Populating the Galaxy: (Fan) Casting a Mass Effect Film

Mass Effect is an epic story, and the filmmakers are going to have their hands full with adapting it well.  If done correctly it’s got the potential to be one of the greatest science fiction films around.  Yet more than just the story, I feel that the casting is going to be crucial.  Gamers spent a ridiculous amount of hours with these characters, learning about them, solving their problems, befriending them.  Understandably fans feel a strong connection to them, so finding the right actors is going to be key.  While the story spans three full games, I’m going to only focus on the characters from the first game which is likely to be the basis of the film.

Commander Shepard – Tom Hardy

Shepard is the lead role and the one gamers have the most connection to (since you play as Shepard).  This is an especially tough role to cast because he’s so iconic and resonates with so many gamers, and fans have tried to put so many different actors in his place.  His is another dynamic and iconic voice, yet I don’t feel any actor that looked or could play the part could replicate that voice.  That’s kind of a shame, but we have to remember that a movie is an adaptation and not a direct copy.

To that end, I’ve settled on Tom Hardy for the role.  He may not look just like Shepard (as some actors do), but personally I feel he’s got the talent needed to pull off the role.  Shepard is a very dynamic character that has to be both a hero and an everyman.  He’s a counselor to his crew, a friend, and the only one who thinks the galaxy is in danger.  He’s got an uphill battle that will test his will and morals.

Tom Hardy has the ability to portray a range of characters, and the ability to be the action star when he needs to.  He is an excellent actor that can do a number of roles, and I think he’d be able to capture all that goes into the character of Commander Shepard.

Fem Shep – Charlize Theron

I have no doubt that the film is going to utilize the male version of Commander Shepard, yet if they decided to going with the female version (which most fans refer to as FemShep) I think Charlize Theron would be perfect for the role.  To be honest, Prometheus is the reason why I think she could pull of this character.

I know Prometheus had its share of problems, but Theron’s performance in the film wasn’t one of them.  She played the hard nosed, yet fragile, starship captain incredibly well.  She has the strong acting chops needed to pull off the nuances of the character, and the looks to do FemShep justice.  As I said, I highly doubt FemShep is ever going to see the big screen, but if for some reason she were, I could think of no one better than Theron for the role.

Ashley Williams- Kate Beckinsale

I’m assuming that Ashley will play the love interest in the film, even though gamers could choose whoever they wanted in the game.  Ashley isn’t some damsel in distress, in fact she’s a hardened warrior and when our hero first meets her, she’s knee deep in a firefight and the only surviving member of her team on planet.  She’s got a softer side to her as well though, and can be quite delicate at times, so you need an actress that can pull off both of those personas.

I’m going with Kate Beckinsale on this one, and not just because I have a crazy crush on her.  She’s shown time and again she can hold her own in an action capacity.  She certified herself as a bad ass in the Underworld movies, she’s shown her softer side in Pearl Harbor, and she’s drop dead gorgeous.  She’s got all of the bases covered to be a strong leading character in her own right and can make Ashley Williams come to life.

Kaidan Alenko – Michael Fassbender

Kaidan is an interesting character, and one of the first and strongest supporters on Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy.  He’s a friend, a comrade in arms, and a hero all on his own.  Though it sounds somewhat belittling, he’s basically Shepard’s sidekick.

Michael Fassbender fits the bill for me on this one.  He’s a powerful actor and to be perfectly honest, I think he looks close enough to Kaidan to pull it off.  He can do the action scenes, as well as the dramatic ones.  He’s a great actor in that he doesn’t feel the need to showboat or steal the scenes.  He’s just as effective in a supporting role and that’s exactly what Kaidan needs to be.

Garrus Vakarian – Kiefer Sutherland

Garrus is the ever faithful sharpshooter who has an odd obsession with calibrations.  When Commander Shepard meets Garrus, he’s a police officer frustrated with the limitations his own authority places on him.  He longs to do more and sees that opportunity on the Normandy.

