Alicia: If you could write a book about any topic, whether it was fiction or nonfiction, what would you write about and why?
Doug: There is a book I’ve been trying to write and failing miserably at doing so. I’m not 100% certain what the title would be, but Puppy Goes West is the title in my mind. Puppy is a little stuffed animal that my wife and I own. We found him on a camping trip. He had been abandoned or lost or whatever and we adopted this little stuffed animal who is a puppy. We turned him into this little creature who talks and bounces around in the bedroom and answers questions and does stuff, as you sometimes do with inanimate objects. We ended up imbuing him with this fantastic personality and he had all of these adventures with us.
We were living in Pennsylvania when we found him and then he developed this personality and then we traveled, I graduated from Penn State. We traveled from Pennsylvania to Seattle where my family lives and we drove across the States. Puppy was there every inch of the way and we took pictures of him having adventures along the way: driving the car, meeting little gnomes by the side of the road, things like that, other inanimate objects. We had this whole journey and I kind of jokingly said to Marianne, “We should write a book, a children’s book, called Puppy Goes West, all about Puppy’s adventures when he has to move from one side of the country to another and all about how change is scary, but change can also be a good thing. How meeting new people is scary, but meeting new people can also be a good thing.” About all of those kinds of wonderful things.
So I’ve had this idea for years and… I’ve written two pages.
Alicia: Well, two pages is better than none.
Doug: Two pages is better than none, I just can’t seem to. I used to love writing. When I was a kid, I won several awards for pieces I wrote and submitted to various things. They were little things, like school writing contests and things like that, but I used to love it. I don’t know where it’s gone!
Alicia: But hold onto that idea because you never know. Say, in a week, it all could just start hitting you really hard and you could be like, “I gotta write this. I gotta write this down and get this out!”
Doug: Well, those two pages came out like that. I just suddenly knew what I wanted to write and it came out in this flurry of half an hour or so of scribbling down.
Alicia: That’s a good idea for the future, though. Especially for kids if they are making a really big move. They don’t like it. They don’t like change. They don’t understand, but that could be a really good book to shows them, like you were saying, that change is scary, but it’s good. And meeting new people is also good.
Doug: Maybe instead I should write a book about not being scared to write a book.
Alicia: You know what, I don’t think there is a book out there like that, so, hey, you’d be the first!
Doug: I think there is. I think it’s called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyways.
Alicia: Going back to Geralt, how did you hear about the role of Geralt? What was the competition like for auditioning for his role?
Doug: I actually had no idea how many other people they had audition. There is a bit of a story for that.
When I originally auditioned for Geralt for Witcher I, I didn’t know anything about the game, I didn’t know anything about the world. I was called in to audition by a company called Outsource Media, who I had done a lot of games with, and I was probably one of at least several, if not one of many who they brought in to audition, but when I went in, I auditioned and, just like every audition, I did the best I could do in the time I had and then I walked away. When I got the job, I was thrilled because it was another gig, but it was just another gig like any gig is another gig.
So I did the job and I walked away and I was excited to see the game come out. But where this gets a little more interesting, I suppose, is that between Witcher I and Witcher II, the video games, I was teaching. I used to run an acting course. I was course leader for a BA (Hons) Acting degree. One day, I was in my office and my cell phone rang and it was a friend of mine, who is also an actor, and he said, “I just had an audition for this character called Geralt of Rivia. I thought you did that. I thought that was your character.”
And I was like, “It is… Okay, interesting.” I had the phone number for the lead English translator from CD Projekt because we were friends and we worked together on DLC’s and various things. I called them up and left them a voice message saying, “Hey, I hear you’re auditioning for Geralt for Witcher II. I’d be happy to come in and audition again. I really enjoyed playing the role the first time, I would love to do it again. So give me a ring and let me know. I’d be happy to come up to London and give him another go.” It was a day or two later, I think. I think he got straight back to me and basically said, “Hey, Doug. Sorry I didn’t tell you about this. I’ll explain another time. I’ll get back to you.” A couple days later, he called or someone called and said, “Actually, the director listened to your work from Witcher I and she thinks you’re great and we’re going to bring you back.”
So I almost didn’t do Witcher II and Witcher III. If my friend hadn’t rung me and said, “Hey, I just auditioned for this role that should be yours, really,” I would have never known and I wouldn’t have had the amazing journey that I ended up having on Witcher II and Witcher III.
