I know Geralt through solving the crisis and closing a bar.
It was midnight on a pathetic wet Thursday in downtown Atlanta, and sitting to my right was Geralt of Rivia. I said he was Geralt, but he was actually Doug Cockle, who has voiced Geralt for the past 12 years. It’s very difficult for me to say you’re apart at this point. I just saw him mock a Marine and knock a woman down in the street. I definitely saw some Geralt in him then. But in other moments, the deeply personal stories he shares are all Cockle.
Without Doug Cockle, Geralt as we know it wouldn’t exist. And without Geralt, he would have been in a completely different place in his life —certainly not at the sports bar with me on the last call, trying to handle the evening we had. And I wasn’t even going to see him.
An hour with Doug Cockle
I don’t know yet, but I’m about to spend over an hour with Doug Cockle.
I’m in Atlanta to report on Momocon, a conference dominated by anime that also has the presence of healthy games. As I waded through rows of colorful cosplayers, I opened my event schedule and found that a promising table started at 8:30. It’s titled “An Hour With Doug Cockle.” It’s 8:21 and I don’t know where to find Cockle’s dashboard in the maze convention center, so I tracked the map and started jogging. I don’t know yet, but I’m about to spend over an hour with Doug Cockle.
I snuck in a few minutes late and found a seat near the front. Cockle is on stage talking about what it means to be an actor. While he voiced Geralt, he was also an acting professor for 13 years and hearing him speak, that couldn’t be clearer. He has an anecdecdm to back up every tip he gives, he is giving a smile that only real passion can create and everything he says takes place right in my head. When I resisted the urge to raise my hand and ask millions of questions, something came up to me when the host asked Cockle about the “truth” behind a character.
“The truth is, the truth is subjective,” Professor Cockle replied. “It depends on how you look at life, what you’ve been through, everything. The cultural, political, economic environment around you. The truth is not something you can squeeze to death easily. But in terms of action, I’ve always been seen as true to the character. ”
But in a game like The Witcher 3, built on choices in dialogue and action and even romance, where is the truth for Geralt? What is Cockle’s image of Geralt? He begins to answer this when, in accordance with the anime convention tradition, he is asked to choose his favorite Witcher woman: Yennefer or Triss.
“Well, essentially a divisive answer,” Cockle said, smiling at a Yennefer cosplayer in front of an audience. “But I have to solve this problem from Doug, not Geralt. Because I’m not Geralt, Geralt is Geralt. And for me, it’s Triss. I feel like Yen is trying too hard to be his mother. She’s taking care of it. but not in a cuddly, caring way, but in a way that ‘don’t do it, you’ll hurt yourself’. Meanwhile, for me, Triss is more like a friend. My personal sense of love is that the person you love and spend most of your time with should be the first to be your friend, not just the one that interests you or whatever. They have to be someone you have a real friendship with, and I don’t feel that way with Yen. and Geralt has that going on, it’s more like a passionate relationship than a friendship. ”
From the beginning, I never believed you had no feelings.
One audience member said that, despite the excellent writing behind him, Geralt was sometimes stereotyped as someone else in a long line of gravelly-voiced video game protagonists sculpted from crowded testosterone. Cockle said that was never the way he saw him.
“There was a journey with Geralt,” he said. ‘If you’ve played all three matches, you can hear that journey, I hope. It’s definitely in the text. That’s what encouraged me to give him more emotion. From the beginning, I never believed he had no feelings. That will make him a non-character character. At first, I did what they wanted me to do, I made him as emotionless as possible. But actors and people in me know more than that.
“Geralt was not emotionless. The nature of the work he has to do requires him not to evoke his feelings. If he does, he dies. He doesn’t want to die. He’s scared to death. But he may not give up. He’s got to push it all down. True, Grass’s ordeal hurt him and perhaps created another perception of who he was and what he had to do, but he was not emotionless. ”
In addition to the passive influence, his acting brings— “you can’t collaborate on a project that requires creative input and doesn’t influence each other in a sophisticated way” —Cockle explains that he sometimes also plays a more active role in the shape of Geralt and the world of The Witcher.
