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Interview: Robbie Amell Talks ‘Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’ and How It Does the Survival Horror Video Game Franchise Right

November 25, 2021Ben MK

Whether you consider them worthy video game adaptations or simply guilty pleasures, the long-running Resident Evil film franchise starring Milla Jovovich has been proven to be a favorite among moviegoers. Now, half a decade after that series came to a conclusion with its sixth installment, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, writer-director Johannes Roberts is taking audiences back to where it all began. And in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, he's delivering a fresh take on Capcom's massively successful survival horror franchise, in this story of dutiful cop Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) and his headstrong sister Claire (Kayla Scodelario), as they investigate a sinister conspiracy involving their hometown of Raccoon City, a deadly virus that transforms people into zombies, and the ruthless Umbrella Corporation, who may behind all of it.

I caught up with Toronto-born star Robbie Amell to chat about all things Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, from his love of the original video games to the Easter eggs Resident Evil fans should be on the lookout for, as well as what it was like shooting a movie about a virus outbreak during an actual pandemic.

One of the biggest problems with video game adaptations in general is, quite frankly, the one-dimensionality of the characters. How did you and Johannes Roberts set out to overcome that, while still remaining faithful to the original games?

Amell: In the game, Chris Redfield is a bit of a one-note, by-the-book, small town super-cop. But I thought what Johannes did really well with all of the characters is build up these relationships and give them some flaws, and make them more like human beings that people can see themselves reflected in and relate to. From my first meeting with him, it was very clear that he was a big fan of the games, so I was never worried about the essence of the characters being there. Just based on the script, I felt very confident in the hands that the project was in.

You’re a big fan of the Resident Evil video games yourself. Do you have a favorite installment from the series, or a favorite character or monster? And have you played Resident Evil Village yet?

Amell: My favorite character is Chris Redfield. I grew up playing as him in the early games, and one of the first memories I have playing video games is the dogs jumping through the windows in Resident Evil and scaring me. I've played through 80% of the games, but I haven't played Village yet. It came out while we were shooting, and I didn't want to play a game with a new, old or different Chris Redfield while I was playing my Chris Redfield. But the one that I literally just got my hands on is Resident Evil 4 VR. So I'm excited to step into that one.

Of course, being an adaptation of Capcom's Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, the film pays a lot of homage to those games. Are there any Easter eggs in the movie that viewers should watch out for?

Amell: There's a million Easter eggs. Even big fans of the games aren't gonna catch them all in the first or second watch. One of my favorite ones is in the laboratory. There's green and red and blue herbs on the wall behind me [that are] not used or anything, but anybody that plays the games will know them very well. Also, when I'm walking through the dining room, there's a picture of two knights fighting behind me, which is straight out of a game. Somebody picked that off from the trailer on Instagram on day one, which I thought was super impressive. What was really impressive was that Johannes went to Capcom and got the blueprints for the police station and the Spencer mansion. He built as close to the real thing as possible, which was incredible to step into.

The movie is set during a zombie outbreak, but in real life you were shooting the film during the pandemic. What was that like, and how did the cast and crew adapt to the new normal of filming such a high profile project under those conditions?

Amell: It was definitely weird to be shooting a virus movie during a [real-life] virus. The nice thing was that everybody was so grateful to be working, cuz a lot of people in the world weren't. And so everybody took it very seriously and handled themselves very safely. We were very lucky and the cast was bubbled, so we actually got to socialize amongst ourselves a little bit, which was a nice thing to be able to do during a tough time. But it was weird to see zombies having to wear N95 masks when we're not doing takes, and stuff like that.

Last but not least, there's a lot of Canadian content in the film, from the cast to where the movie was shot. And to a certain degree, the same was true of the other Resident Evil films as well. Why do you think Canada has had such a strong connection to the franchise?

Amell: From a business standpoint, the dollar goes a lot further and the tax credits are really great, and the crews are fantastic. And then, from an aesthetics standpoint — I'm sure Sudbury is a beautiful place in the summer, but like most of Ontario, in November and December, it's pretty gloomy and dark and looks like Raccoon City. So it's just got a great aesthetic for the film. Other than that, I'm really grateful that most of the films, if not all of the films, have shot in Canada. Cuz I know a lot of people that have worked on them and are big fans.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is in theatres now.

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