Friday, March 1, 2024

Maggie Robertson on Lady Dimitrescu, becoming a queer icon, and the future

Maggie Robertson was not a well-known name when Resident Evil Village and the terrifying Lady Dimitrescu was first revealed in June 2020. In our interview together, Robertson told how she’d just moved to Los Angeles and had no experience in voice acting but booked the job for Lady Dimitrescu anyway.

That role went on to change her life.

“[Voicing Lady Dimitrescu] has changed my life in every possible way,” Robertson tells us over a Zoom call. “I think it was very bizarre going from a place of complete invisibility to now a place of complete visibility. It’s really been my breakout role.”

Voice acting is a profession where the pay-off of becoming a character, both physically and mentally, isn’t immediate. You get into a booth, often by yourself, and perform your very best. Then you and your fellow voice actors go home and wait for the game to be revealed and then released. It’s a very drawn-out process. So when Lady Dimitrescu was finally revealed and interest in her ran rampant throughout social media, Robertson explains that the impact was “surreal.”

More importantly, the reveal of Lady Dimitrescu came at a time in Robertson’s life that she describes as having a “crisis of faith” in regards to her career. “Just before the game was released […] I was reaching one of my all-time lows of just wondering if any of the work that I’m doing, any of the stuff I’m doing is making a difference at all. Or if I’m just making noise and flapping about for no reason with no actual progress being made. It’s very easy to feel like that when you’re an actor.” She tells us. “It is, to quote [Batman] The Dark Knight, ‘the night is always darkest just before the dawn.’ […] You start to doubt whether or not anything, all your dreams or ambitions, are going to come true. Or if you’re just going to be yet another actor sob story who moved to the big city to make it big and has to go home with their tail between their legs.”

Instead of returning home, Robertson found that over a series of days her portrayal as the enigma known as Lady Dimitrescu hadn’t just appealed to fans of Resident Evil – but the entire internet. The obsession reached such a high that the art director, Tomonori Takano, made a brief post on Twitter revealing the full height of the character – all while noting the popularity of not just Dimitrescu, but her three daughters too.

Lady Dimitrescu changed everything for Maggie Robertson, all while quickly becoming a queer icon among fans

While the surge of love for Lady Dimitrescu is no doubt a lot of well-intentioned thirst, what really became clear early on is how much the queer community – often a loud and proud sub-branch of a fandom – was drawn to her story and how, through methods of her own design, the powerful Dimitrescu shaped her own family with her daughters. It may have been through bloody and ruthless methods, but the found family trope is a favourite of queer players for a reason – it’s relatable.

“One of the greatest gifts of this whole crazy ride that I’ve been on, that has been the most wonderful surprise to come out of it, is to play a character that is able to provide a place of acceptance and love and openness and welcome to communities who need it. Communities that I deeply care about. It has been so unbelievably special.” Robertson tells us after we ask her how it feels for Lady Dimitrescu to become an icon among queer gamers.

The queer community feeling drawn to horror isn’t anything new by any means. Horror is often seen as a safe space for these communities due to its subversive nature and the message behind even the gore and blood of the wildest slashers. More importantly: it’s multiple sub-genres speak to the queer community in different ways whether it be body horror or a revenge plot.

Interestingly enough, Robertson mentions Lady Dimitrescu’s height – something which makes her stand out and is appealing yes, but also shows how in the place she lives in, her very own castle, is still something that doesn’t fit her.

“She, literally, doesn’t fit anywhere, yet she remains so staunchly and unapologetically herself and does not allow anyone else in her life to treat her any less than she deserves.” Robertson explains to us. “I think that those are all qualities that are really honorable and really inspiring.”

Body dysphoria in horror has been shown in many ways, and has often helped rather than hindered. With Robertson’s portrayal of such a larger than life character, who faces difficulty in being in a setting that’s too small for her powerful presence, it’s not hard to see why so many queer gamers see themselves in her.

As for Robertson, she has embraced the queer community surrounding the Resident Evil fandom and has since the very start. “I love you guys. I love the queer community. To be able to help people when they need it, I get a lot of letters telling me how much this role and I have impacted people. That’s really moving every time and is still surreal and unexpected.”

It isn’t just queer fans getting acceptance and recognition with Lady Dimitrescu, but her story has led to queer fandom to embrace her in creative ways. One way is through the use of Maidens, the women that used to serve the Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters before they became the main meal themselves. Queer fans have used their own takes on the Maiden to pair them up with Dimitrescu and to convey their own LGBTQ+ stories in unique ways – some through fanart, others fanfiction, and even the occasional TikTok.

We asked Robertson if she’d seen anything, either by herself or through the legions of fans online.

“Oh yes, I’ve come across them. People have sent them to me. I think it’s so wonderful! It’s been so cool to see how the community expresses their creativity around this character. It deepens her character and adds more to her. You create this character, you create this piece of art and then you release it out into the world – it’s up to audiences to determine how they feel about it and build upon it.” Robertson continues, “she feels like she’s her own entity at this point, because she’s just expanded. Every time I see a new piece of our work, every time I read a new short story, or hear somebody’s song that they wrote about her, it just expands her.”

Another thing that Robertson tells us she loves about fans creativity is the different ways that they see her. For some fans, Lady Dimitrescu is a bisexual, trans woman, for some she’s a lesbian. For all, she’s a single mom who loves her daughters unconditionally. No matter who you are, Lady Dimitrescu and her story is relevant and relatable.

Maggie Robertson Lady Dimitrescu

As for future projects, Robertson couldn’t share too much but did let us know that she wants to take on a few more personal projects this year. At least one of the projects seems to involve singing – it makes sense, especially considering Robertson started off as a singer before she made it big in voice acting.

But would Maggie Robertson return to play Lady Dimitrescu again if Capcom called? Why, of course.

“I would play her until my dying day. She’s such a fascinating character. […] I think, she has a lot of evil qualities, so to speak, but what’s fun for me is figuring out the ‘why’ behind all of them, why she is the way that she is.” Robertson tells us. “I think that there’s a lot underneath the collected, proud, regal exterior that she has. I would love getting to delve in and investigate that.”

We know that Resident Evil Village will be receiving some sort of DLC expansion this year, but whether it has anything to do with Lady Dimitrescu, her daughters or even the other Lords is something that remains to be seen. The popularity of her character, and the fans that flocked to her, was something that Capcom didn’t expect or plan for, after all. But hey, never say never.

Even if Robertson never does get to play the popular character again, Robertson is incredibly grateful and humbled by the acceptance of the Resident Evil community. Not just towards her, but each other.

“It’s the community that has built that she’s an icon, but it’s the Resident Evil fanbase that built that community of acceptance. I have so many people that write me telling me that they’ve found their friends here. They found a place where they can be themselves and everyone loves and supports them.

“Anytime I see someone post a piece of artwork or of their short story script, the fans come in and shower them with love or a cosplay photo. They’re like ‘oh my gosh, yaaas queen, you’re killing it.’ That’s been really special to see too. And I never expected that. I never expected to be a part of a community that would welcome me with open arms. That would treat each other with so much respect and empathy and care. I love that.”

As our interview came to a close, the topic of Robertson turning into a model seemingly overnight was something which still continues to surprise the voice actor and singer.

“It’s very humbling to think that I could have an effect on somebody’s life because when you’re just thinking of yourself, you’re like, ‘oh yeah, like who cares about me? I’m just this one person. And I’m not a role model. You shouldn’t look up to me,’ but people do now. And that’s very special.”

Photo Credit of Maggie Robertson: Nicole Tompkins / Photo Credit of Lady Dimitrescu (Pride): @AnnaSassiArt

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.