Steve Conlin – the actor behind Warhammer 40k maker Games Workshop’s fictional corporate mascot James Workshop – says he championed “many different variants” of the company’s September 2022 Leagues of Votann apology video that had “James, in different ways, telling the audience to go fuck themselves” – but these were rejected by “more sensible heads” in GW’s team, in favour of “a genuine kind of apology”.
In an exclusive interview with Wargamer, Conlin (who firmly reminds us he’s an independent actor who doesn’t “work for Games Workshop”) says “the original Votann script was pure apology” – but he’d strongly favoured a version where the James Workshop character “doubled down” on the original Leagues of Votann rules being perfect, and no action being required on GW’s part, let alone an apology.
“I was very much pushing for a ‘double guns'” he explains in our video call – and throws two middle fingers up to the camera.
However, he tells us, “more sensible heads prevailed” – and the final version of the video came out very differently – with Conlin’s comedy CEO character acting bewildered by the affair, followed by Warhammer Community’s Eddie Eccles soberly telling fans over a desk: “we’re sorry, we didn’t get it right this time.”
GW published the apology video on the Warhammer TV YouTube channel on September 29, 2022 in response to widespread fan anger over the then newly released Leagues of Votann Warhammer 40k faction being seen as highly over-powered, including several tournament organisers banning players from using the army.
It comes a week after Conlin (in character as fictitious GW owner-proprietor James Workshop) tweeted that Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast was doing “a big poop in their pants” with the new DnD OGL, and joked that GW, by comparison, had “never made a mistake”.
Reflecting on the purpose of the James Workshop character in GW’s official marketing videos, Conlin says James is a healthy sign for the company’s image and relations with fans.
“It’s good to have a sense of humour about yourself,” he says, adding: “it’s good to be able to hold up, well, you know: this is the very worst thing we could be”.
James, he tells us, represents an agglomeration of both “some of the worst approaches that Games Workshop has historically had” and “a collection of, and parody of, all the worst opinions” of the company among fans.
“I think the very fact that James Workshop exists goes a long way to proving that that’s no longer the approach,” he adds.
If you’re a fan of James Workshop – or Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, and GW’s tabletop games in general – stay tuned to Wargamer for our full Steve Conlin interview coming soon.
It’s packed with ur-gold nuggets such as details of James Workshop’s childhood and “Lovecraftian backstory”; more cut details from GW’s James Workshop videos; and anecdotes from the life and times of a six-foot-seven, booming-voiced Black Library voice actor.
In the meantime, keep up to date with our guides to Warhammer 40k codex release dates, all the news on the upcoming Warhammer 40k 10th edition, and our exposé on the best Warhammer 40k cheap alternative – rice.