Exclusive: Mark Ryan Talks Transformers: Age of Extinction Lockdown & More
Michael Bay's next blockbuster hit, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, introduces an enigmatic intergalactic Transformer bounty hunter by the name of Lockdown.
Not much is known about the character, so Cosmic Book News went straight to the source and caught up with Mark Ryan, who lends his voice to Lockdown.
Mark Ryan is a veteran actor and voice actor having played parts in Robin Hood, the new Starz series Black Sails, and Ryan previously voiced Transformer characters for Michael Bay including Jetfire and Bumblebee.
Mark Ryan shares his thoughts on Lockdown, the voice acting process, Black Sails and more.
Cosmic Book News: Regarding Lockdown, what did you think when you were asked to voice the role? Was it an immediate "yes" because you worked with Michael Bay before or did you need to know details about the character and script?
Mark Ryan: It usually starts onset as the script elements are revealed during shooting. I try various voices as we run the dialogue during filming knowing some will be discarded or covered by various other V/O actors in post-production. But it gives me chance to throw in a wild card and try something new and previously unheard in the franchise. Michael will sometimes ask for something more aggressive or something with a specific sound or accent if he has a particular character aspect in mind. This process is a lot of fun and we play around with a lot of vocal tones even in post. In that post process I usually do a scratch-track for editing purposes and sometimes a voice from the set will stick in Michael's head. This time I’m happy to say it was Lockdown!
Cosmic Book News: How would you describe Lockdown?
Mark Ryan: As Michael has stated previously I think Lockdown is a very interesting, mysterious and complex character. He roams the galaxy freely and is focused and dispassionate about his mission. He doesn't really want to take sides at all and to him it’s all just business. He has absolutely no interest in the future fate of humanity whatsoever. Lockdown's ship has epic history and there's a lot of backstory about that ship and it’s origins in the Transformer’s mythos yet to be revealed.
Cosmic Book News: We recently got a listen to Lockdown in the "Villain" spot (see below) for Transformers: Age Of Extinction, how did you approach the character? How is approaching the voice of Lockdown different than your versions of Bumblebee and Jet Fire?
Mark Ryan: I decided to go for a more Hannibal Lecter/Anton Chigurh tone for Lockdown on the set. Very calm, amoral and sociopathic to match the dialogue, yet contrast the massive scene of mayhem and merciless carnage going on all around, and it stuck!
Cosmic Book News: Can you describe the process of recording the voice for Lockdown? Was Michael Bay present for direction? Did you record your scenes prior to filming, during production or post-production? Were any of the other actors present? Were you provided with any footage as a reference?
Mark Ryan: Michael is totally involved with every aspect of the V/O process throughout production and we usually work very closely together. It's a very creative process and we have a lot of fun. During filming I get direction and cues from Michael as we're riding the dialogue and camera moves. I'm usually watching Michael's monitor and Amir's to see the actor’s close-ups and where the cameras are going. I'm listening to the actors through a sound link and doing the dialogue through a radio-mic. It's very live and kinetic. We've reworked and refined the actual "on-set" process quite a lot over the last seven years and have it down to a fine art now. Michael was very smart to have a live "reactive" element to the acting process on set, and I usually get to work with all of the actors during shooting. I have spoken to other pals working on CGI type projects and it's one of the most difficult aspects, acting to a dead green screen or light-pole with no actor there to actually bounce dialogue and drama off. This onset flexibility gives him and the actors a chance to deliver lines with various emphases or pacing and keeps it spontaneous!
Cosmic Book News: What are your thoughts on voice acting compared to live acting?
