Dungeons & Dragons Cast on Their Real Life Game and the Best Character Class

Emma Fyffe
Movies Fantasy
Movies Fantasy

The history of onscreen media baring the title Dungeons & Dragons away from the game itself is not so treacherous as one may think – if you’ve never seen the animated series from the 1980s, it is extremely worth tracking down and no I am not just saying that because my first D&D character was a redheaded rogue with an invisibility cloak. Which was purely coincidence, by the way.

However, up until now, when “Dungeons & Dragons” and “Movie” were uttered in the same breath, it conjured images of the lackluster romp from 2000 that somehow wasted having Jeremy Irons as the bad guy. Also there were apparently two sequels set in the far future continuity of the first film, one of which was actually released in theaters. Who knew! (Not me)

Thankfully, the adventuring party tasked with bringing a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons to the big screen truly understood the assignment. I spoke to the cast and creative team behind Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves about capturing the spirit of fun and playfulness that one experiences while playing at a table with friends.

The Gymnasium of the Imagination

Regé-Jean Page (Xenk), Michelle Rodridguez (Holga), Chris Pine (Edgin), Sophia Lillis (Doric) and Justice Smith (Simon) venture into the Underdark

For writer/director duo Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night), the chaotic nature of being at the table during a session of Wizards of Coast’s flagship tabletop roleplaying game, which has surged in popularity in recent years due to due its presence in popular television series Stranger Things and a variety of “live-play” TTRPG shows like Dimension 20 and Critical Role, was a large factor in crafting the film.

“It was super important for us to capture that spirit and the camaraderie and the sort of spontaneity you feel when you’re playing the game,” said Goldstein. “And I think our actors brought so much to that where they gave the feeling that they’re figuring it out as they go.”

“We really wanted to evoke that sense of failing and trying again and pivoting and figuring out workarounds,” Daley added, “That can lend to a more loose narrative structure that you don’t necessarily expect where the next story beat goes.”

Producer Jeremy Latcham (The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy) agreed, noting, “There’s a couple dead ends that kind of throw you from a movie structure standpoint. You’re not quite sure where you’re at in the story because that should have led somewhere and I think that’s kind of the nature of the game. The DM thinks you’re gonna go somewhere and then you all end up standing in a corner for a minute and, oh well!”

Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Grey Man), who Daley joked was a “scientifically perfect man”  — though the Honor Among Thieves filmmakers hope he will soon be known as well for how genuinely, gleefully nerdy he is — had great faith in the vision of the creative team. Said Page, “We started from a sense of playfulness. Both of our directors, John and Jonathan, are Dungeons & Dragons players. They’re incredibly passionate about this world, very faithful to it, and so they know how to hold fans dear.”

Chris Pine (Star Trek, Wonder Woman), who stars as the titular Thieves’ de facto party leader, Edgin the bard, great maker of plans, explained the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons as it relates to one of the most important skills in an actor’s arsenal.  “For me, what was attractive about Dungeons & Dragons is, I’m not a player but, at the heart of it, [it’s] improv. It’s just improvisation 101, it’s ‘yes and…’, ‘so, this is happening’, ‘ok great!’”

Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and the Furious), the powerhouse behind the kind hearted and kick ass Barbarian Holga, described the game as, “The gym for your imagination,” an apt observation for an experience that allows players to inhabit a character completely: to make all their choices, from what they say and look like, to how they react in the face of adversity.

Pine added, “The quality and the spirt of the film resembles very much what it’s like to sit down at the table. It’s chaotic, sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter. The primary beating artery of the film and of the game is fun and joy, and that’s what takes the day.”

From Table to Screen, Literally

Sophia Lillis plays Doric, Justice Smith plays Simon, Chris Pine plays Edgin and Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures and eOne.

In fact, some of that joy and fun originated at the table, quite literally.

Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu, The Quarry), who plays the not-so-good but tryin his best half-elf sorcererSimon, revealed, “We got to do a campaign that imagined the sequence of events after the film, which helped with backstory, and ‘how would my character respond to certain things?’”

