Why William Birkin From Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City Looks So Familiar
There’s no shortage of mad scientists in the “Resident Evil” series of games, so it’s no surprise to see one of them popping up in the franchise’s latest film reboot, “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.”
In “Resident Evil 2,” William Birkin is a pathologist working on a virus that can turn humans into a bioweapon. He winds up injecting himself with his own creation after being wounded by Umbrella Corporation soldiers. The G-virus he created serves as the MacGuffin for much of the game, even as his use of it turns Birkin into a grotesque monster. With “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” set to adapt parts of the first and second games, Birkin could play a key role. It’s the sort of part that, if it follows the same sort of trajectory as from the game series, requires an actor who can start out convincingly authoritative but slowly shed the veneer of his humanity as it goes along.
That transformation from man to monster sounds right up actor Neal McDonough’s alley. He’s played soldiers, generals, and presidents, but also cult leaders, madmen, and corrupt police detectives. Here are a few places you might recognize him from.
Neal McDonough got a boost from the Angels in the Outfield
Given how much of his later career would be spent playing scheming bad guys, it’s interesting that McDonough’s first big film role was very much the opposite of that: a dim-witted, happy-go-lucky pitcher in the 1994 children’s baseball comedy “Angels in the Outfield.”
McDonough’s Whitt Bass is an eccentric idiot who –– before the actual angels begin helping the team –– doesn’t even have the benefit of being a very good pitcher. He’s easily convinced by two teammates that “The Star-Spangled Banner” begins with “José” instead of “Ohh say.” He takes the mound with a slide each game. An announcer tells us, “This season alone we have seen him lick dirt, eat bugs, and floss his catcher’s teeth in the dugout.” He’s a far cry from the other baseball role McDonough took early in his career, playing Lou Gehrig in the 1993 television movie “Babe Ruth.”
More than two decades later, McDonough would reprise his role as Whitt for a CollegeHumor parody of ESPN’s “30 for 30” sports documentary series. The short purported to look at that Angels season and whether their claims of supernatural help had any validity, or whether they were just on the vanguard of performance enhancing drug use in baseball. The pitcher is shown testifying before a Congressional committee, assuring its members that the team’s sudden turnaround must have been due to the angels and because “I don’t even know how to do steroids.”
Neal McDonough was one of the happy few on Band of Brothers
In 2001, McDonough joined another large ensemble to play First Lieutenant Buck Compton in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” miniseries.
Buck was also a baseball player at UCLA, who joined the Paratroopers of Easy Company to ensure he’d see combat. After fighting with his unit through Normandy and Operation Market Garden, and at Bastogne, the stress and carnage of the fighting finally catch up to him, giving him a debilitating case of what we’d now call post-traumatic stress disorder.
Like many of the characters in “Band of Brothers,” Compton was a real member of Easy Company. He survived the war and went on to obtain a law degree, which he used most prominently as a prosecutor in the case against Sirhan Sirhan, who was found guilty of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, according to Compton’s obituary in The Washington Post. He became a California Courts of Appeal justice for 20 years, and released his memoirs in the wake of the success of “Band of Brothers.” McDonough and other actors from the series even attended his 90th birthday celebrations, as seen in video from the Skagit Valley Herald. Compton died in 2012.
Neal McDonough found out the hard way that everybody runs in Minority Report
Working with “Band of Brothers” producer Steven Spielberg paid off for McDonough’s career when he was cast in the director’s 2002 sci-fi action thriller “Minority Report.”
McDonough’s role is Gordon “Fletch” Fletcher, a Precrime cop who has an easy rapport with protagonist John Anderton (Tom Cruise), his commanding officer. When Anderton’s name comes up through the Precrime system that identifies homicides before they happen, Fletch is one of the officers tasked with hunting him down, giving him a starring role in the film’s showstopper jetpack chase, which makes up for the sheer amount of Precrime exposition he has to deliver earlier in the film to make the setup make sense.
But it took a little while before he knew he had impressed Spielberg, McDonough explained to the BBC. “During filming [of ‘Band of Brothers’] I never got to meet him properly,” McDonough said. “A year later, I attended the Golden Globe Awards and, out of the blue, he approached me and said, “I saw you in ‘BoB’ and thought you did a great job. Would you like to play the part of Tom Cruise’s best friend in my next movie? … I was holding my fiancé’s hand at the time and felt like I’d crushed each of her fingers!”
Neal McDonough tried his hand at world domination on Arrow
In 2015, McDonough joined the fourth season of arrow for a lengthy run on that show and its companion series as the former League of Assassins villain and magic-wielding madman Damien Darhk.
They say that everybody wants to rule the world, but Darhk is going to make it happen for himself, even if it involves destroying most of the world so that he can rule its remnants. It doesn’t quite work out that way, but thanks to the League’s penchant for resurrection and some time-traveling allies, Darhk would return to plague the heroes on the network’s “Legends of Tomorrow” as well.
“Every time I talk about Darhk for more than five minutes, I start to think, ‘Holy cow, this is crazy,'” McDonough told Entertainment Weekly. But he added that it was a fun challenge as an actor to play a megalomaniac while still making him more than just the sum of his ambitions. “He’s so precise. He knows exactly what he wants and he’s going to get it. He messes with people, and he definitely enjoys the power that he has and the pain he inflicts on some people.”
His time in the Arrowverse was far from McDonough’s first scrape with superheroes. In the 1990s, he voiced the villainous Firebrand in an episode of the “Iron Man” cartoon before taking the lead as Bruce Banner in the 1996 “The Incredible Hulk” animated series. He also voiced Green Arrow himself in a trio of DC animated projects. But his best known alternate universe superhero role came when he played the bowler-hatted Dum Dum Dugan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Neal McDonough would stop at nothing on Yellowstone
Darhk was far from the last villainous role McDonough would play on television. He played Hansen on Syfy’s “Van Helsing,” Anders on “The 100,” and the crooked cop Casey Oaks on “Rogue.”
But perhaps the most prominent of these was his role as the stop-at-nothing land developer Malcolm Beck on the second season of the Paramount Network’s hit drama “Yellowstone.” Like many of the show’s bad guys, Malcolm and his brother Teal (Terry Serpico) run afoul of the Dutton family with their plans to develop land on and around the ranch. What makes the pair dangerous is their association with white supremacist militias in the region, which they hire to kidnap Kayce Dutton’s (Luke Grimes) son Tate (Brecken Merrill). That ends poorly for the brothers, as Kayce and John (Kevin Costner) take their revenge for the crime on their way to rescuing the boy, but even Malcolm’s apparent death didn’t stop fans from wondering whether he might be responsible for some of what befalls the Dutton family in Season 3.
To McDonough, one way to get into the character of Malcolm was to think about what kind of show he really was a part of. Playing him as a straight Western villain didn’t really feel right, because “Yellowstone” wasn’t just a straight Western, as he explained. “I really consider Yellowstone more of a gangster series,” the actor told Good Housekeeping. “The only difference is that those typically take place in New York or Chicago, but this one takes place in the mountains with horses and cowboy hats.”