Gaming

Anthony Skordi Interview: A Chat With ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’s’ Admiral Versio

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Star Wars Battlefront II has been an incredibly divisive game. Having launched last week, the game has already seen its micro-transaction system suspended amid gamer furor, and the “don’t buy it” campaign reportedly led to lower sales numbers than the previous game in the series. All of this is unfortunate, as this is a stellar game with a surprising campaign mode that tells a story that fits in nicely with the Star Wars mythos.

That story, which follows Iden Versio, an imperial special forces officer, who discovers the post-Emperor empire is not what she signed up for, has many twists and turns. One of the biggest is that Iden’s father, Admiral Garrick Versio, is now one of the leaders of the empire. And the father will do anything to ensure that the empire remains strong, even if it means crossing his own daughter.

Anthony Skordi Interview

 

We recently sat down with Anthony Skordi, the actor who brings Admiral Garrick Versio to life both in mo-cap and with his uniquely deep voice. Skordi is a veteran actor, having voiced other iconic game characters in franchises like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Hand of Fate series. He’s also worked on TV (Blacklist; The Last Ship) and film (Lucky Stiff; A Green Story), and is a classically trained performer.

I opened the interview by asking what is was like to play the newest “bad guy” in the Star Wars saga, and what it was like being in the same company as classic Star Wars villain actors Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), and even David Prowse and James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader. Anthony was very quick to correct me.

“I don’t play a bad guy, none of us play bad guys,” he said. “Just misunderstood guys. When you’re doing the work, it doesn’t occur to you. I think it’s going to hit me when I actually see the game. That’s when I’ll realize what kind of company I’m in. I mean, this is a game and not a movie, so there’s a difference there I guess.

“It’s tremendous; it’s fantastic,” he continues, explaining that the difference in production helps keep him separate from the classic villains. “Although one’s a game and you don’t realize it, as it’s a Star Wars game as opposed to working on a Star Wars set with all these icons. Though the guys I work with are tremendous actors, every one of them.”

But Admiral Versio does some pretty bad stuff in the campaign, I remind him. Villainous stuff.

“Well, yes. I had to do the same thing, just to teach everyone that the empire has to be beholden to laws and those laws have to be enforced.”

Anthony Skordi is a veteran of video game voices. I asked him if he actually ever plays the games that he’s in.

“Yes, I am a gamer,” he said proudly. “The game I’m playing right now is Hand of Fate 2 on my Playstation 4 Pro. I did Skyrim about three years ago I think.”

We discussed the biggest difference in working on a game than working on a movie set or stage.

“I tell you what,” he began, thinking for a second. “We have to hold poses at the beginning and the end of each scene, which means take position for the cameras to calibrate for them for reference. Another thing is that we’re not projecting as much. Were not playing to a massive audience, like a 1,500-seat auditorium, That’s a difference.”

In a huge project like Star Wars Battlefront II, where so many corporate hands are involved, how much was Anthony Skordi, the actor, allowed to bring to the character?

“I think that in the audition process, the director sees what you, as an actor, are going bring to it,” he said. “If he thinks he can work with it, then you end up booking the job or not. Each actor had a lot of input into his character. Tom Keegan, the director, was fantastic to work with. Mark Thompson was there as well, we had a lot of input as actors, I think. We all tried to make it work. We had a lot of help.

“I didn’t get to read the book, Inferno Squad. Some of the other guys I worked with on the project more than me were more involved with the book. I wasn’t even aware the book; it hadn’t been published yet, I don’t think, while I was working on the game. I had a layman’s view of Star Wars, and I’ve only now recently become a big fan of the franchise.”

Anthony Skordi Interview

The lead time for animated projects take years, starting with the voice work. I asked Anthony how long he’s been working on Star Wars Battlefront II.

“I started January the 10th (of 2017),” he revealed to my surprise. “I’m sure they’ve been working on a couple of years before I came on. The actors — its almost like a TV production — are the last people to come on board, actually, so all the hard work that goes on before people aren’t aware of because were the ones in front of the cameras, trying to get the accolades, if it were, but there’s been a lot of work being done prior to us getting a script. And of course all the work that has to be done afterwards on a game such as this.

