What a long strange trip it has been! I count myself as being one of the luckiest people on Earth for having the unique opportunity to spend some time with the masterful Darin De Paul at San Diego Comic Con in 2016, right around the time a little game known as Overwatch had started to really pick up steam. Darin lends his amazing vocal talents to the larger-than-life REINHARDT! And with 12 months having passed since we all got a taste of Overwatch, Darin did me the great pleasure of catching up and answering a few questions about how a year has treated him, the character – and the game itself!
DYEGB: Reinhardt has been a fan favourite since the beginning, what was it initially like meeting the players and fans of the character?
Darin: Exciting, overwhelming, all the good things. I loved being able to pass by someone at say San Diego Comic Con last year and do his voice and see their surprise. The project was still growing at that time at it was a true pleasure being able to delight fans. Everyone was so kind.
DYEGB: Now it’s been 12 months since Overwatch went live, and fans seem to love the game just as much, if not more than ever. What is it like meeting fans nowadays, compared to the past?
Darin: I remember standing backstage at BlizzCon last year at the start the United Nations Of Overwatch Panel. Cara Theobold, who magnificently voices Tracer, was introduced first and I was right after her. And I thought, “Everything is about to change”. And I did tear up because it was so exciting. But then the wonderful Andrea Toyias announced me and I walked onstage and threw candy to the crowd and it was electric. A moment I will cherish. That panel truly did change everything and I think it was the start of people seeing who the performers were for their favorite characters and wanting to get to know our stories. It’s a very exciting time for all of us. It really means a lot, no matter what project you are in, when a character resonates with so many people. I voice a lot of villains in other projects and people react to it a wonderful way. I learned in theatre that you always play a villain as if they are the heroes of their own story. That’s what I love about being an actor – exploring different people and bringing them to life. And when you meet someone who truly loves that character … it is always magical.
DYEGB: Does it feel like fans now know the character inside out? Do they surprise you with their knowledge?
Darin: As an actor you look at Reinhardt as a person. There are many sides to everyone. So, there are many sides to Reinhardt. He is not just one thing. And the writers at Blizzard are beautifully exploring each character. There was a wonderful note a director gave me when I was working in theatre – Every character has to have some mystery about them. So, hopefully, we will continue to find things about all the characters in Overwatch that will surprise and delight the audience. And when I do meet fans, everybody is just lovely. There is a great deal of joy to Reinhardt and I think people take to that and love sharing it. I have been lucky to voice some memorable characters in the last several years that have meant something to a lot of people, like Yuri in Cartoon Network’s WE BARE BEARS and Emperor Valkorion in STAR WARS;THE OLD REPUBLIC. Hearing people reactions and love of these characters is always overwhelmingly wonderful. It means that what we did as performers connected with someone. Maybe they were having a bad day and the character brightened it. Or maybe it just spoke to their soul in a way we will never know. That is why we are artists. That’s why we are storytellers. That seemingly small connection that can mean so much.
Darin with the incredibly talented costume builder Thomas Petrillo
DYEGB: What is it like seeing people building these incredible cosplays of Reinhardt? It must feel like staring into a mirror that reflects the character you have created!
Darin: The craft and attention to detail that people like Thomas DePetrillo of Extreme Costumes or Chad Hoku of Hoku Props or the team at Egg Sisters Cosplay put in to their Reinhardt costumes has been simply stunning. It’s a joy to see their work. That the writing and design of him inspired hours of work on the construction of these pieces is humbling. And Reinhardt is not a small man. These costumes are BIG. I love seeing the work of all the cosplay artists. Whether it be Overwatch, FFXV, Star Wars, Marvel or whatever. There is some spectacular work being done out there. And if my performance was a little bit of what inspired that just … wow.
DYEGB: You essentially *are* Reinhardt, is there a specific characteristic of him that you are particularly proud of?
Darin: I wouldn’t say I am Reinhardt, actually. I am proud to be a part of the team that brings him to life. The design of the character is simply sublime. And the writing is a joy to perform. My part of the team is to honor the character and bring the writing to life. It is something I take very seriously. I’ve heard people ask some of the other Overwatch performers to talk about funny stories that happen while recording. I have absolutely no funny stories. For me it is all about focusing and making interesting choices with the material. I have worked with some spectacular directors on the project – Andrea Toyias, who changed my life by believing in me several years ago, the legendary director Andrea Romano, voice director of so many classics like Batman The Animated Series and Animaniacs, and the spectacular J. B. Blanc. I have been voicing Reinhardt for over two years now and these brilliant people always push me to find something new, something surprising. I am always looking forward to see what aspect of this amazing character we will explore next.
