Note: This interview contains spoilers for Resident Evil Village.
Resident Evil Village’s Lady Dimitrescu leaves a lasting impression. When the towering villain was unveiled last year, she became the fascination of the Internet at large, drawing legions of fans virtually overnight. You’d be surprised, then, to learn that the role of Lady Dimitrescu was actress Maggie Robertson’s first in voiceover, motion capture, and video games at large.
Robertson applied for the role of Dimitrescu while she was unrepresented by an agent, almost on a whim. “I had just moved to L.A., and I was fresh off the boat,” the actress tells Fanbyte in an interview. She began putting herself forward for any acting gig that matched her qualifications. Eventually, Robertson landed an audition, and unbeknownst to her, it was for one of the most popular video game franchises ever.
“I think a lot of times video games are pretty secretive when they’re first starting off,” Robertson says, mentioning how she had no clue what the project was when she booked the audition. The job listing didn’t mention Resident Evil, and Robertson was never told during auditioning what franchise it was for — a level of secrecy commonly found in the video game industry.
Months later, after a second audition, Robertson received a call telling her she’d landed the role. At that point, she had nearly forgotten about it.
“It wasn’t until I got to the table read that I started to piece it together and think to myself ‘okay, this might be a big deal,’” Robertson says. “You walk into the room and there’s just this palpable excitement in the air, people are huddling in the corners whispering together excitedly. I overheard this person like, ‘this is a dream come true, I can’t believe I booked this franchise.’”
Robertson rushed home after the table read, and began frantically researching. “I figured it out, and the moment when I figured it out was one of those ‘sit back in your chair and process it’ moments,” she says. Robertson isn’t much of a gamer herself, but even she had heard of the popular survival-horror series.
That discovery came with daunting expectations, though. “I was like, ‘oh crap this is big,’” Robertson says, adding that she didn’t even realize at that point that she’d signed on to motion capture Lady Dimitrescu. “I was just clueless the entire time,” she says, telling us how, when she walked onto the sound stage on the first day of motion capture, “everyone there is the consummate professional and working at the top of their craft, and so you walk into the room and you’re like, ‘wow, I hope that I can carry my weight and do the job.’”
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While Robertson says she has to “give all the credit to Capcom for making [Lady Dimitrescu] the fabulous woman she is today,” the actress brought undeniably brilliant physicality to the role. “She’s got this fabulous hat, and once I saw that I was able to play with the idea of her looking up and under the brim at people,” Robertson says. You might remember that when Lady Dimitrescu was first unveiled, the trailer showed her looking from under the brim of her hat at the hapless Ethan Winters — an original idea from Robertson herself.
From there, the rest of Lady Dimitrescu’s movements began to take shape. “All of her movements are very fluid, everything is indirect and nothing ever happens in a straight line. She’s very curvy in the way that she moves,” Robertson says. Some fans online have pointed to Lady Dimitrescu’s unusual appearance and height, describing her as unconventionally attractive, and Robertson agrees.
“I mean nine foot six is certainly unconventional,” Robertson asserts. “I think what’s so powerful about Lady D is that she’s representative of this old world beauty, and this old world vibe. She’s not of the modern age. She definitely feels like she’s of this different time and that all combines to give her this sense of spell, and there’s something about her that’s really captivating and magnetic.”
“Even before she opens her mouth, she’s telling a very clear visual story,” she continues. “But I think it’s important to note that if she was just pretty, I don’t think that all of the hype would be there. I think what’s attractive about her, what’s engaging is that she is dynamic and multi-faceted. She is this beauty, very refined and graceful and regal and composed and put together, but then she has the duality of that where she feels powerful and dangerous, and there’s this potential for violence there.”
The potential for violence is there, no doubt, as the player finds blood-stained tea cups in Dimitrescu Castle before even encountering the character herself in the initial Maiden demo. “She’s proud, she’s superior, she’s a mom, and she loves her daughters,” Robertson continues. “So there’s all of these different layers to her, and I think that’s what gives Lady D her power, and that’s what gives her magnetism, because she is all of these and not just a one-dimensional character, and that’s something that I think is very cool.”
Given all of Lady Dimitrescu’s fame before players had even pressed the start button in Resident Evil Village, it was somewhat surprising to find out her screen time is limited, being the first of the four self-imposed “lords” of the game to bow out. Castle Dimitrescu culminates in a huge boss fight with a heavily mutated Lady Dimitrescu, where Ethan Winters slays the castle’s ruler atop a huge bell tower. Lady Dimitrescu’s early departure is a shame, but that’s something Robertson didn’t even know about until the end of the motion capture process.
“It was a surprise to me when we got to the end and I found out the scope of her role,” Robertson says. “But obviously I trust what Capcom has done. They are geniuses, they are masters of what they do, but also there’s that point to be made of how you gotta leave them wanting more.” She believes fans certainly are left wanting more of Lady Dimitrescu, and given the massive outpouring of adoration for the character, it’s hard not to agree.
But what are the chances of fans ever getting more of Lady Dimitrescu? Capcom expanded upon Resident Evil 7’s intimidating Baker family with a slew of story-based DLC, and it’s fair to wonder if the developer might pull a similar stunt with the eclectic cast of Resident Evil Village. There’s no doubt with Robertson: she’d be “more than happy to play her forever.” While Robertson says she has “no idea” if any story-based DLC is happening for Village, she’d absolutely return for the role if Capcom asked.
In fact, Robertson already knows which sides of Lady Dimitrescu she’d like to explore further, including what her life was like before motherhood. The player battles Dimitrescu’s three murderous daughters throughout the castle segment, learning along the way that they’re actually the result of an extensive, mutated creation process. “I’m interested in what she was like in the first place, before all this, and what caused her to want to become a mom and start a family,” Robertson says. “Also what the creation process itself was like for the daughters. You get a little bit of that in a journal entry, but I wanted more.”
It’s hard not to wonder how Robertson has dealt with all the attention with the role, especially since it’s her first-ever video game part. “Oh it’s been totally wild and mind-blowing, I never could’ve expected the reaction to this character,” the actress says, adding that even as her producer at the studio began to hint that this could be a big deal, she was just “happy to be in this game and actually be working.” Robertson calls the experience “special and overwhelming in the best ways.”
Because of Resident Evil’s global outreach, the role has changed her life. She has been “constantly inspired” by fans who are riffing off the game with fan art and cosplay. “This character will be with me for the rest of my life,” she says, “and to hear from fans about how Lady D has inspired them or made a difference in their lives or helped them get out of bed that morning, all that is so, so special and something that I don’t take for granted.”
If you’re a fan of Robertson after her astounding performance, then there’s good news, because it sounds like she’s interested in more video game-based roles in the future. She’s been “bit by the performance capture bug,” and adds that she “only just feels like I’ve really found the pocket of what I’m meant to be doing over the course of this game.” Robertson recognizes the irony, considering she’s been acting for most of her life. “It’s doubly special for me, because yeah, it’s this breakout role, but also it feels like I’ve found my niche and my community.”