We don't know much about the plot of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and we especially don't know anything about any female characters in the upcoming game. That's partly because Activision is being so secretive with the details—but it's also because there's never really been a female character in a Call of Duty game before.
We've no idea why that is, and neither does Erin Cahill, the actress who'll be playing the first-ever female CoD character in Black Ops 2. She couldn't reveal much about the character—like we said, they're being extra secretive—but we did get to chat about gamer-guy culture, working with the Black Ops team at Treyarch, and more. Check it out.
You're playing the first ever female character in a Call of Duty game. Do you feel a lot of pressure because of that?
Erin Cahill: I don't feel pressure, I feel excitement and honored. And truly that's authentically how I feel. I'm just glad to be part of, you know, one of the biggest games in history, and to have the first female character in it is a real—you know, it's a thrill. So I don't feel pressure, I just feel excitement.
Can you describe your character?
I cannot go into detail, but I can say that she will be enjoyed by men and women alike. She's a very cool girl, and very relatable. And I'm very happy to be portraying her.
Can you reveal her name?
[Laughing] I actually am not allowed to reveal her name.
Can you reveal anything about her personality? What is she like?
She is—gosh, what can I say about her? She's very—you know, when I first auditioned, I didn't know what I was auditioning for. It was very top secret. And so I had no idea what to bring to it, except bits and pieces of myself. And as I got to figure out what it was, and as time progressed, I got to kind of learn more about her. But she's tough, but she's not, I think, what people are going to be expecting. Which is good, because it's unexpected. And she's intelligent, and fierce. She's just fierce. I really do think that she's going to be liked, because she's the kind of girl you'd want to have a beer with, and also the kind of girl you want on your side. I don't know how much of that you'll get to see. You'll get to see some of it. You'll want her around in a sticky situation. I'll just put it that way.
Did you try to play her more feminine, and play up that side, or did you try to do like a gruff sort of Michelle Rodriguez type?
I love that question! I think, you know, the writers really wrote it in such a way that if I played it how they wrote it (which hopefully I did), then she is a wonderful blend of femininity and masculinity. She is very tough, but yes, she's a girl, and she's got emotions, and you know, I don't think I tried to play her—I think I played her as tough as I could, but I'm a fairly feminine, feisty lady, so that's just there inherently. But she doesn't really call to be played [as] that very tough character. She's very strong, but she's not "gruff." More feisty and sassy, I would say. As opposed to gruff.
Why do you feel like there hasn't been a female character in a CoD game before?
You know, I wondered that when I got cast and I found out I was the first. Because of course, I knew about the game. And I've learned so much more abut the game working on it. I don't know why she's the first female character. Well, actually—I wonder if I want to say this. I do know some kind of information, but I don't know if its insider information. So can I answer it off the record and then [they] can tell us if I'm allowed to say it? Okay, so what I found out on set was that they had been wanting to do a female character, but the technology wasn't quite in place to get all the feminine movements. So the feminine, the female characters they did have ended up—or that they wanted to do—ended up looking and moving more masculinely.
So they just honed the technology and my test, when I tested for the character—my kind of screen test, if you will—was the first time that they really were able to nail the feminine movement and feminine facial features and feminine expression. Because they told me, you know, when a man furrows his brow, it's so completely different from when a woman furrows her brow. And I think that was a big part of it, that they were trying to create a female character that worked in the story, and have the technology to back it up to make her, you know, play as feminine and realistic. So I think it was just the perfect combination of timing and inspiration, and, you know, the story calls for it. Does that make any sense? I've never talked about that in an interview yet, but that was—I remember them saying that at the test, and it really stuck out to me. I thought, oh, cool!
So do you think gaming is still seen as this sort of boys' club? Is that changing, could bringing a female voice to this game help change that?
I absolutely think that the voice of gaming is changing. I have so many friends who—girlfriends!—who have played Xbox, or any of the gaming systems, and know what it is. So I think it is changing. I think it's becoming more of a universal experience. And I certainly hope that bringing the first female character to the games will make it more accessible for women, and also make it more enjoyable for women. I hope. And for men too! I hope it'll bring a new flavor to the game that they haven't experienced before.
Have you had a chance to play the game? What do you think of the series?
