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Troy Baker is a man of many voices, and one devilishly handsome face. The Texas-born actor and musician has voiced a cavalcade of celebrated video gaming characters, including Joel from The Last of Us and its upcoming sequel, Sam Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and The Lost Legacy, Talion in the Middle-earth Shadow of... games, Booker DeWitt in BioShock: Infinite, Pagan Min in Far Cry 4, and Batman.
Like, he's played Batman a bunch of times, across a host of games including those from Telltale and ones in the LEGO series. And he's also played The Joker, and Superman, and Hawkeye, and many more superheroes, including a turn as Bruce Banner in this year's Marvel's Avengers.
It's a wonder that he manages to remember who he actually is when we video-call him, ahead of the 2020 BAFTA Games Awards (find all the nominees here) - pretty much the most prestigious event on the gaming awards calendar (sorry, Geoff). Troy is nominated for his performance as Higgs Monaghan in last year's ambitious but compromised Death Stranding (our review) - and if he wins, it'll be one from four for an actor who can still find the joy in defeat, via a drink or two in the company of a gaggle of pals and peers...
You're up for another BAFTA award, for your performance as Higgs Monaghan in Death Stranding. What's that now, in terms of nominations?
It's the fourth nomination, and I have the certificates to prove it (he's speaking to us from a seat right in front of two of them). The first time was for The Last of Us. The second was for Pagan Min in Far Cry 4. And the third time... Well, there's a funny story there.
I was nominated alongside my partner, Nolan North, for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. And I'll never forget... We went to London together, it's one of my favourite cities, and we're decked out in our tuxes and he's sitting right in front of me and I'm like, "This has got to be it, right?" This is the one where he takes it home. He'd been nominated two or three times before for this role (as Nathan Drake).
And they call out the names: "Troy Baker as Sam Drake... And Nolan North as Nathan Drake." And I put my hands on his shoulders like, "This is it, buddy." And I get this look, and he says, "Not gonna happen."
And sure enough... who won that year, it was for Firewatch... Cissy Jones! She won, and I was like, "How did you know?" And he said, "When we started, there was a camera crew at my feet, and then I see one of the guys (cups hand to ear, as if receiving a message through an earpiece), like, get something in his ear, and the camera crew runs over to Cissy Jones. So as they're calling out Nolan's name, he's seeing the camera crew stand up and run away. And that's one of my favourite BAFTA moments. It was incredible. We had Guinness and bourbon and whiskey that night.
That's what I love about the BAFTAs. Clearly I know what it's like to be nominated and not win, which we can get into; but it's the hang afterwards. It's always a great show that celebrates the accomplishments, and you get to see the foundation of what BAFTA does as an institution - not only for the local community in the UK, but also games in general, especially for kids, future developers who'll make future games. And then there's the great party afterwards. You can raise a glass for whatever reason, celebration or commiseration.
The award you're up for this year is best performer in a supporting role, right?
Yeah, it's a new category, which I really applaud BAFTA for doing. We had this discussion last year, when you had several members of the cast from Spider-Man, and practically all of the cast of God of War, you had Roger Clark from Red Dead Redemption 2... All these people were nominated, and what we realised was that games are so big - these aren't two-hour experiences, they're 200-hour experiences in the case of Death Stranding. And you have this swathe of characters that you meet that, if the creatives have done their part, have incredible performances. To distill that down to one winner is really hard.
What I really appreciate BAFTA for doing is not having a male category and a female category, because I hate that binary distinction. I love that they said no, best character. If that's the character that stood out the most, boom, great. And they don't want to make it about the gender, but the position in the narrative - lead role, and supporting role. So hopefully I've doubled my chances for nominations in the future!
Do we still need to have a conversation about things like the BAFTAs 'legitimising' acting in games, or are we past that?
Nobody in acting says, oh, you're a face actor, if you're acting with your face on screen. Acting is acting - sometimes we're given a stage, sometimes a camera, sometimes a microphone. And it's our job to give that performance no matter what hurdles are put in front of us, and whatever tools we're given.
I'd push against there being a need for legitimacy, when it comes to acting in video games. This is - and Death Stranding is proof of this - a medium that stands on its own, without the need for credibility or being legitimised. You wanna play and experience it? We'll show you what this thing is.
A friend of mine was in an interview, and they were asked: "When do you think games will bridge the gap between film and interactive?" And he was like, "Film is standing on the shore, looking at what we're doing. There is no bridging the gap - we are so far ahead of where movies are." We have agency, we have the controller; nobody walks into the movie theatre and throughout the experience is controlling anything.
Interview conducted by Tom Ryan-Smith
Troy Baker photo by Gage Skidmore
We've got more from Troy Baker running on our GAMINGbible social platforms, including some of his answers to your submitted questions, so keep 'em peeled; and you can read about whether he'd be up for taking on the role of Joel for the forthcoming HBO show, here. The 2020 BAFTA Games Awards will be live-streamed on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Twitch from 7.30pm BST on April 2nd.
Featured Image Credit: 2K, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Gage Skidmore, Warner Bros Interactive
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