Martin Copping discussed providing Lucas Riggs’ voice in Call of Duty: Vanguard, the latest title in the hit first-person shooter franchise.
As well as his role in Call of Duty: Vanguard, actor Martin Copping has also appeared in NCIS, Hawaii Five-O and Zombie Hunter, the latter opposite Danny Trejo. Previous video game voiceover experience includes ‘Mozzie’ in Rainbow Six: Siege as well as ‘Sipes’ in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Read on below for Martin’s interview with Courageous Nerd or alternatively, listen to the audio version on our YouTube channel, which is linked below.
Welcome Martin and thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
Martin Copping (MC): Thank you Conor, it’s good to be here mate.
You provide the voice of ‘Lucas Riggs’ in Call of Duty: Vanguard. Was acting always the path you wanted to take or did you ever see yourself doing anything else?
MC: In terms of being a voice actor, it was never something I planned on doing or even thought about. It was more a by-product of when I was in drama school back in Australia, I started doing work for ABC Radio. [That’s] the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I did some poetry readings and radio plays. That moved more into commercial work and eventually ended up doing voice work in gaming.
I was mainly a Film, TV and Theatre actor up until… I still am, primarily. Luckily, I’ve kind of made that transition into gaming as well, which is a very exciting area to be working in, for me.
How would you set up the premise for Vanguard, for anyone who may be unfamiliar? What differentiates it from previous Call of Duty games?
MC: I haven’t played all of Call of Duty, but I worked on Infinite Warfare as well, which was a space take. Vanguard is set in World War 2. Essentially, it’s COD’s birth of Special Forces. They’ve assembled a team of experts in their own field to take on a deadly enemy during the World War 2 period.
The character I play, Lucas Riggs, is the explosives guy. You know, I used to fool around making mini matchbox bombs and stuff, as a kid. I had fun with that sort of stuff growing up, it was all very harmless. The character of Riggs is very interesting to me because of those reasons.
Like yourself, the character of Lucas Riggs is Australian. What does it mean for you to play someone from your own country in such an instrinsically American franchise?
MC: I’m really excited that the COD universe is broad enough that we can have an Aussie in it. Like I said, I haven’t played all of the other ones so I’m not really sure if there have been other Australian characters. I think there was a character called Wyatt that a friend of mine voiced, actually. It is exciting.
I’ve done quite a few movies, [such as] a World War 1 film where I played an Englishman and [the Vietnam War] where I played an American. It’s great to play someone from Australia. Obviously, people really honour and celebrate the ANZACs, which is basically the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. For me, it’s a real honour to represent them in such, like you said, such a big franchise.
Do you prefer playing Australian characters or masking your true self in character roles?
MC: For the majority of my career, when I was younger, I did a lot of character work. A lot of different accent work. I really, really enjoy losing myself in characters far removed from who I am and experimenting with accents. I think some people have a tendency or an ear where they can adapt to different accents. Luckily, I fall into that category.
I find when I’m doing Australian work that I can focus more on the physicality of the character. I won’t say not as much research into the vernacular that they use. It comes a little bit more naturally, so I probably spend more time on the psychology. If I’m doing accent work, I want it to be good, you know?
With the game being released on November 5, what are you most excited for players to experience?
MC: I’ve played the Campaign and a little bit of the Multiplayer. I’m about to delve into the Zombies area of the game. I’ve put a lot of research into the character I was portraying. I’m just excited for people to experience Riggs. He’s a really interesting, layered character. He’s exciting, explosive and the dialogue for Riggs is hilarious. There’s a lot of Australian colloquialisms.
Most of his dialogue is laced with an underlying sense of humour, which I think a lot of Australians have. I’m excited for people to get to experience that and spend some time with an Aussie. Generally, I think when you travel and bump into an Aussie, they’re a bit of fun.
As well as Vanguard, your other prior video game work includes Rainbow Six: Siege and a previous Call of Duty game, Infinite Warfare. Do you enjoy playing video games at all in your personal life?
MC: Growing up, I always played a lot of video games. The first thing I played was Pong on the Magnavox. You had to wire the unit into the back of your TV, twisting wires. It was so old; I think that came out in ’77. [My] Dad bought one of those and introduced me to gaming at a very early age. Then, I progressed to Super Nintendo and GameBoy. I did that for a long time, I was a PC Gamer.
