Few videogame characters have made as much of an impact in as little time as Resident Evil Village's Lady Dimitrescu, the internet's favourite tall vampire lady. While her striking appearance is a big part of her appeal, I was also captivated by actor Maggie Robertson's performance. She brings the terrifying, troubled character to life brilliantly. And so I sat down with her to talk about her career in acting, landing the role of Lady D, and how the character's popularity has affected her life.
PC Gamer: Did you always want to be an actor?
Maggie Robertson: I started off as a singer. I was in music first. I did some classical training for singing, and all of the high school, state, and district choirs. Then I was the musical director of my collegiate a cappella group, which was super fun. I actually wasn't that into acting growing up. I didn't like drama. I thought it was scary and intimidating and I wanted no part of it. I didn't really enjoy being in the spotlight either. I liked singing in choirs and larger groups, where I could blend in and be part of a collective. So irony of all ironies, I'm now an actor and I've landed this huge role that has thrust me into the spotlight in every way!
How did you make the transition from music to acting?
It's a really stereotypical acting story. A friend of mine wanted to audition for the school play, but didn't want to audition alone. So she asked me to do it with her as a favour, and I was like, "Ugh! Fine, I'll do it for you, but I don't wanna be in this play." Then I get cast and she does not. Womp womp! But I really owe her a lot, because if it wasn't for her I would never have fallen in love with theatre, and I would never have found the sense of community and love I did there.
After that, I did all of the high school theatre stuff, then got a degree in theatre from Muhlenberg College. They have a really great BA program for theatre. I didn't want to do a conservatory style program, because I had so many different interests. Theatre was one of them, but I didn't want to limit myself. As an actor it's important that you're smart and you know a lot of different things, because you pull from life in order to be an artist. I had to be able to think critically and have interests beyond just this one specific artform.
Where did you do your classical training?
I moved back home to the DC area and did some regional theatre, but also worked some normal people jobs along the way. So I was kinda halfway in and halfway out of acting for a while. But then I decided that I had to shake things up. It wasn't making me happy. I applied to grad school and did my masters in classical acting over at LAMDA (the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) in England. That was a total dream come true. I loved my training there. The teachers are amazing. It really boosted me as an artist. I grew so much. And a lot of the training I did at LAMDA is what I used to prepare for the role of Lady Dimitrescu.
What was your early career as an actor like?
There's a real hustle culture in acting. You feel like you're always behind and you always have to be productive and keep moving forward. You're always feeling dissatisfied with where you are. You wanna be further along and you're always judging yourself for not having achieved your dream already. I was beating myself up about being halfway in and out of acting, but really, if I hadn't done all of that work, I'd never have been ready to step into this opportunity with Resident Evil.
When you were coming up in the theatre world, did anyone ever tell you that videogames might be a valid career path?
Of course not! I don't even think I was paying much attention to videogames until I moved to Los Angeles. That's one of the great things about LA: The industry is so huge here, you have access to so many opportunities. There are a lot more ways to be an actor than there are elsewhere. And my exposure to acting had primarily just been theatre, so I had no idea about voiceover work or videogames. They weren't on my radar at all until I moved out here.
What was it like going from classical theatre acting to something as different as a videogame?
It's outside of it, but I think it pulls in a lot of similar things. Shakespeare, he's so heightened, and he's working in these really heightened worlds where the stakes are so high and the language is so luxurious. And sci-fi and fantasy realms operate in a similar space. You have these life and death circumstances. Lady D feels very Shakespearean to me, with her use of language. The writers had a lot of fun with the way she speaks. Capcom did such a great job. So for me, it didn't feel too far off, and it actually felt very familiar pretty much instantly.
How did you land the role of Lady Dimitrescu?
It's bonkers. I do think it was luck that I found this audition. Not luck that I booked the job, because that was a product of preparation and hard work. But I had just moved to LA and was unrepresented. I decided to submit myself to this audition, which was pretty unusual for projects of this magnitude. And I kinda submitted it on a whim, as an afterthought. Voice work wasn't really on my radar, and I was like, "Might as well, why not?"
But it wasn't until I got to the table read that I realised what I'd actually booked. I walked in, and there was just this energy in the air. The excitement was really palpable. People were whispering excitedly to each other in corners, and I overheard someone say something along the lines of, "Oh, I'm so excited. I can't believe I'm a part of this franchise. It's a dream come true."
It was then that I started to clue in and I was like: "I think I might have just booked something really big!" I went home and furiously researched it and figured out what game I was in, and that was a big moment. I had to sit back in my chair for a moment and process it.
This was your first time doing performance capture. What was that experience like coming from the theatre?
I think my classical acting background made me uniquely primed to step into this role. Performance capture is a blend between being on stage and being on camera. You're in this volume, this large space, and you have to rely on your imagination to endow the world and the things around you, and make them feel physically real. You have to tell a very physical story, and you can't rely on props or costumes to do the work for you. It has to be through your imagination.
Theatrically, that's very similar to the work we do in black box theatre, so I was very comfortable there. And that's the fun part. It's the root of what gets everyone into acting in the first place. It's just playing. It goes back to being a kid and using your imagination to create these fabulous worlds. That feels like it gets at the real core of why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. Then you have the really technical side, which is similar to being on camera, where specificity is important and you really have to hit your marks.