The thing with Garrus is that he’s an alien, and bringing him to life on the screen will require either heavy make-up or CGI mo-cap (probably mo-cap), so in reality it could be any actor in the role.  The key to nailing the character of Garrus is his voice, and I can think of none better for the role than Kiefer Sutherland.  He has a very distinctive and gravelly voice that can convey the bitterness and gratitude the alien cop exudes.

It’s not just the voice either, Sutherland has experience playing the grizzled, bad ass, don’t always play by the rules law enforcer.  He could excel in the role and truly make it his own, turning in a performance fans would enjoy.

Joker – Seth Green

This one is kind of a no-brainer.  Seth Green already provides the voice for the sarcastic and quick-witted pilot of the Normandy, and the character design is modeled off of his face as well.  He doesn’t play a huge role in the overall story, but he’s always been able to keep Shepard grounded and somewhat of a moral compass.

It’s a smaller role, but that’s another reason I feel getting Seth Green to do it would be best.  It’s too good of a treat for fans to pass up.  Putting someone else in that role wouldn’t be the same, and what could be a fun Easter Egg would turn into a big missed opportunity for some serious fan service.

Tali’Zorah – Zoe Saldana

Tali is an interesting character to portray because you never actually get to see her face.  Yet she is a character filled with emotions and conflict.  She’s desperate to return to her people, is outcast by the rest of the galaxy for her species role in unleashing machine warriors, and is compelled to help Shepard; quite possibly as some sort of redemption quest.

Since Tali stays behind her mask and environmental suit the entire time, you need an actor that can convey emotions and feelings with her body motions.  To this end I feel Zoe Saldana could do the best job.  She’s got lots of experience with intense action, and her work in Avatar with all of the mo-cap, literally becoming a different person altogether, she’s got the experience being expressive with just her body language.  Put a filter on her dialogue and I think she’ll sound just like Tali as well.

Captain David Anderson – Laurence Fishburne

Anderson is essentially Shepard’s mentor and unfortunately I don’t see him playing a large role in the film.  To be honest, he doesn’t have a huge role in the first game either, but he does some pivotal things, and was always there to give Shepard the support he needed, when no one else in the galaxy would.

Laurence Fishburne is excellent in the mentor role, and could do a great job of playing the wily, but aging military man.  To be honest, it’s not that dissimilar from his role in the Matrix films.  He’s wise, always there with advice and to back up the hero, but can kick ass when he needs to.  That’s the Captain Anderson I knew during the game, and I think that’s exactly what Fishburne could bring to the role

Saren – Mark Strong

Saren is the villain of the tale, but he’s not as cut and dry as you initially think.  Once part of the vaunted Spectres (think secret agents of the highest caliber in space), he’s gone rogue and Shepard is the man to stop him…hopefully.  Saren worked as a villain because he posed a very viable threat and because he was/is a Spectre like Shepard, he knows all the same tricks.  He’s a tough villain to beat, and he’s bringing a terrible force along with him.

Saren’s another alien that will inevitably need visual effects to bring to life on the screen, so an actor with a strong, emotive, voice is needed.  For that, I feel Mark Strong is the man to go with.  First of all, I think he’s one of the best on screen villains I’ve seen, and a lot of that comes from his powerful voice.  He can fill you with dread even as you’re hanging on every word he speaks.  He can speak with a passion and conviction, which are strong elements of Saren’s character, and it’s exactly why I feel Strong can pull it off like no other actor.


Obviously there are a ton of people I didn’t mention.  Mass Effect is filled with characters who have both big and small impacts on the story.  In the interest of trying to keep this list from getting way out of hand, I tried to stick to the bigger and more pertinent roles.  There’s no telling how the casting for the film will actually go, or even if all of the characters will be present.  Let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to cram the entire crew into the film without shafting someone.  These are my choices for who I feel would be the best to portray these beloved characters, what are yours?