“And how would these actors play these characters?” added Sophia Lillis (It, I Am Not Okay With This), whose tiefling druidDoric, is a true powerhouse party member with her masterful command of wild shape, a level 2 druid ability.

Page explained that the cast and creative team had a Dungeon Master donated to them by Dungeons & Dragons longtime publisher, Wizards of the Coast, who Rodriguez described as “Fantastic! She pretty much just came up with a campaign for us and we got to tweak our characters a little bit.”

While Chris Pine admitted he doesn’t remember many specific details about the events of the game, he did recall what a unique yet natural experience it was from an actor’s point of view. “You get a bunch of people together at a table and it’s just like acting. ‘These are the rules, this is what’s happening, this is your character, these are your obstacles. Go!’ And if you get a bunch of actors at a table, that’s our job, so we had a blast and what you get to do is you get to prime your motor for what you do on set every single day.”

Goldstein and Daley also played in the game as a two headed aarakocra named Jarnathan, a character who appears early on in the film (albeit with one less head) and while Pine might not recall specific moments from the gaming session, his directors do. “My favorite memory of that game,” said Goldstein, “was Justice Smith playing as his character who relied at every turn on the spell Animal Friendship. Even when there were no animals around, he would rely on Animal Friendship. He was falling off a cliff and he calls out ‘Animal Friendship!’ like somehow that’s gonna save him.”

“No, that was Chris’ spell!,” Smith objected. “One of the spells that Bards can cast is Animal Friendship, so we would often joke on set. Chris would go ‘Animal Friendship Spell!'”

Page said that the game session helped establish the tone not just for the film, but for the set during filming. “It set the table for not just how chaotic we’d be allowed to be on this set — and believe me we pushed those lines — but also how creative this could be and how boundary-less the imagination that we’d be allowed to bring to this project was.”

It’s the kind of unbridled chaos you’d expect out of any good D&D session, and this cast brings it in abundance – even if they constantly found themselves at the mercy of who Page described as a “gremlin DM” in the form of directors Daley and Goldstein.

Quick Wit and Not Much Else

Chris Pine's Edgin explains his role in the adventuring party

The Dungeons & Dragons community is nothing if not passionate – and opinionated when it comes to which class is best, so we recently asked Fandom’s Dungeons & Dragons Wiki which of the five protagonists classes from Honor Among Thieves was their favorite.

“Absolutely no one said paladin, am I reading this right? Good old lawful borings,” Page guessed, quickly coming to the defense of his character Xenk and his abilities. “This is my quest, is to heighten the profile of paladins in the world. I feel that our people are wrongly maligned, just because we’re trying to to the right thing and we will not bend for these blaggards and fools in our way.”

While he was wrong about no one choosing paladin – they did manage to secure 12% of the vote – he was right that the class came in last place, alongside barbarian. Guess the Fandom D&D community just really love spell casters?

Or maybe, more accurately, characters who can cast a couple of spells and are mostly just very good at talking. Most of the cast correctly identified bard as the top pick, which received 26% of the vote, with Rodriguez suggesting the reason was that Pine’s Edgin “looked like a Ken Doll.”

But Pine argued the real reason was, “They’re essentially lazy and they rely on quick wit and not a whole lot else,” fulfilling a common fantasy that a person can get by on on charm alone. And Edgin is indeed extremely charming.

“If this movie does nothing else,” says Goldstein, “I think it’s gonna boost bards in the world.”

“And lute sales!” Daley adds. Which is logical considering Edgin’s only skill outside of “making plans” is “playing the lute.”

You can check out Edgin’s lute playing, Holga’s skull bashing, Doric’s shapeshifting, Simon’s really well intentioned efforts, and Xenk’s actual skill and heroism when Dugeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves comes to theaters on March 31.

Emma Fyffe
Emma Fyffe is a Gaming Content Producer at Fandom based out of Los Angeles. She started speaking in complete sentences around 18 months and hasn't stopped talking since.