Stephen Merchant surprised by fan response to Portal 2, found voicing Wheatley 'exhausting'

Stop reading now if you're still avoiding Portal 2 spoilers, because Stephen Merchant dropped a few plot points in a recent interview with MTV on his role as Wheatley. The loveable, bumbling personality core plays a major part in Portal 2, which meant tiring recording sessions for Merchant, who is best known for his work on Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show, and the original version of The Office... and now Portal 2.

"I found the entire thing really exhausting," said Merchant. "...More than anything I've ever done before, because I'm in this little recording booth, shouting down these imaginary corridors, imaginary gantries, pretending to fall off things and really trying to move around and live it as best I could. I know it sounds really pretentious, but really try to move around like this robot, just so my voice would feel like it was animated. I was really working hard to try and put myself in that environment, I guess, which is not something I normally do as a performer."

On the challenges of Wheatley's character, Merchant continued, "The thing which alarmed me, which I didn't actually know about until we started recording, is that I have to shift from being lovably hopeless, to sort of hopelessly evil."

"I was a little intimidated by that, because it's not something I feel naturally comfortable with... being villainous. I suppose I was initially trying to be genuinely villainous and scary, and I think the guys [Valve] were keen to keep the humor, even in my villainy."

Above: Hear the whole interview

Finally, Merchant expressed surprise at the fan response to Portal 2 and Wheatley, explaining his realization that games generate a response similar to that of other media.

"I've been very pleased by the response people have had to it," he said. "What I was really pleased by how people seemed to respond to it in the way they do with a movie they've enjoyed, or a TV show they've enjoyed. They seemed to respond to it as entertainment. It never occurred to me that people would respond to it in the way they do with other stuff I've done. I felt like, 'Oh, actually this is a really legitimate, creative art form now.' Video games have expanded and developed and are so sophisticated right now that, yes, of course, they rank alongside movies and whatever else people really take to their hearts."

Exhausting as game voice acting may be, we hope Merchant doesn't stop here. Portal 3: Wheatley's Revenge, anyone? No? Yeah, that's a shit idea, but we want more of Merchant's self-described "anxious, Woody Allen-esque nervousness."

[Source: MTV]

May 13, 2011



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  • morbiusdog - May 17, 2011 8:05 a.m.

    @zigs How old are you? Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Stephen Marchant is 36 years old but Quote "He's from a generation that didn't particularly grow up with gaming, so probably hasn't had much interaction with it, outside of perhaps arcades in his childhood, or whatever. Like a lot of people his age, I imagie he probably associates it with kids and has an unintentionally ignorant outlook on games because he's had very little exposure to it" I am 41 years old,5 years older than Stephen so that means we are roughly of the same generation. I got my first console at the age of 6 (1976)it was called richochet and played 4 or 5 varitions of pong, I then moved on to the Atari consoles of the late 70's/early 80's (2600 -7200) and from there to various home computers like the sinclair zx80,81 and spectrum. I then went over the the NES and Master system, then the SNES and Megadrive (Genesis) from there on I have owned all of Nintendo and Sega's consloes and hand helds as well as all of Sony and Microsofts consoles.I was also there when arcades were enjoying there hayday in the 80's and 90's. I currently own a PS3,Wii,Xbox 360,DSi,3DS,PSP and an iPhone. But obviously i don't understand any of them because according to you I didn't grow up with gaming and i have an unintentionaly ignorant outlook on gaming because i have had very little exposure to it! Sorry for the rant but please have a look at the history of gaming before you start making assumptions about us old'uns!
  • banon - May 16, 2011 12:53 p.m.

    have to admit that once GLaDOS or wheatley started talking i had to pause n listen to what they said before continuing i didnt want to miss any of their genius that goes for cave johnson and catherine too
  • TheDigitalG - May 16, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    @Fallen_Pumpkin My comment sounded unduly harsh, and I apologise. You're right, I DO wish I had his job, but you can't seriously tell me that his job must be anything more than pretty easy? If someone offered me even a thousand dollars for what he did I'd bite their hands off. Like they said on TR, you Americans find this stuff funny, but I swear to god there's a million people who sound exactly like Merchant over here, probably why I didn't respond well to his character.
  • Spybreak8 - May 16, 2011 2 a.m.

    You can tell, he did some amazing voice overs.
  • Fallen_Pumpkin - May 15, 2011 10:39 a.m.