“One day I went to the studio and the director and engineer said ‘Doug, we have to talk to you.’ I was like ‘Oh my god, I did something wrong.’ They took me into the control room and they said “There’s something that we’re recording today that we’re really bothered with. We want your feelings about it.” And it’s a plot that involves canoeing.
“On a superficial level, The Witcher wants to solve difficult facts about bad things. That’s what Geralt is fighting against. But this storyline has some bends. There’s a mission with a really bad guy with women, and there’s a lot of dead women around that he killed. This is the same thing but it is with children. As soon as they told me about the plot we were recording, I said ‘Yeah, I agree, we should talk to them about that. ‘ So we called CD Projekt and told them our concerns and blessed them, they said, ‘Well, we can see what you’re saying, we’ll rew it and record something else today.’ So that doesn’t exist in the plot anymore. ”
When we reach the bottom of the table, we get a different view of the real Cockle as he shares a dream project he has pocketed for decades.
More than 20 years ago, while camping in Washington with his wife, Cockle found a lost ragged stuffed animal, a small puppy. They tried to find its owner but in vain so held him back. They named it Puppy and included it in the rest of their holiday, photographing Puppy’s Lesotho when it visited museums and cabins with them.
“He gradually developed this wonderful little personality,” Cockle said, “and he became our child before we had children. I really can’t stress enough that he has become so. So one of the things I’ve wanted to do for years is a children’s book. I started something with it and I wanted to see where it went if it went anywhere. It’s a book called Puppy Goes West. Because he went from the east coast to the West Coast in a car. It’s a bit of a project. Puppy is something close to my heart. Oh, and now we have a Border Terrier that looks exactly like Puppy. ”
It was a sweet way to end the discussion, but I still wanted to better understand Cockle’s views on Geralt and how he influenced his personality, so I marked him for an interview. I asked him for 20 minutes. He agreed to meet me in the lobby of the hotel where the workshop was held. While Cockle signed the sign, I arrived in the lobby early and pulled a few chairs. No one’s going to bother us here, I think.
A race with Bernard
In just a second, perhaps out of excitement, his voice passed on to Geralt. He doesn’t seem to recognize it, but it’s certainly Geralt speaking.
We sat down and got our hands on it. I asked about the first time he read the script for the original Witcher and his first impression of Geralt.
“He’s just another anti-hero,” he said. “Someone has to do something they don’t like to some basic level but have a sense of familiarity. When I arrived at the audition, he wasn’t described as an anti-hero, but that’s what I took from the way he was described. He’s a warrior. He’s a mercenary. He’s emotionless. He’s just a tough guy. Finally what [CD Projekt] says is ‘Think Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood character.’ Oh yes, I know what it is. It’s monotonous, bass and gravel. I’ll pick Clint Eastwood. So I did it, and that’s the last thing that drew them. So after the audition, my first impression was that he was a kind of Clint Eastwood character. And that was even more complete when we started recording the first lines of The Witcher 1. And it was more complete as we continued. . ”
Like Geralt’s writing, Cockle’s voice is also polished as the series continues. “My voice doesn’t naturally go down there easily,” he said. ‘It’s a real stress. Over the years of performing that voice, now my voice has changed. Some might say it was broken, some might say it was trained.”
I asked Cockle about how he tried to get a more emotional Geralt. But as soon as he started answering, we were thrown into a real-life side mission.
Not knowing where someone behind me asked “Are you here?” in an angry southern accent. I turned around and found a tall, brunette man who looked about in his 40s.
“Sorry?” Cockle replied, beating me with it.
“Are you here?” the man repeats.
“In the hotel?”
