Fans of super-successful web series The Guild know Felicia Day best as Cyd/Codex, the shy MMO-addicted violinist who has trouble navigating relationships IRL. She’s also portrayed monster-slayer-in-training Vi on the late, lamented Buffy the Vampire Slayer and teamed up with that series’ creator Joss Whedon to play Penny on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, helping the internet musical become a hit.
But she’s about to embark onto a new fantasy journey with Dragon Age: Redemption, a new web series rooted in the mythology of BioWare’s action RPG games. We spoke to the Huntsville, Alabama native about getting to work inside a fictional world she loves and get some hints as to what to expect in Season 5 of the Guild.
How did Dragon Age: Redemption come about? What was the idea there? Did BioWare approach you or the other way around?
Yeah, they approached me. I had been definitely looking for something to do. I’ve been working on The Guild for a longtime now and, even though I really didn’t have time for it, I decided it was time to branch out.
Actually, in retrospect, taking a break from The Guild has made me more excited to come back to do Season 5 writing-wise, but that’s a whole different story. But they called and were like, “We want to work with you.” I was like, “What are we going to work on?” They’re like, I don’t know. I was like, “Well, what do you have? What can I work with?” They’re like, ‘How about Dragon Age?’ I was like, “What? Wait a second?” I mean, imagine being offered one of your favorite worlds to play in. It made me so excited to want to create again.
What is it about the Dragon Age world that makes you a fan? Was it the Tolkien-esque fantasy elements?
I’ve read every single fantasy novel there is. I mean, I would challenge a lot of people to read more fantasy novels than I have. That is what I have immersed myself in for the last–my whole life. And single-player RPGs have always been a real passion of mine. Like, Ultima games are my very favorite. I’ve played almost every single-player RPG there is more than one time. So that is my passion, OK? If we’re talking baseline, it’s already feeding every single one of my geek areas.
The cool thing about Dragon Age and Dragon Age 2 is it’s literally like a novel. The immersive quality to it and the depth of character and the gray areas that it explores, that’s all really interesting to me. They took what could be just complete clichés and added perspectives on them that make them modern. That was really exciting to me. I was like, “I can do something like this.” I wasn’t going to agree to do anything, no matter how cool the opportunity is, unless I know that I can do something new with it and do something that people will appreciate and I will be proud of.
So, once Dragon Age was recommended, I was like, “That’s it man. I want that to happen.” Let me just tell you, it was hard to make happen. It was a lot of work on both ends and we made it happen.
What were the moving parts of getting the series off the ground? Scheduling?
Yeah. Scheduling, resources, getting the right people on board to make it a reality, because we’re still working on a Web budget. So I had to call in every favor I ever, ever, ever had. I probably will never have a favor again. But it will all be worth it because this is so awesome.
The cool thing is that I wrote the script. BioWare and EA approved it with minimal notes because I had done so much research. They were like, “You know this game better than we do.” [laughs] So it was so gratifying for me to make them happy in the script side. And then showing that around to Hollywood people who don’t even know the game at all.
They just know a little bit of Final Fantasy. They agreed to do it but they’re not getting paid like they usually do. People signed up just on the basis of reading the script and doing something that is really innovative and new. What we’re doing is taking a video game and not just kind of adapting it for the mass audience in a huge movie, but doing it for the Web in a new way.
That was really attractive to them. And they in turn brought all their favors on board. And that’s why I got John Bartley, the DP [director of photography] on Lost–he’s won Emmys. Why should he do this show? There’s no reason why he should rough it and do a Web series and call in all the favors, but he did. And that goes down the line. Every single person in every department put 100% into it.
Now, who else is in front of the camera?
In front of the camera, BioWare allowed me to hire actors that are not necessarily known. I, of course, play the lead character. But Doug Jones–who was Abe Sapien in Hellboy–he plays a part. Other than that, most of the actors playing characters have worked but they’re not by any means a household name. It’s really behind the camera is where there are a lot of people with long resumes. Shawna Trpcic from Dr. Horrible– she’s worked on Torchwood, too–did the costume design. You know, Greg Aronowitz, my production designer who oversee the special effects and make-up, he worked on Contact and with Spielberg and on all this other stuff.
