See Part 1 here.

Now what about the supporting cast? This is both easy and tricky. A chunk of the cast was voiced by actors who could easily reprise their roles in a live-action film. Other characters are going to be guys in suits or voice actors over CG creations and I have some further ideas about this below, but many need to be cast basically from the ground up and I will talk about this too.

Captain Anderson

Joker

The two big ones are Keith David and Seth Green who did the voices for Captain Anderson and Joker respectively. So it seems easy, just cast these guys. However, it’s trickier than that because you have to schedule them and I think it’s usually more demanding to show up on set than it is to do voice recording at whatever point in production. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were able and willing to show up especially since they aren’t core cast. It would be much harder to get the right people for the star-studded (kind of, haha) second game/film.

Admiral Hackett is voiced by Lance Henriksen but is a side-character you don’t really need and since he never shows up for face-time in the game, just drop him and give whatever lines of dialogue you need to keep from him over to Anderson or Udina. Aside from that, the only other “celebrity” you need to worry about is Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troy from Star Trek: The Next Generation) who played Matriarch Benezia, basically Saren’s right-hand gal who should probably be in the movie if only to give us more villainy. But why not have Marina Sirtis play her? With a little make-up and de-aging magic, you can turn this:

marina-sirtis-02

into this:

Matriarch Benezia is supposed to be like 1000 years old or something and seems a bit aged compared to other Asari you see in the game. Marina Sirtis should be able to pull this off no problem and why not? It’d be nice for Star Trek: TNG geeks to see her in a fucking movie again anyway. Legendary Pictures: it is a good thing to have science fiction geeks on your side with this movie, even ones who didn’t play Mass Effect. In a pinch, it wouldn’t hurt to get Claudia Black (Farscape and one of the Stargate series, as well as extensive voicework) to do it.

Anyway, it’s like there are tiers of obviousness in casting the supporting characters. The first tier is the live actors they used to do voice work. The next tier is finding actors who I think can ably represent some combination of the look, voice, and nuances of the other characters. Some of the next bit of speculation will be pretty obvious to fans of the game(s) but I’ll justify my choices.

Let’s start with Saren, the villain throughout the game. He should obviously be in the movie, and by virtue of compressing the narrative, will probably be much more established than he is in the game. One of the criticisms of Mass Effect is that it lacks face-time with the villain. Saren isn’t a bad villain, necessarily, but his pathos is largely boring old anti-human sentiment. I think they could have done a better job of tying his feelings to memories of the human-Turian war and this should absolutely be conveyed in the movie. In addition, Saren is a guy who’s being manipulated by a force he doesn’t understand but thinks he’s in control of or can make a deal with. He believes he’s saving the galaxy by working with Sovereign and the Reapers but he hates humans so he goes after them first. To get this right, you need a guy who’s got a great voice and doesn’t mind being in heavy make-up throughout production. You pretty much need Hugo Weaving.

“Your species must know its place.”

For the uninitiated, Saren who is a lizardlike alien called a Turian, looks like this:

me-saren1

In the game we know that Anderson and Saren crossed paths before. There’s a prequel novelization that doesn’t really need to be addressed by the film except to add a couple more shades of implication to the proceedings. Yes, Anderson tells us that Saren hates humans and was thought dead after their incident together (which also caused Anderson to lose candidacy as the first human Specter). When Saren shows up, a couple of decades after whatever happened between he and Anderson, he’s actually been partially fused with Geth technology, including an eye and an arm. This is a cool little detail that is never directly addressed in the game, implying that Saren was recovered to be Sovereign’s agent. This should stay subtle in the movie, a little clue for clever audiences to pick out. That said, the game never dwells overmuch on Saren’s dealings with the Geth and the movie kind of has to get into this a bit more or its too much like the principal villain appears from nowhere with thin reasoning aside from acting as a placeholder until the narrative reveals the true threat. Adapting this game to film does present the opportunity to patch some storyline weaknesses, so why not? My suggestion is to avoid a flashback and borrow from Star Trek 2010 by showing some of what happened with Saren, and maybe Anderson, before getting on to the present and Shepard’s story.

So in summary: cast a guy like Hugo Weaving and flesh Saren out a bit more in terms of his motives and backstory. I’d also like them to use a certain version of Saren’s demise too, but more on this later.

Before I get into the most important members of the support cast, Shepard’s core team of allies, I want to deal with the rest of the minor, but key characters now that I’ve handled the villains. Let’s start with Udina, the human representative to the Citadel Council. In the game, he’s a pretty straightforward callous politician/bureaucrat who isn’t very sympathetic or easy to deal with for straight shooters and military men. You can retain him as an ally or alienate him in the game and it’s pretty obvious to me that they’ll cast him as the “chief of police” type in the movie, a guy who basically gets in the way but has his comeuppance at the end when Shepard nominates Anderson to take the Council seat. To cast him, you basically need an ethnic guy. Udina seems Indian to me, but it’s inconclusive (I am ignorant?). This is a guy who isn’t important enough to cast by appearance or voice. You just need a distinguished older gent with some ethnic flavor. Udina is a powerful man and is part of the multicultural, largely unified “human nation” implied by the game.

