Interviews

A dream come true — Actor Reggie Watkins on his role as Sgt. Lawrence Sims in Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

David Burdette: Hey everybody, I’m Dave, editor with Gaming Trend, and we have the amazing opportunity to get to talk with the incredible Mr. Reggie Watkins of Call Of Duty Black Ops Cold War fame. How are you today, sir?

Reggie Watkins: I’m fantastic David, how you doing man? Thank you for having me.

DB: Great. I’m doing great. Playing lots of Call Of Duty.

RW: Oh really?

DB: I may be stinking at it, but I’m playing lots of Call Of Duty.

RW: Hey man, you got to, if you fail at first, you keep trying until you succeed, right? So keep on playing, that’s the motto.

DB: Exactly exactly. Treyarch did an incredible job with this game. We ended up giving it a 90 out of 100. We loved it, they did a great job with it. So obviously you’re a part of that. So tell me, what was it like being one of only two people to have their likeness and voice featured in Cold War because you played Lawrence Sims, right?

RW: Yes. It’s a dream come true, Dave, can I call you Dave or David?

DB: Either one, go right ahead.

 

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - Interview - Reggie Watkins Lawrence Sims [Gaming Trend]

RW: It’s a dream come true, Dave. First let me also say Treyarch did an amazing job with this game, but Raven software is also the partner/team that made this game. They did a fantastic job. They were so, um, studious and courteous to all the actors. It was just amazing. But, dream come true to play Lawrence Sims. I’ve grown up playing video games, I started with Frogger, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and then the first person shooters. And I’ve always wanted to be in a video game. And now I am, literally my face, my likeness, my voice is in maybe one of the biggest video games of all time. And it’s, it’s a dream come true, man.

DB: Wow. That’s awesome. So obviously there’s a lot of different work that goes into that. People don’t realize, you know, it’s more than just stepping into a studio, getting your face scanned, and then just saying a couple of lines. This is straight up acting that’s going on. So did you get to put on the mo-cap suit and if you did, what was it like to do the capture?

RW: Uh, yeah, we did the whole mo-cap. I mean, you know, we put on the mo-cap and we do the scenes, so it’s basically like you’re watching a television show, but all the actors had on mo-cap suits. Right? So they get the best actors they can find. I mean, I don’t want to toot my own horn-

DB: If it’s true, it’s true.

RW: Hey man, the other people in this game were phenomenal. I mean, the guy who plays Adler is Bruce Thomas, Lily Cowles who plays Helen Park, Daymond Dayoub who plays Lazar, Chris Payne Gilbert plays Mason, Damon Allen plays, uh, Woods. Peter Michael plays Hudson. Like they get the best actors and then they put us in these suits and basically you have to step your game up to another, uh, to a different level, right? Because you know, you’re filming for a television show or movie, you got one camera, maybe three cameras if you’re doing a multicam show.

When you’re doing a video game, you have thousands of cameras catching every piece of action or movement you’re doing. You are never off ever. So you’re in character the entire time they’re shooting the scene until they call cut. So you’ve got to figure out how to immerse yourself and live in that world. You’ve got to remember continuity. When you’re walking, you got to remember how you walk, remember where you stepped, what hand did you use to pick up? I mean, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s just another muscle you gain working mo-cap, but it becomes easy when you’re working with professionals and great actors. And that’s what I was able to do this time.

DB: Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I’ve gotten to do a couple of, uh, listen ins on some of these panels and man, just what motion capture has become now, it’s an incredible thing. I mean, Kevin Spacey was in a Call Of Duty game.

RW: So was, Sam Worthington, I think he was Black Ops. Um, they’ve had big time people involved in these things and it’s crazy the evolution that has happened. I was in my first mo-cap ever doing work for NBA 2K.

DB: Oh, wow.

RW: This was years ago, probably 2000. I want to say like 2008 or 09 or something. When 2K was first coming out and, uh, if you ever played 2K and you ever dunked on somebody back in that day, I was the actor who was getting dunked on.

DB: Oh, no.

RW: So it’s come a long way. I’ve come a long way in the mo-cap space from getting dunked on to shooting M16s in Vietnam. You know what I mean? So I feel like I progressed.

DB: Wow. Awesome. So the obvious question here, and you’ve kind of said it a little bit. Are you a big Call Of Duty player or are you now that you’re in the game are you a big Call Of Duty player?

RW: Dave, the last Call Of Duty I played was World War II. I’m not a video game player anymore. I used to be a video game fanatic. I used to play Madden football. The game would come out and I would go missing for two weeks. I would literally be in my room playing Madden football, playing franchise mode with every team possible, going through the franchise, the drafts, the combine, all that stuff and you would not see me. But then as I grew older, my, I have a six-year-old son, my six-year-old son is a Call Of Duty fanatic, right? So he plays as me.

