Kyle Katarn (Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight)
Interview: March 2010
In the Dark Forces videogames the character Kyle Katarn was introduced and quickly became a fan favorite. For the second installment they filmed several cutscenes with real actors, including Jason Court as the Jedi himself.
How did you get started in the movie business?
As a really small kid I was immersed into the world of modelling baby clothes as my mom was also a model. From that beginning, I moved into the world of auditioning and acting in commercials, which then had me working and studying on stage and eventually, at the age of 16, my first film.
You played the lead character in the Star Wars game: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. How did you get this part?
In getting the lead roll of Kyle Katarn in Jedi Knight, it was a process of auditioning for the roll. Not unlike all rolls in film or TV, it took meeting with writers and producers of the game. Reading and auditioning with several other actors to see how we related to each other. I actually read and auditioned with several different actresses auditioning for the roll of Jan, before they cast Angela Harry. So, the answer is: I got the role by auditioning for it!
Dark Forces II was an ambitious project. In fact, the scenes that were filmed were some of the first Star Wars scenes shot in, well, over a decade. Can you recall how these scenes were filmed?
I will tell you this! Shooting the scenes for Dark Forces was a real challenge as an actor. The one thing that people may not realize is that most of what is viewable on screen is completely rendered on a computer. Meaning, that other than the actors, everything else didn’t exist yet, when we shot the scenes. So, most of the time, when Kyle was talking to a robotic character or was running through a mystical field on a far away planet, I was on a set, completely painted blue (Blue Screen), and relating or talking to a box or a light stand, pretending to relate to something that wasn’t even there with me, or even created yet. Often, the director would be reading the lines to me off camera.
How long did it take to shoot all the scenes?
In my memory, it took a couple of weeks to shoot all the cut scenes, and then there were several recording sessions to capture all the voice actions for the game. Not just dialogue, but also the sounds the character made during the gameplay.
How was the atmosphere on the set?
The atmosphere on this set was awesome. I don’t think any person who is involved in the industry of creating games is a boring non-creative person. All the writers and programmers were around having fun watching what they wrote, come to life. I mean come on, the whole thing was strange. Look at the costumes and characters that were running around that film set.
Did George Lucas have some influence on how the scenes were filmed or how the game was created?
Unfortunately, George Lucas was not really a part of the creation of this game. At least, not with any of us. I did have to fly up to San Francisco to record voice stuff for a couple of days, and that was when they were first setting up the new location of Lucas in the Presidio. I was invited to check out the operations, but because of time constraints, I didn’t take advantage of that offer.
What is your own view on the game? Did you enjoy playing it?
My view of the game at the time was… it was amazing! I’m not much of a gamer myself, but it wasn’t long before that I was amazed at playing a game called MYST, then Dark Forces II followed that, and it was beyond cool! The additional dimension was a great advance in gaming for the time. I played it and easily forgot I had anything to do with creating it, and got totally lost in the gameplay.
Your character, Kyle Katarn, got a huge background story over the years as he was also featured in books. Did you keep up with these?
I have to admit that I did not keep up with the continuation of the Kyle Katarn story. It was not long after working on this game, that I decided to move out of acting and get involved in another passion of mine. Winemaking.
Were you a Star Wars fan before you did Dark Forces II? If so, it must have felt like a great honor to get cast?
OK ! Let me say that it was always an extreme honor to get cast as Kyle Katarn. Although I was not a huge Sci-Fi follower, I always had an attachment to Star Wars. When I was a kid, and it came out in the theaters, it was totally on its own as a unique, amazing story, and an amazing film for it’s time. So, to get chosen to be Kyle was a little bit of a dream come true. Still is.
Many fans regard the scenes filmed for Dark Forces II to be the best scenes ever in a Star Wars video game. It is still played and the scenes can be viewed on sites like Youtube. How do you look back at your ‘Star Wars legacy’?
As far as looking back at “My Star Wars Legacy”, I’m not sure there really is one. It was really great to be a part of something so great and cutting edge, but the fact is, it was the only one game I was in. I am still so honored that so many people enjoyed my portrayal of Kyle Katarn. It really was a challenge, and from time to time, I still get a note from someone telling me they enjoyed my work, or that I was a good influence/role model to them as a kid…that in itself makes it all so worth it.
What are you currently doing? Do you have new projects?
Since leaving the film industry and acting all together (I will return to performing someday), I have moved into another passion of mine. Wine. I moved up north to Napa California, and got involved in the world of learning to make wine. I worked my first harvest in 2002 and started my own label in 2008 called Evidence. Now my only other passion is travelling the world and seeing as much of it as possible. My business partner and I went to Antarctica at the end of the year, and worked with a non-profit program for inner city kids on the east coast, doing video blogs from remote locations around the Antarctic Peninsula, showing them it’s important to dream about exploration of new things. The Amazon is next.