My suggestion is Ben Kingsley, mostly because he does these kinds of roles well and also can be very charming. To make the most out of the character, you need an actor who can do something with very little, and Kingsley excels in small rolls like this and is often willing to do them in far worse pedigreed production, like say Bloodrayne. Plus the guy is half-Indian so he has an interesting look. Most of all, I’d believe him as an annoyingly bureaucratic and anthrocentrist galactic politician.

If you don’t know who Ben Kingsley is, gtfo my blog.

On board the Normandy are two crew-members who are important enough without being part of the core team that some attention should be paid to their casting. They could be left out altogether, I imagine. Have Liara replace Dr. Chakwas maybe. But there should be a few non-core characters floating around the ship and because Chakwas reappears in Mass Effect 2 you might as well have her be a full, if minor character. You only really need 2 or 3 scenes with her in them and her principle role is to bring out some characterization from Shepard.

But supposing they cast Dr. Chakwas, I like the idea of getting someone like Sigourney Weaver for a fun but small role. I’m sure if they got her, they’d bone the role up. That said, it’s intensely unlikely so I think we have to abandon that sort of idea. Carolyn Seymour was the voice actor, and she has also been a screen actor, but my personal choice is another Star Trek alum, none other than Voyager‘s Captain Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew who I saw most recently on The Black Donnelys. Besides some geek cred for Star Trek, Bioware obviously likes her and used her in Dragon Age: Origins as well.

The other Normandy crew-member who probably needs an actor is Navigator Pressly who becomes the new XO when Shepard takes the ship over. He should only really have a few lines but might be able to speak up for the anthrocentrist attitude in crew meetings or something. I think the ideological conflict between cooperation and “humans first” is important and runs thick in the subtext of Mass Effect. It shouldn’t be some huge statement about real world racial/political issues, but it should be there in broad strokes to add depth to the stakes for Shepard. He isn’t just trying to save the galaxy from Geth and whatever else, he’s also gotta represent for humanity because the elder species don’t take us seriously. It falls to him to decide how and when to approach it unilaterally, and when to cooperate with the Citadel Council, his own crew, etc. The movie should put Shepard in situations where he can’t always be consistent, and sometimes must put humanity first. Ultimately, though, there needs to be at least a temptation to act in humanity’s interests first and various characters should reinforce this thread. Pressly could be dropped from the movie or he could act as a bit of a mouthpiece for these ideas, spiritually linked to Ashley Williams and Udina as being anthrocentrists to various degrees.

The only guy for this role is Michael Hogan (played Sol Tigh on BSG, mofos). I know Bioware snagged him for Mass Effect 2 in a pretty cheap role as a cop on the Citadel who you barely interact with. I’m pretty sure the character modelers based Pressly on Hogan, probably being Battlestar Galactica fans. At any rate, he is perfect for this even if it might be a bit distracting to see him administrating the bridge of a starship once again. Fuck it, I say: bring on the Hogan! If they beef up his suspicion of aliens a bit, imagine the surly half-insults and insinuations!

Yeah, I know it sounds like I want Pressly to be Tigh 2.0 but so what? He’s a minor character, it’s not like we need much more than Tigh 2.0 and casting this way is the best way to go if you’re going to keep Pressly and/or make him a more meaningful character.

I do want to point out that Pressly could easily be a background character, present but not really more than just a guy in a suit. If you go with what I’m saying about anthrocentrism, this can easily be shouldered by Ashley Williams and Udina. So he isn’t totally necessary to have around, but it does flesh out the existing Normandy crew a bit and keeps them all from being anonymous red-shirts. Mass Effect 2 wisely had half your crew members performing different roles on the ship, it might be good to retcon Mass Effect in a similar fashion. Have Garrus hanging out in the gun batteries, Wrex playing grease monkey with the Mako, Ashley maintaining small arms, Liara hanging out in the medbay, Kaidan in a flight chair beside Joker and Tali in engineering. This will put them in the background of scenes taking place aboard the ship and will show that they do more than stand around waiting for Shepard to talk to them. Or, if the script doesn’t pause much to take in the environment of the ship, you might never have to show much of what goes on but I think this would be a mistake since the Normandy is kind of a character in its own right.

Such a great ship design, how can you not milk this in a movie?

There aren’t many other potentially important minor characters that feel like I should be casting for them. I might change my mind later, but it seems to me that the only other part of casting to deal with is the core team. Six characters, six opportunities to royally fuck up.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 3 OF THIS SERIES, I WILL BE PICKING UP WHERE I LEFT OFF BY DISCUSSING THE CORE TEAM MEMBERS.

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