Being a pretty established British Actor for many years and playing your tough, sometimes nasty piece of work characters, Steve Waddington is no stranger to a bit of action on screen. Now we see him move into a completely new genre with Halo: Nightfall but he still brings with him that great British northern grit we know him for. We spoke to Steve about his role, the making of this film and a few highlights in his career so far.
You’ve had a varied career to date within TV and Film, Starring in some big shows and movies along the way. What attracted you to your role as Randall Aiken in Halo: Nightfall?
I haven’t really done any Sci-Fi before so that was really attractive, also it came from Ridley Scott’s production company which is always attractive to an actor. So I initially thought it was a feature film, but going through the audition process found out exactly what it was, and I had never done anything like that, which had been released via the internet. So that was another added bonus. The initial process went well, I clicked with the Director then suddenly we were shooting. So it was an attractive package from the start.
Can you tell us a bit more about your character?
He’s a colonel; he used to be a Spartan from the Spartan 2 quarter. The interesting thing about the character and what I liked about it was the sort of human aspect of it. Because he had a tragedy right at the beginning of the story and he loses his daughter. That becomes his motivation really to go on this expedition. So in the beginning he had no interest in going on this expedition but it soon turned and he quickly re-evaluated his life. From there he builds this relationship with Commander Locke, we are always at logger heads we kind of do the same thing, we both want to be in charge, and actually we end up finding a lot of respect for each other. It’s actually one of the heart warming stories towards the end, well so I think anyway.
You’re pretty well known for playing some pretty nasty and tough characters and you play them so well, I’m a massive fan of The Tudors and even though you weren’t in it for very long, your performance as the Duke of Buckingham still lingers in my head. Has Aiken got that same kind of toughness in his character?
I really enjoyed playing that role in The Tudors, it’s a shame he got his head chopped off after a couple of episodes (laughs). I was trying to come back as a ghost with my head under my arm but they weren’t having it! Yeah I guess they are quite similar, I play a lot of shoulders I guess, regal people and I guess there are similarities between those characters. I hadn’t actually thought about that before. So I don’t really know what those characteristics are or where they meet. I think there was a little bit of sensitivity to Buckingham, I certainly got to play that. From his point of view he should have been in line to be the king, so I can see where he was coming from. But then he had to take a very hard line, At the very end the Director said when I was going to get my head chopped off I want to see some emotion there so it was nice to be able to actually play that and not just play this one strand all the time. And again with Aiken there is this softer side when you see what happens to his daughter, so even though he is an extraordinary shoulder you get to see that human side. Those are the kind of characters I am attracted to, where you can see the flipside of something.
Do you like playing these type of roles? I mean you have been in lots of stuff but I always seem to pick out the period/historical dramas, well those are the ones that usually stick in my mind.
I do yeah, I think actors like to play characters that have a journey, it’s a bit of a cliché but we do like playing people who are affected by things. So you get to show different sides to the human condition. So I think any character that incorporates that as well as being a bit of a tough guy is always a bonus (laughs). Guys like playing those types of roles.
Do you think you get those tough guy roles because you’re a northerner (laughs)?
Probably I don’t know, it’s really strange innit, I sometimes get really sensitive roles but normally they come from a military shoulder background. I don’t know maybe it is that, it’s hard to know how you’re perceived.
The whole turning a game into a film seems to be becoming a popular thing to do; obviously we have the successful Halo franchise amongst others making it onto our screens. Why do you think this genre is so popular?
I think one of the reasons is because it already has an audience; anything that has come through the games system already has a captive audience. They are just waiting to see how that develops into a theatrical release, a film or an online series or whatever it may be. So I think the Marvel pictures and things, we are all familiar with those things characters and in a way its a safer bet for the studios because they are putting in a lot of money being invested, it’s like they are making a gamble. So if that were me and you and we wanted to make a film and they were putting up our own money we’d want to know that we were going to get a return of some sort. We’d want to know if there is a captive audience out there. I think that’s why there’s this sudden interest. As well as being exciting and interesting films there also sort of reliable.