My director Peter Winther worked on all the Roland Emmerich films and directed Leverage and a bunch of other TV. So these are all people just really roughing it on a set. But I got a coffee truck everyday. Definitely paid extra for a coffee truck everyday.
It’s a known fact that clerics need their coffee. Now, can you explain the general overarching premise of the show?
I play Tallis, an Elven assassin who works for the Qunari. She’s sent on a mission to retrieve a renegade mage. And, he proves to me a more formidable foe than she thought, so she has to gather allies along the way–who don’t necessarily have her best interests at heart–to accomplish her mission.
Even though you don’t name WoW specifically in The Guild, MMOs and that type of game are such rich kind of fodder for narrative because of the inherent social aspects of playing the game, right?
So, how do you transition from that–where you’ve got other characters you can ping off of–to this, where the game experience you’re drawing from is single-player, like you said. Is there as much meat to be had in creating a story from a lone player’s quest to do X,Y, and Z?
Well, it was actually easier. Yeah, WoW inherently has a lot of people playing together, but have you ever heard what a raid sounds like? That 100 minutes does not entertainment make. I mean, it does in a sense but it’s not a narrative story. It’s very difficult to create believable scenarios and I have to write six individual character arcs. It’s a lot to juggle. So actually writing Dragon Age: Redemption has been easier because it only happens in a fantasy world. I can do anything, without having to worry about the real-world component. I do have a limited budget, though, and I have to write for my budget. But I know that the costumes, the make-up and the sets we make are going to look amazing because of the people I have. So it was almost easier because I had a whole new world to explore, not something millions of people already know the fiction of. I sat down and I created a character I loved. A character who can kick ass but also has a sense of humor. A strong female character. That was a dream come true to me.
Was it hard getting back to stunt work and fight choreography?
On Buffy, I did a lot of fighting and I just did Red, a SyFy Channel movie last year and there was a lot of fighting in that, too. And doing that kind of inspired me. I really want to write a kick-ass character but with a little bit more humor. I wanted to add a little bit of Buffy into this series. Overall, it’s a more serious piece than the stuff on The Guild and it was awesome to do to stretch myself as an actor.
I was in gamer shape, when we started so I definitely trained a lot. So let me tell you. I would go to class, and these women, they would do the whole class without dropping a weight. And I could not get through the first five minutes at first. I was like, who are these people?
That kind of thing is required of you for work.
Oh yeah. Listen, you’ve got to admire these lead actresses to make sure their hair, their nails are perfect…I mean, listen, that’s a full-time job. I don’t have the patience for it. Putting together an outfit, doing my hair… it’s awful. But, some people do that for a living and it’s hard work.
And I’m not saying that with tongue-in-cheek. I’m saying that is a job. So you’ve got to admire being able to do that at the same time as acting or whatever. But, for two months straight, I did knife fighting and choreography just so I could do the very best job that I could.
And you guys have wrapped filming?
Yeah, we wrapped filming. We have a teaser online now. So that’s cool. But, yeah, we are going to be working on post-production for several months.
So what’s the airdate? I mean, Web date?
It will be this summer.
And how deep are you in Season 5 of The Guild?
We just got picked up last week. But I had an outline ready. You’ve got to go, go, go.
Yeah. Not knowing whether or not you’re going to be renewed must be like, “OK, if we get picked up, we hit the ground running.”
Yeah, I did. I had a little bit of a leg-up because I knew some aspects of the season. I’m almost through my first draft now. And we are going to go into preproduction as soon as I get that done in the next couple of weeks. And we are shooting later this spring. And so that will be a late summer rollout.
What can you tease for the fans of the show?
There might be some convention action going on. We set it up at the end of the season last season. So, the Knights of Good may be out from behind their computers a little bit more.
It seems like Dragon-Con is a natural fit. Are you making up a convention for the show?
That’s our plan right. We’re so early I can’t say one way or another.
It seems like an opportunity for one of these conventions to kind of get some free advertising.
Yeah, but then we’re so recognizable at a convention. Any of our characters would be surrounded. We’re situationally well known.
That is an excellent way of putting it.
And I am very, very blessed for that because I’d rather not be well, well known. Because that involves doing your hair everyday.