My Favourite Game
Actor Nolan North on his passion for history, and Call Of Duty II
The voice of Nathan Drake on being a history buff, pulling all-nighters, and pretending to be Lionel Messi
Nolan North is an award-winning screen and voice actor with a vast list of videogames on his CV, including, famously, the Uncharted series. That role landed him a part in Star Trek Into Darkness, directed by JJ Abrams, a fan of Naughty Dog’s work. North’s most recent role, however, is that of a producer for Con Man, the iOS game based on Alan Tudyk’s comedy series. Do you remember the first time you heard a human voice in a game? It’s funny because people usually ask me, “Did you always want to do voices for videogames?” And I say, “Of course I didn’t, because there never were voices in videogames.” I don’t remember the first human voice I heard in games. But I do remember one of the early games I did was Call Of Duty 2. I’m a history buff, and I love reading about WWII, and in COD I played Sergeant Randal. He’s nobody special. You meet him when you land on Omaha Beach in Normandy – y’know: “Follow me this way!”, “Get to the hedgerow!” That kind of thing. Do you manage to play all of the games that feature your voice work? It’s not a prerequisite in my life; it’s not a high priority. I usually get them and let my kids review them first. Of course I checked out Uncharted, but I just want to play the game – I’m not really critiquing my performance or anything, because, hell, it’s too late by then! I remember the first time I came to London, a police constable from up north who was in his 40s came to see me. He said, “I took the train four hours to meet you. Every day I get up, take my tea, go to work and nothing ever happens, but at night I get to go and travel the world as Nathan Drake.” He said, “I’ll never go anywhere, I’ll never see places, but you’ve provided this experience for me and I wanted to thank you.” I was dumbfounded, but I went back and talked to Richard Lemarchand, because they’re geniuses with what they can do. They mapped my face for Uncharted 4. Every wrinkle is mine, just over his bone structure. That’s my face, for god’s sakes. It’s amazing what can be done. So while I’m not a gamer as such, I am a big lover of the game industry, and I just think it’s really interesting how they make them, and I’ve always been that way. Is that why you agreed to help produce Con Man? That’s one of the reasons. It’s been so exciting to have input on stuff like character sketches, to meet the devs, sit in a boardroom and act like an actual adult – I mean, most of my life I spend just playing, which is what I’m best at! It’s been rewarding, and exhausting, but we’re very proud of what we did. Are you excited about the prospect of performing in VR? I got to try PSVR recently. I played London Heist, and that was probably a performance-captured gig, and the technology is always going to get better. I think it’s astounding. The only drawback I see is that you look like a complete idiot wearing it [laughs]. Was Star Trek the first time that a game role landed you a film part? Star Trek was a huge deal – JJ Abrams is a big fan and he just thought it would be cool to have me in the film. Unfortunately my role got whittled down through production to one line [laughs]. But it was just so much fun to put on that uniform and be part of that world. I mean, they
built a spaceship. But I think his endorsement is a sign that gaming is a big deal to a lot of people now. How do your kids react to their dad featuring in so many games? Ah, I’m just Dad – they don’t give a shit [laughs]. One of the best compliments my son ever gave me, he said, “It’s a really good game. I kinda forget it’s you.”
They were into FIFA for a while – I was telling them I did the voice of Messi. And then they play it and point out that he doesn’t say anything, so I’m like, “Oh, no, I did all the running.” This was when they were younger. Now they know I’m full of shit.
“They mapped my face. Every wrinkle is mine, just over his bone structure. That’s my face, for god’s sakes”
What’s your favourite game? It would be COD2. My wife walked in while I was playing, looked at me and said, “What the hell are you doing?” And I go, “What?” She says, “It’s 3:30 in the morning.” I’d played for nine hours. My eyes were dry. But I was there. I’d seen those scenes in movies, but now I was running through it. It was the first time I ever really got lost in a game.