“Yes,” Cockle said, looking at me. I just responded to his confused gaze. I wonder if the guy needs directions, but I don’t have to fret for long.
The man seems calm in response to Cockle’s answer. He introduced himself, but we’ll call him Bernard.
“I just came down here to go to CNN,” Bernard said. I’m a contractor. They broke my window, he added, not specifying who ‘they’ were. “Navigation, wallets, iPhones, checkbooks, and some money,” he growls, listing things they stole from him. “These cops took four hours to answer my call, then laughed at me,” he said, his anger returning. “They said ‘Welcome to Atlanta.'”
When Bernard pointed to a tattoo on his arm, he said, “This is United State Marine Corp. 20 years. I was in a bad condition for seven hours. I know it’s inappropriate but there’s going to be a storm. be rainin’. ”
“Yes,” Cockle said, a little bewildered as I am. I can’t even glance at Cockle at this point. I’m too busy to find out what the hell Bernard is talking about. Finally, he said:
“I need diesel. I need help. Is there any way you can throw a bronze or two and help me? I’ll give you the money back. I’m a Marine.”
I said to Bernard, “I only have pieces of plastic on me. It’s a lie, but I don’t believe him. Cockle, on the other side, got his wallet.
“No, you don’t have to give me back the money,” Cockle said and gave Bernard $20. “Here’s yours, pass your way, sir.”
“That would be helpful,” Bernard said. “I’ll pay in advance. Thank you.” And with that, he left.
A few seconds passed, and I couldn’t help but think of a mission in The Witcher 3, where a drunken couple asked Geralt for some money. Finally, I managed to say, “It’s a conversation.”
“Yes,” Cockle said, as we both laughed. ‘I feel like it’s a very well played hoax. Sometimes it’s hard to know, you know what I mean? I myself have been in situations where something bad happens and you keep ‘damn, the only thing I can do is ask people I don’t know to help. So you never know. And my father was a Marine. But I can also imagine someone a little less cautious taking advantage of the situation with a group of people who are having fun. ”
I was still reeling from Bernard’s words, so I just asked Cockle the first thing to think about: did he play a lot of games?
“Not as much as I wanted,” he said. “Just for the time. I was very lucky in any way because of Geralt. Since I was nominated for BAFTA, I was able to join BAFTA. And as a BAFTA member, I can join the judges for games, which is great. I did it for the first time this year. I stood in the jury for the BAFTA game award for the narrative genre. So I was sent 12 games, eight or 10 of which were big games, things like Wolfenstein 2, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Hellblade. I have to play games because I can’t judge them without playing them. And it’s amazing! ”
Cockle lights up positively when reimagining about actually playing some one-time video games. There’s something else. In just a second, perhaps out of excitement, his voice passed on to Geralt. He doesn’t seem to recognize it, but it’s certainly Geralt speaking. Cockle says his voice has been altered by hitting the bass notes in Geralt’s voice for too long, and he’s clearly not kidding. It’s an interesting side effect of playing a character for too long, and with that in mind, I asked about less obvious aspects of dubbing: for example noise. How do you make a good growl for jumping or taking damage or what-have-you?
“You have to imagine something happening to you and react physically in a way you can react,” he explains, stepping out of the chair and knitting his hands together. “So if you get punched in the stomach, you have to ‘oomph’,” he said, pushing both hands into his intestines. He added that to make noise when Geralt drowned, he brought a glass of water into the recording studio for a kind of drowning noise.
“You imagine you’re doing that punch and making the sound that you feel you’re going to make,” he said. “Breathing, physically and voice are all interceded. We don’t think about it that way almost every day. But when you train as an actor, you know that it’s all connected in a very, almost spiritual way. If you harness the imagination and allow the connection that your body naturally feels, you can re-create physical effects. I hear myself saying these things and I feel it is a blend of spirituality, hippy-di misfortune, psychoastling, and acting techniques. Sometimes I feel like I should lock myself up, but it’s right for me. “