Bringing Life to Sgt. Frank Woods: An Interview with James C. Burns

Bringing Life to Sgt. Frank Woods: An Interview with James C. Burns

At FanExpo Canada, I was fortunate enough to meet James C. Burns, who is better known as Sgt. Frank Woods from the ever popular Call of Duty: Black Ops. In this exclusive interview, Burns discusses what it was like to work on Call of Duty, the future of the franchise, what it was like to work on Transformers and much more.

James C. Burns plays the rough and tough Sgt. Frank Woods in the mega-hit game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Burns, who has had lots of experience in the entertainment industry, experienced voice acting in a video game for the first time in CoD. He has an impressive resume as he has had reoccurring roles on the successful General Hospital, Proof of Innocence, among others. He has also seen success in theatre and on the big screen, having a role in Michael Bay’s Transformers.

When asked how video game acting compared to other acting that he had done previously, Burns responded by saying that “Black Ops was an anomaly in the industry as it was the first time they shot a video game as a movie.” He went on to discuss the technology involved in Black Ops and how they used facial capture technology to ensure that acting was fluid for the game. The technology that they used allowed actors to shoot every scene like a movie; the acting was closer to theatre as they rarely cut the scene. This, in Burns’ opinion, paired with the relationships that were formed over the 80 days of voice work is what made Black Ops so successful. The ability to move around and play out sequences in the video game is what allows the game-play and cut-scenes look so fluid, “we would be sitting in a box and that would be the vehicle we were driving” said Burns.

When asked about playing the character of Sgt. Frank Woods, Burns was very passionate about how great the role was. Burns, who is not new to playing the role of the tough Army Sgt. Character, said that he loved this character because he was very direct and realistic. He says he has an amazing role because “[he] gets to play [censored] army for a living.” He also loved the concept of playing the Sgt. who wasn’t afraid of anything and was surrounded by danger. He said that when shooting his role in Transformers, he was always in the presence of the Navy and Police Officers which was a humbling experience. “I play that character, but it’s not real. What they do is real” Burns said about working with these American Heroes. When asked if they provided some characteristics of Woods, Burns replied that he was able to draw from his days as a jock in school. Playing hockey and conversations in the locker room allowed Burns to understand the power of authority and the pain of doing drills. “I didn’t have to reach very deep to play Woods,” jokes Burns “which scares my girlfriend”. When asked whether he would like to play other roles Burns stated that having a role with more humour would be something he is interested in working with, although Woods has some pretty clever lines.

At FanExpo Canada, Burns let it be known that he has not played through Black Ops. When asked why, Burns told us that he doesn’t have time to learn how to play video games, although he would really want to. They created a movie version of Black Ops for Burns so he could watch all of the scenes he worked so hard on. “There are too many buttons and the character never does what I want him to do”, said Burns about playing video games. He has never been an avid gamer and hopes that someone will create a system for the “older generation”, although he is quick to dismiss the option of playing Wii. He has played Super Mario Bros. once when he was sick with a sore tooth and remembers the game being fun, but something that still frustrated him. All hope is not lost on the gaming front for Burns; he does enjoy playing Fuzzle and Fruit Ninja. When asked if he thought Woods would play video games on his down time Burns was quick to dismiss the notion, “No way, he would be sitting at home cleaning his guns” he said with a laugh.

Burns did have a message for those who want to follow in his footsteps, stating that you need to go into acting with a back-up plan as only 11% of actors in Hollywood are getting paid for their work. “Going into acting without another skill is like building a tree house on a sapling”, he said, “You have to build up your tree, your life, before you can support it”. He jokingly said that advice was something you would hear from Woods, very realistic advice. He also had some messages to his fans, stating that he loves going to conventions so he can meet the people who play and love the game. He loves to hear when people tell them they play the game because he had so much fun making it.

Although Burns could not comment on the future of the Call of Duty franchise, he did have this to say “the guys [who created Call of Duty: Black Ops] are just brilliant and are thinking positively towards the future of Call of Duty.” He also said that if something was to happen in the future it would surely be mind-blowing. Burns is also thinking positively about the return of Sgt. Frank Woods stating that he is tough and could recover from many situations, including the ending of Black Ops.

This is not the end of James C. Burns in the video game industry. It is rumoured that he will have a role in another mega-successful gaming title. We at Manatank are really excited to find out what the future holds for both Burns and Frank Woods.

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