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Mexico could definitely use some assistance on the world stage when it comes to its reputation. It is a country known in the movies for its drug wars and cartels and frightening violence. Those things are present in the storyline of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, the biggest selling game of the year.

So when the military game was set in Mexico, that could have been cause for alarm. But the writers didn’t take a stereotypical approach when it came to the story set in the country. Since Call of Duty has a tradition of honoring “boots on the ground” and sharing a disdain for politicians and commanders, the writers dwelled on the possible kinship between U.S. Special Forces and Mexican Special Forces operators.

The storyline honors Mexican soldiers who put their lives on the line fighting the cartels in a complicated world where not everything is black and white. And that gave Bayardo De Murguia, who is the voice actor for the soldier Rodolfo Parra in Modern Warfare II, a sense of pride. I interviewed him about this role which in mind shows how Call of Duty has taken steps to embrace diversity.

Bayardo De Murguia is the voice actor for Rodolfo Parra in Modern Warfare II.
Bayardo De Murguia is the voice actor for Rodolfo Parra in Modern Warfare II.

De Murguia is a Mexican American who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and he grew up learning English by playing video games.

“I basically learned English around age eight or nine,” he said in our interview. “And so I would play video games. I started mimicking the English language. On Nintendo, there’s a hockey game I had called Blades of Steel. And I just loved how the announcer would say, “Blades of Steel!” I would say it and I would drive my parents crazy. But that was one of the best ways that I learned how to speak English.”

And so it was fun for De Murguia to actually appear as a voice actor in a video game.

Rodolfo is having a tough time.

“It was something I’ve always wanted to, especially after moving to L.A. To immerse myself,” he said. “I’m a professional outside, but very giddy on the inside as a kid when I work on projects like this.”

I asked what it was like to be part of a Modern Warfare story set in Mexico. In the story, the elite anti-terror group Task Force 141 teams up with Mexican tier 1 operators led by Colonel Alejandro Vargas and his loyal soldier Rodolfo Parra, played by De Murguia. It’s a big deal that a game like Call of Duty, which is played by perhaps 30 million people around the world, has a story that is set in Mexico.

“It was a really amazing opportunity to work with Infinity Ward, I’ve been a fan of the Call of Duty franchise for a long time, especially the reboot in 2019. And so to be able to portray not only a Mexican soldier, but like a badass Mexican soldier, alongside Colonel Alejandro Vargas, it was really cool to see what they were doing with the storyline,” De Murguia said. “It was outside of the stereotypical Hollywood thing where we’re corrupt, or you don’t know. We were just soldiers that were loyal to their country and what they fight for. And I thought that was really cool to be able to portray that.”

I noted that I played through the whole game and saw the twist in the story there where the loyalties of the soldiers are tested. I thought that the stereotypical way for the story to unfold would be for the Americans to stick with Americans when given a choice about which soldiers to support. But then we have some Americans behaving badly and it is interesting to see the soldiers stick with the soldiers instead.

Rodolfo Parra is an operator in Mexico.

“There is always that element of ‘What are we fighting for? What are we trying to protect?’ And if you know our superiors — do they have our back or not? And in this case, within the storyline, it’s like you stay with your brothers. They get together and realize you got to stick together and fight as one and no one fights alone, which is a common theme throughout this game. So I think that was really cool.”

When I interviewed a couple of the writers — Jeff Negus, narrative director, and Brian Bloom, head writer on Modern Warfare II at Infinity Ward — they said that the setting in Mexico wasn’t just a sideshow to an international anti-terror plot. It’s not a place they pass through, but a major part of the story.

“Colonel Alejandro Vargas–we’re excited to build a hero for Mexico that is as dependable and durable and incorruptible and capable as Task Force 141,” Bloom told me. “Someone where we thought, “Hey, who do they call when they need help? Who can they count on?” That seemed like a new dimension to all of this.”

De Murguia said that the writers were open to ideas and the Mexican perspective because they wanted authenticity, with dialogue in Spanish in some parts. The name of the cartel lord, El Sin Nombre, and the fictional Las Almas cartel were crafted in a way that was realistic. They had to make sure they chose names that weren’t going to glorify some characters in real life.

The border in Modern Warfare II.

“Having that liberty makes us as the actors more proud of the story that we’re telling,” De Murguia said.

I noted how there is a civilian massacre that takes place and the game doesn’t show it happen. In the episode, Alone, you survive amid the massacre and have to report back that it has happened and you have to escape those who perpetrate it. But the game doesn’t pretend that such things would never happen in Mexico. It presents it in a neutral way, where outsiders are the perpetrators.

“The storyline of how us as Mexican soldiers — we live and we fight for our country, we fight for our city,” De Murguia said. “And you have to accept certain things such as the cartel is embedded within the army, it’s embedded with the police, there are people that are corrupt, and it still doesn’t take away from the fact that we still want to fight for the country that we have. But there are moments of acceptance. There’s a scene that cuts in, right before the border, where we’re driving through a town and you see children with balloons and men with machine guns. Those are like things that you have to learn to accept because it is true. But at the same time, it doesn’t take away from us wanting to eradicate the cartel and eradicate corruption and do that and stay true to what we believe in, which is our country and our people.”

Colonel Alejandro Vargas in Modern Warfare II.

Those comments were echoed by my conversation with the Modern Warfare II writers, who want to make us feel uncomfortable with the subject matter yet also stay focused on the story being told. De Murguia did not want the story to dance around such incidents ever happening in a place like Mexico. For him, the game walked a line about glorifying something or telling it like it is.

“We talked about how the story has to do with ‘unholy alliances,'” Bloom said. “If different enemies were to get together to achieve certain goals, how might their different areas of influence affect our heroes and our players and create an interesting narrative arc there? We have all kinds of surprises in store.”

De Murguia said that the Rodolfo character is one who grew up loving his country and fighting for it and always being there to back up Vargas — a badass backing up a badass.

“Rodolfo is the guy who always shows up,” De Murguia said. “That was one of the things we wanted to focus on. The concept of the Mexican superhero, the Mexican super warrior. It’s like, these guys exist. And they also do it because it’s the love of their country and the love of their brothers and the people that they fight alongside. And so with Rodolfo, I wanted to keep that through line with him and just have that honesty and just being there and showing up.”

“This is a grounded story, just like the other story was. That’s something we believe in getting right when it comes to how people are shown. We feel really happy to be able to work with so many awesome professionals, experts in different areas, to get this as right as we can. Lots of research, painstaking research went into making sure people are shown well,” Negus told me.

He added that, as Rodolfo, “I don’t have superhuman powers, but at the same time, everything that I have within my human body is going to be given to fight for this cause.”

The relationship between Rodolfo and Vargas is not unlike that of the younger Soap and the older Ghost among the American elite soldiers. De Murguia felt that was like finding a common humanity among the soldiers of the world.

“I’m very proud of this project, especially the way the story is told and the fun that you have,” he said. “I mean it’s also like a Michael Bay movie. I’m looking forward to see what else comes out of this franchise. Working with the studios and seeing all the cutscenes and seeing how realistic it is, I’m just excited to see where it’s going to take us.”

De Murguia is best known for playing bad boy choreographer Ramon on the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things. He is appearing in the hit Apple TV+ series Acapulco as Fabian Solares. He is also in demand for his voiceover work recently voicing Sub Zero and Kuai-Lang for WB’s Mortal Kombat: Legends 2.

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