Felicia Day wears many hats. As an actress, she has worked with genre-icon Joss Whedon several times, been one of House's patients, and shown the world how awesome gamer girls can be on The Guild. The latter also allowed her to stretch her writing muscles, and learn the ropes of producing a webseries geared towards attention span of the Internet generation. EA and BioWare took notice, and have tapped Day to write, produce, and star in a new webseries set in the world of their popular fantasy RPG series, Dragon Age.
The series, Dragon Age: Redemption was just announced this week, leading up to the game's demo next week and the game's release in March. With a trailer airing tonight alongside Day's appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (you can find it here on Newsarama tomorrow), we sat down with Felicia Day in New York City to talk about the new show, how it came to be, and what fans can expect.After an informal chat where Day talked about her love for the game, and how she played the first game Dragon Age: Origins multiple times (and fell in love with a character that was a "french version of myself" as she said), we got down to business.
Day as TallisNewsarama: So Felicia, your show, Dragon Age: Redemption, takes place in Ferelden, but we don't know when it takes place yet...
Felicia Day: Well, the new game, Dragon Age 2 spans 10 years. So my show is in continuity with a period within that 10 years that's unspecified.
It's contemporary to an experience that you'd have within Dragon Age 2.
Nrama: But Post-Dragon Age: Origins, which overlaps with the first year or so of DA2?
Day: Yeah, probably post Origins. You know, to make it more accessible to people that hadn't played the game, I tried not to tie it so much to something specifically in the game, but I wanted to make it believable to fit in the world of the Dragon Age Universe. So I think it fits nicely; it's timeless, yet it's pertinent to what's happening in DA2.
Nrama: So fans of the franchise have seen Elven Assassins before with Zevran and the Antivan Crows. Is Tallis related to these in anyway?
Day: No, she actually is not related to any other elves that you would've seen in Origins, she actually works for the Qunari (Newsarama Note: a race found in both games). That's an interesting aspect, when BioWare approached me about doing the character, I said I definitely want her to be a rogue, and definitely want her to be an elf, and that's an idea they through out that maybe she works for the Qunari. The Qunari have a big roll to play in DA2, so it would be nice to play upon that and explore that lore. it was a lore I was really interested in, playing Origins with [Qunari companion] Sten, so it was really interesting researching that people.
Nrama: This series, and most of BioWare's projects are super in-depth games, games you play for 80 hours, with branching storylines, relationships, politics… how much of that can you really fit into a 6 episode series?
Day: (laughs) As much as I possibly could! I wrote the script having done months of research and a couple of playthroughs after I'd already played through, and I wanted to do as many layers as possible. Then I showed the script to people like my director Peter Winther, my producers Dan Kaplow, Kim Evey, and other people on the project and asked, 'are there any things here you don't quite understand.'
The thing is, you don't need to know every medical term on a medical show. And people who haven't necessarily played the game and aren't familiar with one term, the context can tell the viewer. So we just worked with the script to make sure that if there were things that a non Dragon Age player would hear or see, the context would make it clear what they should get from it.
I think that we did a really good job within the six episodes that we're talking about.
Nrama: And how long will each episode be?
Day: The episodes will be 6-9 minutes. "Web Series" length. To me, that's a really nice length for people to be watching on the web, or if they download it to their TV. It seems to be the minimum to tell a real beginning middle and end story, so that's where The Guild episodes have ended up over the seasons, and that's where I feel really comfortable telling a complete story in a way that people won't get bored.
Nrama: Now, the elves in the world of Dragon Age aren't necessarily "nobles" like we see in Tolkien, they're really more of second class citizens. Will we see some of those politics creep in?
Day: Yeah, absolutely! That's one of the interesting things about the Dragon Age world is that there's this non-traditional portrayal of elves and you also have this kind of class system that's inherent in fantasy novels. But traditionally they're glorified, like you have these noblemen and the peasants who are being saved by the noblemen! But really there are a lot of other layers there, and that's what's cool is they explore the grey areas of the class system that kind of traps people.
