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Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City's Avan Jogia Reveals What It's Really Like Playing Leon Kennedy - Exclusive

With "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City," writer and director Johannes Roberts wanted to bring the hugely successful movie franchise — based on the even bigger video game phenomenon — back to its roots. Discarding the action-oriented style of the first six movies, he tailored his film toward the survival horror of the first two games in the Capcom series, especially "Resident Evil 2."

That also meant bringing in characters who had been popular and important in the games but reduced to supporting or drastically different appearances in the movies prior to "Raccoon City." One of those characters was Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop whose first night on the job with the Raccoon City Police Department finds him fighting to escape from the town and battling citizens mutated into zombies by the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.

Not introduced until 2012's "Resident Evil: Retribution," where he was played by Johann Urb — and with the character heavily retooled from the games — Leon is embodied much more faithfully by Avan Jogia in "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City." His origin in the film is taken almost directly from "Resident Evil 2," which Jogia tells Looper was Roberts' intention from the start.

"I think Johannes from day one really took that one element from "(Resident Evil) 2," of it being his first day, and really ran with that," says the actor. "What would it be like to be completely overstimulated and out of your depth on your first day as a police officer in what is supposed to be a cow town?"

Feeling the pressure of playing a fan favorite game character

Prior to appearing in "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City," Avan Jogia might have been best known to the public as Beck Oliver, the boyfriend of Jade West (Elizabeth Gillies), on the Nickelodeon series "Victorious." While his career has also included roles in Hollywood blockbusters like "Shaft" and "Zombieland: Double Tap," as well as TV projects like "Tut," "Now Apocalypse," and "Caprica," Leon may be his highest-profile job to date in terms of the "Resident Evil" footprint on pop culture.

Asked if he feels any anxiety taking on a role that fans are sure to have an opinion about either way, Jogia says, "Yeah. I think everyone has an emotional connection to Leon. So as far as my job is concerned, I just have to go with my own emotional connection to Leon and what's on the page, what's already been laid out for me. That's the stuff that I have to lead with in order to do my job as an actor."

Jogia insists he's not worried about the response that the character will evoke from longtime "Resident Evil" gamers yearning for a faithful version of Leon on screen. 

"Any kind of passion, whether it's positive or negative about it, all it really translates to me is that people are passionate about these characters, and this franchise, and this game," he says. "It's just cool to be a part of something that people are passionate about. I don't translate it as good or bad, really. I really just see it as people are impassioned about it. It matters to them, which is great."

What Leon represents in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

While this interpretation of Leon is much closer to that of the game, the character in the movie also acts as a sort of avatar for the audience. He is their way into the story, and much of what happens unfolds through his eyes as he reacts the way a normal person would in such horrific circumstances.

Jogia agrees with that assessment: "I think Johannes from day one really took that one element from '(Resident Evil) 2," of it being his first day and really ran with that," he explains. "What would it be like to be completely overstimulated and out of your depth on your first day as a police officer in what is supposed to be a cow town? And just the worst thing happens, so how does a person navigate that? He's a little hungover, a little unprepared, a little not trained, and trying to work his way through that. Then it becomes more of a badass sort of Leon, that maybe people are more familiar with."

Jogia, who did his research for the role by playing the recent remake of "Resident Evil 2" with his mom (an avid gamer herself), says that "Welcome to Raccoon City" allows the character of Leon to be more fleshed out than ever.

"The thing about the earlier era of video gaming is that there wasn't much character development in early video games," he explains. "Characters just sort of showed up as they were ... So I think when Johannes went to write the character, I think that he was concentrating on taking this character from one place to something else."

"Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" is now playing in theaters.