We still haven’t opened, Activision sent me a game, I haven’t opened it yet because I’m trying to figure out if I don’t want to just sign it and keep it in my, you know, on a mantle or, um, you know, if I want to let my son play, however, he has a grade that needs to come up one point before he can play video games again. So once that happens, we’ll bust it open and we’ll play a little Call Of Duty. He’ll school me, that’d be the first time he beats me at something besides, he beat me at Madden a couple of months ago.

DB: Yeah, there you go. So obviously it has to be something when you turn on Call Of Duty, or watch the commercials, whatever you do, but you look, you see Sims and like, how does that feel when you’re like, “You know, that’s me!”.

RW: It’s surreal man. Like there’s the Mountain Dew commercials out. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. Yeah. It’s me and one of the other operators, I think Garcia is his name. Mountain Dew called and said, “Hey, we have permission to use your character in our commercial and we’d love to have you come do the voice.” And I’m like, Oh my God, now I’m gonna be in the commercial too, and it’s me.

My family is like, in awe and you know, I got fans now messaging me and tweeting me and Instagram DMing and then sometimes they DM a little too much, but they still get involved. It’s dope. It’s dope to have people, you know, really want to be a fan of yours. And my mom thinks I’m a celebrity now, she’s always messaging me and calling me, “Yo, don’t get your head too big boy.” And I’m like, mom, still me. I still got to clean up and take out the garbage when I come home.

DB: Cool. No, I understand it has to be a surreal thing. So obviously with Sims, was there a created backstory for him that Treyarch gave you to study to bring that character to life or did you make up stuff to make the character more believable to you? Cause you talked a lot about that in the mo-cap with having to do things specifically. How did you do that with Sims?

RW: Uh, well, it was a little bit of both Dave. They gave me a backstory, right? He was born in 1942, um, Virginia to a military family. He joined the army and then in two years he was out of the army and he was in the CIA. And then he starts doing missions, you know, covert missions and he’s in Vietnam and that’s where he meets Adler and becomes a close cohort of Adler’s. Um, other than that, man, they let me do me, right?

When I talked to people about it, I didn’t watch any of the campaigns from previous Black Ops or Modern Warfare or any of the Call Of Dutys. I wanted to come into this and really bring “me” to this character. If it’s going to look like me, it’s going to sound like me, right? So what I did was just make sure I didn’t study any past things I wanted to come in and be authentic to myself and I just put the blinders on and made sure I didn’t fall into trying to sound or put on a voice that game people would want to hear. Cause you don’t know if people want to hear your voice until you do your voice and they say, “ah, that’s cool”, or, “Oh, we liked that”. So why not just give them you and then let them be the judges of it. So I went into it just being myself, adding little things.

You know, I watched a bunch of old war movies and Vietnam movies. And I talked to Vietnam vets, you know, black Vietnam vets, which is important. And I’m glad that they put this in here because a lot of times you don’t get to see the black Vietnam experience. So it’s dope for those guys or anybody that plays Call Of Duty to be able to see, you know, a black soldier who was in Vietnam in a prominent way. So I just wanted to bring some authenticity to it and just a person who sounds like someone who’s relatable. And that’s what I tried to be in my daily life.

DB: Well, that’s awesome. So, Lawrence Sims is Reggie Watkins, that’s essentially who it is?

RW: Basically! I mean, basically I talked like, this is how I talk. It’s how I talk in the game. You know, I’m laughing, I’m wise cracking, I’m sarcastic, I’m a know-it-all. That’s real life, ask my wife.

DB: Uh, I was about to say the same thing.

So obviously you said that you didn’t go back and play like those games or whatnot with Call Of Duty. Um, but you did say that you did watch some of the Vietnam movies and stuff. So what movies did you watch to prepare yourself for the role? Like I said, I know you didn’t do a lot of it, but what did you do to help get into that role?

RW: Well, you know, you watch, The Deer Hunter. And I mean, there’s, there’s some, some great scenes in that. Um and also, Oh man, what was the, uh, lilies? I think it’s called Lilies Of The Field. I want to say Lilies Of The Field, a really, really great movie. Um, Dead Presidents. You know what I’m saying? A Soldier’s Story, just stuff, you know, Dead Presidents is Vietnam. Um, Deer Hunters is Vietnam, but you know, A Soldier’s Story is an old soldier movie, but it’s about black soldiers, just so you can get the embodiment of it and see how they, how they carry themselves, how they felt about the world. Um, and then you just watch a bunch of documentaries. I watched a Vietnam documentary. Um, I watched two of them over the past year and a half just because it was so fascinating. So you just kind of immerse yourself in it and just see, see what it is. And those gave me some inspiration.