I guess if there is a moral to that story, what I could have been is timid and not called Borys and not put myself forward again. I could have just said, “They must not have liked my work.” But instead, I went, “No. I’m going to stick my foot into that door again.” And it worked out.
What I found out later was that CD Projekt had liked my work, but what they had decided to do between Witcher I and Witcher II is that they had decided to go back to the drawing board. They were pleased with what they had achieved on Witcher I. But with Witcher II, they were trying to push the boat out properly. They didn’t just want to go back to doing what they had done before: they wanted to scrap what they had done before and almost entirely start again. Carry on the storyline, obviously, but they were giving themselves the opportunity to do it differently. So that is what they did. They went with a different vocal production company and that vocal production company had a different pool of actors who worked for them more regularly.
Alicia: What is your favorite part about voicing Geralt? Is there even something that bugs you about voicing his role?
Doug: My favorite part about voicing Geralt was actually the journey itself and there are several parts to that journey. The main one is I voiced Geralt for the three games and the various DLC’s between the spring of 2005 and we finished Blood and Wine, I think, around May of 2016. That’s eleven years of getting to know that character and being on his journey with him. That’s a long time. Most actors go from job to job and the actors like the ones in The Big Bang Theory, for example, or any of those shows where the actors comes back for series after series, that’s actually a rare experience for most actors, in whatever medium they’re working in.
So to have the opportunity to spend eleven years with this guy, off and on, obviously, it was quite amazing. I got to know him really well. I got to know which parts of me were most like Geralt and which weren’t. One of the things I loved about that journey was the growth of Geralt’s emotional life in the games. It first started with Witcher I. The developers were like, “He can’t have any emotions. No emotions at all.” And I was like, “Well, why did you hire an actor then?” But they wanted no emotion whatsoever. I tried, I tried to make his emotions really blunt, really dead, but I don’t think that’s really possible to do to a human being because we all are, to a certain extent, ruled by our emotions, even when we think we aren’t.
I never really agreed with the developers at the beginning and I always felt that it wasn’t so much that Geralt doesn’t have emotions, it’s more that he has learned that he can’t give into them. He can’t let himself feel emotions the way other people can feel emotions because of the job that he does because if he were to let his emotions rule him, he would die very quickly. And he wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the degrees of evil that he wants to be able to distinguish between for his job.
That’s the conclusion that I came to about Geralt, but what was really interesting in the games is that, as the games moved forward and as I became more confident with sneaking emotion into him and CD Projekt became more confident in allowing that emotion to be there, the writers got bolder and then I could go further. I think we were pushing each other and they were always putting the brakes on, they didn’t want to go too fast, they wanted to keep him level. But I got to experience Geralt become much more of an emotional being. If you think about it, just in the Witcher III, from the beginning of the Witcher III through to the end of Blood and Wine, there is a really marked difference in terms of how Geralt responds emotionally to his situations, the situations he finds himself in, the world around him, the other characters. I mean, just his friendship with Regis, there is a huge emotional thing going on there and it’s wonderful to see. That would have never happened in Witcher I.
Alicia: Yeah, gosh, even Geralt and Dandelion. When you meet him in the game or if you get that ending in Blood and Wine where Dandelion helps Geralt get out of prison, you see that bond that they have.
Doug: For me, that was my favorite part of being involved in the Witcher and doing the voice for Geralt was that being on the journey with him and, sadly, also seeing the end of that journey happen. But never say never. It’s very very likely cause CD Projekt has said themselves that they would be stupid not to make another game based in the Witcher world, but whether Geralt will be the focus of that game or not is another question entirely.
Alicia: They could focus on a lot of different things and I’m sure they’re being careful, too. I’m sure they’re being careful to craft that story that fans are going to love.
Doug: And I think what they are going to do is that they are going to pick up the video game story from The Tower of Swallows. That’s what I think is going to happen. I have no insider knowledge. Just thinking about it myself, if I was calling the shots, that’s probably where I would go next. I would focus on Ciri and her adventures.
Alicia: Is it easy for you to just jump into the role of Geralt or does it take any exercises to get into character?
Doug: No is the simple answer, but that’s because now I know the character so well, *Geralt voice* I can just slip into the voice and if I have dialog and I know what I have to say, then I just have to become Geralt and the voice *Geralt voice*.
