Ten Dates interview - Charlie Maher on dating, improv, and a sequel

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Charlie from Ten Dates

Ten Dates is the follow-up to Zoom dating FMV game Five Dates and with it comes two playable characters and ten potential relationships. In our review, we loved the main characters and how realised and grounded much of the writing is.

In pursuit of this, Ryan and Misha had a lovely friendship that kept the game going whilst pointing out how important the relationships in our lives are.

To get to the heart of this, we recently had the chance to sit down and talk to Charlie Maher who plays Ryan to figure out his process, how it differs from traditional acting and where he thinks the magic in FMV games comes from.

Hi there, can you introduce yourself and your character?

"I'm Charlie Maher and I play the character Ryan in Ten Dates."

Congratulations on the launch, how has the fan reception been so far?

"It seems to be great so far and people are liking the direction that it has been taken in. Ten Dates is a bit of a departure from how Five Dates was made, particularly with the speed-dating element, but from what I gather people feel that it still captures what made Five Dates special, which is great to hear."
Ryan on a date in Ten Dates
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What is the process for working on a sequel like this? Did you play the first game to prep for the general tone?

"I haven't actually played Five Dates but I've watched so many streams of it I feel like I know it back to front. The streaming aspect of these games definitely helped me to prep for Ten Dates. It helped me to understand how the game is going to be played and the component of interaction with the chat and how they help decision making. It gave me a bigger picture of the structure of an FMV which was a godsend, because otherwise, trying to wrap your head around a 600-page script is pretty daunting."

How does your process of acting and prep work differ when moving into video game acting?

"For the most part, it's the same thing at the end of the day. That being said, it's much easier to be specific and nail down acting choices when you only have a handful of scenes to worry about. With the script being so big, it became a matter of being as familiar as possible with the general arc of each scene and then refreshing yourself immediately before you film it. What that does give you though is a lot of room for play within the scene, so there's quite a lot of improv throughout Ten Dates."

Could you tell us a little about your role and what the talent scouting team were looking for in you?

"Ryan is one of the characters that you can choose to play as in Ten Dates. He's duped into going speed-dating by his best friend Misha and then it's up to the player to determine if Ryan is going to be able to find love and with whom. There's also not really one Ryan. His personality is dictated by the player's choices who shape everything about him. This meant that in the acting, you had to play quite a neutral Ryan to begin with, who can then branch off in different directions. And God only knows what they were thinking when they decided to hire me."

The best version of you

Being asked to put a different spin on the same basic scene, what was it like playing the best and worst version of your dating self?

"Ah come on now, who said they were the best and worst versions of me? When he's being tragic, I can always say that's just Ryan and not me. Don't think I'm fooling anyone though."

Which version of Ryan would you say is most like yourself?

"I'd say Ryan when he is with Misha is the most like how I actually am. Bit of a gobshite, not very funny."

Would you ever go speed dating?

"I've been speed-friending before, so yeah, I probably would go speed dating. Although I would find it hard to take it seriously now after having done Ten Dates. I would just keep thinking about if I could press "s" to get stats on how the date is going."

Where do you think the power in FMV games lies?

"In the streaming and the community who interact with the streamers. The streamers are great and all, but if the people aren't tuning in to watch them, they're just alone playing with themselves, and we've all been there."

Give us your sales pitch, why should someone play Ten Dates and who would you say it is for?

"Ever wanted to go dating without having to get out of bed, put on clothes or have no crippling-anxiety? Well if you answered yes to any of those questions, we've got just the game for you. Play as terminally alone loser Ryan/Misha and help them find love. Remember, their fate is in your hands. (Results may vary, being successful at Ten Dates in now way assures a successful love-life for the player)"

Have you watched others play the game? Is it a bit of a surreal experience to see someone choose what you're going to say?

"I have and it's the best part about being in a game like this. I drop in every now and again into people's streams. It usually takes about 3-5 mins to convince them that it is actually me, but then I have to say, everyone I've chatted to has been brilliant. So if you see Jolp92 coming into your stream, it is me and thank you for playing."

Is there an improvisational aspect to some lines? There's a nice flow to things that comes across very naturally.

"I improved at almost every chance that I was allowed to. Our director, Paul, was great with letting us do that and for me that's when a lot of the scenes come alive. I feel like with Derek we did a lot of improv. In Derek and Ryan's scenes we were having so much fun that the director kept having to remind us that some of the takes were supposed to be of the date going badly."
Derek and Ryan in Ten Dates
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Being from Ireland, me and my partner got a kick out of hearing you sing Amhrán na bhFiann. Did you brush up on your Irish for your performance?

"Hope you had your hand over your heart for that beautiful rendition. I showed up that day and had all these ideas for what song to sing. Then our director said "they're great and all, but they're all copyrighted so you can't sing any of ‘em". So the national anthem was the next choice. Also, I can safely say that you are the only person who has ever enjoyed my singing, I thank you for this."

Has this experience made you reflect on your own dating life? Are there any romantic lessons you have learned?

"I'm still as clueless as I ever was. I'm the sort of guy who a month later when I'm walking down the road I think "wait, she was flirting with me!"

Would you like to see yourself in a sequel? Twenty dates, perhaps?

"I told Paul what the next version has to be. The Wedding. Ryan and Misha get married and all the characters from Five Dates are there. Either that or Vinny and Callum get married. Give the people what they want, Paul."

What's next for you after Ten Dates?

"I've just finished a movie that's pretty much the exact opposite of Ten Dates. It's a folk horror that we filmed in Ireland that I'm very excited about called "All You Need Is Death". It hasn't been announced yet but should be in cinemas around Halloween. If you're reading this and you're not sick of looking at me I hope you'll come along. I'll be the guy standing outside the cinema paying people to go in and see it."

It was clear from my brief chat with Charlie that he and Ryan are very different but there's something at their core keeping them together. Ten Dates touches on this well. Actors were encouraged to improvise and this gave it a lot of heart. Though Twenty Dates seems an interesting prospect, I can't wait to see what Charlie does next.

For more articles like this, take a look at our Features and Ten Dates page.