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Lance Reddick holding a Gjallarhorn at a Destiny launch event Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Activision

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Lance Reddick’s love for Destiny can’t save Commander Zavala, probably

We spoke to Destiny 2 game director Joe Blackburn and Commander Zavala himself about the character’s future

Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

News broke on Friday, March 17 that Lance Reddick best known for his work in Destiny, The Wire, and John Wick, passed away at the age of 60. In the following interview from February 2022, Reddick spoke to Polygon about his role in the Destiny franchise and what his character, Commander Zavala, meant to him.

Lance Reddick, the actor behind Lt. Daniels in The Wire and Charon the concierge in the John Wick movies, is also the voice of one of Destiny’s oldest and most important characters: the Titan Vanguard Commander Zavala.

Reddick is also an avid Destiny 2 player. And he isn’t shy about it.

For years, Reddick has regularly interacted with Destiny fans on his personal Twitter by sharing videos of him recording in his closet or recording fan-requested lines using his Zavala character voice. But with Commander Zavala’s recent brush with death in Season of the Chosen — and Bungie’s clear willingness to kill off Vanguards voiced by popular actors — I’ve started to worry about the future of one of my favorite Destiny characters.

In a recent interview for Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, the game’s upcoming expansion, I asked game director Joe Blackburn and project lead Blake Battle about how Reddick’s presence in the community could affect his character. Does fans’ love for him, and his apparent love for the fans, make it hard to kill off the Tower’s commander in the future?

“I think people love Lance Reddick, we love Lance Reddick, we love Zavala,” said Blackburn. “I definitely think that we would always make the choices based off what Destiny needs to do first. But certainly, we love having Lance out there not just as a voice actor for us, but also as such a prominent Guardian. [...] We obviously have plans for Zavala — Zavala could go a lot of different ways — but Lance is a pretty flexible actor in his range. [...] So that leaves the door pretty wide open for us with Zavala.”

Zavala carries a lot of weight in Destiny’s story, playing both immovable Tower bureaucrat and level-headed commander, depending on the situation. It’s hard to think of how the Destiny story could proceed into its “Light and Darkness saga” without his nagging voice in your ear, trusting but nervous. Blackburn seems to be speaking to that here. While it’s certainly possible something could happen to Zavala down the line, it seems he may have some character evolution to go through first.

Still, there’s always that twinge of fear over beloved characters and what fate might befall them. So I sent Blackburn’s quote to Reddick himself to get his opinion on Zavala’s future.

“Well, first of all, it’s funny, because in one of my more recent recording sessions, I actually asked them if they were killing me off,” said Reddick in an email to Polygon. “To which they replied with an answer. (Obviously I’m not gonna say what it is [winky-face emoji]). At any rate, in some ways it’s hard for me to get a gauge of my Zavala’s character arc over the years because working on the game has been so sporadic in the midst of the rest of my acting career, but also because, although I play Destiny almost every day (I’m even part of a clan now), once I’ve played through each iteration of the game, as time goes on I kind of forget about the story and just focus on powering up and getting cool weapons and grinding through playlists. At the end of the day, I’m just a big fan who also happens to voice one of the characters.”

Lance Reddick at a Destiny launch event with Bungie CEO Pete Parsons and fellow actor Joe Manganiello Photo: Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Activision

When Reddick says “recent recording sessions,” it’s unclear if he means for the upcoming Witch Queen expansion or something down the road. With how often and “sporadic” his recordings can be, it’s also possible that the recording session he was referring to has already come to pass in the game, potentially when Zavala almost bit the big one last year. Either way, it’s nice to see that the voice behind Zavala is able to kick back and relax in a way his character never could — even if Reddick mains a Warlock, despite portraying the Titan Vanguard.

I asked Reddick about the way he engages with the Destiny community, and why he takes so much time out of his day to chat with them.

“Honestly I engage with the Destiny fans differently because they engage with me differently from my other fans,” he said. “I don’t think the fan base is necessarily any bigger than my other fan bases (particularly the John Wick fans and the Bosch fans), but they are the most rabid. And for a while it felt like nothing else I’d done in my career was as significant to them. It’s like ‘he’s Zavala, and maybe occasionally he does some other stuff, but we can’t be worried about that! He’s Zavala!’”

While Zavala hasn’t always been the most popular character in the Destiny community — partially because of his unwillingness to fly off and avenge Cayde-6 in Forsaken — Reddick has helped shift that narrative by engaging with players. But from what I’ve heard, Reddick has always enjoyed engaging with Destiny players. A few years ago, I heard a rumor that involved Reddick volunteering to help Bungie show Destiny 2 to eager fans at kiosks, so to close out the interview, I asked him if he remembered doing that.

“Actually, I’ve done that twice,” said Reddick. “I was at the initial launch party back in 2014 and then again in, I believe it was Vegas, when they were launching Destiny 2. As a matter of fact there’s a picture of me at the initial launch party with Common and Joe Manganiello. It was a blast. At the initial party I actually played the game a bit. I wasn’t much of a gamer at the time, so I kind of sucked, but it was fun. At the Destiny 2 launch, I was much more the face of the game, so I did a big presentation on stage. I felt kind of like Steve Jobs, so that was cool. :) And then I got to meet a lot of the people who had worked on developing the game, as well as the CEO of Bungie at the time. It was great.”

Reddick has transcended Zavala and become a treasured member of the community. Fans appreciate that a famous actor and voice actor loves Destiny and shares that love with fans. And while I don’t know where Zavala’s character will go in the future — although I have high hopes he’ll be around for a long time yet — it’s clear that Reddick will always be a fellow Guardian.

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