I love that question! Thank you! I had seen the game played in front of me. I am not very dextrous with my thumbs. It's a real challenge for me to play this kind of game. I just constantly run into walls, I make the characters run into walls. I need to learn more. But I had seen it played before I got the part. Just a little bit here and there. Of course, all the advertising is brilliant, so I've always known what it was, and it always looked completely cool to me. I just had never actually really sat down to play it. And since working on the game, I've actually been exposed to it a lot more, because I've gotten to see on set bits and pieces of the last game, they showed me bits and pieces of this game, the world they've created. It's so completely exciting, and I understand why it's so addictive, and why people spend so many hours playing it. It's such an intricate world that you actually get to experience. So I would say that I'm no expert on the game, but I have gotten to learn a lot more about it, and I feel very lucky to have done so. And getting to be behind the scenes is very fascinating and inspiring, because everybody at the company, they completely love their jobs, they're completely inspired by it, they're such wonderful people. Every detail is thought of, every reason why they're there, why they're doing what they're doing—not just the people, but the characters—it's really fantastic.
It starts with a wonderful group of people that are creating this game, and this world, and it goes out into the real world, and I think it's really exciting. Something cool that they said to me, that was a real light bulb for me, was that—because they Googled it: one of the stunt guys on set was like, "Are you excited to be here?" And I said, "Oh my gosh, of course! This is like one of the biggest video games." And he goes, "No, honey, it's the biggest. " And I was like, "Cool!" And he Googled it right in front of me, and showed me, you know, it's like one of the largest-grossing media sources in the world. It's just a real epic. And the creator said, you know, one of the guys creating the game, why people fell so in love with is and why it's such a huge event in the world, is because when you go see a movie, or when you watch a TV show, you're in that world for an hour, but with video games, you live in that world, as those people, for hours. Like, hundreds of hours, if you want to, of your life. And I thought—you know, being an actor, that really struck me. Because when people see my work, you know, it's a movie for an hour and a half, or a TV show for an hour, or, you know, bits and pieces. But you're going to actually be living in the world my character's living in for however many hours you choose to play it. I just think that is the coolest thing ever.
Do you play any other games?
Oh, I grew up on the Nintendo. Listen, I'm 102, so you should also know this about me, I'm going to say things right now are probably way before your time, but like, Duck Hunt and the original Mario Bros. are games that I grew up playing. But I used to have a little—not Nintendo DS (I'm a little older than that) but the little handheld, you know, that Nintendo was the original version of—
Yeah! I just, I loved video games when I was younger. And then as an adult, I dated a gamer for six years. So I watched him play all kinds of games. And so that's where I got to see some Call of Duty played. But I loved Rock Band. I mean, I played Rock Band every weekend, sometimes during the week, for I would say two years. I convinced myself at the end of that couple years that I knew how to play drums.
Oh yeah, it'll teach you. It's good.
Yeah. I loved it. I loved it. So I would say that was probably the most time I spent on a gaming system. Was that.
Have you ever worked on a game before?
Yes, I did, actually. I did on the Star Wars that just came out. I did multiple voices, but not as a lead character.
The Old Republic?
Yeah. But I did, you know, in the sound booth, did a bunch of voices, one day, not motion capture, so it was a completely different experience. This to me was my very first lead, like, real video game. That one was more just doing voices.
So how was this different?
That's a great question. So I only have the two video games to compare to each other, but like I said, it's a completely different experience going into a sound booth for one day and playing ancillary voices, and not necessarily knowing the story (but still being excited to be there—I was obviously very excited, because, you know, Star Wars! Who wouldn't be?). But this one was creating a character and having creative input with the designers of the game, and getting to know the entire team. And we've worked on it for, I mean, from February until, like, they're finishing up some voiceover this week. You know, what is that, [seven] months? And then, I tested last year, so really I've been part of the family for over a year. And it's such a beautiful experience. It's been a real familial, inspired experience, and I have loved every minute of it. And I've been so grateful to be there. And I'm not just giving pat answers. I really, literally go to bed, and I'm like, "Good morning everybody!" and like, hugging everybody. It's just so fun, it's a family environment, and it's such a cool journey. The video game is gorgeous. You guys are going to love it. So yeah, it's been really exciting.
I can't wait to find out more about your character.
You know what else is different from anything else I've ever worked on? Anything else, I can talk about. You know, I've never been in this position, where I had to keep a secret from my friends and family for essentially a year. And just saying, "No no no, you're going to know what it is. You're really going to like it." I've never been in that position. It is like, the cruelest thing to know that their minds are going to explode when it comes out, but also it's been like I've been burdened with this information, you know?
Yeah, they're very secretive in this industry.
I know! It's really exciting and scary, kind of. I'm so thrilled to be part of this family.
Thank you, Erin!