One of the nice things about doing voice work is it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or whether you have a spot in the middle of your nose. Whatever it is, no one can see the real person behind the microphone except for the director and the engineer in the next room. So I don’t have to be on in terms of physical appearance. I just have to be on in terms of my imagination and my skills as an actor with my voice. It takes a certain kind of pressure off in a way. When I first started doing Geralt, it was very challenging. I had to push my voice to a register that was not natural for me and at the end of those days recording for Witcher I, my voice was wrecked. It was really sore, I had to drink lots of tea, lemon, and honey, and stuff like that and I could barely speak at the end of that week. It was hard, but over time, you can describe this one of two ways: either I damaged my voice so much that now I can just go there or I trained my voice to go there.
But that’s kind of what training is. If you think about athletes training, part of what they’re doing is breaking down muscles so that they can regrow bigger, stronger, faster, and with more stamina, so that’s the same idea.
Alicia: What is it like when you get to visit conventions and meet with the fans? What have been your favorite fan interactions so far?
Doug: What it’s like is a very, very positive experience. One of the fantastic things about most gaming conventions and gamers, in general, in those environments, it’s largely just a big positivity fest. People love their games, they love talking about them, and they love people who play them or are a part of them. I don’t think I have ever, even once, met anybody who was grumpy with me or didn’t like my work. I mean, if you think about it, why would they come talk to me if they didn’t like my work? What I end up experiencing and what I think most actors who go to conventions and stuff experience the same thing: the people I meet are the people who already love what I do and just want to share their enjoyment of the games and the character of Geralt. They just want to celebrate something that they love. So it’s hugely positive. I’ve had some amazing experiences. I’ve had people cry on me, literally.
Similar things have happened several times, but there was this one particular time… I get them a little bit mixed up in some ways because if you’re doing these conventions, sometimes you meet two or three hundred people in the course of two or three hours, so you start to forget who is who, but I met this one girl, I think this was in Atlanta at one of the big conventions there in May. She came up and she was clearly very nervous. She was trying to speak, but she just couldn’t quite get the words out. She was literally shaking. I said, “It’s okay. I don’t bite. Come around here,” and I just gave her a little hug and she started crying. I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry!” She said, “I just want to thank you so much because Geralt and the Witcher game got me through a really hard time in my life. My mother had passed away just before the game came out and it was the only thing that could keep my mind off of all the stuff I was feeling. It was the only place I could escape into something where I didn’t have to think about that.” She said it in a different way, but that was what her reaction was all about. What she said to me was, “Thank you.”
You know, I’m the voice of Geralt and there are so many other people who make that game what it is. I’m an important, but small piece of the machine, so when I have experiences like that with the fans who express how important the game was to them or is to them, it can be… not overwhelming, that’s not the right word… it can be really powerful. That occasionally does happen at conventions and it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also a little bit scary in some ways because you realize in those moments just how much power the work that you do sometimes has to affect people’s lives, for the better, mainly. Any artist, they create their art because they want to create something beautiful, just sometimes we forget or we just are never told about the real impact our work might be having on people who we never meet. So those conventions are where I often get to meet the people who tell me how much the Witcher meant to them.
Alicia: I wanted to focus a bit on the charity event that you did for Special Effect. I thought that that was really cool. I had to sporadically come in every now and then to your guys’ podcast, but it was amazing how you guys were able to raise that money for the kids. How were you originally contacted to take part in that event?
Doug: It was actually my idea. Well, I can’t claim all of the credit. Two of the people who were a part of that: the guy who played Zoltan, his name is Simon, and Kelli, who played Triss. I got to know Kelli online. She’s a big Witcher fan, she was doing an online stream, and she tweeted something and tagged me and I went and looked at what she was doing and she looked like just a really cool person. So I followed her back and then, somewhere along the line, I think she DM’d me and I responded and we just started having this conversation. Gradually, we discovered we had a similar sense of humor and enjoyed chatting with each other online.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but I think I ended up suggesting to her, cause she was streaming herself playing The Witcher, and I said, “What if I got on and streamed with you? You’re playing, but somehow we connect me into your Twitch feed and you can continue playing and I can just make fun of what you’re doing.” And she was like, “That’s a great idea!” So we arranged that and she didn’t know how to make it happen, so she approached her friend Simon and he knew how to make that happen. He became the moderator and he hooked us up. We did that a couple of times, but one of the last times we did it, Simon had been running the Witcher TRPG games for R. Talsorian Games at conventions and expos, so he knew the tabletop RPG Witcher system.