Mark Ryan: I’ve been a Merry Man, and honorary Knight of the Round Table, a pirate quartermaster and several giant alien robots! That's not counting the theatre roles I’ve played. Obviously there is a huge technical difference in both disciplines and both have their own artistic fulfillment aspect, as does sword choreography. They are all still part of the same dramatic process though, and I get tremendous satisfaction from all three mediums. I don't think I'd swap with many folks. I did enjoy playing Gates very much as it was like slipping into a well-worn and comfortable pair of old boots. Very easy to step into and comfortable to wear. Again Michael Bay in the form of his production arm, Platinum Dunes, brought the scale, vision and VSFX to make the show epic and ground breaking. So Nasir and Gates come a very close second and third to being associated with Bumblebee, Jetfire, and Lockdown.
Cosmic Book News: You have a pretty long and varied resume before the Transformers franchise. So is there another project you've done that you perhaps wish more people would have seen, or that you think you did particularly well in?
Mark Ryan: Robin of Sherwood and Nasir was obviously a huge part of my life for the last 30 years and we just celebrated its anniversary with a huge gathering in Chepstow, South Wales where we filmed many scenes. RoS seems to have picked up a whole new following with a younger generation, as it's still the definitive show about the Robin Hood legend. It was the launching pad for many careers both on and off the screen and started a whole new way of making TV. It was groundbreaking then and still holds up now in style and depth.
Cosmic Book News: We see you are also starring in the Starz series Black Sails, which is executive produced by Michael Bay. What can you tell us about the series and your character Gates?
Mark Ryan: Gates is a blue-collar guy who is in a position of power with the crew. In those days, it was very democratic onboard ship. The pirates could vote people in and out of office, including the captain. So Gates is juggling all of these different cultural, racial and spiritual elements within the crew, and trying to focus that energy to put it behind Flint. The role offered a whole array of different facets to a character that Gates has to have. You have to be funny; you have to be charming; you have to be able to be a disciplinarian. You have to understand different cultures and the drives of human beings.
When I read the part, I realized straight away that I knew this man and I knew this character. Jon Steinberg and I were just chatting and he was telling me a little bit about the show, and he said, “Now, will you tell me what you know about this character?” And I said, “I know this character because I’ve done this job.” I was a non-commissioned officer in the British Army and their role as middle management is to take orders from the office and get the men to carry them out, sometimes in dangerous and nasty situations. I said, “The officers give the orders, but it’s the sergeants mess that carries them out and makes things happen.” And he went, “I get it, that’s the character.”
I think Jon [Steinberg] also said something that was very insightful and interesting; he said, “Everybody thinks they know this universe, the pirate universe.” But really what you get is either a cartoony sort of history, or a false idea of what it was like because of the pirate films of the ’30s and ’40s — whereas the history is very different, and actually much more interesting and intriguing.
The background to how the pirates became pirates and outlaws, it’s fascinating in itself. The period is at the turning point of upheavals where it’s not long before the American Revolution; it’s not long before the French Revolution. It’s not long before the British Navy basically becomes the commanding force on the surface of the planet. But the pirates were rebelling against all of that traditional and royal control and against households and corruption. They were the privateers originally hired by the royal household to fight on behalf of their country, and were then outlawed by the very people who had hired them. The privateers felt their own country and their rulers had betrayed them.
The production built one full size boat and a half a ship, so you could see into the decks. They were fully rigged with gun decks and storage areas. It was quite an amazing set to work on. It was in a couple of acres of water that were fifteen feet deep. The town itself, Nassau, where a lot of the action takes place looks amazing. Whichever way you look you see pirate camps, brothels, taverns, storehouses, and we had the fort. You were literally in that universe with a beach and the water and the waves. And that’s what you expect from a Michael Bay show; production values that are rich, beautifully shot and on an epic scale.
Cosmic Book News: Care to share or tease anything else that might be coming up that you are involved with?
Mark Ryan: Watch Lockdown's facial expressions. You might see a few piratical looks and a bit of familiar eyebrow acting thrown in there! I’m also looking at presenting a TV series about various historic, esoteric figures that’s in development and my biography will be released sometime in late July.
"Transformers: Age Of Extinction" is currently in theaters starring Mark Ryan as the voice of Lockdown; Catch Season 1 of "Black Sails" on Starz, with Season 2 coming soon.