From a peace-loving, humble Hobbit to a Nazi war criminal, Dominic Monaghan embraces a new role.
By Eddie Makuch on November 2, 2021 at 12: 23PM PDT
Actor Dominic Monaghan has serious range. As the humble, good-hearted Hobbit Merry, one of the Fellowship’s nine member, he was a star in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. His next role is the sadistic Nazi officer Jannick Richter in Sledgehammer’s Call of Duty: Vanguard, which releases this Friday, November 5. Monaghan spoke to GameSpot about how preparations for characters like Richter and Merry are not that different.
As an actor, Monaghan said his job is to find the justification for his character’s behavior, and then bring that to life. Merry, from The Lord of the Rings might be easier for viewers to relate to than a simple, country-loving Hobbit. Monaghan taps into a truth that lies at the core of every character.
“Obviously Merry’s motivation to do things might be a little easier to understand. He is trying to help his friends. He wants to live. He’ll fight for the good guys. Monaghan stated that the Call of Duty character I play, I am sure, thinks he is fighting for the good guys.”
Monaghan said he couldn’t give away too many specifics about his Vanguard character to avoid spoilers, but he said Richter is “paranoid” and fearful about how the war is going. We have seen Richter only in a campaign trailer, where he tortures someone. This is the scene Monaghan first saw when he got his script.
“There is a speech in which I talk about how much I admire Hitler and what Hitler has done for Germany, and who he is as a person, and what I’ve learned from him,” Monaghan said. Monaghan said, “And that was something that I found interesting. It shows that people can be viewed from different perspectives. It is obvious that people felt that way about characters like this. Can I make this believable? Can you make it real? [The teams at Activision and Sledgehammer] I was impressed by the writing and producing team behind it. They impressed on my that there wouldn’t really be many bad guys but there would be many allies. So, I was part of a small team trying to be the voice for the evil Nazi party. It seemed like an exciting, fun, and flashy role. “
Also in the interview, Monaghan confirmed that he didn’t initially know that the job was for Call of Duty. Monaghan was told that the job was for Call of Duty, which is not unusual. This was good news, as Monaghan is a big fan of the series and is well-versed in it.
“I could tell based on the pages and the scope of the project that it was obviously a big game. As we got closer and closer to speaking with the producers and writers, they confirmed that it was Call of Duty. He said that it was exciting because he plays Call of Duty and knows the game well. They put together the team from that point. They wanted people of different sizes and origins, a diverse group to work with them. That team was a great group of people, and I was glad to be a part of it. “
The full interview follows below, in which Monaghan also talks about the motion-capture process and how it felt like performing a stage play. He also reveals which movies he watched to prepare for the role, and he shares his thoughts on the upcoming 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings.
Call of Duty: Vanguard launches on November 5 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. For more, check out GameSpot’s Call of Duty: Vanguard preorder guide.
What can you say about your character in Vanguard? What is his story?
There’s a lot that goes on in the game that involves my character. Some of those moments might be a bit spoilerific so I won’t want to give too much information without allowing people to experience the game. However, I am a German officer and find myself at an interesting moment in the history the Second World War. They think they may win it. But they quickly discover that not all of the news is true and they could be in a position they didn’t expect.
“He’s a sadistic, very enjoyable-to-watch guy. Because he does big, bombastic swings.” — Dominic Monaghan on his Vanguard character, Jannick Richter
The guy that I play is quite invested in the victory of the German Nazi party, and he’s quite paranoid, and quite scared, quite fearful. He would probably have died in wartime, but he has found himself in a somewhat high-ranking position as an officer and enjoys torturing others. It’s a lot of fun. He is a very entertaining and sadistic guy. Because he does big, bombastic swings.
In Lord of the Rings, you play one of the nicest, most good-hearted people in Merry. In Call of Duty, however, you play a very evil character. What is your story about why you were drawn to this role?
You always have to approach it the same way, you have to try and find the justification for their behavior. The reasons they did it. People in the first person tend to believe that what they do is right, fair and reasonable. It’s okay to do so. This is why I approach the characters differently. It might be easier to understand Merry’s motivation to do certain things. He wants to help his friends. He wants to live. He’ll fight for the good guys. He may think he is fighting for the good guys, as I am certain of the Call of Duty character. He may think he is doing the right thing. I try to understand my characters and try to make sense of them.
And then in terms of the process of getting the job. The project was sent to me by my agents. It was clearly a different project at the time. They are reluctant to announce a new Call of Duty title. Based on the scope and pages of the project, I could tell it was a large game. As we talked to writers and producers more closely, they confirmed that it was Call of Duty. This is exciting, as I am a Call of Duty player and have a good knowledge of the game. They put together the team from that point. They wanted people of different sizes and from different countries. It was a great experience, to say the least. That team was a great group.
Is there something that jumped off the page in what you saw in those original pitches for the game that made you want to get involved?
I read kind of a big scene for the character they wanted me to play in which I am kind of trying to get information out of a prisoner. Before I get into the torture of that prisoner, I give a speech about how much Hitler inspires me and what he has done for Germany. It was interesting to me that people can be viewed from different perspectives.
