Imagine voicing one of the most iconic villains in all of gaming.
Imagine laying down the foundation that every other actor who took on the high profile role would base their own performances on—the deep laugh, the cool-headed attitude, the enjoyably over-the-top acting.
Now imagine not realising you'd done any of that.
One man on earth doesn't have to imagine what that feels like: Pablo Kuntz, the original voice of everyone's favourite sunglasses-wearing and virtually unkillable Resident Evil antagonist, Albert Wesker. He just forgot about the job. The work, which he describes as "a wonderful experience," was just one of a string of freelance gigs he took while living in Japan in the late '90s, in addition to various modelling and acting jobs.
One of several voice acting gigs completed well over two decades ago does seem unlikely to rank as a vivid memory. I like imagining key Capcom staff agonising over every minor detail of the game that would go on to coin the term "survival horror," but the reality seems to be there was simply a job that needed doing, and Pablo was the person who got it done.
"We were not coached when we did the lines and truthfully I barely remember understanding that this was to be a game. It was all so new," he says. "I was a young 24-year-old adventurer at the time and just did the best I could."
The original Resident Evil's campy acting and dialogue make sense in that context. But even without much direction and even less awareness of what he was acting in, Kuntz still gave it his all and delivered a memorable performance.
"I do remember having a little snicker on my face when delivering many of the lines, that’s natural for me. I wasn’t trying to ‘put on’ a voice per se. In truth, I was pretty much being me. I think people can hear/feel a genuine authenticity with RE1 Wesker."
That authenticity has helped keep his lines fresh in fans' minds all this time—even if he wasn't personally aware of it. Kuntz only found out how and where his work was used a few years ago.
"You can only imagine my surprise when I became reacquainted with it all," he says.
As surprises go, finding out you were the original villain in a series that's sold some 115 million copies is a pretty big one. The character he voiced is so popular not even his in-game death has been enough to keep Wesker from popping up in everything from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to Teppen. It seems inevitable he'll somehow turn back up in Resident Evil at some point.
Fans have been eager to share that success with every member of the largely unknown original voice cast for a long time now, but they've been notoriously difficult to track down. Capcom only credited the English voice actors in Resident Evil with first names if they were credited at all—Pablo wasn't. At least the effort to reach out has been well worth it for everyone on both sides of the fan/actor divide, and Pablo has clearly been having fun discovering just how fondly his work is thought of in Resident Evil circles. The catalyst was one simple comment on an unrelated video about Japanese swords, which has since spiralled into an outpouring of love for his most famous work.
"Reconnecting with fans has quite honestly been a life-changer," he says. "It’s been a huge blessing, meeting a large number of great people that are supportive, kind, and witty. …It may have been a bit surprising at first, the incredible affection that people have for the game, but I don’t feel that way now. I (we) get it!"
The "we" he's referring to is his son Lexonal: the pair formed a rather sweet father-son survival horror double act on YouTube last year. The first game they tackled was of course the original Resident Evil, with Lexonal playing, Pablo sprinkling the action with a mix of general commentary and personal anecdotes, and fans offering a steady stream of positive encouragement and practical assistance in the comments below each video. These sessions also happened to be the first time Pablo had seen his voice acting in its original context, and it turned out to be an unexpectedly emotional experience.
"It was very trippy watching your own son play the game and actually hearing one’s voice from the game. That opening mansion scene was unforgettable. Even though I had seen the clip on YouTube, when we actually played the game, it all hit me like a freight train. Recording the voice, my overall time in Japan (I lived there for 18 years or so), just all these memories came flooding back."
These cozy playthroughs have even led to a growing personal appreciation of the series—and perhaps best of all, a personal appreciation of Pablo's own much-memed work.
"The dialogue, the puzzles, the laughs, the frustrations, the overall challenge of it all… I know the acting was slightly over-the-top, but you know, the more we played RE1, the more the voices seemed to harmonize with everything the gameplay offered," he says
As all kids are about their parent's achievements, Lexonal was initially not quite as outwardly impressed about his dad's old job. "I think I got a 'that’s cool' in his unique deadpan kind-of-way once when he found out about Wesker," Kuntz says. But in spite of this Lexonal has embraced playing the series, and their shared playthroughs have become something special for both of them.
"As a dad, I know this is a brilliant chapter in time that I won’t ever forget. I honestly cherish every episode we do together and try to encourage him along the way as we encounter what’s behind those doors!"
When Pablo's not helping (or "helping," as he does during this memorable scene from Resident Evil 2) his son survive the games, fans have encouraged him to work on fresh redubs of classic Wesker scenes he didn't get to voice the first time around. It's a challenge he's been happy to take on, in part to satisfy his own curiosity and also to bring "a certain consistency [read: Canadianness!] to the voice" that had been getting conspicuously more British as the series went on. His work on these videos is impressive even without considering the fact that he's been away from the role for 25 years, and his restrained take on Wesker speaking with Jill in the first game's remake show he cares about nailing his evil alter ego's characterisation and isn't simply dialling up the cheese for an easy laugh.
"I suppose there’s evil lurking in all of us, and voicing Wesker must be therapeutic on some rather dark level," he says. Even the villainous laughs come naturally. "My personality tends to laugh a lot in general and so when I saw the chuckling being called upon in Code Veronica I was genuinely excited to throw myself into it—pretty much as I would in real life."
Kuntz says he's enjoyed redubbing Code Veronica the most so far, but he has no intention of stopping there (I can't wait until he finally reaches Resident Evil 5's deliberately overcooked "COMPLETE. GLOBAL.SATURATION." speech).
These voluntary dubbing sessions all have to fit around his day job, which may not deal in bioweapons but does involve—as Kuntz's own dad affectionately refers to his chosen profession—being a different sort of "arms dealer," selling beautiful antique samurai swords online. "It’s a big passion of mine and I am fortunate to have clients from around the world that share the same enthusiasm for collecting these rare and meaningful objects of art," he says.
But how does anyone go from voice acting horror games to selling high-end examples of traditional Japanese craftsmanship?
"All I can say to those reading as quasi-life advice, is listen to what feels right in your bones, have faith in that feeling as it's remarkably powerful. And pursue that while keeping your eyes and ears open to adjustments along the way because you’ll need to. It all starts with commitment, being truthful and taking responsibility. Then enjoy the ride that comes as a result! And don’t play the blame game, ever."
That's not the sort of positive encouragement you'd expect to hear from Wesker, but then again Pablo is no ordinary Wesker—he's the original.
He just happened to forget that, for a few decades.
You can catch Pablo and Lexonal on YouTube, where they're currently working their way through Resident Evil 3.