Interview with James C. Burns, Star of Call of Duty

Gaming Cypher had the pleasure of interviewing the star of Call of Duty, James C. Burns (Black Ops Sgt. Frank Woods) about his upcoming film Coldwater.

According to Call of Duty creator, Dave Anthony, “James C. Burns exquisitely nails his portrayal of Col. Frank Reichert from the first scene. He leads you teetering on the tightrope of empathy until all Hell breaks loose and then sucks you emotionally down the precipice. Gut-wrenching stuff.”

The Coldwater Marine Colonel is an extension of Black Ops Sgt. Frank Woods. The film is about juvenile reform boot camps that promise to rehabilitate troubled/at-risk youth, but often, through the use of extreme behavior modification techniques, including intimidation, this rehabilitation morphs into starvation and physical brutality.

Coldwater Gaming Cypher

Here is our interview:

1.      What have you learned from your role as Sergeant Frank Woods in the Call of Duty franchise?

Don’t eat spicy food for breakfast?   I could talk all day about that gig –  everything from creative bravery to friendship building – it changed my life in a lot of ways.  Today, I will speak about how I became much more “media” savvy –  I actually learned to speak in sound bites!   I was a bit of a klutz when I started out and said a lot of stupid shit – essentially I was too long winded.  After embarrassing myself  for the tenth time I finally figured it out; all I had to do was say it straight and say it quick.  The hardest lesson I had to master was to keep the WOODS personality in check.  When you play such a “large”  personality for such a long time, the BIG-ness creeps into your daily life.   I would order food in restaurant like WOODS, talk to my family and friends like him – I was being completely loud and brash and I had no idea I was even doing it!   “HEY MA..HOW THE  “F” are ya? You kicking ass and taking names?” This actually came out of my mouth once! Thank God she has a sense of humor!

2.      Do you find any similarities between your roles as Sergeant Frank Woods in Call of Duty and Col. Frank Reichert in Coldwater?

They are really one and the same –  with the Colonel, I was able to be a bit more vulnerable than with WOODS, but they are basically built with the same engine.  Both characters are fierce, both have the conviction of their belief in themselves and the men around them, essentially both fall prey to the miscalculation of the men around them – and subsequently meet their demise.
They say timing is everything and Coldwater was kind of just that. WOODS was almost instantly transformed into the Colonel – it’s funny, now when I watch Coldwater I see a lot of ‘WOODS-isms’ in it – the body language, the quiet reactions, the not so quiet reactions; they all jump out.  It’s like having “easter eggs” in a movie…if you don’t now what that means, ask a gamer! WOODS out!

3.      What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of your Coldwater role?

Favorites first: working with the kids and the guys – the cast was awesome!  A lot of them were first timers, but they all still nailed it! We actually shot at a summer camp in the hills of Malibu, which is right on the coast – it was perfect location. The cast and crew all lived on-site, sleeping in barracks, eating in the mess hall together – it was awesome! Plus, having all that energy and enthusiasm on set every day made it easy to go to work. After work, when I was trying to sleep?  Not so much.

The only down side, is that is had to end.  For four weeks I was living in this intense and highly motivated environment, then in one day, boom, it was over.  I get choked up when I drive past the location now; it feels almost like an old friend is missing.
Interview with James C. Burns, Star of Call of Duty 1
4.      Do you believe that actions taken in Coldwater can work in real life?
Hmmm…yes but, I have seen this type of immersion treatment work and I’ve seen it fail – I have been a part of both scenarios.  It only works if the “subject” has a desire to change – no one can do that for them.  Some people have to hit rock bottom before they can see that their choices are not working.  In the case of Coldwater, and the Colonel more specifically, things are a bit more “amplified” so that we can tell a two year story in 90 minutes.  The descent into abuse and chaos is the result of the Colonel’s mistake of not understanding and adapting to  the civilian world.  In the Corps, he had a massive institution around him;  a supportive  infrastructure and highly trained personnel – he possessed a chain of command that could quickly and accurately execute his orders.  At Coldwater, he did not have that – the Colonel’s staff had issues, yet he saw them as extension of himself, and they were most definitely not.  So as it happens in life, things erode and good intentions sometimes turn into horrible abuse.
5.      If you could be any video game hero or villain, who would you be and why?Hmmm…I think I am one already?  WOODS?   You know, I’m really happy being BURNS.   I slip, fall and I get back up. I’m tough enough to not have to be tough! I have great friends, I LOVE my job,  I love creative people, I love good socks, I drive a 2008 SUV Hybrid and I can afford a good steak every now and then.  I’m doing alright.

Take a look at the Coldwater trailer:

Coldwater is scheduled to premiere in the States on August 15.

Source: Interview