The voice of outlaw Bill Williamson himself explains why he believes the Red Dead franchise is praised in the gaming community.
Red Dead is one of video gaming’s most popular and unique franchises. The video game franchise got created by the company Rockstar Games. Besides Red Dead, Rockstar Games is known for many successful high acclaimed gaming franchises such as Midnight Club, Max Payne, Manhunt, and Grand Theft Auto. The Red Dead franchise is a series of action western-themed video games which consist of three mainline games and two spin-offs. Those games are Red Dead Revolver, Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Redemption: Gunslingers, and Red Dead Online.
Steve J. Palmer is a veteran Hollywood actor and producer, appearing in hit TV shows such as Deadwood, House of Lies, Emily’s Reasons Why Not, and many more. However, Palmer is known for voicing and doing motion capture for fan-favorite Red Dead series character Bill Williamson. Williamson is one of the primary antagonists in Redemption while serving as a significant character in Redemption 2. Palmer’s performance as Williamson has gotten high praise from fans and critics.
I had the honor and extraordinary opportunity to interview Palmer at Pasadena Comic Con 2022 in Pasadena, California. I asked Palmer if he had prior knowledge of Redemption being a sequel to Revolver while landing the role of Williamson if he ever expected or thought that Redemption would be a commercial success, and his thoughts reprising his role as Williamson in Redemption 2.
EXCLUSIVE THE ILLUMINERDI INTERVIEW WITH RED DEAD’S STEVE J. PALMER
So Red Dead Redemption was a sequel to Rockstar’s Red Dead Revolver, did you have any knowledge to the game prior to getting the role for Bill Williamson?
Steve J. Palmer: We started working on the original Red Dead Redemption, and that started my work in January of 2009. I had heard inklings of Red Dead Revolver. I didn’t know too much about it because Red Dead Redemption in essence became its own thing. Certainly, if you play Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead 2, the events of Revolver are canon. It’s because Red Harlow is mentioned throughout the games. You kind of have to look for but it is there.
I had known of Rockstar, I was obviously a fan and familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series, and everything looked amazing when it came to Grand Theft Auto. So, I said, “If these guys from Grand Theft Auto are making a western, this is going to look good.” But I had no idea, I thought this could be pretty good, but I had no idea what was to come. Everything since then has been a blessing and a surprise to me.
The Game [Red Dead Redemption] was not only a critical but commercial success and won numerous awards. With the sequel coming out a few years ago, did you ever think that this game would have this legacy in gaming?
Steve J. Palmer: I didn’t know what to expect when the first game came out. But it was a pleasant surprise that it became the pop culture sleeper hit that it did. When we were working on Red Dead 2, a lot of the returning cast – myself, Rob Wiedoff, Benjamin Byron Davis who played Dutch – had gone through that cycle before and were thinking this could be pretty cool. But we really didn’t know. We would say, “This could be awesome. This could be great,” but we didn’t know until we saw what it looked like when the horse would step through the snow and little bits of ice. It looked so photorealistic.
We had no idea. At that point you can imagine, but you just don’t know until you’re done and the game comes out. Then the world reacts to it, or the fandom. They’re either going to love a product, or they are going to dislike the product. You don’t know. But when the good stuff starts happening, it’s like, “Thank goodness we made something everyone really likes.” To this day, we are still baffled by it. But we are happily baffled, I mean, we are just in awe of everything that’s happened.
We just didn’t know the depths of the emotional impact it would have. It went beyond our wildest dreams and it was the honor making.
My final question is what was your reaction when you found out that Bill was coming back for Red Dead Redemption 2?
Steve J. Palmer: They reached out to me in April of 2013. My manager said, “Rockstar reached out and they’re thinking they’d like to work with you again.” I thought I’d be a math professor and bully too. I was like, “I like Bully, so I didn’t know. Jimmy’s going to take that blue rubber band ball and throw it at my head.” I had no idea. I am a big Bully fan, by the way, for people to know. I had no idea, I wouldn’t think and everything was hush-hush and it’s they’ll let you know when they need you to know stuff.
I didn’t know what’s going on until November 2013, as far how specifically they would like to work with me again and then by the time I found out, I was ecstatic. But even then, we wrapped everything up. We didn’t say anything and it was just like, “This will be ready. Hopefully everyone will like it.” And five years later, everyone’s like, “Yeah, we like it.” It was great. I was curious, because it’s like the three guys going into it. Ben, myself, and Rob. This is a prequel, and we know it’s ending right before the original game starts off.
We start production on it back in 2014, and we are looking at each other like, “The three of us are going to get out of it alive.” But other than that, we’re like, “How did we get to that point? How did we get to the point where John’s chasing us all down?”
Over five years, we got bits of the script, because they kept us in the dark wonderfully. Every time we get sides, it was just like we were in the moment and it worked out wonderfully. As things unfolded, I remember the day that we were doing a scene – a conversation around the table where Bill’s talking to Micah, and you find out what Bill’s actual first name is.
I remember getting the sides that day and flipping out. I was like, “Oh my goodness!” I am showing people in the green room, I am pulling Ben aside to see this, and we are just like, “Oh, wow.” But all of us had those moments. I always wondered about that: “They are finally going to explain that. Since 2010, I have been wondering.”
We would have great moments like that, and it was fun for us as actors really fleshing out these characters. When it comes down to it, we had somewhat inklings of it. “It’s like this,” is what, as actors, what we think. But really it’s up to the writers, and they gave us gold. All the writers of both games were gold. The team of Rockstar is, and they the entire cast had wonderful moments of character building. It was just a great process.
Palmer’s performance as Bill Williamson will always be remembered and cherished by fans of the Red Dead series. Williamson was famous for his temper, love of drinking, and loyalty as a gang member. The character is considered a fan favorite because of his complex and tragic backstory, making him a relatable villain. The Red Dead games are filled with rich characters with unique story arcs that make them memorable, just like Williamson. Hopefully, Rockstar will develop more games, including special characters in that incredible western world.
What is your favorite game in the Red Dead series? What favorite moment do you have of Bill Williamson during his appearances in the games? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media.