DB: Awesome. Awesome. So, do you have any secrets or anything from behind the scenes of the game that you might want to share? I mean, there’s a lot of cool stuff, probably that happens behind the scenes.

RW: Uh, you trying to get me fired David, you know what I mean? I did not die in the campaign. If you play the campaigns, I don’t want to die in an update. There’s no real secrets, you know, it was just good times man. Like cool stuff that happened. Like, you know, Raven flew us out to Wisconsin for a week to do weapons training and just mo-cap training. And, um, I’m there with the other cast mates. I’m there with Adler and Woods and um, and Lazar, and we just bonded, you know, we had hotel rooms next to each other, we ate every meal together, every breakfast, every lunch. Hung out, went out on the town together.

We ate trunk cheese, like Woods, Daymond Allen bought cheese out of some guy’s trunk. We’re walking into some bar and we’re all sitting down having a drink. All of a sudden he comes in with a bag of cheese. So we sat there and we drank beer, ate cheese and food, and just had a great time, man. That was the best stuff and, um, yeah, no real secrets. Just, just cool people and great times.

DB: That sounds about like a stereotypical Wisconsin hang out right there. Beer and cheese.

So a gaming question in general, obviously you already kind of said your first game was Frogger. Uh, So first gaming system? And then what, what would your favorite game be? I know Black Ops has to be up there at this point.

RW: Oh, well, yeah. Black Ops Cold War is my favorite game of all time. Coming in a close second would have to be Frogger. I remember when I first got an Atari, like our minds were blown. I can’t even imagine people playing what was that? The, uh, The Commodore or wherever the first gaming system was. But when I got into Atari, I remember sitting in my grandma’s house with my Atari, listening to Run DMC cassette tapes and playing Frogger, like literally, you know, trying to get across the street. And the memories and the nostalgia with it is phenomenal.

And then right behind that, I have to say, Mike, Tyson’s Punch Out. I mean, Piston Honda, Glass Joe, uh, Don Flamenco, like King Hippo. I mean, yeah, it’s iconic man. Soda Popinski, like there’s just so many people and then you get to Mike Tyson and I still have never beaten Mike Tyson, still. I know I still haven’t beaten Mike Tyson. I met Mike Tyson one time, crazy, crazy story segue.

Um, I met Mike Tyson, didn’t really meet him though. It was more like I stayed away from Mike Tyson. So I was at a club in Hollywood and I’m there and I’m dancing with this girl on the floor and all of a sudden, Mike Tyson walks into the club. Right. And it’s just a weird moment when Mike walks in, cause this is right when Mike Tyson got the tattoo on the face. So everybody was like, we don’t know if Mike is out there or if Mike is cool, but what we knew we did not want to do was accidentally bump into Mike Tyson. So everybody’s dancing, and you have never seen more stiff dancers, than everybody right then. It was the funniest thing. Me and my boys all clammed up and we’re dancing like this around Mike Tyson, just afraid of bumping into him and getting knocked out best, best Mike Tyson story I can ever remember.

DB: Oh man. Yeah, we, we didn’t need Lawrence Sims looking like Vincent van Gogh.

Well, from one sports thing to another, I can see that you’re a pretty big football fan from just different things that we’ve looked up, you even have a podcast called “Brothas On Football”. Is that right? Yeah. Tell us about that.

RW: It’s on hiatus right now. It’s called Brothas On Football and it was a podcast with three other black men and we just talked about football from a black man’s point of view, you know, everybody can listen to the show. But what we talked about were things that mattered to the black community in football, like the amount of black coaches in the NFL, you know, black ownership in the NFL.

Currently right now I’m not watching the NFL because I don’t watch the NFL when I don’t get paid for it. Because of the Colin Kaepernick situation, I really feel like he’s gotten a raw deal from the NFL and until he gets an apology or a real chance to play on a team, I won’t watch, unless somebody pays me to come talk about football, then I’ll be back.

But I know the game, I still follow, I know what’s going on. And I know the 49ers need a quarterback right now. I know that Patrick Mahomes is probably the greatest quarterback ever seen in my life.

DB: He’s pretty ridiculous that’s for sure.

RW: Before him I thought it was Aaron Rodgers, and here’s the thing I think Tom Brady is the most accomplished quarterback of all time.

DB: I say that all the time.

RW: Before him, I’d say Joe Montana is the most accomplished quarterback of all time. But if I had one season, one game, and one quarterback, the best quarterback, for my money, the best I’ve ever seen is Patrick Mahomes, before him was Aaron Rodgers before him, 2012 Michael Vick season with the Philadelphia Eagles, and before that was Steve Young in 1998, like these guys were the epitome. They did everything, they could run, they could pass and you were at their mercy. So those are the best, but the greatest all the time, I’ll give Tom Brady the greatest because of the accomplishments.

Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War - First Mission in 4K on PlayStation 5 [Gaming Trend]

DB: Understandable. So obviously you’re a fan of Madden. So what’s your favorite football team?

RW: 49ers. I’m from the Bay area, 49ers were always my squad. I’m a Steve Young fan over Montana. I love Montana, but Steve Young was my favorite quarterback of pretty much all the time.

If I had to be a fan of a quarterback, Steve Young is my guy. Um, So, yeah, I grew up with the 49ers and, you know, we just won a lot of Superbowls when I was growing up. So it was cool, you know, um, we won like four in my childhood and then we won our fifth one when I was in high school. And, um, and then we’ve been back a couple of times and not been able to get over the hump, but, you know, hey, we’re relevant.

DB: Hey, I appreciate someone who will stick with their team through thick and thin-

RW: Uh, no, no, no. If the Niners were consistently terrible, if the Niners turned into the Browns, I would not stay with that team. After a decade of sucking I’d be on to something else.

DB: That’s just poor management.

So we are running out of time. But before we head out, I do want to touch on your outreach projects, like your recent nonprofit, the Valley For Change. Can you tell us more about that and how others can be involved?

RW: Well, thank you so much for bringing that up, Dave, it’s the Valley Of Change. We’re a nonprofit organization that sprang up during the civil unrest in the country that surrounded the George Floyd murder and the subsequent Breonna Taylor murder. Um, I wanted to get involved in some activism. I’ve always been an activist, um, you know, political, you know, enthusiast, but when this happened, I really wanted to get involved in protesting and letting my voice be heard and kind of getting the change, sparking change in my city. Um, but we were in a pandemic, so I didn’t want to get out and protest with mass amounts of people, cause I didn’t know how things were going and what the reaction would be. And then I saw, you know, the cops were out getting violent with people in my city and I don’t want my son to come out there and witness that.

So we heard some people in our neighborhood were standing up with some protest signs on a corner, in a busy corner in LA. And so I went down there and brought my son and um, we made some signs and as we were walking down with the signs people are honking and it’s making my son start asking questions about racism and how we change it, and what can we do about it.

And, you know, he’s 16. He doesn’t talk to me about anything, right. He doesn’t really, he’s really reserved, but for him to speak out about this, it really inspired me to want to get more involved. So when we got down there, uh, I started talking to people there, you know, everybody was out there spread out and I just went and started doing what I do. I just talked to everybody, It’s just who I am. So I started talking to everybody, meeting people, and then I met Latora Green, who is my co-founder and we started talking about a nonprofit.

Then one of my best friends came up and she was like, you should call it the Valley Of Change because we’re in the valley and you guys want change. I said, damn that’s a dope name. And then we met, uh, Kyla Garcia and her husband, Brett Patrick. And they started handling our social media and our website. And now we’ve got almost 7,000 Instagram followers. We’re getting donations. We fed the homeless for the fifth time this past Thanksgiving, we’ve helped get people elected, you know, in our local elections.

We’re trying to keep people involved in local politics, and we’re just trying to be the change we’re trying to help change. Uh, the way government spends money, the budget and, um, you know, policing and police brutality. We just want equality for all, and we want a better America. And so we’re going to be the change by doing something every day.

DB: It’s just great to see people standing up for what they believe in. I’m glad to see that. Well, I guess, I guess we’re out of time now.

RW: Damn it man, it was getting so good. We had a good time!

DB: Especially out of time, cause I’m pretty sure my squad will be on for Call Of Duty soon.

RW: Okay, there you go. Hey, you gotta be playing the Sims.

DB: Treyarch, They got to fix this cause I’m terrible apparently at eliminating the scorestreaks. So I’m still working on earning him, but I promise you the second I get Sims, that’s all I’m running. My father, actually, he plays the game with us, he’s running Sims and he’s running Sims permanently himself. So hey, we might not be great, but you’ve got this squad running Sims.

RW: Papa Burdette. I love you. I appreciate you. Hey, don’t be getting me killed, alright?

DB: We’re trying our best. We’re at least avenging you when we do.

RW: I appreciate it.

DB: Alright, everyone. Well, thanks again, Reggie. It’s been a pleasure getting to talk to you, getting to know you a little bit and hopefully we’ll get to see a little bit more of you. We like seeing you in Call Of Duty and I’d love to see you in some other stuff.

RW: Yeah. Appreciate you Dave, Gaming Trend, Papa Burdette, thank you all so much. Appreciate you. Stay up, be the change, do something every day.

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