Then, I went to drama school when I was fresh out of high school. Around that time, I was so focused on my Film and Television career. I would start feeling guilt for taking time off to play games. I was just really focused and always writing, trying to develop projects. Going out to audition and what have you.
Funnily enough, 3 or 4 years ago, my friend – the one who voices Wyatt. He’s a big gamer, he loved it and was like, “You’ve got to relax, mate. You’re always working so hard. There’s nothing wrong with having some fun and playing some games.” He was right, I went out and bought a Nintendo Switch. I got The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and got lost in it. After that, I fell in love with gaming again. I did the Rainbow Six game where I played another Aussie — Mozzie. Then I really started getting involved with it again and started streaming it on Twitch. Now, I play everything I can get my hands on. I’m back in the swing of things, you know?
Having worked on a number of video games, do you have a different appreciation for the realistic and lifelike graphics?
MC: [Games] have obviously come so far from when I was playing Pong with 2 paddles and a ball. Now, the cinematics are breathtaking. They’re almost beyond lifelike. I’m really excited for where gaming is going, the immersion you can have. I think the most exciting thing for me is… I’m a huge cinephile, [cinema] is a beautiful, immersive experience. It’s also very passive. You sit down and are a voyeur of these characters’ worlds.
Whereas gaming, it’s an active thing that you participate in. I think when the cinematics have got to the level where they are now, they just keep getting better. You feel like you’re there. To me, it’s such a gift. There’s a lot of people in the world who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to travel or see different parts of the world. If you can get in front of a console and a good enough screen, you can really go there and experience. We’re seeing it happen now with the Metaverse.
You can experience anything and I think that’s a beautiful thing. As long as, you know, you remember that we’re still in an actual world. It’s really cool. So, I’m really excited about where the graphics and immersion are headed. I think this game in particular, Vanguard, it is breathtaking. It’s so beautiful and I’m so impressed by what the team have done.
There are many differences between working on a video game compared to a Film, Television or Theatre project. Overall, what do you most enjoy about a video game’s unique production?
MC: Let’s just use Film as an example. Some of the areas where Film differs from performance in a game, such as performance capture…. More and more with Marvel and CGI-heavy games, you’re working a lot with green screens. For gaming, you’re working on what we call a Volume. It’s a big, heavy grid in the soundstage. The whole thing’s surrounded by a bunch of cameras. We’ve all seen them, but you’re wearing Mo-Cap suits, which are like wetsuits with silver balls all over them. These are reflective and become the camera.
Then, you have the dots all over your face and headgear with cameras to capture your facial performance. Physically, that in itself is a big difference to being in costume. For example, doing a war film. For the war movies I’ve done, you’re troping through the jungle wearing camo. You’ve got big, heavy guns and if it’s hot, it’s hot.
Whereas the Mo-Cap stuff, it’s a very controlled environment. You’re not worried about if it’s going to start raining or if you’re going to lose light. I find that removing the risk of the elements that negatively interfere with the shoot is definitely a benefit. It’s nice to know that you’re in a temperature-controlled environment. It’s not a long walk when you’re off the Volume to sit in a chair, relax and essentially be in a green room.
In terms of how it actually affects the performance? I think you just need to use your imagination a little bit more. If you’re in the jungle in a fight, for example, you legit feel like you’re there. One thing that surprised me about performance capture is with a little bit of imagination, you feel like you’re there. I think that’s why performance artists do what they do. They can get to that place in their own head and fully immerse themselves in it. There are some subtle differences but I think when it comes to the actual performance, you’re always having to convince yourself that it’s real and get immersed in the character/storyline.
As we look ahead to 2022, what are you most excited to accomplish in the coming months?
MC: Throughout COVID, I was building a little 2D platform game, which is almost finished. I’m really excited to play that, get it out and share it with people. It was a passion project and I don’t think it’s going to change the world of gaming. I’m quite proud that I went down that path. I also just finished production and post-production on my first feature film that I’ve written and directed. It’s been a long process and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out. We’re running festivals circuits at the moment and looking into sales and distribution, trying to make decisions on where to place it.
I’m looking at my next film, in pre-production on that and planning when to strike like the serpent. You know?
Thanks again for taking the time, Martin. Take care and stay safe!
MC: Thank you so much Conor, it’s been great talking to you.