I remember standing backstage at BlizzCon last year at the start the United Nations Of Overwatch Panel. Cara Theobold, who magnificently voices Tracer, was introduced first and I was right after her. And I thought, “Everything is about to change”.
– Darin De Paul
DYEGB: We have seen some amazing animated shorts for Overwatch – do you have a particular favourite? Are you campaigning for a Reinhardt focused one?
Darin: All of them are stunningly beautiful. Funny and sad and thrilling and perfect. They are such a gift to the community. The joy and creativity that are put into everything that Blizzard does is so amazing. But, no, we don’t campaign for those. That is completely up to the geniuses at Blizzard to decide when those are done. That is totally above my pay-grade. I am just honored to be a small part of this world that people have taken to their hearts and look forward to whatever Blizzard has planned.
DYEGB: Any non-Overwatch projects you are currently doing that we can look forward to? I loved your work as Ardyn Izunia in Final Fantasy XV.
Darin: Ardyn Izunia continues to be a great role to perform. Such a different character for me. At first I was really nervous about it. When I first saw the audition, I thought, “Well, this character would be perfect for Matt Mercer because he is so amazing at everything he does and this seems right up his alley.” I wasn’t even going to audition, but my wife convinced me to do one take and send it to my agent. I had been doing deeper-voiced characters like Dr. Samuel Hayden in DOOM and Emperor Valkorion in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The only high-voiced character I was doing, and continue to do, is Chip the jackhammer truck on Amazon’s animated children’s program. THE STINKY & DIRTY SHOW. And he is quite cartoony. So when I got the job as Ardyn, I literally said, “Are you sure you got the right person?” And the writer said that I knew the character better then they did, which floored me. Getting to do all these different characters is why I became an actor. Peter Sellers was an early influence and he would just disappear into a role. He made a big impression on me when I was young. And going back to FFXV, Matt Mercer voices Cor, so everything worked out. Getting to know and work with Matt has been one of the best things in these last couple years. He is flat-out, jaw-droppingly great. And to answer your first question – yes. I am working on a great deal of upcoming projects. Animation, games, commercials, films. Some will come out this year and some are slated for 2018. I do voice the villainous Doctor Babylon in AGENTS OF MAYHEM. That just came out. Adored working on that project. I’ll announce the others when I can. There are a lot of them!
The ever charming, and enigmatic Ardyn Izunia
DYEGB: You have an amazing past in stage based productions – including the amazing Broadway production of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! Any plans to get back on stage in the future? Any productions you’d particularly like to do?
Darin: It’s just an issue of time. Right now I am working a lot in voice-over and that doesn’t leave me the actual time you need to dedicate to a theatre project. My wife still does a lot of theatre and she will be out of town for two months to two years depending upon the production. I hope to return someday. We go to a lot of theatre. It’s what I love doing most of all. And living in New York we have access to amazing productions. I’d love to do something Off-Broadway or at the Public Theatre or the Guthrie in Minneapolis. Something that would challenge me as a performer is always exciting. And there is some truly thrilling work going on in regional theatres. So, yes, I would love to return to performing on stage. I have been very lucky to be able to make my living as an actor since the ‘80’s. We’ll see what’s next!
DYEGB: Ever considered coming to Australia? It really is beautiful. I am sure Australian Overwatch fans will love you every bit as much as anywhere else!
Darin: I’ve been planning a trip to Australia forever and things just keep getting in the way. It’s where I have longed to go for years. Actually, I have been doing voice-overs for a commercial campaign that only runs in Australia – Draftstars. I’ve been doing those for a couple years now and the ad agency is in Melbourne. They will call in to the studios in New York or Los Angeles, wherever I happen to be at the time, and we’ll record a bunch of spots. It’s a fun campaign and I adore working with them. It would be lovely to finally meet them in person. As far as conventions go, I know Anjali Bhimani and Carolina Ravassa, who voice Symetra and Sombra in Overwatch, were recently at conventions in Australia. I don’t really do many conventions actually. I pick one or two a year. Again, it’s a time issue. But it would be very thrilling indeed to visit Australia. It’s a goal of mine.
DYEGB: I think I lost track of what I was asking. Any parting comments Darin?
Darin: No, sir. I guess it is “Hammer Down” on this interview. Thank you!
DYEGB: Until next time Darin – you remain one of my favourite humans on this Earth.