Just by looking at you I wouldn’t say you’re a gamer at heart, I could be wrong! Did you know anything about the gaming world and how much research did you have to do for the film.
Firstly, you’re right I am not a gamer (laughs). I did however get sucked into the whole Lara Croft sort of thing when the playstation came out. I literally lost days over that game, I eventually told myself I can’t do this, I literally had to tear myself away from the game. They are so addictive and so well made you can lose yourself in them. So I had to make a conscious effort to keep away from that. We were lucky, when we got to Belfast, which is were we did a boot camp, there was like a cerebral boot camp where there was lots of people from Microsoft filling us in on the background and history of Halo, As well as giving us a physical boot camp.
Filming took place in Northern Ireland and Iceland, it doesn’t look like it was such an easy ride or am I wrong?
Iceland is extraordinary; It has this sort of lunar landscape it is like being on the moon. But the weather was dreadful, it did nothing but rain. It was quite arduous, quite a physical shoot because we were wearing all this armour we were always running from A-B and we had all this heavy weapons and all that stuff. On top of that it did nothing but rain which wasn’t expected, we expected it to be all green. So that was something they hadn’t planned for. However, because it was one of those shoots were people were always tired it brought us all together; there was a lot of camaraderie which probably normally happens with real shoulders who have genuinely tough conditions. As we were a bunch of soppy actors (laughs) and not real shoulders we sort of huddled together quite quickly in the tents, around the fire and playing games and all that kind of stuff that brings you together. That helps the filming, it helps build relationships. Its also a really good story I think, the whole premise that there is only 2 seats on the spaceship and you’ve got like eight characters all trying to get out of this place. In terms of drama the writers have done a great job.
Boys love playing with new toys in my experience, there looks like there were a few futuristic weaponry on the set of Halo, How much fun did you guys have on set with the equipment, Or where you all the ultimate professionals?
I have to admit when all the armour and weapons came out I have to admit we all thought it was fantastic. After a couple of weeks wearing that though…It’s quite heavy. They all had little lights on and the details were great but they never worked completely. What with it raining all the time the electric systems were short circuiting so it became quite arduous after a well, but that sort of helps because you’re supposed to be on this journey that its taking something out of you so when we got fed up of the costumes and uniforms and guns and all that it actually helped in a strange way. But yeah it was a lot of fun for the first few days, as you can imagine yes we were those boys with new toys (laughs).
Where there any high jinx’s on set which lead to any nasty accidents?
There was one accident we had were Luke Neil was actually knocked unconscious, we were being chased by these invisible monsters, worms… and of course with the helmets we had on, they had visors on and they would steam up so you couldn’t see where you were going, and we were running backgrounds into this ravine with a really rocky surface. He actually tripped over one of those when we were running backwards, banged his head and he was unconscious for a good 5 -10 minutes. So it was quite serious, he had to have a bit of time off and time to recover. When you’re doing films that involve action and your wearing all that stuff, they uniforms were fantastic but you couldn’t move or see properly. If anyone had actually dropped a gun it would take about 5 of us to bend down and pick it back up again. Completely impractical.
Who out of the cast did you enjoy working with the most and why?
Gosh there was so many of them and I really genuinely liked the whole group. Mike Coulter was great to work with, very American and very different from our mentality. He couldn’t believe the hours we were working, the conditions we were working in that were very funny. He was being ironic but it was also a very big shock to him. The other guys were Brits really so we were all used working the sort of hours we did.
I have to admit I love the characters you play in the historical dramas throughout your career. Has working on Halo given you a taste for wanting to star in more films of the same genre or are you not fussy?
I really like the genre, what I would say is it doesn’t matter what genre it is as long as the story is strong, the story is interesting and good. It did give me a taste of Sci-Fi, if there is another Sci-Fi film to come my way that as a strong….. Actually, I have an audition for Ridley Scott’s film called Morgan which is a sci-fi film so fingers crossed that I’ll get a part in that.
I’ll put in a good word with Ridley Scott on your behalf for that role (both laugh) and thank you for talking to Flavourmag.
The film is released digitally in the UK on Monday 16th March (and released internationally digitally on March 17th).