Stephen Merchant surprised by fan response to Portal 2, found voicing Wheatley exhausting

Stop reading now if you’re still avoiding Portal 2 spoilers, because Stephen Merchant dropped a few plot points in a recent interview with MTV on his role as Wheatley. The loveable, bumbling personality core plays a major part in Portal 2, which meant tiring recording sessions for Merchant, who is best known for his work on Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show, and the original version of The Office… and now Portal 2.

“I found the entire thing really exhausting,” said Merchant. “…More than anything I’ve ever done before, because I’m in this little recording booth, shouting down these imaginary corridors, imaginary gantries, pretending to fall off things and really trying to move around and live it as best I could. I know it sounds really pretentious, but really try to move around like this robot, just so my voice would feel like it was animated. I was really working hard to try and put myself in that environment, I guess, which is not something I normally do as a performer.”

On the challenges of Wheatley’s character, Merchant continued, “The thing which alarmed me, which I didn’t actually know about until we started recording, is that I have to shift from being lovably hopeless, to sort of hopelessly evil.”

“I was a little intimidated by that, because it’s not something I feel naturally comfortable with… being villainous. I suppose I was initially trying to be genuinely villainous and scary, and I think the guys [Valve] were keen to keep the humor, even in my villainy.”

Above: Hear the whole interview

Finally, Merchant expressed surprise at the fan response to Portal 2 and Wheatley, explaining his realization that games generate a response similar to that of other media.

“I’ve been very pleased by the response people have had to it,” he said. “What I was really pleased by how people seemed to respond to it in the way they do with a movie they’ve enjoyed, or a TV show they’ve enjoyed. They seemed to respond to it as entertainment. It never occurred to me that people would respond to it in the way they do with other stuff I’ve done. I felt like, ‘Oh, actually this is a really legitimate, creative art form now.’ Video games have expanded and developed and are so sophisticated right now that, yes, of course, they rank alongside movies and whatever else people really take to their hearts.”

Exhausting as game voice acting may be, we hope Merchant doesn’t stop here. Portal 3: Wheatley’s Revenge, anyone? No? Yeah, that’s a shit idea, but we want more of Merchant’s self-described “anxious, Woody Allen-esque nervousness.”

[Source: MTV (opens in new tab)]

May 13, 2011

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