Interview with COD & Coldwater star James C. Burns

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By Harlee Grey – 22nd August 2014
Interview with COD & Coldwater star James C. Burns

Last week I had the privilege of sending in a few questions to Call of Duty Black Ops star James C. Burns regarding his role in the COD franchise and his recent movie Coldwater, check it out!

First of all I’d just like to thank you for sitting in with me as I know you have a very busy schedule so we really do appreciate it.

JCB: It’s MY Pleasure!

For the fans out there that are only familiar with your character SGT Woods from Call of Duty, could you tell us what other productions you have been involved with?

JCB: Oh wow…a lot! I really hate reading off of my resume – I kind of feel like a douche bag doing that. What I will say, is that I have been blessed to be able to make a living as an actor, and I can easily be researched on line at the IMDB or at jamescburns.com

Putting Call of Duty aside for a moment – you have a movie on the way, Coldwater. What is it about and what is your role?

JCB: Coldwater is a juvenile rehabilitation facility run by a retired marine Colonel, played by me.  He is a man with good intentions and a strong vision of how to help “re-adjust” young, troubled men.  A troubled teen arrives after a series of unfortunate events occur, which prompted his mother to enroll him at the camp.  From there on, the film is a study of human conflict and the obstacles that are faced by the staff and the inmates.  It rapidly descends into chaos and abuse.

From watching the trailer the story line looks intense. What’s it like to play the not so good guy?

JCB: Yeah, the movie is “uber” intense, and the Colonel is not really a bad guy. Yes, he ends up doing horrific things, but it all begins with a good intention.  In his mind he’s doing right; he has just fallen so far from grace that he can’t see the damage he is causing. It’s almost an exact mirror of the character BRAD, who is the focus of the story.

Do you have a favorite moment or perhaps a least favorite moment from filming?

JCB: It was really a special project to be part of.  We were sequestered at a summer camp in the hills of Malibu – the cast, the crew, even the admin staff.  Sleeping on location, eating meals in the mess hall and just generally being around each for four weeks created a great trust and a bond between all of us.  The whole shoot was great!

Was the preparation different for the role of Colonel Reichert compared to SGT Woods? Do you think the characters are similar in any way?

JCB: The Colonel is basically Woods – if Woods had retired, this is what he would be doing.   The timing of Coldwater was perfectly placed in between my shooting schedule for BOPS 2. I could actually wrap on BOPS 2, drive to the set, step in and be the Colonel. Both characters are men of integrity and confident in their abilities to lead others. The Colonel had success in transforming trouble youth into good men while in the Marines and firmly believed he could do in the civilian world.  The flaw, for the Colonel, is that he didn’t factor in that he would be without the Marine Corps support structure.  In the Marines, he was confident; his orders would be executed quickly and accurately by men as trained and focused as himself.  At Coldwater, he did not have this.   He depended on a staff that did not have the understanding needed to be effective.  Slowly but surely, it all erodes in a mess.

As an actor, do you prefer doing motion capture and voice acting, or would you rather be out on a set somewhere getting your hands dirty for a scene?

JCB: Actually, the WOODS character is shot entirely live action. Everything you see Woods doing actually happened on a stage somewhere. It was shot just like a movie or a TV show would be.   So there is little difference between them.  I treat each job the same – hit my mark and say my line baby.

Being a big name from the Call of Duty franchise, do you expect a big turn out from the gaming community upon Coldwater’s release?

JCB: I’m not really sure.  The release is limited, which means it is not in a lot of “mall theaters.” It’s an art house movie, so I’m not sure who will have access to see it.  However, you can download it on iTunes and other places though.  It is a really great flick, and everyone who sees it leaves is impressed, so I think the word of mouth is the key to this bad boy having legs( movie speak for doing well).  Watch it, you’ll be blown away!

We are seeing more big names appear in Call of Duty, for instance Kevin Spacey will be featured in Advance Warfare. Who would you to see make an appearance in future Call of Duty titles?

JCB: James C. Burns  (smile)

Have you ever sat down and played Call of Duty and just thought to yourself, “Man, I’m in a video game!” Was it ever surreal to you?

JCB: Sometimes, but remember, I was around this thing for 16 months before it hits the stores!  I know all the ins and outs, and have a history with each scene, so when I see the game it, has very familiar feel to it. I love watching people play; I’m a big fan!  But I have no skill on a controller AT ALL, so playing is rarely an option – I just have no time!

If you weren’t in the film industry, what would you be doing?

JCB: I’d probably be in a box under a bridge some place.  I really have no other life skills.  I coached Ice hockey for a living for 20 years prior to being an actor, but this is it man, it’s sink or swim for me!

I asked our audience to send in some questions do you mind if I ask you a couple?

JCB: Not at all.

Thomas asks – Do you have to undergo auditions before having your voice recorded? What’s the process of picking a voice actor?

JCB: I’m not a voice actor, so I don’t really know. For Woods, I had a regular audition.  I had to GO to a studio, where they put you on tape while you do the audition scene.  You then go home and try not to make yourself crazy thinking about the result.

Sarah writes – How greatly do your characters in Coldwater & Call of Duty differ from your own personality?

JCB: Well, you use aspects of who you are and then you amplify as needed.  I was a professional hockey player and coach – a lot those characteristics are similar to military men¸ so it fits nicely for the Colonel and Woods characters. As an actor, I try to create a sense of “authenticity” with my characters and that means I need to have knowledge of the people and circumstances I portray – having similar experiences is very helpful also.

 Your face and voice are quite recognizable; do you have any stories about “passionate” fans?

JCB: Hundreds!   A guy once asked me to sign his girlfriend…yep, you know where.  I also have singed pets, grapefruits and even a diaper…it was CLEAN!!!

So now that Coldwater is complete, you have begun to direct your own film, Nam Zombies, which sounds freaking awesome by the way! What can you tell us about it?

JCB: Yeah, I’m really excited about Nam Zombies…the log line is: It’s Predator meets Platoon and Resident Evil when a battle-scarred sergeant and his elite Special Forces unit are sent to uncover the truth behind a covert research facility in 1969 Vietnam, only to find the truth is uncomfortable, unforgiving and – undead.

We already have Kamar De Los Reyes(Menendez), and Rich McDonald (David Mason) attached, we just need the money to get started! Hoping that it all comes together soon!

  Finally, last but not least, Mr. James C. Burns, what is your favorite video game?

JCB: Really?  Hah! Guess.

  Okay! Thanks again for your time. It’s been a blast chatting with you and I look forward to seeing Coldwater and experiencing Nam Zombies!

JCB: Thanks for having me!

Need something new to watch? Check out the Coldwater trailer here.

The film is available on iTunes as well!


Harlee Grey
Video games journalist and Assassin's Creed fanatic. Follow me on Twitter at @Harlee_Grey or harlee@gamerheadlines.com to contact me directly by email.