Few gaming characters have been able to cling to popularity like the main protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston. The quasi-hero has one of the most tragic (albeit entertaining) stories in all of gaming, but the gravelly-voiced cowboy owes his on-screen presence and raw appeal to a voice actor by the name of Rob Wiethoff.
Following his performance in Rockstar Games’ blockbuster Western, however, Wiethoff retired from acting. Rather definitively, in fact. But with a John Marston appearance confirmed for Red Dead Redemption 2, can fans expect to see Wiethoff reprise the beloved role? That’s still up in the air.
Those hoping for more background on his decision to step away from the profession and focus on his family can check out Polygon’s rather superb mini-documentary on John Marston’s voice actor. Seriously, it’s worth the watch.
The latest trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 confirms that Marston will play a role in the prequel’s narrative, freshly stitched face wounds and all, but the character doesn’t utter a single word. It’s evident that the marketing team behind Rockstar Games knew what it is doing with the character’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, as is evident by the facts that this opinion piece now exists and you’re currently reading it. It’s smart, as it raises more questions and provides fewer answers – leaving room for ample speculation to fill social media and message boards.
But, again, Wiethoff is very retired from acting. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways that Rockstar Games can go with Marston here.
Since Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place 12 years prior to the previous iteration, it’s possible that John Marston will be portrayed by a younger actor capable of delivering similar gravitas comparable to that of Wiethoff’s original performance. Truthfully, this makes a lot of sense given the fact that Marston has yet to become the man he is in RDR in this game, but there’s an immediate drawback if Rockstar Games opts to take this route.
Fans in gaming are a rather vocal bunch in regards to a number of different things, but replacing voice actors is an immediate pet peeve for many. We’ve seen backlash surface after similar situations emerged, such as David Hayter being replaced as the voice of Metal Gear Solid‘s Snake and Michael Ironside being left behind in favour of a new voice for Splinter Cell‘s Sam Fisher, and it would be a shame to see Red Dead Redemption 2 potentially follow suit – especially given that Wiethoff earned several industry accolades for his performance as John Marston. He’s just not that easily replaced.
Still, it may not be up to Rockstar Games at all. If Rob Wiethoff is set on staying out of the limelight and with his family, then the studio doesn’t really have much choice but to recast the infamous character. And to Wiethoff’s credit, he’s more than entitled to pursue the life he’s chosen following the success of Red Dead Redemption – regardless of what fans want.
Depending on how large the the payday is for the actor and how prominent the role of John Marston is in Red Dead Redemption 2 – something that is still unknown – perhaps a deal can be struck to see the original voice return. For now, only time will tell what is in store for fans.
One thing is certain, though: October can’t come soon enough.
Red Dead Redemption 2 arrives for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 26, 2018.
In case you were wondering, Riley can be found on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle. If you weren’t wondering, well, we apologize.