There are characters in video games that have always stuck out in a positive way with the gaming audience. Whether it’s because they simply look cool, have an intriguing backstory, or are simply oozing personality in every scene they’re in, it’s safe to say that when a character is regarded highly that people are going to be interested to see what sort of developments are made over time.
A character that has always been regarded highly in the gaming community is Raiden from the Mortal Kombat series. Proving that wearing a conical hat can be stylish during combat, Raiden’s background as a thunder god made for some cool abilities, including the somewhat legendary forward spin attack in which his almost unintelligible yelling has provided some nice riff material over the years.
Besides his fighting prowess and cool design, Raiden has always served as a pivotal anchor in the Mortal Kombat series, not just in being the protector of the Earthrealm, but in essentially being the immediate bridge in allowing the player, or in this case the viewing audience, to understand the various elements of the rather complex mythology and lore of the franchise.
With Raiden being a more integral component of Mortal Kombat: Legacy II, a new actor has arisen to fill the legendary shoes of the character. After making a splash in various film and TV projects in South Korea, actor David Lee McInnis has assumed the role of the Thunder God that is Raiden for the second season of Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Providing a fresh take on the character that stays true to what players have seen in the video games, I think people will be surprised by the nuanced yet thoroughly enjoyable take David has taken with the character.
To learn more about his background as an actor and his time working on Mortal Kombat: Legacy II, David chats with Shogun Gamer in this exclusive interview.
Ian Fisher: Right now a lot of folks, gamers in particular, are seeing your work for the first time thanks to your portrayal of Raiden in season 2 of Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what made you want to pursue acting as a career?
David Lee McInnis: I moved to New York in 1998 and I got the opportunity to audition for a film called “The Cut Runs Deep” and I was only twenty-three years old. Fortunately, after doing that film I really fell in love with the process of filmmaking and what we were doing there. So after that I just took a lot of classes and got involved with things as much as I could.
Ian: What sort of roles normally attract you the most as an actor? And in general, is there a specific persona that you like to have for yourself as a performer (such as playing heroes, warriors, etc.) or do you just like to work on projects that have good material and a good essence to them?
David: Well right now it’s more about content for me. I’ve had a few years when I didn’t work and I just like to work and not drop the ball. So getting villain roles, warrior roles, or drama type things for me is all gravy. As long as I’m working and doing content and things like that. I also like to get behind the camera sometimes when I’m not working in-front. So I like to keep myself busy and keep it creative.
Ian: Speaking of the behind the camera work that you do, are you fonder of directing or writing?
David: Well right now I like to produce. I started out entering a short film competition in which it was a three minute short and you had to use four lines of dialog. That was when I kind of dabbled in getting behind the camera because I wanted to know if this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I did that and I produced a short film which we’ve now turned into a short web-series called “Broke as a Joke”. It’s on podcast for iTunes right now and BlipTV. It’s a fun little show with zany comedy about a bunch of eco-warriors that live in a commune.
Ian: Over the last few years your career has blossomed thanks to working in some rather notable projects in the South Korean film/TV industry. Having worked in both the Asian and American film/TV industry, are there any core differences when it comes to shooting a project in one territory compared to the other? Obviously both crews are dedicated to delivering an excellent product, but is the vibe different when working on either a South Korean film compared to one shot in the States?
David: You know there’s like a hierarchy in Korean society when you’re older than someone else. So within the intricate parts of your job within a film production there’s also the way that you communicate with people if they’re older than you or younger than you. So that’s the interesting part of the production where it’s different than in the States. Other than that, like you said it’s pretty much all the same. I mean you got your call sheets, different productions, and teams so it pretty much runs like with the same kind of engine.
Ian: Having acted predominantly in projects that are exclusive to the South Korean film/TV market, what has it been like for you as an actor to see that industry thrive over the years? In general the Asian film industry has been thriving and evolving over the years thanks to directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook. So has it been interesting to see things evolve since you’ve been able to go from projects that range from period pieces to sleek spy thrillers such as "IRIS II"?
David: South Korea gave me a lot of experience which I wouldn’t have gotten here. I was there back in 2000 and it has evolved a lot. They shoot very quickly. I mean they shoot REAL quick. It seems hectic, but everything is pretty much in control. The style of shooting, the lighting, and the cinematography is pretty dead on. Usually it was more just the films that were doing this type of gritty stuff and it took them a while to set it up. But on "IRIS II" in my experience they just get in there, set up the lights, they shoot it, and it’s all quality stuff like you would see in the theaters.
Ian: Right now your latest project is Mortal Kombat: Legacy II in which you portray the thunder god that is Raiden. Since you’re new to the franchise can you tell us how you were able to snag the role of Raiden?