    @DigsbyChickenCaesar @TheDigitalG When Steve says its exhausting, he doesnt mean physically, he is saying its exhausting in retrospect of other projects he has done. Steve didnt just fall into money, he worked some pretty shitty jobs before he met Ricky Gervais. You guys are just bitching because you wish you had his job. The game was good and Steve did a top job, so just shut the fuck up.
  • TheDigitalG - May 15, 2011 2:57 a.m.

    @DigsbyChickenCaesar You're damn right! These actors and musicians and whatever piss me the fuck off when they call their multimillion dollar job doing very little hard work exhausting or tiring or stressful. You people defending Merchant are just fanboys who need to a) jump off Merchants dick and b) take a walk around this country and realise most English people are awkward and 'funny'.
  • egregious - May 14, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    Stephen Merchant = So awesome. I was kind of sad initially about his face heel turn, but it worked out great. Loved JK "J. Jonah Jameson" Simmons as Cave Johnson too.
  • zigs - May 14, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    @RamenDragon I can see where you're coming from, but to put another perspective on it, think of it like this: He's from a generation that didn't particularly grow up with gaming, so probably hasn't had much interaction with it, outside of perhaps arcades in his childhood, or whatever. Like a lot of people his age, I imagie he probably associates it with kids and has an unintentionally ignorant outlook on games because he's had very little exposure to it. Whereas now he's had a look into the "gaming world" and can see that yeah, things have progressed a hell of a lot since the 80s - which is a realisation a lot of that generation haven't had. That's the impression I got from reading that, at least. And I think it's great that he can now see games how WE see them. Of course they're a fucking legitimate and creative artform! We all know that - and now this guy does do. That's a good thing in my mind!
  • EnragedTortoise1 - May 14, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    Best part of the game... "This is the part where he kills us!" "Hello! This is the part where I kill you!" Chapter 9: The Part Where He Kills You You have earned a trophy. "The Part Where He Kills You" Trophy description: "This is that part".
  • lukas1051 - May 14, 2011 11:46 a.m.

    Personally, I wasn't that keen on Stephen Merchant doing the voice of Wheatley. Don't get me wrong, Wheatley was a great character and provided so much humour... but being a really big fan of The Office, Extras, and just Stephen Merchant in general, it just seemed weird hearing him voice a robot.
  • Sniped50 - May 14, 2011 11:16 a.m.

    Stephen's lines in Portal 2 were the best. Mainly because Wheatley NEVER STOPS TALKING! Honestly, I would just stand still and listen to him blabber on for about half an hour if I could. That doesn't mean any other characters weren't as great, though. Cave Johnson is going to burn your house down with lemons...
  • RamenDragon - May 14, 2011 6:16 a.m.

    Have to say, I'm somewhat offended that he's so surprised that people "seemed to respond to it as entertainment". What else would you call it? People don't play video games because they feel it's their duty.
  • TFUPrivateIron - May 14, 2011 5:42 a.m.

    @DigbyChickenCaesar: Aww. Poor baby. You want a fuckin' cookie or something?
  • BaraChat - May 14, 2011 4:33 a.m.

    @DigbyChickenCaesar Cool story, I guess? Who gives a flying poop about what you do in your life, seriously. On topic, Portal 2 had great voice acting all-around, great job Valve.
  • Gameguy94 - May 14, 2011 3:46 a.m.

    What an ass hat! I loved the guy! and I only got to hear him for 20 minutes in Best Buy.
  • iDEALfury - May 14, 2011 3:31 a.m.

    Steve was brilliant as Wheatley... really turned the character into something special. The only person in the world who could've made him funnier is the K man Pilkington. Imagine Wheatley's lines delivered with a twatty manc twang lol :D
  • DeadlyViper95 - May 14, 2011 2:37 a.m.

    your hardwork paid off. wheatley was easily my favorite character cuz of the perfect voice work.
  • DigbyChickenCaesar - May 14, 2011 2:25 a.m.

    I found working 70 hours per week at a soul-sucking office job to be 'exhausting' too, but then again, I guess getting paid several tens of thousands of dollars to record a few hours of voice work is pretty bad too.
  • Haxorz - May 14, 2011 1:39 a.m.

    Wheatley was number two next to Cave Johnson for best voice.
  • EBAX1 - May 14, 2011 1:22 a.m.

    Honestly, listening to wheatley talk is my favorite part of portal 2. Best voice ever

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