#CheckALook behind the scenes with leading ladyboss Lacey Hannan
Earlier this month, Devolver Digital proved yet again that their marketing campaigns are absolutely god-tier, galaxy-brain experiences. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch 2020’s Devolver Direct, or, hey, maybe watch it again for a refresher if you have.
If you’re like me, you watched it at least twice to get that delicious, delicious hype force-fed directly to our skulls; I’ll admit that this sad sack of backlogs is a little biased, however, because Devolver Direct’s ladyboss Linda Masters is my real-life ladyboss Lacey Hannan. Co-Founder of Edgeworks Entertainment, the indie studio best known for the mobile terraforming simulator TerraGenesis, Hannan’s acting career and video game career collided into a bloody beautiful mess with Devolver Direct 2019 and Devolver Direct 2020. A show-stealing fan favorite this year, I had to interview her to learn more about what happened behind the scenes at one of the most entertaining video game presentations of all time.
When asked to describe her character, referred to on a first name basis in the video, Hannan painted a picture of an exceedingly overconfident woman to the point of self-aggrandizing delusion. “Linda is a poster child for capitalism’s perfect employee,” she said. “She thinks of herself as the most dedicated, motivated, goal-oriented person — a self-described genius.”
However, Hannan also saw potential for greatness in Linda. “From my point of view, she has consistent, internal logic which makes her an ideal villain. She has values, but she takes them to extremes — something we like to see from the good guys just as much as the bad guys. Wonder Woman, Buffy, Sarah Connor, and Rose Dewitt all go to extremes to get what they want and we’re lucky they’re on ‘our’ side. If Linda had healthy values, we’d want her on our side; unfortunately, she doesn’t.”
Extreme is certainly a perfect word to describe Linda; a woman who does nothing by halves, her intensity had the entire crew cowering. When asked how Linda compared to how she was in real life, Hannan described how she twisted some of her own traits to terrifying lengths. “We’re both formal, although for me it’s in weird situations where I don’t know what to do with myself,” she revealed. “For her, that’s just who she is. I think that’s why I was able to tap into that so easily.”
Another similarity? That ferocity. “I can be warm, fun, and nice, and I have quite a bit of patience, but that’s a mask for her. Once you get on my bad side, you’re on my bad side forever; I will try to light you on fire. So far, only two people have ever crossed that line. Linda? Zero patience, but as long as she can use you, she won’t destroy you.” In short, you have to prove yourself useful to not get burned by Linda. Ouch.
When it comes to getting into character, Linda’s personality wasn’t as much of a challenge in comparison to other aspects of the role. “It doesn’t take much to get into character because she’s realized to a certain point. I think there are other characters that have more nuance; Linda’s fun, but she has a one-track mind every time we see her.”
“Instead, I have to put more effort into her voice and physicality. I struggle with her voice, because for some reason I always want to make her Minnesotan,” confessed Hannan, who was born in Nebraska and raised in South Dakota. “I don’t know why! As soon as I get that high pitch, it’s something straight out of Drop Dead Gorgeous. I have to practice all of my lines with the voice so that when I’m on set I don’t have to think and it’s just in my body.”
Speaking of body, Hannan’s prep for Linda’s mannerisms sounded… tense. “There’s no way to totally get ready for the physicality of her. It’s almost like she has rubber bands all over her body. She’s just so tight. She needs a massage. You never know what [Don Thacker]’s gonna throw at you on set, so I had to remain flexible while living in that wound-up physicality. I was wrecked for two days after that shoot because I was so tired.”
For those keeping up with the lore, this is Linda’s second appearance on screen, Hannan reprising her role from 2019. When asked how Linda’s character evolved since last year, Hannan believed not much had changed internally; externally, however, was a different story. “Linda hasn’t evolved all that much since last year. What has evolved are people’s reaction to her, because Don and Zane did not take her seriously at all last year. Now they’ve been cowed into doing what she wants to do, so it’s more like she rules based on their fear, but her motivations and her character haven’t changed. She just has more power, which has changed people’s relationship to her.”
“Not that Linda cares, of course.”
Linda might not have changed much from Devolver Direct 2019, but Devolver Direct 2020, by contrast, absolutely had. Filmed in the middle of a pandemic, Devolver Direct 2020 was faced with a very specific set of challenges. “The day before filming, everybody had to come to set and get tested for COVID-19. It was a rapid test, so we were able to get our results very quickly.”
After everyone was cleared of the virus, the cast and crew could begin filming, the entire shoot spanning two days. “We had to do the screaming parts on the first day, and by the second day my voice was shot,” she said of the experience. “Still, it had to be done this way, because we had to limit the number of people on set to below 10 people at a time.”
Hannan recalled how they took every precaution possible to ensure everyone’s safety. “We had to scan into every area we went into; if they took you from the green room to makeup, you’d have to scan into set then scan into makeup, and this was done for contact tracing. Everybody had to wear masks unless they were doing lines or actively filming. Everyone tried to stay away as far as possible from each other. Even crafting services, which is usually a table spread with food for people to get as they please, was parceled out in individual bags that you picked up at the beginning of the day.”
