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Robbie Amell on why shooting 'Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City' was a 'dream come true'

Working in the Spencer Mansion was a gamer's delight for the actor, even in the middle of a pandemic.

By Brian Silliman

With great horror comes great heroes forced to face it, and the Resident Evil franchise is no exception.

A new adaptation of the beloved video game franchise, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, takes the trauma of the first two games in the series and brings that particular brand of horror to the big screen. Johannes Roberts directs and Robbie Amell plays one of the game's most iconic protagonists, Chris Redfield. As the title suggests, the new movie spends a lot of time in Raccoon City, but considerable run time is also spent inside the pencer Mansion. This is where Amell’s Redfield gets put through a very violent gauntlet, and it’s a dream come true for any fan of the Resident Evil games. 

SYFY WIRE caught up with Amell as part of a digital press junket to discuss his own fandom and what it was like to shoot in the Spencer Mansion. 

***WARNING: From this point on, there are mild spoilers for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. If you do not wish to be spoiled, turn away.***

You were a big fan of these games before becoming involved in this movie, correct?

I grew up playing the games. One of my earliest childhood video game memories is playing Resident Evil in the basement, and dogs jumping through the window and scaring the hell out of me. I'm still a gamer. I just got Resident Evil 4 for VR, I haven't jumped into it yet, but I'm excited to check it out. But yeah, this was a dream come true for me.

Which game is your favorite entry in the series?

I mean, it sucks because I'm not a huge part of the game, but I played Resident Evil 2: Remastered and it was really fun. I played right before we started shooting. I played Resident Evil 1, the controls are a little tough, with 2 as well, but not as bad. 1, it’s like, there's a lot of turning around.

So you were familiar with the Spencer Mansion already, and now you're shooting in the iconic location. How long did that take you to shoot all that stuff?

It was in little bits and pieces because the main entry way, when you walk in the Spencer Mansion, was built on a sound stage… Johannes [Roberts] got the blueprints and just built it exactly from the game, which is awesome, and it was super surreal to be standing in. And then the dining room, where I have the big fight scene, was in a big, old, actual mansion… so they were separate pieces, but that was where a lot of my work was. It was great. It was one of those things where my job was made easy for me because the wardrobe, the production design, the set dec, the props, everything was so well done that I was just transported there every day.

Was there any game playing happening on set between you and the any other cast members to further get you in the mood?

Tough thing was, it was COVID. It was dead in the center of COVID. So we were very lucky to be working and everybody took that very seriously and didn't want to take it for granted. So there wasn't a whole lot of socializing. We just all hung out, got to know each other a little bit, and then went about our work.

To be shooting not just a movie, but this movie during COVID, about a contagion and everything else, that must have been surreal.

It was a little weird. It was a bit of a bummer at times just because I love getting to know the crew and everyone you're working with day-to-day. And everyone's in masks, a lot of people are in masks and shields. It's one of those things where it's tough to really socialize and get to know the people that you're working with. So it was really great and we were very lucky to be working, but it definitely wasn't a regular shoot. And then to add the whole apocalypse thing on top of it, it was just kind of weird. The nice thing was we were shooting up in Sudbury for a lot of the shoot, which is about three hours north of Toronto. And there wasn't a whole lot of COVID there. So we felt pretty safe, but nobody wanted to be that person that shut down a production. So everybody was just taking things pretty safely.

What's something that in a potential sequel that you would love to get to do as Chris Redfield?

We tried to fit in punching a boulder and it just didn't have... like, tonally, it didn't fit anywhere. We talked about some jokes or some one-liners, and at the end of the day, that didn't work. So I'd love to find somewhere for it just because it's such a weird moment in the franchise. But other than that, I mean, I know that Johannes has talked about potentially Code Veronica or Resident Evil 4 as adaptations for sequel. Whatever he wants, I would be on board for because he's really the best guy to captain this ship.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City arrives in theaters on November 24th.