Aidan Gillen is having quite a moment, both in the real world and the virtual. The Irish actor returns as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish for Season 6 of Game of Thrones, but fans can see his motion capture performance in Remedy Entertainment’s new video game, Quantum Break. Gillen voices Paul Serene, one of two playable characters in the Microsoft Xbox One game, which came out earlier this month. We sat down with Gillen to talk about VR’s impact on Hollywood and what it’s like going virtual in Quantum Break.
The Red Bulletin: A couple of years ago Oculus Rift released a Game of Thrones virtual reality experience called Ascend the Wall. Did you get a chance to try it?
Aidan Gillen: They had it set up at the Season 5 premiere in San Francisco. It was an earlier version and it was pretty stunning. I hadn’t used any kind of virtual reality rigs since the very early days, like the mid-80s. The headset actually looked similar to what Pierce Brosnan used in Lawnmower Man. But what you were looking at was completely different and extremely captivating and convincing.
At the premiere they had another VR experience where you could walk around an office with tiny little people carrying things and working at desks with typewriters. While I was in line for my turn, I could see people crawling around on the floor examining the carpet, and I was like, “What are they doing?” Then I tried it, and I found myself crawling around the floor. I was trying to get up really close to these little office drones.
Hollywood is now experimenting with filming 360-degree content. Do you think this is the future?
When I tried out Ascend the Wall at the Game of Thrones premiere, I did think this is part of the future. It’s very exciting to actually feel like you’re in the movie with VR, but I can’t see how it could work as a limitless open world. That VR office experience really surprised me. It felt very real walking around the room, but I wanted to interact with what I was experiencing. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be possible. I suppose something could happen around you that provokes emotions—like fear—that are hard to reach while sitting in a cinema. I got a real chill at one point during that experience.
What was your experience like working on Quantum Break?
It was my first time working on a game, and I really liked it. It’s essentially an acting job like any other acting job. You’re still pretending to be someone else in a make-believe situation and make-believe environments. It’s not a set or a theater stage, but a grid room. It’s about using your imagination and trying to make it real. Kevin Spacey actually did a very good interview about his work on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
What did he say?
He talked about how actors were concerned that these virtual avatars were going to take over their jobs—it was all going to be Polar Express and Beowulf—but, in fact, you always need actors. It takes longer for these productions to be made and there are actors acting out those roles, but Kevin saw it as a limitless world where you could bring your imagination to bare. There hasn’t been a huge addition of well-known actors in video games, but Ellen Page and Willem Defoe also worked on Beyond: Two Souls.
I haven’t played millions of games, but I really like Alan Wake and Max Payne, two other Remedy games. So when the call came for Quantum Break, I was intrigued and interested in a new discipline. The potential for games is interesting, but for me, I like working on camera and on stage. There are lots of different sides going on at the same time. It’s not like gaming is going to take over and knock the film and TV industries out of action.
Have you played Quantum Break yet?
I just got the game the other day, so I haven’t fully explored the finished product. But I’ve played through three-quarters of the first round. I’m intrigued with seeing where I’m going. I’ve been playing this other character, Jack Joyce, and I’ve been following my character, Paul Serene, around. I like checking out his clothes and his hair and reading emails. Quantum Break is also heavy on story, which I really like in the other games that I’ve played.
What else do you like about games?
Often when I play video games, I don’t always want to just shoot at people. I like getting on my horse in Red Dead Redemption, and I just ride around and look over a canyon. Or I like buzzing around on a BMX bike in Grand Theft Auto V. I don’t always want to be carjacking or hitting people with baseball bats.