There was something about it all that just instantly clicked with me. It all made sense, and it felt right that I was blending these two worlds together. It was brand new and overwhelming for me in many ways. I was trying to be a sponge and absorb all this new information. But at the same time, it really felt familiar in a lot of ways. Something really clicked on this production. I felt like, "This is what I really need to be doing!"
What kind of direction were you given in the studio?
In the performance capture studio they taped a weird half-hat thing to my helmet, and despite it looking interesting, it was actually really helpful to me as an actor. I got a sense of where Lady D's hat would sit, and I played with the idea of her looking up at people under the brim. And the hat kind of curves as well, so I incorporated that into her physical movement. Nothing ever happens in a straight line when she moves. If she's gonna look to the side, she's gonna wind her way there. Everything is very indirect and curvy about her movements.
She's graceful and elegant, but when she grabs that desk and throws it across the room, you realise just how strong she is...
I love that duality about her! You're right, she is graceful, she's elegant. Regal, and very composed. But underneath it all, I think she's very emotional. She's driven by her emotions, but she usually keeps a lid on it. She's concerned about appearance and presentation, but it's really bubbling and boiling underneath. And when she's able to just release it, it's really powerful and really aggressive, because it's been there the whole time.
What about the voice? Where did that come from?
The voice is pretty much what I came into the audition with. It's a kind of mid-Atlantic thing, where she's neither American nor English. She can float between worlds a bit. Some of the vowels and things that I say are a bit more English, which gives her this very arch quality. It feels right because she's very regal and considers herself to be above everyone else, and not just literally.
We learn a little about Lady Dimitrescu's past, but not much. Did you create your own head-canon or backstory to help you play her?
That's a technique a lot of actors use, but I didn't feel like it was necessary for me. Instead, I wanted to have a very clear idea of my relationship with the other characters I was interacting with, or even objects in the space. I wanted to know how I felt about them. So I didn't need to know about her backstory, about the blood disease thing. But I did really need to know how I felt about Heisenberg or how I felt about Mother Miranda, and what that relationship was. I worked to define that aspect of the character, but not necessarily all the fine print details you find out about in the game. And honestly, I didn't know about a lot of that stuff anyway.
Resident Evil Village has a really wild, weird ensemble cast. What was it like working with that group?
Acting is reacting, and it's so fun when you have a full cast of people around you that you can play off. You really start to discover new things that you can't when you're just acting in a void by yourself. It's always such a joy, and such a gift, when you can all be together in a room. That meeting was one of the first things I filmed in the performance capture volume, so it was great meeting everyone for the first time. But my god, the whole cast and crew, everyone at Capcom ... they've been so welcoming and generous to me.
That's one of the things I love about the voiceover community, and the performance capture community. I've never met a more generous and giving group of people in my life. Not only did I find the thing I wanted to be doing, but I found the people I want to do it with! Everyone I've met is so nice. This is where I wanna be. Period!
Your first role in videogames, and it's one of the biggest franchises in the world. Did you feel any pressure?
What a way to come into the industry! There was certainly pressure. I'm not a gamer myself, but even the likes of I knew what Resident Evil was. I'd heard of it, so I knew it was gonna be a big deal. But I could never have expected it was gonna turn out as big as it did. That was a real shock to me. There were a lot of new things I was taking in and processing all at once, so the stakes were high going into it. I thought "I hope you can level up and pull this off." And hopefully I did! Mostly I just had fun. It was an absolute blast.
When Lady Dimitrescu was first revealed, fans pretty much instantly went wild for her. How did it feel being a part of that?
So weird, man! Especially because I was still under NDA and I couldn't say anything to anybody. I was just creepily lurking in the shadows of the interweb watching it all unfold. It was very, very bizarre. But Nicole Tompkins, who plays one of my daughters in the game, was the first person to text me and say, "By the way, you're blowing up." So I was very grateful to have members of the cast and crew I could text. They were my confidantes, and they were the people I relied on to be like "Oh my god, what's happening?" It was wild.
How was seeing the finished game in action compared to what you imagined it would be like in the studio?
We were pretty lucky, because there were some monitors in the performance capture volume where I could see some live renderings. So it wasn't a complete shock to me to see the final game. That was also really helpful as an actor, because when the volume wasn't being used, I was able to step on and if I moved my hand, I could see her on the screen match my movements. So I was able to figure out her movement qualities before we even started shooting, and get a sense of the world.
That being said, when you play the game, it's just so much better than anything I could ever have imagined. Just the level of detail Capcom has put in there. You really got the sense working on the project that it was a real labour of love. I worked on the game for about two years, but they were working on it for years before that. They are the true experts here, and they knew the answers to every question I could possibly ask. They had already thought it all through and figured it all out. It's so inspiring to be working with the best of the best like that.
I'm sure I'm not the first journalist to reach out to you. What's it like suddenly being inundated with interview requests?
My life just blew up in a weekend. It's overwhelming, but in a lot of really good ways. I'm so grateful to the fans and their response to the character. It's an honour to have the impact that I've been able to have with the role. And Capcom too, of course. They created her: I'm just one small piece of this giant puzzle. But the fact that she's able to mean so much, and have a global reach, is something I'll never take for granted.
Oh, and one important question before I go: Was being tall a requirement for the role, and are you actually as tall as Lady Dimitrescu?
I am not 9 foot 6! Darn! I believe tall was in the spec for the character. I'm 6 feet tall, so that was definitely helpful to them.