Actress Abby Brammell made history with the launch of Activision and Tryarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and it wasn’t because the game made over $550 million in its first three days at retail. The 36-year-old actress brought to life the first ever playable female character in the franchise’s campaign mode.
Brammell spent three years playing a Special Ops soldier’s wife, Tiffy Gerhardt, on the CBS TV series The Unit. Now she’s letting players kick ass and take names in the new video game’s cooperative campaign. Brammell spent time at a motion capture studio to provide all of the performance capture and voice work for the playable female character.
“I didn’t really understand that I was the player until the first day of work.”
“It’s so exciting for me because I feel deeply connected to that energy in my life, my own fantasy world, and my own longing for putting out into the world my own strength, magic, and intelligence,” Brammell said in an interview with Digital Trends.
The actress was kept in the dark when she auditioned for her first video game gig.
“It was so secretive,” Brammell said. “They just said ‘popular video game, very strong female character, and theatrical training would be nice.’ I was like, ‘great.’ Once I got the gig they told me it was for Call of Duty. And when I told my nephew, he was like ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’ I didn’t really understand that I was the player until the first day of work. I was totally shocked and surprised to be given the task to take on this awesome archetype.”
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 44 percent of gamers today are female. Brammell got a crash course on today’s gaming world through Treyarch and the Internet.
“When I got the gig I had no idea there was so many girl gamers,” Brammell said. “I started to do a little research online and found out that they’re one of the biggest populations of gamers. I don’t know what the impact of this role is going to be, but I think they’re going to be happy. Maybe we’ll see some more empowerment coming.”
Brammell grew up spending a lot of time watching her brothers play games like Legend of Zelda in Kentucky, and later boyfriends playing Halo and Mortal Kombat at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I got totally wrapped up watching these worlds, even if I didn’t always have the controller in my hands,” Brammell said. “They were so compelling that we’d get lost in them for hours.”
After college, Brammell completely left the video game world. But thanks to her starring role in one of the biggest game franchises of all time, she’s going to spend time getting reacquainted.
“I’m totally excited to hear my voice, going around kicking ass and sounding very dangerous,” Brammell said. “I’ve got to get my nephew. I’m going to be like ‘you’re going to sit here all day and you’re just going to play.” Just so I can see what I sound like.”
As to actually picking up the controller herself after watching her nephew play, that’s in her future.
“When I got the gig I had no idea there was so many girl gamers.”
With the announcement of Activision Blizzard Studios, Call of Duty is actively being developed for potential TV shows and movies in Hollywood. That’s something right up the actress’s alley.
“There’s a lot of potential,” Brammell said. “The stories could get more involved. Coming from an acting point of view, the ability to get more intimate with the characters is something people respond to. With movies and television, people love watching the human journey unfold. To really start to engage that aspect would be interesting. In the game, you’re calling all the shots and you’re deep in the action. But what if you get to just sit back, relax and tell the story. That’s what I love about being an actor and a storyteller. It could just go and go.”
The video game universe has come full circle since Brammell logged hours watching others play. The YouTube “Let’s Play” phenomenon and eSports now rule the games industry. And Brammell is linked to both through Black Ops 3.
“My mom told me about eSports, she’s like ‘you know people play and people come and sit in huge stadiums to watch?’ I can see it, because I did it. It was part of my growing up. I was thrilled with watching people play. I guess it’s like the new cyber athletes, right?”
Treyarch designed Black Ops 3 with a live event button so fans can watch the upcoming Call of Duty World League seamlessly, and then jump back into the action and play as Brammell’s character in the game.