Nolan North could well be the most famous voice actor in gaming; his parts ranging far and wide, from the adventurous Nathan Drake, intrepid explored of the Uncharted series, to the free-flying William Augustus Grey of Dark Void, the permanently confused Desmond Miles of Assassin’s Creed and more.
Next up for him is voicing an all new denizen of Middle-Earth, Eradan, the male protagonist of Lord of the Rings: War in the North which takes us to all new areas of Tolkien’s wonderland. We ask him what it’s like breathing life into a gaming character and his thoughts on just how big videogame voice acting is becoming:
GC: When recording voices from a film franchise as famous as Lord of the Rings are you expected to mimic the actor’s voices or do you have the flexibility to put your own personality into the characters?
Nolan North: Eradan is new character voice for the franchise, so I didn’t have to mimic anyone for the part. The writing was so strong that I kind of let the character create itself through the dialogue. We did have a lot of recording sessions for such a massive project, so I guess some of my personality couldn’t help but come out in some of his scenes. However, Eradan is much more heroic and wise than I could ever hope to be.
GC: You’ve obviously voiced some of gaming’s most iconic characters – do you have a particularly favourite? One that say you wish they’d make a sequel so you could resume the part?
NN: I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Nathan Drake of Uncharted wasn’t my favorite. It’s the only character that I also do all of the performance capture for and have done for more than five years now. I’ve been given so much freedom to run with this character and infuse my own personality and sense of humor to him. Aside from his “freakish” upper body strength, I’d say we’re very much alike.
GC: Voice over work is becoming ever more highly regarded – as massively grossing Pixar blockbusters and the like come to the fore in Hollywood. Do you feel that games voice acting carries the same cachet or do you think games are still lagging in the prestige stakes?
NN: Voice over has always been highly regarded by actors within the industry. However, in the past, voicing games has definitely been looked upon as more of a stepping stone to other work. Actors weren’t thrilled to be recording screams, grunts and battle chatter. Times have changed. The sophistication of games development has put more of an emphasis on performance and that in turn is attracting better actors. Games also make A LOT of money! And if a developer is willing to pay a celebrity a ridiculous salary to be in their game… believe me they’re going to show up.
GC: Is it a case of – similar to movies – you read the script first before taking the job or is it more a general gist of the game you get before with the script following later?
NN: Most video game scripts are nothing like movie scripts. Many times the story evolves as the developer creates the game. I relied on our writer and director to keep me informed of what was happening and where things were going from session to session. It’s actually quite compelling. I would often show up at the studio looking forward to the next chapter in the story!
GC: Games are notorious for being chopped and changed continually through the development process; do you find voice work for games involves multiple recording sessions, right up to the release date as changes to the script occur?
NN: Since VO artists are paid per session, I’d say you would be hard pressed to find any actor who would complain about “multiple recording sessions”!