Interview: Maggie Robertson On Playing Lady Dimitrescu, Weird Fan Art, And Ducking Under Doorways
“I love the fan community in video games – they’re rabid, but they are a fun time,” Maggie Robertson, the actor behind Resident Evil Village’s Lady Dimitrescu tells me. “I’m constantly amazed and wowed by the amount of creativity and talent that’s in the community base. The fan art that I’m seeing, all the cosplays, props, designers who are making things, it’s really cool. The responses that I’ve been getting have been so overwhelmingly positive, everyone’s really welcomed me into the family. I think that’s probably my favourite part, getting to connect with the fans. And it is really special to hear about how this role, this character, has an impact and affects people’s lives. People write to me all the time saying that this character has changed their lives.”
Robertson had never worked in gaming before, and admits to not being much of a gamer, but she still managed to embed herself deeply in the community, even before anyone knew who she was. As soon as she saw the response to Lady Dimitrescu’s first appearance, she dove into every fan forum she could find. Because of her NDA still being in place though, she couldn’t tell anybody that she was the actor behind the already iconic character.
“That was one of the most surreal and excruciating parts of the whole thing, when she started to blow up,” Robertson says. “I can’t say anything to anybody, so I’m just this weird stalker in the dark interwebs just lurking and looking at as many things as I could find. It was kind of funny, I was reading some Reddit chains back in the day where people were trying to guess who the voice actors were, and guessing incorrectly. And then once my name was finally released, there were a couple of comments like, ‘Who the fuck is Maggie Robertson? Who is this? Where did she come from?’ so that was pretty funny. It’s definitely been such a wild ride. It’s more than anything I ever could have imagined it to be. I mean, this game, this role, has changed my life – this character will be with me for the rest of my life. And that’s incredibly humbling to think about.”
Of course, one of the benefits of lurking as an unknown was that Robertson got to see all of the fan art and Lady Dimitrescu memes as they emerged. She’s seen the sock puppet, the swan Lady D, the hamster Lady D, and all the weird and wonderful artwork the internet has concocted. However, one piece of official merchandise flew under the radar – the 9 foot 6 Lady Dimitrescu Capcom bath towel. “That’s hilarious!” Robertson laughs as I tell her about the very strange – yet very official – bath towel. “They need to make a whole Lady D spa line with the robe, towels, and bath bombs. I would love that. I think I’ve seen a lot of different things though. I’ve seen people doing crochet dolls of her. Somebody made this ‘90s commercial for a Lady D action figure, which was hilarious. I don’t think the action figure actually exists, but I really, really want it to exist. So I’m just gonna manifest that and put it out into the universe that I want an action figure.”
Part of the reason fans took to her so early, Robertson suspects, is because her outline tells you exactly who she is before she even speaks – a similarity Robertson sees with one of her favourite TV shows. “This is kind of a side tangent, but I’ve been watching The Mandalorian documentary on Disney+,” she says, a Baby Grogu calendar hanging behind her in her office. “One of the things that I think Bryce Dallas Howard talks about as a director is that in Star Wars, all of the characters have a distinctive silhouette. You know who they are even from a distance without even being able to see their face. They’re instantly recognisable and I feel like that’s the same with Lady D – she has a silhouette. She has a very distinctive character and it’s really cool. It’s such a good job.”
While Lady Dimitrescu initially took the world by storm, we hadn’t really seen all that much of her. It wasn’t until the demo and the full release that Robertson’s entire performance could be appreciated. Robertson stands at six foot, making her significantly taller than average, but way off Lady Dimitrescu’s looming 9 foot 6 presence. The biggest challenge of incorporating this physicality was balancing the ferocity of Lady D’s dangerous side with the grace and decorum she usually conducts herself with. “She has that duality of refined elegance, that regal stature and grandeur paired with the undercurrent of real potential for violence,” Robertson says. “That kind of dichotomy is what makes her so cool and appealing. It’s not just about the way that she looks, this attraction to her. It’s not. If she was just a beautiful woman, then I think it would have fallen a little flat. But because she has this iconic visual story paired with this character that is so multidimensional and dynamic, that’s what gives her a spell-like quality – she’s very magnetic.”
Related: The Best Thing About Lady Dimitrescu Is We’re All In On The Joke
Transferring all this into the performance is a challenging task. When performing the motion capture for the role, Roberston had to act much heavier than she was, because Lady D’s powerful footsteps have so much weight – enough weight that they’d kill you, in fact. She also had to wear a headpiece akin to the pugils from the show Gladiators so that actors would look at where Lady Dimitrescu’s face would be as opposed to Robertson’s face, which was only chest height. Likewise, she had to deliver most of her lines to peoples’ stomachs, as Lady Dimitrescu would be looking down. There is one part of her performance that has led to discussion more than anything else though – the way she ducks under her average sized doors. “I definitely felt pretty silly doing all of that,” Robertson laughs. “It was funny, there was the average person door, the door that everyone else got to go through at the end of a scene, and then there’s the Maggie door that had scaled to be as if I was nine foot six. I would have to duck under. It was definitely pretty amusing, and you’re five foot eleven, I’m six foot, so you know ducking under things is nothing new. That felt a little too lifelike.”
As for why Lady D wouldn’t just install the right sized doors for her height? Robertson thinks she has the answer. “I guess if I had worked so hard to make a beautiful castle and decorated it all the way that she has I’d be loath to leave it and start anew somewhere else.” We discussed the idea of getting builders in to renovate, but both decided the builders likely wouldn’t last long in the hands of Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters.
While ducking under the door is the internet’s favourite Lady D motion capture moment, there’s another one that tops it for Robertson herself. “The throwing of the desk,” Robertson tells me when I ask what she enjoyed best. “Who doesn’t want to throw a table? That’s on my artistic bucket list. That’s like one of the things that’s the most fun to think about. If I was an actor, I’d want to do this. And then I found out that I got to do that. I was a kid in a candy shop and probably was enjoying myself too much. I think they were like, ‘Maggie, we’ve got it. We don’t need to do it again’. I was like, ‘You’re sure? You’re sure? If you want me to do it again I’m happy to do it again. I’m happy to keep going’. I love those moments because she is this regal, elegant, refined, graceful woman. But underneath she has this burning fire. I think she’s an incredibly emotional person.”
Of course, when Robertson talks about Lady Dimitrescu having something lurking underneath the surface, she’s not just being metaphorical. Lady Dimitrescu, as anyone who has played Village will know, is not quite what she seems, and Robertson told me how grateful she was to play Lady D in her demonic role as well as her refined, regular appearance. “When they told me what I would be transforming into, I was very, very excited,” she says. “Similar to the table throwing, that was such a dream come true. I think a lot of that was ADR [Additional Dialogue Recording, where an actor performs extra lines to create layered sounds] in the booth. It was just such a wild, fun ride – I was just in there making all of these weird noises still hooked up to like the head cam and all that jazz. You can’t believe that your job is to work every day, and do weird noises and make creature sounds.”
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