He had been telling me about it and we were talking it and I think I jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could livestream us playing the Witcher TRPG? Wouldn’t that be fun? I could play Geralt, Kelli could play Triss,” cause she already had a cosplay of Triss. They both loved this idea, so we just kept talking about it and then, one day, I said, “You know what we could do?” Because I knew Matt Mercer a little bit. We’d never met properly, but kind of like me and Kelli, we’d met online and had some exchanges. I said, “What if we get Matthew Mercer to play with us. If we can get him interested, he can play Dandelion, wouldn’t that be cool?” “Oh, that’s great idea!” It just kind of grew and then it all happened very quickly. The idea kind of went underground for a while and then Simon who knew people at R. Talsorian Games, he approached them and they thought this was a great idea. Literally, within a week of Simon contacting R. Talsorian and putting the idea out there, it all came together, and then we were all doing it. I think I only contacted Matthew on the Tuesday before the stream.
Alicia: That’s awesome that you were all able to do that and this is for such an amazing cause. I hadn’t even heard of it.
Doug: Special Effect isn’t just for kids, either. It’s for adults, as well. They sent me a thank you card recently and it was really sweet. They included in it a couple of the case studies for people they have helped and one of them is a dad who, if I remember correctly, has Cerebral Palsy. Basically, what he used to do to connect with his kids was to play video games with them, but as his condition progressed, he found he couldn’t use the controllers so he couldn’t play games with his kids anymore. So Special Effect went in and created a custom set of controls that he could use and so he could play games with his kids again. It is stories like that where you go, “This is pretty cool stuff.”
Alicia: I know you guys were mentioning doing it again. How often do you think you guys are going to do this? Is this going to be a one more time thing, maybe a once a month sort of thing?
Doug: Not once a month, not yet anyways. Certainly for me and Simon and Kelli and Cody, who ran the game on the livestream, the four of us can certainly make something happen, whether or not Matthew can rejoin us next time is a question. We can only ask him to join us if we have another slot to do it when we want to do it again, but he is such a busy guy. He’s doing all critical role stuff and going on talk shows, so he’s busy. We’d like to do it again, possibly for Special Effect again. Possibly for another charity. Who knows.
Alicia: During the Special Effect charity event, you mentioned a game called Blade of God that you voiced the main voice for in English. Can you tell me a bit more about that? You seemed very excited about it during the event and wanted others to try it out.
Doug: Blade of God. Yes. It’s available on Steam now. I think I mentioned it during the stream because it was one of the only games I could mention dur to others still being covered by NDAs. But it is a fun game if you like those kinds of games. It has actually been out for a while now in the Chinese version. It was developed and published by Chinese companies and I was brought in to voice the main character for the English language. Go check it out if you want… crazy game!
Alicia: I’m not going to ask what your thoughts are on The Witcher Netflix series because you’ve probably have gotten that a lot. I think what I want to ask you regarding that is, how excited are you to start watching what they’ve done with it come December 20 th?
Doug: I’m really excited for the Netflix Witcher series. I’m so excited, I have to cross my legs not to pee in excitement. I’m thrilled. I’ve been following Lauren Hissrich’s tweets since she first announced that it was happening, that it was going to be made. I have a lot of faith in what she and her team want to do with it. As we all know, they are basing it on the books, not on the games, so it’s all going to be coming directly from the books and, as I understand it, they are being very loyal to the books. They’re trying to represent the story in the books as accurately as possible, not deviating in the same kind of way that CD Projekt did from some of the storylines in the books. And seeing the trailer and some of the pictures and everything else, it looks great. I’m not too bothered by the casting issues that some people are really upset about.
Alicia: Yeah, they seem to be taking it very personally for whatever reason.
Doug: Yeah, but I can understand because people love that world. It’s like Tolkien. When the Tolkien movies came out, there were people who didn’t like some of the casting and some other things because they read the books and they fell in love with these characters. And with the Witcher, there was the added complication of the games having done a really good job, actually, I thought, of creating the visual characters and the world. So I can understand their feelings, but I also go, “Come on. Let them do their thing. They’ve said they want to be true to the books, so let them try to do that.” So I’m excited. On December 20 th, I don’t know what time I’m going to get it over here in England, but I’m going to be there with my legs crossed.
