Adetokumboh M’Cormack is an actor and producer who also (coolly neglected to mention to me that he) directs and writes. He just directed a live action, period-set short, The German King. You might recognize Ade from Lost, Heroes, 24, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or your pick of syndicated crime dramas – pick one, he’s probably appeared in it. We are very lucky to work with Ade on Castlevania, in which he plays Isaac, an ally of Dracula’s, Devil Forgemaster and new character in season 2. Read on for Ade’s perspective on acting, favorite vampire film (a surprisingly gooby pick for this serious Actor), and discussion of Isaac – including a clip of him in character!
Why did you choose to be an actor?
Gosh, I don’t think I really had much of choice to be honest (laughs). It’s always been something that I just knew I had to do. I grew up in Kenya and went to this school in Nairobi called Braeburn. It had a state of the art theatre where we performed all these plays. I made sure I was in every one – I just loved performing.
My dad’s story is that when I was around ten, I got cast in a musical called Rats – based on The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I played this awesome lead role as the Rat Leader! (laughs). But my dad took me out of the play because he wanted me to focus more on my studies. I just remember being super bummed about the whole thing. After a few days, the school’s Headmaster called my dad in for a meeting and said “Your son is sad. For goodness sake, you have to put him back in the play!” He did, and I immediately cheered up. My dad later told me that it was at this point that he knew this wasn’t just a hobby to me. I was actually serious about Acting. My parents were super supportive ever since.
What do you love about Acting?
So many things! I love studying people. Humans are such wonderfully complex, nuanced creatures. So to get to walk in someone else’s shoes and become a different person, and discover who they are and what makes them tick and convey how they feel – it’s just fascinating. As people, we have so many layers. And I love putting those layers onto my characters. Why do they make certain choices? What secrets are they hiding? I have a lot of fun creating characters.
Do you enjoy any aspect of voice acting in particular?
I really enjoy doing different things with my voice and vocal register to create different characters, and I enjoy putting on different accents. But I really just love words. And languages. And how things like alliteration can convey a certain feeling. Take Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, or Shakespeare for example. When Macbeth says to Banquo, “To-night we hold a solemn supper sir,” there’s something very serpent-like and ominous because of the “s” sounds. So when the actor says it, the audience feels that.
When I read a script, I look for how I can employ the rhythm of the words, the vowels, the use of consonance, to effectively set the picture for the scene. And Warren Ellis is such a talented writer, he uses a lot of these devices.
Voice Acting in some ways is harder, because you cannot rely on anything else. People aren’t seeing your facial expressions or gestures. All you have is your voice and that microphone that picks up EVERYTHING. You cannot have one false moment because it’s amplified. So everything boils down to being truthful under imaginary circumstances. You put every ounce of your being into being truthful, and making it come through in your voice.
Whenever I’m in the studio, I’m super animated. I fully act out the scene and try to make the situation as real for myself as possible. Only then can it be real for your audience/listener. I’m usually a sweaty mess by the end of it. But when you see it all put together with the animation, it’s awesome!
How were you introduced to Castlevania as a potential project?
I really enjoy period pieces, and who doesn’t love a good Dracula story? So when my agent first told me about the project I was intrigued. And then when I started reading the script, I was blown away. I really liked the story and characters. And of course with Adi Shankar at the helm, you know you’re going to have something awesome. I remember after I watched his Power Rangers short a couple of years back I was like “whatever this guy does next, sign me up!” (laughs). Needless to say, I was really impressed by the finished product.
What do you look for in a project? Do you gravitate toward certain genres?
I definitely gravitate toward drama. And I’m a big fan of historical pieces. I’m getting ready to shoot a film called The German King about an African leader who rises up against German colonial rule in World War I. But the most important thing that draws me to a script is the writing. I love a well written piece with interesting, fleshed out characters.
What about Isaac’s character compelled you to take the role?