It’s hard to imagine such distancing considering the nature of filming, Hannan admitting it was definitely not the norm. “It was a little weird, but it was probably weirder for the crew than for cast. People who are typically on set, like the VP, had to be in another room watching from a monitor. It was a constant shuffle of who was allowed to be in the room to ensure we stayed below 10 people at any given time.”
Despite the hiccups personally experienced, Hannan believed others struggled more. “It was harder for our director, Don, because he had so many ideas for how this year could have been and then suddenly had to be as separate as possible. He didn’t want to take the low-hanging fruit and do it all in this ‘Zoom call humor,’ but, admittedly, it was something that helped keep separation on set. We decided that if we were going do it, we didn’t want to overuse it, and make it subtle instead. Which is funny, considering subtlety is not Devolver’s specialty.”
Devolver? Subtle? Never.
One thing that was hard for Hannan? Not swearing, as Linda’s brand of bad words makes for a unique yet difficult kind of potty mouth. “When Don originally sent me the script, I told him there wasn’t much ‘Linda swearing’ in it and he just kind of went ‘okay, well you asked for it — don’t forget that.'” she recollected. True to his word, he delivered on the Linda swears. “And her swearing is HARD. Normally I can memorize four pages of a script in about 30 – 40 minutes. This? It takes me WEEKS. I’d be stomping around my house, actual curse words just FLOWING out of my mouth every time I messed up. My dog was so perturbed.”
“On set it was harder, because there’s a limited amount of time and little room for mistakes. But her lines! One of them — ‘buck bondle, duck-licking worst’ — like, you’re asking me to look at a camera and say that? Do you know how many times I said the actual swear words? That’s just how it was going to go. Which meant I had to stop, and now I’m swearing at myself for getting it wrong. And Don was like ‘You asked!'”
Speaking of little room for mistakes, trying to save time here and there made for a surprising moment of hilarity. “There’s a part where Zane throws a glass which was actually almost cut due to time constraints since we didn’t really have the time to mop it up. In an effort to keep the shot, the production designer, Jeremy, offered to catch the cup, so that way the liquid would spill but the cup wouldn’t break, making for quicker cleanup.”
“We did a take and it went well, but then Zane was asked to change how he threw it. So the next take, Jeremy caught the cup… with his face.”
“It shattered everywhere, but the crazy part is Zane didn’t even blink! He just kept going like a true professional. But that sound where the glass breaks into a million pieces? That’s real. Jeremy just looked shocked with tea all over his face, and the producer, who had told us we didn’t have time to clean up glass, just grabbed a broom and started sweeping.”
Hannan says not to worry about the time, though — everything worked out in the end. “It was one of those things that I was left impressed with [Adrian, who plays Zane].”
In fact, Hannan spoke highly of working with everyone involved. “[Mahria, who plays Nina] is great. Total killer queen. She’s such a professional and has astounding emotional depth. I remember the crew talking about a scene where they said Nina made them cry. And I remember asking ‘you mean Mahria?’ and they said ‘no, Nina.’ The amount of talent it takes for an actor to make the crew moved by your character — not just you — is incredible.”
“Adrian is fantastic. He’s the kind of guy who will call everyone up weeks ahead and ask if you need to run lines together,” she said, adding additional praise to his cool as a cucumber glass-tossing scene. “And Kally really made her character, Madge, blossom this year. So much growth — she went from a quiet, keep to herself character to taking control and saving the day. Don has truly built a solid cast and crew that can absolutely deliver.”
For those wanting to know a little more about Hannan after learning so much about Linda, she’s as cool as they come. An avid bookworm and Dungeons and Dragons player, she loves a good story as much as she loves a good game. “I’m obsessed with my dog, dice, and I love a good deck of cards. As far as gaming goes, I’m part of the tabletop fandom and I understand mobile games fans, but console/PC gaming is something I’ve learned about with my time at Devolver.”
“In terms of story-telling, give me fantasy, and I’ll take sci-fi too, but give me fantasy or give me death. I want my life to be consumed by good stories. I want LOTR, Marvel, DC, Broken Earth, Dresden Files, and countless more. Give me a new world, give me a place to scuba dive, give me a weird, windy canyon and a motorcycle and let’s go. I want something new on the eyes, with an experience that is new on the heart. These are the things that give me life.”
(Another exciting bit of Lacey Hannan trivia: she got to star in one of her favorite book series’ trailers, Dresden Files.)
It’s this story-telling that makes her enjoy working with Thacker. “Don’s writing is so fun because he gives heightened stories. I have worked with Don before and I’ve been able to play some very intense characters. That’s what I’m into as a reader, that’s what I’m into as a D&D player.”
As for what the future’s future holds? Hannan says Linda’s existence is up in the air (what with the explosion and all). “I’d be Linda again in a heartbeat, but it’s all up to the story. Don has built a really cool universe — as far as I’m aware, this is out of his brain — so it’s important to me to serve the story he’s built up. I’d love to do Linda to the end of time, but there are probably other villains worth exploring.”
Of course, Linda might feel a bit differently. “Oh, she’d remind everyone that they are podunk crumbmuffins, and if they don’t believe it, they can take it up with her directly. She probably lives under their beds at this point.”