The Quarry's Zach Tinker Dishes on the World's Love-Hate Relationship With His Character, Jacob
The Quarry isn't just an interactive horror game—it's an experience, and we've been addicted since it dropped last week.
In this spiritual successor to the massively popular cult hit Until Dawn, Zach Tinker plays Jacob, a lovable (or not so lovable, depending on who you ask) jock who's heartbroken after being dumped by his summer fling, Emma, on the last day of camp. To get one last chance with Emma, he tinkers with their ride home, stranding all of the counselors at Hackett's Quarry Summer Camp for one more night, unaware that something lurks in the woods, and that depending on the choices made by the player, they may not live to see another day.
We got the chance to hop on a Zoom call with Zach to talk all things The Quarry, from its famous stars to breaking thumbs on set, and the internet's reaction to every one of Jacob's sometimes boneheaded moves—but there are big spoilers for The Quarry ahead, so don't read if you don't want its secrets to be revealed!
Sweety High: Were you a fan of Until Dawn before landing the role of Jacob in The Quarry?
Zach Tinker: I knew Until Dawn very well. I'd never gotten the chance to play it, but I'd watched copious walkthroughs, and I revisited it before doing The Quarry, just to remember what it was like.
SH: We've now watched through two separate playthroughs of The Quarry, and things went very differently…
ZT: That's what's great about it. I've recorded stuff that I still haven't seen in any gameplay. I'm still waiting for people to uncover some stuff.
SH: In the playthroughs we watched, one player accidentally killed off all of the main characters, while the second managed to kill everyone—except your character.
ZT: It's the puzzle! It's hard, because I've watched a bunch of playthroughs, and whenever I get there, I'm like, this is it. And like half the time, I die. It's great that they made that puzzle so hard, though, because it gives you an incentive to go back and try it again.
Granted—spoiler alert—I didn't realize the first time that, when you're playing as Emma, when you take the zipline, you can either reel it in slowly or fast, and I did it fast and got her bit. There's just so much replayability because of those choices.
(The Quarry via 2K Games)
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SH: Another thing is, if you leave Jacob in the cage, his death doesn't come until much later. By the time it happens, players might be asking themselves, is it really worth it to go back now?
ZT: Well, the thing that I find with Jacob is there's no middle camp. Everyone either hates him or loves him, and there's nobody who's like, "Yeah, he's fine."
SH: You're also basically playing a character where a lot of who he is really comes from the player's choices. People make decisions as Jacob and then hate him. Is that a strange place to be in as an actor?
ZT: It's very interesting. Going into it, after reading the script, I go, okay, so it's all my fault. It's a lot easier to make him the d*ck. It's not that hard—you're playing the jock archetype, and it's your fault that everyone's stuck here. But, for me, it was more the challenge of making this guy likable even though he's an idiot and this is all his fault.
It really all comes down to, well, he had no idea this was going to happen. He didn't think there were werewolves and a curse and the Hag of Hackett's Quarry. He knew none of that. He was just desperately in love with this girl and doesn't think it was going to be a big deal. I just try to play him as aloof as possible in the positive ones, and as caring as possible. He really does like Emma a lot and he cares about his friends. They just crap on each other here and there because they're friends. It's not out of malice.
SH: What was the acting process for a game like this?
ZT: It's all mo-cap. It's kind of like doing a play. You're on a big soundstage and you get some props here and there, but very minimal, and the rest is up to you and the other person in the scene with you, and your imagination. What made it even harder was that COVID really screwed everything up. There are scenes that I filmed with people where I wasn't actually talking to them. I was talking to a stick with a tennis ball on it. Then, the actor would film whenever they came in, and they'd splice the two scenes together. It requires a lot of your acting ability, because when you're doing a TV show or a film, you're on set. It takes place in a diner, and you sit at a table and you can put yourself in the role because you're literally at a diner, eating food. Whereas for The Quarry, you're just in a room with a bunch of cameras and you're wearing this weird suit with dots on your face, and you just have to pretend. But it was a blast. I'd love to do it again.
SH: One benefit of filming that way, though, is you didn't have to spend half of the production almost naked and soaking wet.
ZT: Yes! I didn't realize how much of the game I'm half-naked. It didn't hit me until I played the game where I was like, wow, I'm naked a lot.
SH: Have you always been into the horror genre?