So that was interesting to me, and I have Tallis who works for the Qunari, and we'll see other characters like a Templar, explore different kinds of elves, and explore those basic themes and the basic theme of "redemption" which is part of the title (laughs).
Nrama: (laughs) Right! So the title is a hint to the theme of the story, huh?
Day: It's a hint, yes, I don't want to give away too much, but there's a reason for it. (laughs)
Nrama: Now of course, BioWare games are also famous for their relationships. is that something we'll see explored with Tallis?
Day as TallisDay: Over the course of the six episodes, yeah, it's gathering party members in a sense. It was one of the funnest parts of all gaming to me, making friends, exploring backstories. That's one of the best things about BioWare games, is it's like living a novel. So you really get to know people and your choices can affect the way they relate to you in a way that no other game does. That's what I love about it, and wanted to bring out, so there are definitely aspects of that in the show.
Nrama: Letting yourself fangirl out a little bit, how cool was it for you to be walking around gathering party members in real life?
Day: (laughs) It was cool! It was so much fun. The initial sense of sitting down and creating a character for myself, I thought I'd bring an interesting twist to it.
Nrama: Did you break out a D&D manual?
Day: (laughs) I mean, I definitely drew upon things I role played in the past…
Nrama: What's Tallis's stamina rating?
Day: Ha! She's high stamina, medium strength. High charisma.
Nrama: You've now written a series about people playing a game, written a series about people actually in a game world. It seems the next step would be to actually write a game, would you like to do something like that?
Day: Hmm Yeah! You know, I love gaming, and gaming, I think there was a study out last year that said gaming made more money than movies and tv. So I'm so proud to be part of this community and this entertainment that is evolving to become the predominant form of entertainment. Like I've said, I never want to do something that anybody else has done before on a regular basis, especially if I'm creating it from the ground up in a sense. So that kind of interactivity, whether it's a web-series crossing over into interactive media, those are things I really want to play with. I think that there's opportunity to do things that people haven't done before.
To me… I love adventure games, I love those old-school adventure games. Storytelling is emerging as an important part of games because of the immersive nature of it, and I think that's something that BioWare does best. So crossing over… where can you blur the line enough from video to video game, and that's something I look forward to looking at in my next project.
Nrama: OK, so if BioWare came to you and said "We want to put Tallis in DA2 as DLC" would you write something for her?
Day: I mean that… Don't throw things like that (laughs) don't throw things out like that! That's too cool to think about!
Nrama: What's the thing about Dragon Age 2 you're most looking forward to?
Day: Well, I got to play last week, which was kinda a treat!
The cool thing about working on this project as a nerd, a geek, and a fan, is I got to request assets from the last six months from the game! (Laughs)
So on my computer in secret files I have screenart, and I got to read the script last year. So it's amazing, seeing that kind of process and how they develop the game, starting with story, is really admirable to me. And seeing graphics, and assets, and seeing the backgrounds of all the companions, I have to say was total geek out.
Then the reverse happened when I was working on pre-production in November and December, where I got to send them pictures of the weapons they designed actually being made and the outfit as it evolved, and the templar outfit and a couple other things. The set design, it was pretty cool. I hope they were as excited me sending my assets back as I was cause I loved getting their assets.
Nrama: Any last teases about the show, something fans should watch for specifically?
Day: I think if you watch the trailer, you'll see some characters, who you'll see down the line. The teaser trailer will hit the web tomorrow, but is airing tonight on Jimmy Fallon. You'll be able to see it in motion and see what we were going for.
We have an amazing DP, John Bartley, who worked on all six seasons of Lost, so the lighting is amazing, and Greg, my production designer, did everything from scratch, like I said, so he worked very hard to get the game assets to be authentic. And my director, Peter Winther is very experienced with special effects having worked on Independence Day.
So on a web series budget, we did the best we could get, and I think we're the best at it and I hope that will really show in the end.See an exclusive bonus clip from the interview with Felicia Day by viewing the video below! The trailer for Dragon Age: Redemption will air on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" at 12:35 EST/PST, and can be found here Thursday, Feb 17. Dragon Age 2 hits Xbox 360, PS3, and PC/Mac on March 8, 2011.