I've spent more thousands of hours playing the Destiny games than I care to admit, so the loss of Lance Reddick last week, at the far too young age of 60, hit particularly hard. As the voice of Commander Zavala since day one, Reddick has stoically accompanied us on missions across the solar system, providing fatherly encouragement as we batted away one paracausal threat to humanity after another.
Another actor might have turned in a rote performance as a patrician leader and called it done, but in his nine years on the series Reddick nailed the character's struggles with guilt and the burden of responsibility. Where Zavala could have been a cloying, one-note character, thanks in large part to Reddick he landed as a believable voice for hope in a universe beset by permanently imminent disaster.
The quality of his performance should be no surprise, really, given how much he brought to all his acting roles, from his stint on all five seasons of The Wire to his more recent work on the John Wick movies. I loved this anecdote that did the rounds again about how Keanu Reeves loved Lance so much he visited him on his own birthday to say thanks for his work on the Wick films. A "saddened and heartbroken" Reeves is dedicating John Wick 4 to Reddick's memory.
After news of the death broke late last week, Destiny players began gathering around Zavala in the game's main social space to pay tribute. Bungie also put out its own tribute, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the studio decides to memorialise the actor in-game at some point too. Here's CEO Pete Parsons:
I don’t cry often. I just did. Lance was a beautiful human being and so is his partner and puppies.March 17, 2023
For players looking to show their love for Reddick in their own gaming space sooner than that, Dutch 3D modeller Danny van Eck, who works under the name Artdeck, has designed a tribute figurine and is making it free to print for everyone. 'Per audacia ad astra, Commander', can be found here, and looks absolutely fantastic. The Latin reference is Bungie's motto, and translates to: "To the stars, by daring."
On Twitter Artdeck wrote: "I hope I did him justice and I hope you all like the final result. It's been an exhausting weekend but I'm glad I managed to finish it before the work week started again." He also asked that fans don't send him any money as a tip, but instead donate to momcares.org if they were able, which was Reddick's charity of choice. It provides help for under-supported mothers in Baltimore City.
pic.twitter.com/MFwOwpRJK7March 18, 2023
Van Eck, who has worked at several games studios, tells me: "I didn't fully realize how much of a connection I had developed with him, he has been such a presence in my daily life through Destiny. So when the news of his passing was tweeted, it was a hard blow and it still feels incredibly unreal. I believe many in the community can relate to the sense of loss and confusion, how to mourn someone you never actually knew in person, but who still played such a crucial role in your daily game life."
Obviously, it's too soon to speculate about how Bungie will handle the character's presence in-game going forwards. "I feel a bit strange about it," says van Eck. "It really hit me when I was standing on the tower to pay tribute to Lance with my best friend Leyla, alongside other Guardians, how much this experience is shared among the community. Lance is Zavala, and without Lance, there is no Zavala."
One idea van Eck has is for Zavala to retire after the current narrative cycle, but have a statue placed in The Tower, possibly featuring some of his most memorable lines. "This way, we can continue to hear his voice and keep his memory alive as we mourn his passing."
Finally, here's another lovely thread about Reddick, this time from Bungie project lead Blake Battle about the time the raid developers ran Wrath of the Machine with Reddick. My favourite part:
"On the final encounter, going into the last DPS phase, we had an untimely death that caused a little chaos, and Lance ended up needing to jump from the back of the room, glide onto Aksis’ back to stun him before the wipe. He pulled it off and we cleared the raid. The excitement in his voice after our clear was palpable. The whole run he was kind, sociable, and patient. He talked to us like he was just some guy from LFG looking for a chill group. The kind of person you’d want to add to your friends list to play with again sometime."
Reddick actually had some 1400 hours in the game, and was playing the night before he passed away. I've seen it said he was a Warlock main, but it feels right that he'd been running the new expansion on his Titan. This was a guy who loved to game.
When the cat's away, the mouse will play! #Destiny2 @DestinyTheGame pic.twitter.com/C1i3cvbw7rNovember 1, 2022