When you first meet Isaac in season 2, he’s having this intense, philosophical conversation with a dead creature. You start getting an insight into his intellect. Isaac is super smart. And you start understanding more about who he is, and what drives him. Villains are so often portrayed without much depth – everything’s black or white. But over the course of the season, you gain insight into Isaac’s complex mind, and you find that his motivation is seeded very, very deep. And the fact that it is written into the script that he is an African man. That made me jump at the chance to play this role. You don’t often get to see black people, or people of color portrayed in this way in period pieces, nor with the opportunity to have such rich dialogue.
What more can you tell us about Isaac?
Isaac is a really interesting fellow. He has the outward appearance and quiet, peaceful demeanor of a Sufi ascetic. But there’s a lot going on within him. He had a very difficult childhood. He was severely abused. He traveled across much of Africa and the Middle East as a kid. He learned magic from a renegade occultist’s books. And when we meet him in season 2, he’s a Devil Forgemaster, and fiercely loyal to Dracula.
Did his traumatic past present a challenge as you got in touch with his character?
Isaac has lived a horrific life. I did a lot of research and read literally everything I could about him. Then I created his backstory, chronicling a timeline of when and where certain things happened to him. I made the people who hurt and abused him very specific. How old was he when this happened? How did that make him feel? When did he commit his first murder? What were the major turning points in his life that contributed to him becoming the man we meet in Castlevania season 2? I needed to make him as specific as possible, in order to make him real. As an actor, you have to go there, even if it’s very uncomfortable.
What is your favorite media representation of Dracula / Vampires-at-large?
I watched this film called What We Do In the Shadows recently. That has to be one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen about vampires. You’ve got these male vampires knitting and being very uncool and unsexy and it’s just hysterical. It definitely puts a different spin on the whole vampire genre.
What do you think Castlevania brings to the canon that is unique or new?
Well, Dracula and co. are certainly not the funny, awkward vampires we see in WWDITS, that’s for sure (laughs).
Dracula is powerful. I mean, super powerful. And terrifying. The vampires in Castlevania can take on these massive beast like forms. They are next level. But at the same time, there is a very human side to this Dracula as well. You’re seeing someone who fell in love, and suffered loss. And over the course of seasons one and two, you get a better understanding of who he is and why he’s filled with so much hate for humanity.
What TV shows are you a fan of? Do you regularly watch animation?
Right now Ozark and Wentworth are my favorite shows. Pamela Rabe is probably my new favorite villain. I’m still catching up so don’t tell me what happens! (laughs)
I don’t normally watch animation, but I started to see what else was out there, especially in anime, after working on Castlevania. Right now I’m watching Last Hope which is really cool.
How has the experience of working on Castlevania been overall?
It’s been amazing. The team is really great. Our Director Sam Deats and Voice Director Meredith Layne, and Warren, Adi, and Kevin – they have all been so incredible to work with. And I’ve had the chance to work with some brilliant actors whose work I’ve come to respect over the years. I’m a huge fan of Graham McTavish so getting to play off of him in the studio has been a really awesome experience.
What do you like best about playing Isaac?
The fact that he’s a badass with supernatural powers (laughs). He’s got these superhuman fighting skills and uses all these cool weapons in combat. He’s like a superhero. And he’s got all this dialogue that’s just fantastic. It’s fun to play this compelling, layered character who has an awesome character arc over the course of season 2. And I love the fact that he’s a black man. We never really see black characters portrayed like this in the media, especially during that time period: the 1400’s. I hope this opens doors to casting more people of color in interesting, robust roles that play against stereotypes.
Do you relate to any aspects of Isaac’s character?
Definitely his loyalty. I’m a loyal friend. And I like to think that I’m the type of person who would sacrifice a lot for someone I love. And also if there’s a cause that I believe in, then I throw myself into it 110 percent (laughs). I like to see things through.
Have anything to say to fans of the series, in advance of season 2?
Season 1 was amazing. But season 2 takes it to a whole new level. Get ready.
Thank you for the interview Ade, and your incredible work as Isaac this season! Can’t wait to see what you do next – in Wallachia and otherwise.
– Cooper ❀