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Interview: Dominic Monaghan Talks Villainous Call of Duty: Vanguard Role

Call of Duty: Vanguard’s campaign mode features several different perspectives on World War II. One of the villainous characters players will be going up against is the sadistic Nazi Jannick Richter, who is played by Lord of the Rings and Lost star Dominic Monaghan. The latest entry in the series is out November 5 on Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and PC.

RELATED: Call of Duty: Vanguard Interview: Laura Bailey Discusses Playing a Female Sniper

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese got the chance to speak with Call of Duty: Vanguard star Dominic Monaghan about the role, his love of video games, and much more.

Tyler Treese: Back in 2012, you were listing off some of your favorite video games. You said Uncharted, FIFA, The Mark of Kri, and Modern Warfare. So what is your relationship with the series? Was Modern Warfare your first Call of Duty? How’d you get into it?

Dominic Monaghan: Yeah, Modern Warfare was my first foray into the world and I played a lot of multiplayer and really enjoyed it. And then from there, obviously, I always had my eyes on the Call of Duty franchise as it came and went. I played Black Ops, which I really enjoyed. I played some of the zombie modes. So yeah, it’s a monster of a game. It’s a monster of a franchise. If you play computer games or video games, as you guys call them, at some point, you’re going to be exposed to Call of Duty because it’s a big player in the game. And I like games that involve well-thought-out characters. And obviously the game that I’m in has a great group of allies and a great group of villains as well.

It sounds like you’re a bit of a monster in this game. On Instagram, you said you had so much fun playing an awful human. Can you speak a little bit about Jannick Richter?

He’s at a really interesting point in his life and a really interesting point in the history of the Nazis in the second World War. I think he’s under the impression when the game starts that they’re not too far away from winning the war. And then as the game goes on, they obviously receive different information about where they might be in the story of the second World War. He’s a deeply insecure, paranoid man who I think would probably have been picked on and bullied in certain other kind of army careers, but he finds himself as a kind of well-to-do officer. And he’s very keen to keep that position. He’s obviously a bit of a sadist. He enjoys torturing people and hurting people and probably does that because he is, in his own way, scared and insecure about his position. It’s fun to play someone that I would hate and someone that is wicked and nasty because it’s simple. His motivations are very base. He wants to hurt people. He enjoys committing harm on people and being mean and nasty. And it’s kind of fun.

You just starred in Edge of the World, which was set in the 1800s. This is set in World War II. What do you find most interesting about doing period pieces?

Probably just the ability to be able to look at them through a slightly more modern lens to see that maybe some of these ideas that people had that were relevant at the time and don’t seem to be relevant nowadays or have dated badly. So it’s like looking at those stories through slightly modern eyes. I don’t make any real stipulation between the roles that I play in terms of the period of time that they take place in. It’s always about character to me and is this an interesting character? Is this a character that I can bring to life? Can I humanize this character? So whether it’s a good guy or a bad guy, I always just think, “How can I make this character real? How can I make this character seem like someone who you might sit next to on a bus or someone you might sit next to a bar or who you might meet on the street? How can I turn them from words on a page into someone who was actually a human at one point?” And the period thing is just coincidental.

You had a role in Quantum Break and you did a lot of mocap there. Did anything differ this time during the performance capture?

I did Quantum Break about five years before I did this Call of Duty game. And I think the tech just consistently gets better and better. That’s not to say that the tech in Quantum Break was in any way poor. It wasn’t. It was excellent, but the rigs were much heavier. We have to wear like a bicycle helmet with a camera attached to it, a GoPro attachment that points back at you back, a light, and wires that come up the back of your head. And back when we did Quantum Break, it was probably, significantly heavier and you could feel it in your neck at the end of the day, but these technologies get smaller, they get better, they get easier to work with.

So by the time I did Call of Duty, it was noticeable how much lighter the rigs were. And I worked on Call of Duty for much longer. On Quantum Break, I think I did two or three days in the studio and then a lot of working in Hungary, but on Call of Duty, I think it was like a three-week job in the studio. So I really got a chance to sink my Nazi teeth into it, which is fun.

You’ve been a part of so many gigantic franchises like Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Star Wars, Lost, and Call of Duty ranks just right up there in terms of just importance and impact. How do you keep landing all these big roles?

[laughs] I don’t know, man. I honestly don’t know. I remain positive as a person. I try as hard as I can to work as hard as I can to commit myself as hard as I can to my roles. I do a huge amount of homework when I come to work. I leave my phone in my car because I give all of my energy to work. I want to do the best work that I can do. Anytime I approach a new project, my headspace is always, “This will be the best job I’ve ever done.” And then the next one is the best job I’ve ever done.