And obviously there must have been people feeling that way about a character like that. Is that possible? Is that possible? I was impressed by the writing and production team behind it. They convinced me that there wouldn’t really be many bad guys but there would be many allies. I was part of a small team trying to voice the evil Nazi party. It seemed like an exciting, fun, and flashy role.
Is there anything kind of different prep you had to do given Vanguard is a period game?
I certainly watched some German-based stuff, and war-based stuff. To feel the impact of Nazi officers throughout history, I watched The Pianist and Schindler’s List very closely together. World of War is a documentary. The idea of having a very clear voice for the character I play was something I came up with. My voice evolved into something very specific. I used to whisper a lot, but my pronunciation was very different from mine. This seemed to be a way to get into the character. They are likely to be very particular about how they talk. How they dress. How they act. That seemed to be a relief.
“I initially was quite trepidatious about how I feel about it. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience that I have come to love. It’s like performing a play. — Dominic Monaghan on the motion-capture process for Vanguard
I saw on Instagram you posted a photo of wearing the Vanguard mo-cap suit. How was it for you?
It’s pretty tight, skin tight, so you have to let go of a lot of your dignity. It’s almost like wearing a wetsuit. It is very skin-tight. It has a lot of little bobbly bits all over it. You can also easily velcro it to one arm. There were moments like these. It is strange. It’s strange. I am used to doing the makeup, hair, costume and props. . doesn’t allow that. You get dressed in your suit and walk to the center of the stage. Then you do a little tee-pose and then you dance. This dance is to ensure that your joints are working properly. You get going.
It’s a little bit like doing a play where everyone rehearses, rehearses, rehearses, and once everyone thinks they’ve got it, then they say, “OK, we’re going to go for a take.” If you do it correctly, that’s it. That’s it. This is a completely different experience than being on a TV or movie set. I was initially a little nervous about how it would feel. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience that I have come to love. It’s like playing a game.
You’ve been involved in games for a long time with XCOM and Quantum Break. Talk about working on a very effects-heavy movie such as Lord of the Rings, and then a game such as Call of Duty.
You have to use your imagination. Many of the things you expect to be there are not. Videogame world is a great example of this. All the chairs and tables are covered with blue cloths because they are constantly changing them. Props are often not what they seem to be. Everything is covered with dots. Your imagination may be stronger in videogames than in movies. They try their best in movies. One set might have three quarters, and one quarter is yours. Or you might only see the head of a dragon, but not the body. You have to work out how to get it.
But that’s your job as an actor. It’s your job as an actor to make it happen. These are the challenges that I find most inspiring. Your imagination is the biggest challenge. What are your skills at creating something that isn’t real? That’s my job as an actor.
You’ve been invested in gaming for a long time, whether it’s the jobs you take or just your passion for the medium in general. Are you a gamer? Do you have any ideas about the future of gaming?
I am definitely interested in working on video games and I think they’re really fun, I think there is a great future in them. It is clearly a highly influential medium. There has been a lot of money and success in the medium. This has resulted in a lot of financial and commercial gains, as well as critical gains. It’s a medium that I believe is going from strength-to-strength. My 6-year-old nephew is my brother’s son, but his father–my brother-in-law–doesn’t play much. He doesn’t have the time [now]. to play as much as we used to, even though we did it when we were children. My brother just said, “That’s great!” I know it’s not something you like, but just in case, for the next three to four years your son will be spending a lot of time playing video games. You’ll be missing out if you don’t play them.
“I am definitely interested in working on video games and I think they’re really fun, I think there is a great future in them. It is clearly a very influential medium.” — Dominic Monaghan
If you look at something like FIFA or Call of Duty, in the not-too-distant future, instead of looking at a screen and holding a controller, you probably put on a rig and you go into those worlds. Maybe you have a pack that allows you to feel some compression on your shoulder, or anywhere else you were shot. You feel more immersed, and the online communities become stronger. Even if you don’t play League of Legends, or Call of Duty, it’s possible to check in with the online community to see what other people are doing, say hello, and send messages.
So it’s just growing and growing, and I’m excited. It’s 2021 now, so in 2011, the games were like OK, great, but we didn’t realize it was going to go this far in 10 years. So by the time we get to 2031, I’m sure it will be extraordinary.
Lord of the Rings is celebrating 20 years this year. Did you think about it? Do you think about it less?
I don’t think about it that much. It’s not healthy for me to dwell on it too much. It was obvious that I loved the experience of working on the project. This experience has influenced large parts of my daily life. But I’ve not seen Lord of the Rings for probably a good 15 years or so, and I’m not sure when I would or what the reason behind watching it would be. It’s crazy to be involved with something that’s 20 years old. It ages you and freaks you out. It’s amazing.
As an actor, you should be so lucky to be involved in one project in your entire career that hits, let alone being involved in a trilogy that became a cultural icon of movie history in so many ways. It’s something that I am constantly reminded of. It’s clear that I still have great friendships with many of the men involved. It’s great. It’s great to make a film I’m proud of. One that I believe is great and will stand the test of time. It’s a film that everyone can enjoy in many ways. It’s not for me. It was a film that I saw. It was a great experience. It was amazing. Now the audience can breathe their life into it.
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