Alicia: I don’t know if this is true or not, but are you going to be making any special cameos in any of the episodes?
Doug: No, I’ve not been involved at all in the Netflix series which is unfortunate because I would’ve liked to be. But I can also understand why they didn’t involve me because they’re trying to do their own thing. Maybe in their minds, bringing me in for a cameo or something is a bit too much of a nod towards the games.
Alicia: Maybe. I think it would have been a fun Easter Egg if you were just a person sitting off to the side eating something or just walking around the streets.
Doug: I’ve had a fun little DM’ing back and forth between me and Lauren, not all the time, just occasionally. But I did suggest to her at one point, I said, “Why don’t you bring me in as a really small [part], like a guy in the background in the crowd in every episode? It’ll be like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ but instead, it will be ‘Where’s Doug?’” She didn’t go for that idea, obviously.
Alicia: In all honesty, I was talking to my brother about talking to you and what was crazy was that I can’t believe I actually watched you in Reign of Fire when I was a kid and didn’t even realize that I was watching you and my brother was the one who showed that movie to me because I have a slight fetish with dragons. I think that was really cool to find that out. I think my question is, between live action acting, voice acting, and directing, do you prefer one over the other or do you love each one individually for their own unique characteristics?
Doug: I like it all for different reasons. I do love voice acting for games and part of the reason is because my physical appearance doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. So if I’m having the equivalent of a bad hair day, as long as my voice and my imagination are okay, then I can still do the work and enjoy it. I like television and film, as well, because it’s a different set of skills. It’s still acting, but it uses different slightly different muscles. It requires different technical considerations.
My love has always been live theater, though. That’s how I started acting. That’s what I grew up doing as a professional. There’s just something about that. You walk out on stage and there’s an audience there and this thing is happening now, so whatever happens, it’s happening and it’s being witnessed and there’s a real guttural thrill about it. It’s kind of like an extreme sport because I am jumping off of this bridge with a bungee rope tied around my ankles. Once you get past a certain point, it’s just gotta happen now because gravity is going to take over. So acting live on stage is a bit like that. You don’t have a second take, it’s happening now, and I’ve always loved that, the thrill of it.
Directing is a completely different thing and all of the directing I’ve done has been only in educational situations, directing university students, drama school students in plays that they’re doing as part of their training. But it’s still directing. I suppose it’s directing in a different kind of way in some ways because, while I always tried to be a director, I was always also a teacher. So it wasn’t just pure directing. There was always an element of these students are learning how to be directed and how to bring their own ideas to the table without arguing with the director or being obstinate about their own choices. There was always an element of helping students to develop their understanding of the actor and director relationship. That was always exciting because sometimes, students would come out with the most amazing work and there were a number of times, more than I can count realistically, when students who I’d not thought they were doing anything particularly exciting, suddenly, I see them do this work, whether I’m directing them or not, and I just go, “Wow! There you are! Now I see you!” And that’s an amazing moment. That’s an exciting part of directing, especially in an educational setting.
Alicia: That’s wonderful because they’re finally coming into their own.
Doug: Yeah, owning themselves, owning their own art and their own skills, their strengths and weaknesses, beginning to understand who they are as a professional. I am actually going back into teaching. I’m starting another teaching job after Christmas, so I’m going to go back into that world. I’m not leaving professional acting behind, it’s worth noting, but I started teaching at AUB in 2004 and I left in 2017, so all of the Witcher games were recorded while I was teaching full time. Those weren’t the only games I was recording, either. I was doing films and other things, as well. It’s important to keep your hand in what you do as a professional artist if you’re going to teach it. The deal I always have with institutions I work with is, “I’m going to keep doing this when I can. As long as it doesn’t affect the student experience, then I’m going to do it.”
Alicia: Is there anything else that you would like to add? Anything we didn’t talk about you would like to make a final comment about?
Doug: I think, if any of your blog readers have read the books, but haven’t tried the game, give the game a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And anybody who reads this blog and hasn’t read the books, you’re missing out, man. Go read those books, they’re really good. If you like any kind of fantasy, I’ve already mentioned The Name of the Wind, Fellowship of the Ring, The Dragon Riders of Pern, that’s another great series. So anybody who hasn’t read the Witcher books, go read Andrzej Sapkowski’s work. It is really excellent.