ZT: I would say I'm pretty diverse when it comes to my interest in film and TV. I definitely go through phases where I'm really into action, or I'm really into horror, and I've definitely had my horror phases. What was nice about this project was, that it's obviously a horror game, but it's also a teen drama at the same time. The way we filmed it, it felt like the first half of our filming was just this fun teenage story, and then I got to film a horror thing for the second half. It was a fun mix. It was cool.
SH: Was it different from what you're used to, filming those more grisly, shocking moments, like being attacked or landing in a bear trap?
ZT: Oh my god, yes. Half because you're using your imagination. And I always insist on doing my own stunts. I'm so lucky to be an actor in the first place. I try to give as much as I can.
I actually broke my thumb on set. There's a part of the game where I can get bit and infected, and I'm running from the werewolf, and he tackles me and is on top of me, and during that, I put my thumb down and heard it pop. I finished the scene and went up to the medic who was on set and I was just like, "I want to let you know I'm pretty sure I broke my thumb. I'm gonna finish the day, but…" And we continued filming the next few days and I went to the doctor and it was broken. It's very physically demanding.
(The Quarry via 2K Games)
SH: Who was there as the werewolf during any physical werewolf scenes?
ZT: His name is J.J. Dunlap. Very, very talented monster actor. He worked with us, so like the scenes in the cage, he was in there, and I was able to act with him there. But there were also other scenes where I am being attacked and there was just no one there, so when I was doing it, I just looked like a crazy person screaming and flailing everywhere, and they insert the werewolf. It was like half and half. He also does the sounds for the werewolves. He's super talented, and he should be getting a lot more love, and credit because he brought the monsters to life.
SH: This is definitely a star-studded cast. Were there any moments you felt starstruck?
ZT: I wouldn't say "starstruck," but I was definitely the least famous on the cast, so I kind of felt like I had a chip on my shoulder coming into it, but it was more of an appreciation of working with all of these really talented people. I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to grow up in the industry, so I've kind of been around people like that for a while. The only time I've been truly, truly starstruck was when I met Will Smith, and that was because he made me want to act. There was an episode of French Prince of Bel-Air I saw. It was the one where his dad comes back into town, and he does that scene at the end where he's like, "How come he don't want me, man?" And I remember I saw that and I went, okay, that's what I wanna do. When I met him, it was kind of this full-circle moment, and I got starstruck and little speechless there, but otherwise, working with Lance Henriksen and Ethan Suplee, it was just cool to interact with these people whose work you've seen so much of. To get to know them as people and work with them was just great. I'm very lucky and blessed to have gotten such an amazing group of people to work with.
SH: What scenes were the most fun to shoot?
ZT: Funny enough, with Ethan and Lance, the one where they're dragging me into the cage, and I'm screaming at them. That was a really fun scene. Getting caught in the snare. It was so fun.
All of my stuff with Halston [Sage, as Emma]. I think their dynamic is so toxic and great. The whole thing was a blast. I know that's such a copout of an answer, but it really was.
(The Quarry via 2K Games)
SH: What was the most memorable part of the experience?
ZT: It was just a huge undertaking. I don't think the fans understand that there were points when we didn't think the game was going to come out because of COVID, and delays, and the number of scheduling conflicts and people being sick and everything else. It wasn't a disaster—it was great—but the variables were just bombarding us the whole time. We went through rewrites and they had to trim down the script. It was really hard. It's not one moment that's memorable, but seeing it all comes to fruition—this thing that we didn't know if it was going to be made or not because of everything going on—it's just so satisfying and such a sigh of relief. Not only did we do in my opinion, it's great. I'm really proud of what we've made.
We filmed over the course of probably a year and a half. It probably would have been four to six months, max, but we filmed for two months, and then COVID would spike and we'd have to shut down for four months. Then we'd come back for another month, and it would spike again. After that, I think it was about a year before the announcement, which was hard, too. I just wanted to play it the whole time!
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
ZT: I think everyone should buy this game. I'm obviously biased because I'm in it, and I would like to support things I'm a part of, but I think it's genuinely amazing. I think it's kind of in a league of its own in terms of the experience. It's not really a movie and it's not really a game, it's kind of its own thing. I really think everyone owes it to themselves to see what it's like.
They set a really high bar with Until Dawn, but I think we were able to match it. Will Byles, the director, is one of the most talented, not only directors, but artists, that I've met, and he's a really amazing guy. I think anything he touches is guaranteed to turn to gold, so I'd be excited for his next project.