“What we did was the motion capture, so we they were shooting us, we were being shot and our voice and image was being filmed and the banks of infra-red cameras around us were getting our physical movements, and there’s a camera on the rig that which is getting your eyes and in your mouth, and there’s a microphone on that too — on the rig.”

Anthony Skordi Interview

Admiral Garrick Versio is not a nice person. I asked Anthony how he got into a character like this, one who does some very bad things in the course of the story campaign.

“Firstly one has to like the character that one plays,” he began, “and one plays a character like that for one’s self. It’s kinda easy, I guess, finding justifications or something. Whether I would go through with that as me or not is a different situation, but my character actually goes through with it. When you’re a kid and somebody steals your Mars bar or Snickers bar from you, snatches it right of out your hand, your feelings of wanting to kill that person are major. We don’t do that because we have our filters; we have our morals.

“When you’re playing someone like Garrick Versio — Garrick Versio believes that what he’s doing is the right thing and the rebels are wrong. When you think of the term “rebels,” you think of someone that’s rebelling against the system, and kids rebel against their parents and usually their parents are right.

“I have to justify the character’s actions whether I like them or not.”

One of the unique perks of working in the Star Wars universe is the possibility of getting an action figure made of you. I asked Anthony if he would be like to have a figure of himself.

“I absolutely do,” he admitted. “I obviously want to be more involved in the Star Wars universe, especially with so many projects coming up. I’m just excited as a fan now and as an artist, as an actor, of course who wouldn’t want to have a doll of themselves as long as nobody sticks pins in it, I’m happy.”

EA has announced plans for future content for Star Wars Battlefront II. I asked Anthony if he knew if Admiral Versio would return to the story in the future.

“Even if I knew, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that,” he said, laughing. “There is stuff right now that’s gonna come out along with the movie, when the movie is released. As I’m sure you know.” He reflected back on the work he did on the game. “I’ve seen some of the cutscenes and those guys just blew me away. Paul (Blackthorne) and TJ (Ramini), and of course Janina (Gavankar), it goes without saying, Their performances are just like, wow, I was really impressed.”

Anthony Skordi Interview

I asked Anthony about how he gets to see his finished work. Does EA send him all of the cutscenes as a narrative or does he have to sit down and play the game.

“I have to play it too,” he said. “Although I’ve been watching stuff on YouTube and Twitch. I’ve been watching that and that’s how I’ve been able to see some of my colleagues performances. Through stuff that’s being posted on YouTube from early-release. But I have to play it. Some of the games — I didn’t have a platform until recently, so my nephew was getting all my stuff — I was giving it to him. And now I have my own platform, so I’m really excited. I’m in Hand of Fate and Hand of Fate 2, I’m the Dealer in that, and the first time that came out I was pissing myself off by listening to myself talk to myself, which is really weird. But in Hand of Fate 2, it’s not as bad, and I just want to get on with the game. I’m more of a gamer now than I was then.

“So yes, I have to play the game if I want to see my stuff. I actually stood in line to buy FIFA 18, so I don’t I have to stand in line to get this.”

With time running short, I asked Anthony about his future, and any projects he might want to discuss.

“Some of the stuff I can’t really talk about,” he said. “Some voice over work, and I’m the narrator of the John Sinclair plays out of Germany. I have a few projects lined up. I’ve got an animated movie coming out, called The Queen and her Corgis, where I play a corgi. It’s a 3D movie, but I don’t know when that’s gonna be released.”

Anthony Skordi does a wonderful job playing the role of villain in Star Wars Battlefront II, but in reality, he was an absolute pleasure to talk to and one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed. Check out Anthony’s work in the new Star Wars Battlefront II game, and keep your ears open for his distinct voice in his upcoming projects.

Star Wars Battlefront II is available now for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Hand of Fate 2 is also available. The Queen and her Corgis is still in production.

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