It’s not every day that a 55-year-old female Māori rebel warlord is offered as a character to play in the gaming sphere. Let alone one so formidable.
Margaret ‘Mad Maggie’ Kōhere is a rare exception. The latest addition to Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends, Mad Maggie had already won over both critics and fans alike.
For those unfamiliar, Apex Legends is a free-to-play hero shooter, set in the same universe as Respawn’s Titanfall. Its popularity is hard to overstate. Just eight hours after its launch, the title had over 1,000,000 unique players, and by April 2021, it had close to 100,000,000 – making it one of the most played video games of all time (by unique player count).
Players can choose to game in one of two modes: ‘Battle Royale’ or ‘Arenas’. Both require teams of either two or three, with players selecting their character (known as ‘Legends’) of choice – each possessing a very unique skill set.
Apex Legends – Mad Maggie & Nicola Kāwana
Season 12 – ‘Defiance’ – dropped on the 8th February 2022 and introduced Mad Maggie to the scene. With dominant abilities including Riot Drill (tactical), Warlord’s Ire (passive), and Wrecking Ball (ultimate), she certainly arrives with a bang.
So too does Nicola Kāwana – the voice of this fierce Māori rebel – for whom Apex Legends marks her first foray into the realm of video games. After being ‘invited to record a voice audition and demo’, Kāwana soon found herself swapping her usual haunts across the stages and screens of New Zealand for the studio recording booth.
Here we speak to Kāwana about her experience, as well as the games that shaped her early days.
Tahlia Norrish – PowerUp!: What initially appealed to you about the project and as a Māori yourself, did you have any input into the character development? Were there any details you were especially excited to see included?
Nicola Kāwana: The opportunity to work with a team creating a new character. I was able to offer a variation on certain phrases, and specifically, the use of my own dialect from Taranaki [a western region of New Zealand’s North Island] which drops the ‘h’ sound.
PowerUp!: Respawn has said each Legend has close to 1,600 lines. How did you sustain yourself on the job?
Kāwana: I warm up my voice and run over some articulation exercises in the car on my way to record. I always take a large thermos flask of hot lemon, honey, and ginger to soothe my throat.
PowerUp!: Apex Legends has a sizable international following and features a roster of already much-loved, larger-than-life characters. Did joining this universe present any unique challenges to you as an actor?
Kāwana: I had no idea what Apex Legends was when I first began recording. My 21-year-old filled me in on the game, its history, and [its] popularity. The team at Respawn are also incredibly generous, kind and funny. And due to my lack of knowledge of the gaming world, very patient. Oh, and ridiculously talented.
PowerUp!: Has gaming played a big role in your personal life? Are there any games you’ve found yourself particularly hooked on?
Kāwana: I was a teenager in the ’80s. On a Friday night, the Spacie parlour was the place to be, and Defender and Pac-Man were the games of choice. The last time I played a game was Tekken in the late 90s, and my technique involved hitting as many buttons as I could in the shortest amount of time. I can barely operate my Gmail, so managing to play a game today would be comical, to say the least.
PowerUp!: If players take one thing away from Mad Maggie and what she brings to the table, what would you hope that to be?
Kāwana: That being from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Maggie comes from a legacy of fierce women from the suffragettes who made New Zealand the first country in the world where all adult women had the freedom to vote, to Dame Whina Cooper who at 79 years of age walked the length of the North Island [in New Zealand] to demand the return of Māori land. Not to mention the current leader of our country who is one of the most stable leaders in the world. I think Maggie brings all of these traits to the table.
Apex Legends Season 12 is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Origin and Steam.
Respawn is also launching Apex Legends Mobile as a limited release on Android and iOS as of March 2022. The initial rollout will be open to players in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Colombia.
Special thanks to Nicola Kāwana and her team at Auckland Actors for their time.