David: Before I left for "IRIS" I auditioned for one of the other roles and then I went to work for another project. I think we were in Hungary and I got a call from casting and they were like, “listen, there’s a scheduling conflict with Ryan Robbins [Raiden in MK: Legacy 1] and it opened up.” They asked me if I could make it and I said I would but didn’t think I would make it since I was going to straight into filming once I got back to Korea. Then all of a sudden this window opened up so I could make it.
So then they told me they needed me there [in L.A.] in two days. It was either Friday or Saturday and they told me they needed me for a fitting on Monday and then a shoot on Tuesday. With the time difference you lose a day when travelling. So I travelled for fifteen hours, flew in on a Monday morning, went straight to the fitting from the airport, and then I shot the next day. It was all kind of a blur actually. After that I had a couple of days off and then I shot more on Friday. It was very unexpected but it all worked out. I was very fortunate enough to be part of the project.
Ian: Mortal Kombat is one of the few video game franchises out there that has been around for ages and has managed to cross into the mainstream thanks to various TV and film incarnations. So prior to officially joining MK: Legacy were you at all familiar with the property? And in general, are much you of a gamer when you have free time from filming projects?
David: Well I mostly played the game in the arcades. I really didn’t have it at home, but I played it in the arcades. My two favorite characters were Liu Kang and Raiden so I was pretty stoked to play Raiden.
Ian: What was it like for you as an actor to step into a role that was already both established in cinema as well as the video games? Obviously you knew your performance was going to be awesome, but did you think deeply about the past history of the role or just go into things with a clear mentality?
David: Well you know you always hope that it’s awesome but you got to go into it with the material you’re given. Since Kevin Tancharoen was giving it a facelift with Legacy it was different than the previous Mortal Kombat, but we were hoping people would have a fresh outlook on that and within the characters as well. That being said, stepping in and following the most famous Raiden is really tough. I just tried to keep my character really centered and more like a God.
Ian: Since Raiden is a thunder god and has been around for quite some time, how did you want to approach portraying him? Did you want to have that slight air of regality to him to get across that he isn’t an ordinary mortal or was there something else that you wanted to achieve with the character?
David: Yeah I played him more centered and I guess regal in a sense. Within the scenes given it wasn’t ambitious in character, it was more in the area of getting these guys together so we could fight and protect Earthrealm.
Ian: While the character of Raiden may be fleshed out thanks to the already established Mortal Kombat lore, was there an element of the character you wish you got to explore more but couldn’t this first time out with the role?
David: Since Legacy II is focusing on the tournament, I would like to go into Raiden’s past and the history of Earthrealm.
Ian: Even though Mortal Kombat: Legacy is officially classified as a web-series it certainly has the style and production values one would associate with a high-end TV show/movie. Since you’re an acting veteran, what was it like to work on the relatively fast-paced shooting schedule of MK: Legacy and to work with series director Kevin Tancharoen?
David: I’ve done four of these web-series in alternate platforms with things like “Broke as a Joke”. It’s wonderful and I think everyone was psyched on it. The production, the crew, all the other actors were really excited where it was going. The success of Legacy 1 had something around sixty or eighty-million views so I think it was awesome. Such a vast audience too and the power of the gamers is amazing. Being a part of that and working with Kevin and seeing his views and being on point was cool.
Ian: Since you worked on Legacy in addition to other web-series such as "Broke as a Joke", do you think that’s the future of cinema in a sense? We’ll obviously still have the major networks and stuff like HBO, but do you think more people will flock to watch web content since it allows some creators to do unique things?
David: It’s crazy to see how things are integrating now and there’s money to be made online. As soon as every flatscreen has an online capability people are going to have the option to watch a web-series on the big screen in addition to traditional TV or cable shows. I think it’s all rounding out now and it’s giving the consumer/the audience more to choose from and more flexibility so I think it’s wonderful. In the next five years I think web-series are going to be where it’s at.
Ian: What was your one main highlight whilst working on Mortal Kombat: Legacy? Were you fond of how a particular scene turned out or working alongside one of the cast members? Or was the overall experience just a blast from the moment it started until the project finally wrapped?
David: Well there was a couple of scenes, but I have scene with all the cast members around a campfire so that was great. Working with Casper Van Dien was awesome. The guy is a veteran and has been around for a long time, but he’s super creative as Johnny Cage so I enjoyed working with him.
I want to extend a huge thanks to David for taking out the time to chat with me and sharing some insight on his career. Hopefully we’ll be lucky and receive a third season of MK: Legacy as I have a feeling people will really dig David’s take on the character and want to see it expanded.
If anyone is interested in checking out some of David’s previous work you can watch episodes of "IRIS II" on Hulu, and "Broke as a Joke" can be seen on BlipTV. You can also stay up to date with the latest happenings concerning David via his Twitter account.