So once I knew I was working on Call of Duty, I read a lot about the second World War and watched a lot of documentaries and movies about it. I showed up with a character that had a different voice than me, walked differently than me, acted differently than me. I don’t smoke cigarettes. So I chose a way to smoke cigarettes though so I chose to smoke in a way that was a weird and peculiar. Anytime a project buys me, they buy 100% of my time and I think I just commit to it. But in terms of the jobs and how lucky I’ve been, I think a huge amount of that is being in the right place at the right time and having the right attitude, which is just being thankful about it all.

You said you played Skyrim for years and years, so do you have a more updated list of your favorite video games?

Skyrim was definitely one of my favorites. I completed it. There wasn’t a huge amount left to do by the time I completed it. I’d probably done the vast majority of dungeons in Skyrim. I’ve been to all of the major areas. I got a few expansion packs and I thought, “OK, I am kind of done with this for a while, but I love the world.” And I think it’s an extraordinary game. I can’t wait for a new one to come out. I played some Bioshock, some World of Warcraft, Witcher III, obviously always playing FIFA, some Rocket League. In the last couple of years or so I’ve been playing a lot of League of Legends, which I absolutely love on my PC, Assassin’s Creed, No Man’s Sky, Planet Zoo, which I think is really great.

Planet Zoo is very difficult and can drive you mad sometimes because you just don’t realize what you’re doing wrong. Suddenly your ostriches are dying and you’re like, “Wait, why are my ostriches dying?” And the game won’t tell you why and suddenly you look around your enclosure and you realize that one of the heaters is turned off, but it doesn’t tell you that one of the heaters is turned off. You have to go find it yourself. So I love Planet Zoo but it’s so sad when your animals die.

For the longest time, I would finish my work and I would come home and I would watch movies and then I’d watch TV. And then if I still had time on my hands, I would play video games and what’s happened during COVID and maybe just during the last few years where I think video games have just consistently gotten better and better and more and more alluring to me, is when I finished my day’s work, one of the first things that I do, instead of watching movies and TV, is I’ll sit and I’ll play video games. I’ll play a couple of games of League of Legends. I’ll play some Planet Zoo. I’ll play some No Man’s Sky. And then I might watch a movie. I love where they’re going. I love how immersive they are and I love the fact that I’ve got a chance to work on such an extraordinary franchise.

You had two really great appearances on MADtv, years and years ago. How was it being on that set and really sharing your comedic side?

It was great, man. I really liked it. It was a bit of a whirlwind. I was in the middle of doing Lost and they flew me in and I recorded the shows and then I flew back to do Lost. I really liked Bobby Lee. He was really fun. He was great to work with. He was funny. I did a few scenes with him. I just enjoyed his company. I thought he was absolutely hilarious. I’ve seen him a couple of times at the Comedy Store since then, and he’s a super cool guy. I really like his podcast. So yeah, man, it was great fun. I had a great time. It’s a shame that show isn’t on anymore.

In your wildlife show, Wild Things, you helped discover a spider and it’s named after you now. But it’s kind of an ugly spider. Do you wish there was a cuter animal named after you?

I love spiders. There aren’t that many beautiful spiders out there but there are some exceptions. There are some absolutely stunning jumping spiders out there. There are some beautiful zebra spiders and some really, really gorgeous spiders out there. Mine is a massive Huntsman spider. It’s not necessarily the most beautiful one in the world, but having it be called the Monaghan spider is a true honor for me. And who knows, maybe in the future, maybe I’ll get a chance to find another animal and we can name that after me as well. That nature show meant a lot to me and I’ll always do work with nature. I’ll always want to do something in nature throughout my life. It’s just movies and TV and video games have kind of been in the front seat for a while.

I got to speak to Sean Astin recently and his advice to those on the Lord of the Rings show for Amazon was just to enjoy the moment since being a part of that franchise is such a life-changing experience. So do you have any advice for those people?

Yeah. I think what Sean said is absolutely accurate. You have to enjoy the ride, you have to enjoy the experience. I try as hard as I can to be in a great mood when I go to work, because this is the life that you’re living and the weeks go by fast and suddenly you realize, “Wow, I got through a whole year and the whole year was at work” so you have to enjoy your work. So make sure that you get energized by your work. I think actors make a massive mistake where a day at work, depletes them of energy. I get my energy from being at work, from creating art, from being in a collaborative experience with a whole group of people. So being present on the day and enjoying it for what it is, is something that I think Sean was very correct over because the other crazy thing is you think it will go on forever.

Like when we were making the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’m sure we all thought it would go on forever. We make the movies and then we do press forever and then we’re all together forever. And it just doesn’t. It goes by like that and suddenly you’re like, “Wow, that’s in my rearview mirror now.” So seize the day, enjoy it, enjoy the ride, and just have a really good time at work because when actors are at work, they should be as happy as they ever are because most actors are not working. So if you’re on set, you should be delighted when you are there.

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