Troy Baker is the biggest actor in videogames. Last year alone he starred as Joel in hit Naughty Dog survival game The Last of Us, as Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite and he tackled the iconic Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins.
This year he plays a new character in Infamous: Second Son, the third game in Sucker Punch's superhuman third person action game.
Speaking to IBTimes UK at a recent Sony event, Troy Baker talks about his latest role, the recently announced The Last of Us movie, whether he'll be in upcoming Batman game Arkham Knight, the future of the Bioshock series without Ken Levine and his dream for a Nolan North-Troy Baker buddy cop game.
- How does Deslin Rowe compare to your previous roles?
For me this is something that's truly unique, that exists in the Infamous universe because it's an extraordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances, and that alone makes him unique.
What you do is you find unique things that you can bring to it, that makes it stand out, that makes it not like Joel in The Last of Us or Booker in Bioshock. A lot of that comes with understanding who the character is, and fortunately Nate Fox [Game Director] and the people at Sucker Punch allowed us to be partners in the collaboration, so we were helping to create a unique character.
- You used a mix of motion and facial capture techniques for the game, what do these techniques add to your performance, and do you think the term voice actor is becoming a bit archaic?
I love that you brought that up. Yeah, I think the term voice actor – any kind of qualifying moniker for that is irrelevant now, it's just acting. A lot people ask me, 'How do I become a voice actor?!' and well first of all drop the 'voice' because you don't know what mechanics you'll have to employ. If you can just focus on the acting then the rest will come.
This is the first time I've really seen a performance go one-to-one from what we did on the stage to what ends up in the game, and I think that allows a lot freedom because we don't have to worry about overselling it to the cheap seats – as they say in theatre. It's something that helps you bring subtle, nuanced performances.
- You had a hell of a year in 2013 and The Last of Us was a crowning moment, if a sequel were to happen would you return for it?
Because I trust Neil Druckmann, Bruce Straley [The Last of Us directors] and everybody at Naughty Dog, if they have a story to tell that includes Joel and they would let me be part of that then absolutely. I would revisit that world every day of the week and twice on Sunday because it's such a great story and such a great character.
- Have you played the Left Behind DLC? What did you think?
I have. I thought it was two and a half hours of one of the greatest pieces of gameplay. I was so proud of Ashley Johnson, because she is Ellie and she inhabits that role fully. The story that they tell is just so informing to who the character is. I loved it.
It was so great because I was removed from it... well, it was one of my best performances by the way. The groaning and laying there that I did was some of my best work.
- Did they bring you in for that?
[laughs] They used a character called Less, which is a mannequin in a mo-cap suit, and that was Joel.
- This week they announced The Last of Us movie, what do you think of that and who would you pick to play Joel?
If there is a story to tell that they think serves their story then I trust that they're going to do it properly – they're not going to do anything that's a money grab. I believe that the story has transcended enough and we're still in a culture where games kind of live segregated off in their own little sub-culture, so I believe that that story could be told in a different medium and still be true to what it is.
Me personally, if I were to cast Joel, Josh Brolin would be my ultimate choice, but I know whoever they choose will be someone they trust and I trust them as well.
- Of all your gaming performances, which are you most proud of?
There's different things you take away from each one you know. Some of the things I'm most proud of, it isn't because I think it's my best work, it's because of something that it's taught me.
Definitely when you get handed roles like Joel in The Last of Us, that's something that will change your life and I learned so much from that role. And then you have something like this. I'm really proud that it's my face on that, that I get to play a character who's true to who I am because there's a lot of me in Delsin or a lot of Delsin in me, depending on how you want to look at it.
The fact I got to work with my best friend Travis Willingham [Troy was the best man at his wedding] and Laura Bailey as well who plays Fetch. We work so well together and we got to really get in dirty and deep with these characters.
- It seems you had more fun working on this game, especially after The Last of Us, Batman and Bioshock, which were all really intense games.
[Laughs] Yeah, really dark subject matter, but you find the moments of levity in those. With this, Travis and I would say let's have fun with this and see what happens. Those were some really great moments that came out of that.
- What is your favourite vocal performance from someone else in a game?
This is the first one that comes to the top of my head. I think what Nolan North did with Nathan Drake [in Uncharted]... I just fell in love with that character so much. I also go back to what Mark Hamill did as The Joker. He was the first voice of The Joker that I ever heard, so that left an indelible mark on me.
- Ken Levine recently announced the "down-sizing" of Irrational Games to focus on smaller projects. He also handed over the Bioshock rights to 2K and will presumably not be involved in future games – do you think the franchise will lose its appeal without Ken? And do you fear the series becoming annualised?
I don't know, I can't speak to it. I was just as shocked as everyone else to hear that. What the future of the Bioshock franchise is, I don't know. I believe that what Ken created, and the whole goal of anyone, is to create something that will exist beyond you. If that's the case with this, I think that there's enough within the Bioshock franchise and the story itself, for it to be larger than any one person.
- Kiefer Sutherland replaced David Hayter for Metal Gear Solid 5. Do you think there's a danger of big name actors swooping in and taking over as the industry grows?
We've seen that, not only with Kiefer Sutherland but with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in Beyond: Two Souls. I think it's the same as anything man, if you have the right actor for the right role it doesn't matter who the name is. I don't believe that names sell videogames, I believe that the right role and the right actor does.
I think what Keifer did was incredible and he owned that 100%. It was an incredibly hard process, it wasn't a kush gig that he came into. The process that Kojima used for Metal Gear, specifically for bringing the voice to the body, because we did it separately, was hard so I have nothing but respect for him because it's a really hard experience... just mechanically.
- Arkham Knight was announced earlier this week and in that series you've played The Joker, Two-Face and Robin. Will you be involved in any way?
It was announced and you saw some familiar characters... that's all I can say [laughs].
- What games are you playing right now and what games coming soon are you most looking forward to?
I'm still playing GTA, the online multiplayer is just fantastic. Titanfall, if you can actually get on [laughs], is really good, and I just finished the Left Behind DLC which again. It's one of those games where you put the controller down once you finish and just need to take a break!
I will say this, shadow of Mordor looks a pretty fun game as well. I love the kind of hierarchy system that they have involved with that so I'm excited to play that one.
- You and Nolan North are the top leading men in video games. Do you think there's money to be made in a game pitting the two of you against each other? It could be like a Stallone Vs Schwarzenegger scenario!
Yes! Nolan and I want that to happen so badly, either that or a buddy cop game would be hilarious. Even if it was like a Tekken straight fight kind of thing, I would pay, PAY, to play that game!
Infamous: Second Son is out 21 March on PlayStation 4.