MomoCon 2018: Troy Baker, Nolan North Talk Creativity, Process, and The Last of Us Part 2
Troy Baker and Nolan North are two of the most famous voice actors on the planet. Although they’ve worked in other areas outside of video games, both are most known for their work in series such as Uncharted, The Last of Us, and God of War, just to name a few.
At MomoCon 2018 in Atlanta, GA, the duo took some time out of their day to speak with the media about creativity, process, and a little bit about The Last of Us: Part 2.
Although Baker obviously couldn't speak specifically to the story or plot of The Last of Us: Part 2 lest he incur the wrath of Naughty Dog's Vice President, Neil Druckman, he was able to talk about how the game compares to the original.
The conversation about what The Last of Us: Part 2, or even if there was going to be a part two, has been, obviously, a five year conversation. It started at the BAFTAs one year in London outside of a bar late at night, and Neil said, 'I think I have an idea'. And at that point I didn't know -- and maybe he did -- but I had no idea we were going to do [a sequel] or not ....
[The Last of Us: Part 2] doesn't compare [to The Last of Us part one]. It can't compare. When we start comparing, we fail. So it in no way compares to The Last Of Us part one. It is part two. It is a a continuation of the story. It is not a comparison.
Moving on from specific titles and moving into more generalized territory, both North and Baker also touched on what it means to be creative when voice acting, as well as how to channel personality into a wide array of characters and roles.
When asked how to take on established characters while still providing something new in each performance, Baker and North said there are two important things to remember: be the character that's been written but also be yourself. Putting pieces of your personality into each character you play makes the performance even more believable.
Baker said it's very important to honor the character and not try to make it better. When voice actors try to make characters better by either competing with themselves or other actors, the performance doesn't come off as genuine.
North echoed that sentiment, saying it's important to
Impart your own sense of who you are... If you're playing a character named Mark, don't go in saying 'How does Mark walk and think?', it's like 'OK, it's Nolan who happens to be Mark'.
Nathan Drake was just me. And for some reason [Naughty Dog] chose me.
The duo also touched on working with writers and directors to achieve a specific, collective vision. Staying both within and venturing outside of the confines of a script or story, they talked about the importance of flexibility, creativity, and the writer/director/actor relationship.
Ideas occur to you. There were a couple of times we've done things where it's scripted and we've said 'You should take my line, and I'll take yours' because it just seems like [one character would say that over the other]. Fortunately, we work with a lot of people -- good writers -- that are also humble enough to say 'Yeah, that's a good idea. Switch that up'.
A good director/actor relationship ... you will give them what's on the page, what they want, and then they will allow you to go, 'Can we try something?,' and they go, 'Yeah, let's roll one.' They can decide later in editing [if it works or not]. But for them to be cool enough to go, 'Yes, you gave me what I think I need, show me what you're thinking and it might change my mind' ... it's a collaboration.
Baker agreed, saying
A good director will allow themselves to be surprised and allow their vision to be fluid ... I always bring up Neil Druckman because he'll ask you, 'What do you think?', but he has an answer in his back pocket. His goal is not to lead you to his answer -- his goal is to understand your answer. That's what, fundamentally, I think makes him a really good director because he's truly open to your interpretation to his idea.
A precious writer is only precious because they're afraid that that line is the last good line they're ever going to write. If they're a really good writer, they don't care. They're literally having to flush the good ideas out. They're like, 'I don't care if you change that line because I've got a thousand other one behind it.' So be wary of precious writers.
Thanks to Nolan North and Troy Baker for taking the time to meet with the media and all of the fantastic content creators at MomoCon 2018 this past weekend.
Be sure to check out Retro Replay on YouTube, where Baker and North play some of gaming's greatest hits like Spiderman for NES and Secret of Mana for the SNES. The weekly show is set to air its fourth episode May 31.
Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and info on The Last of Us: Part 2, as well as the other games both North and Baker are currently working on, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Hellraid, and Deathstranding.