Apex’s Newcastle layers a new identity into the old Jackson Williams as a ‘heroic protector’

From “valor and heroism” to “cool dad representation,” Apex developers gave us a rundown of the new legend.

Image via Respawn Entertainment

After three years and two presumed deaths, Jackson Williams is finally coming to the Apex Games as Newcastle, Apex Legends‘ season 13 legend. Fans have been hearing about Bangalore’s brother since day one, and Jackson’s story has mostly been told secondhand from Bangalore’s perspective and through her memories. Until now.

Bringing Jackson into Apex gave Respawn Entertainment the chance to tie him into the story as an active participant and to give him his own identity, even if part of it was taken from someone else. Jackson juggles the mantle of Newcastle, the Hero of Harris Valley, with the life and family he built after the Frontier War—and with the ghosts of his past in the IMC.

Jackson “lives with a lot of guilt and shame about his time in the IMC,” lead writer Amanda Doiron told Dot Esports. “He’s running from his past as an IMC soldier, ashamed that he thought they were the heroes.” Taking on the role of Newcastle to protect his loved ones is his “second chance at being an actual hero,” according to Doiron.

The Apex team tried to bring Jackson to the Apex Games for years. “However, we always want the gameplay kit and implied fantasy to drive character and not the other way around,” Doiron said. None of the kits at the time were “strong fits” for Jackson.

The blueprint for what became Newcastle came from a defensive, shielded kit called Axiom, according to senior game designer Devan McGuire. Axiom was based around the idea of a “defensive push”: a legend who could throw out mobile cover and breach the enemy frontlines. Ultimately, Axiom’s kit was too selfish, but it was the spark that finally let the team bring the older Williams sibling into the Apex Games.

Jackson’s “aspect of valor and heroism” met the shielded element of the old Axiom kit, creating the foundation for a knight-like figure in Apex, according to McGuire. Harnessing the potential of that kit to keep it in line with Jackson’s personality, however, meant tweaking his kit to give him more team-based utility.

Image via Respawn Entertainment

“[Newcastle] needed to be someone who could leap into the fray heroically to protect his squad,” according to McGuire. He leans into the fantasy of a “heroic defender” who “is not afraid to lay his life on the line to bring his team back to the fold and pull them out of the fire.” And that’s exactly how his kit will play out in the Apex Games.

This doesn’t mean players can expect more of the classic anchored, bunkered-down defense style from the new legend, though. Newcastle’s kit needed to blend defense and mobility to encourage players to move towards their allies and be that “mobile guardian,” according to McGuire, which gives him a few tricks up his sleeve compared to other legends such as Caustic or Gibraltar.

As a passive, Newcastle can drag downed teammates to safety using his own knockdown shield as protection. His tactical ability lets him throw a destructible mobile energy shield that can be redirected while it’s out. Newcastle’s ultimate allows him to leap toward an ally—with his signature poses and borderline quixotic panache—and deploy a large shield to fortify a position, which will also punish and slow anyone who tries to cross it.

The notion of a noble protector runs heavily through Newcastle’s abilities, design, and concept, and he leans into the fantasy of a knight “layered with superhero vibes,” according to Doiron. And though he joined the Apex Games to protect his family, that doesn’t mean he can’t have some fun while doing it.

The team wanted to portray Newcastle as someone who “doesn’t really take himself seriously” but “is living his superhero fantasy,” lead character concept artist Cristina Ferez said in a press conference last week. The end result so far seems to be a fun, if not over-the-top, dad-like superhero that feels straight out of The Incredibles, and that’s a big part of his allure.

Newcastle’s ill-fitting, borderline obsolete suit helps drive that concept home. His “dad body,” as Ferez calls it, is clearly visible in promotional art. “We wanted to make him feel like he used to be super fit,” Ferez said, “and he put a bit of weight on, the suit feels a bit tight.” Newcastle also has an “outdated feel” to him, she said, which creates the idea of a dad that’s trying to be cool—but his idea of cool when he was younger, not necessarily what’s cool nowadays.

Image via Respawn Entertainment

The superhero overtones are a striking part of Newcastle’s design and concept, and it’s only fitting for him to have a secret identity. After all, beneath the over-the-top suit and superhero bravado, he is still Jackson Williams—even after a years-long time gap that saw him build a new family since his appearance in the “Gridiron” short.

Newcastle is a “supportive, affable, over-the-top hero with a coach/dad-like vibe, who also happens to be burdened by living under many masks and lies,” according to Doiron, and he carries that dichotomy close to his heart. Newcastle’s logo—a shield split in half—embodies that duality and represents “the castle, the shield, and the double life that Jackson is living,” according to Ferez. That said, he is still true to who he is and thecircumstances he’s in, Doiron said.

Jackson is taking up arms—and shields—to protect what he’s built since the Frontier War, and that’s just another layer to a complex character. The team wanted Jackson to feel “authentically like a dad,” according to narrative writer Ify Nwadiwe—“someone who has some more stakes” and just wants to get back to his family when the bell rings.