Fresh from playing “Sgt. Lawrence Sims” in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, actor Reggie Watkins tells us all about his experience working on the game and his wider career to date.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Reggie Watkins (RW): Thank you for having me man, I appreciate it.
Throughout your acting career, you have worked on a variety of projects. Who or what first inspired your decision to pursue acting professionally?
RW: I wanted to be Theo Huxtable. Are you familiar with the Huxtables? The Cosby Show… the name of The Cosby Show is not someone we really want to celebrate. But, the TV show he made was an inspiration to black family, black kids. Especially growing up at that time, I didn’t really see people who looked like me on TV. So, when I saw this black family and this black boy on TV, coming into people’s households every week like they came into mine, I wanted to do that. So, I wanted to be Theo Huxtable. That was the impetus for me getting started in an acting/showbusiness career.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, you provide the voice and likeness of ‘Sgt. Lawrence Sims’. When you were first cast as Sims, how was your process of figuring out how to play the character?
RW: When I got the role, after, I was screaming and overjoyed. The process was watching a lot of war films; Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket. I watched a lot of Army films and Military things, just to get my bearings on it and to how people would act – how they walk and talk. Then, I made sure not to watch any of the previous Call of Duty campaigns, or anything like that. I wanted to bring my authentic self to this character and not have an idea of how it’s supposed to be, or how it’s supposed to sound. I just wanted to do me, and I think I did that.
How different or similar is Sergeant Sims compared to other characters you have played?
RW: I’ve played soldiers, police officers and other things. Sergeant Sims is pretty much me. You know, he’s witty, sarcastic, funny, and about business. And also loyal. It was me, and they let me sound like myself, ad-lib a little bit, and bring my own essence to Sergeant Sims.
From starting work on Cold War to the released finished product in November, how long has this creative journey been for you?
RW: Wow. Well, we started working on that… May 2019 is when we started. Then we started doing full cast stuff around August 2019. Then it came out in November. So, it took a little over a year to get it done. Especially with the pandemic, it pushed it out a little bit further from what we were able to do.
For anyone who hasn’t played Cold War yet, what can you tease about the new game? What can fans of Call Duty expect?
RW: Just the best Campaign they’ve ever seen. Mainly, because I’m in it. It’s just a dope game. The gameplay’s amazing, the story – from what I’ve been reading, talking and hearing from people, they say this is the best Campaign that Call of Duty’s ever had. You could just expect a great story and great acting. Activision, Treyarch and Raven, they hired amazing actors – not just speaking on myself. Everybody else on this cast [are] fantastic actors. If you look them up, you can see all their other work.
Bruce Thomas is a phenomenal actor, Lily Cowles is an amazing actor. Damon Dayoub, amazing. Chris Payne Gilbert, Piotr Michael and Damon Allen, who does Woods. He’s new to the acting space, but all these people were just phenomenal actors, great characters and Call of Duty just hit this one out of the park. It was fantastic.
Aside from Cold War, you had a role in another video game: The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. What do you most enjoy/appreciate about video games as a medium to act in?
RW: I appreciate the dexterity of people’s voices more. With The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, I was literally in a booth for two days, screaming and dying. There was some character work I had to, some talking but I had to scream and die a lot. When you’re done, your voice is wrecked, you know? That’s just an appreciation I have for the people who do this job. It sounds like it’s easy, but you really work. It’s hard work and then you don’t get to speak for a couple of days. It’s a job and they’re to be respected, for real.
Before landing these video game roles, did you play many games yourself?
RW: I was never a first person shooter player. I’ve known Call of Duty my whole life. The last one I actually played was World War II (released in 2017). Before then, the only thing I really played was Madden. I used to be a huge John Madden Football fan. Literally, the game would come out and I’d disappear for weeks. I’d be home playing the game – friends and girlfriend don’t call me. Nobody, you know, unless somebody’s dying… do not call me or talk to me while I’m playing Madden, while I’m playing the game. Otherwise, I was never a big first person shooter player or gamer.
You have appeared on acclaimed series including This Is Us, Bosch, Justified, and The Rookie, among others. Out of all of your recurring/guest star roles, what did you take away from those experiences?
RW: You know, when you’re on those sets… I did This Is Us last year. Those guys, all those people, you can see why most of them are nominated for Emmys. You get to watch their stillness, their focus and their attention in the scene. You see them once they’re done with the scene, going back to talking sh*t, hanging out and being regular people. That’s something I was able to learn by watching Sterling Brown. Watching these guys move seamlessly through their work then just back to people enjoying life and the mundane that is life sometimes.
Then, you work with some celebrities. Timothy Olyphant is amazing, from Justified. He was so cool working on set, then we got to the wrap party for the season. He’s drinking with me, I’m hanging out with him and running around the party. That kind of stuff shows you when you get the chance to be #1 or #2 on a show, that’s how you treat everybody. It goes a long way.
If you had the necessary funds to put together your dream project, what would that look like?
RW: My dream project? It would be a television show, hour long dramedy. It would star all of my friends who I’ve hustled with since I got to this town. I’m not a big celebrity fan or anything like that. Put our shoes on one-at-a-time, like everybody else. I just want to work with my friends and make sure they’re all eating. That’s what I like to do. I’m in the midst right now of writing a pilot with my best friend. We’re trying to create projects that all of our friends can star in. We’ll call all the shots, hire everybody and produce it. Yeah, that’s my dream.
If anyone wanted to find out more about your work or you personally, where can they look?
RW: You can find me on Twitter, I’m really active on the socials. On Twitter, I’m @ReggieWatkinsJr. On Instagram, you can find me @coachwithreg. I talk back, I love to talk sh*t. I’m so appreciative of everybody who messages me because I’m living my dream, literally. This is what I’ve asked for. I’ve always wanted to make a living from acting and I’ve been doing that for almost a decade. I’m in this dope game, one of the biggest games ever in the world.
Fans talk to me all time, message and tweet me. I retweet and chat back whenever I have time. I just love it. So yeah, reach out, chat, let’s keep this thing going. I appreciate it.
Lastly, what goals have you set for yourself in 2021?
RW: In 2021, I want to be a series regular on a show. If it’s not the show that I produce, it’s a show that I audition for and get to be one of the stars of the cast. I can become a millionaire [laughs]. That’s really what I want to do, so I’m excited for that. I think it will happen this year.