Developer Naughty dog
Release Date TBC
Part 2 of our interview with Tory Baker and Ashley Johnson the lead actors in Naughty Dogs The Last of US. Before starting below make sure you read our introduction to the interviews and of course part 1.
How to approach the characters/ roles?
Troy: We talk about this a lot, there are typical things as an actor you are supposed to do to prepare for a role but with this project the best thing to do is to be prepared for anything. If I spend time alone with the script and I rehearse and rehearse the lines over and over again until I get it locked in to just how I want it to be. The next day that can then completely change the second I walk in and hear what Ashley is going to do so you have to keep that in mind when preparing to not over prepare it.
What we can do is understand the character and understand the settings but be ready to walk in and roll with the punches and change, this gives us this really great organic feel to the characters. We are sussing out the situation just like Joel and Ellie are sussing out their situation.
There is no way we could prepare ourselves to walk out of this room and see the entire world that we know decimated with nothing you could have done about it, and then imagine after five more years there is still nothing you can do only watch as humanity falls apart. So we prepare ourselves for the characters but if we start rehearsing too deep to a point that it loses that mystery then we have really done the story and the writing an injustice.
For Ellie then it must be a very different approach for you as she doesn’t have that to fall back on as she knows nothing beyond the city as it is now. Has that been difficult to get yourself into that role trying to forget everything you know about the world as it is now?
Troy: Yea that’s definitely been interesting, you have to start by imagining what it would be like to live in that world as difficult as that can be. To have lived in this one small city with so many strict rules, in this regimented way for your whole life and to ignore everything you know from real life. It has been a challenge but it has been a good challenge and one I work on day by day… I’m still learning…
So Performance capture is a big part of the process can you talk us through it.
Troy: Yea so this mic you can see here (points to mounted mic in a picture of them recording) that actually captures 95% of the audio we use in the game. That movement you get within the sound recording that you can only get when someone is actually wrestling with a door or when she is swinging that pipe. By using performance capture you can capture that within the recording. It is something that is very hard to recreate in a booth afterwards.
In this scene we have William Earl Brown from Torchwood who plays Bill and he was getting over a chest infection that day so still had a cough and a rattle in his chest. It is noticeable in the last line of dialogue where they ask “are you done” and he says shouts “am I done” but you can here that cough that he is trying to suppress. It is those imperfections that happen in real everyday life that are so important to the recording to make it feel organic.
One thing that is very clear is that you two have a great chemistry on and off screen how do you build up to that or is it just something that happens naturally?
Ashley: Yea so going back to when he first auditioned because I was cast first and we went through a lot of different auditions to find Joel. Troy was one of the last Joel’s we saw and when he left we were all saying that’s him that’s our Joel. The second he came in it was just right, there was instantly a chemistry, we were instantly friends and it’s something you hear about and it is hard to pin point but when it is there it is there, and thankfully over time when working together it has grown, I think when we are together in real life we are Joel and Ellie and that’s how it works.
In the time recording what have you learnt about Joel as a character?
Troy: I keep going back to that line that Joel has few moral lines left to cross as I think it sums it up perfectly. As it is so apparent that the things he had to have gone through to get to that place have to be so horribly traumatic. I think a lot of times when someone is a loner it is not always by choice but I guess they get to a point where they isolate themselves and you tell themselves that they don’t need anybody. That is something that Joel realizes that now he does need Ellie and in that realization there can be some redemption. In the Gamescom trailer there is a line right at the end when Ellie asked Joel how he knew about the ambush and he says because I’ve been on both sides. So that shows you the kind of person that Joel is and also shows how intuitive Ellie is. It shows that he is the guy that has been beaten up and the guy doing the beating but it shows that we need people to share our live with and that’s his redemption.
When we talk about connecting the player to the characters and the story how does Naughty dog go about doing this?
Troy: A common pitfall that people have is to create a cinematic experience but to just use the big cinematic cut scenes to tell that story. It then becomes disconnected from the game experience and that’s one thing I love about Naughty dog. It is something we also saw in Uncharted that the narrative runs right through the game as well. There is a lot that happens outside of the cut scenes whether that is Nate running around chatting to Sully for example. So we have that even more embellished here because there is so much of that narrative that happens while the player is controlling the character that it really connects to Joel and Ellie to the player by having those moments in game.
So we have seen the performance capture but we also saw some more traditional booth recording what is the difference?
Troy: Yes so that is when we move off the stage and record the bits that are in the gameplay to add to those moments I was just talking about that are outside of the cut scenes. We recorded one section in particular that I liked that had no words at all, it was Joel just searching through some corridors and all it is is heavy breathing and small pops like if you see something out of the corner of your eye and spin quickly you get a pop as you gasp, that is not something you would normally notice but if it was missing it would totally change the moment.
Ashley: This was one of the first times I recorded like this so I was a bit unsure but when I first saw Troy doing it for the first time I was thinking man he moves around a lot! But that is really important to get it to sound natural.
Outside of some small talk that pretty much sums up the evening with the talented bunch. The Last of Us will launch on PS3 hopefully early next year.