Nolan North on His BAFTA Award Win and the Future of Nathan Drake

You may not know Nolan North if you saw him walking down the street, but you certainly would recognize his voice. The veteran voice actor has appeared in more than 180 games, including playing Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, Desmond Miles in the Assassin's Creed franchise and the player's Ghost in Destiny. He's played just about every super hero you can imagine in video games and animation, many times providing his own motion capture footage as well. To honor a career that has spanned over 20 years, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts will recognize North's work in the video game world with a Special Award on June 11 in Los Angeles.

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Nolan North will be honored with a BAFTA Special Award on June 11 Wikipedia

North spoke with Newsweek about the accolade, his approach to voice acting and what he thinks the future holds for the Uncharted franchise.

“It's quite an honor,” North, a self-described anglophile, said of the BAFTA Special Award. “My dad used to raise me on BBC TV. We'd watch Monty Python and Benny Hill and Fawlty Towers. I remember Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner and any movie Alec Guinness did. I didn't think Americans were actors until my teens… To receive a BAFTA, especially one like this, it's very special.”

North's range has allowed him to dive into roles ranging from the ridiculously humourous (like his take on Deadpool), to the incredibly dark and creepy (The Penguin in Arkham City or David in The Last of Us). North can't say which type of role is his favorite. “It's almost like you're a kid and you get that 64-color box of crayons. Or, God, if Christmas came and you got the 128 box. You love all the colors. You would never draw with just one,” he explained.

In keeping with that analogy, North says his inner child comes out when it's time to actually start performing. “I remember, as a kid, we'd all meet in someone's backyard and go ‘OK, what are we playing today? Let's play Superfriends. I have the Spider-Man underoos my mom got me, so I'm gonna be Spider-Man.' We'd go around and pick roles,” he said. “Then some days we would play Shipwreck. And we'd figure out the boat and take food back to the clubhouse. The point is, I do that professionally now.”

“The idea that I get to go somewhere and play. And some days I'm the goofier, sillier character and then others where it's a little more serious,” North explained. “I think it's kind of every actor's dream.”

This approach came in handy when North first auditioned for one of his most iconic roles: Nathan Drake in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. He recalls that it was an unusual audition, especially for a voice actor. “Normally, you go into a booth and everyone's on the other side of the glass… You do your audition and that's it,” he said. To his surprise, this time around he was sharing the booth with three directors as they watched his audition, encouraging him to “use the space” as needed.

“They looked at me and each other and they go, ‘Did you know this is motion capture?' I said, ‘I did not know this was motion capture, but I'm happy to do it,'” he recalled. Thanks to his previous experience a theater and soap opera actor, he was comfortable working both in front of a camera and a live audience, and knew how to bring physicality to his vocal performances. Despite some skepticism from his friends, North felt like motion capture work, and Uncharted especially, were going to be big.

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North in his motion capture suit, with his digital alter ego next to him Sony/Digital Spy

“My friends asked me, ‘why would you go all the way down to San Diego and put on that stupid suit working for scale when you could just sit here with a coffee and relax?'” North recalls. “I just thought this might be the future. I've never picked a stock or a horse, I've never been a good gambler, but something just told me that this was going to be something, and I should try to get as much experience doing it.”

The set for the first Uncharted featured real Jeeps and other props for the actors to work with. For Uncharted 2, the props were replaced with structures made out of boxes. North said by the third Uncharted game, what used to be a real Jeep had devolved into two chairs. But he says this just enriched his nostalgic approach to performing.

“Being on the Uncharted set was the closest thing I had to experiencing playing in the backyard as a kid,” he said. “People would say, ‘But there's nothing there.' Yeah, or everything is there if you just play. And that's the advice I give to people for mocap: get in the spirit of play.”

While developer Naughty Dog has claimed Uncharted 4 marks the end of Nathan Drake's story, the company has also stated elsewhere it intentionally adds mistruths and misdirections to game trailers to throw people off the trail. Still, if there is a new Nathan Drake adventure, North isn't aware of it yet.

“I'm not trying to be cryptic, but I have no idea,” North told Newsweek. “I can confirm if they ever wanted me back, I will be there. I love this character, and it's a character that's defined my career. It's near and dear to my heart. I would love to do it.”

While Naughty Dog's policies may frustrate some gamers, the vague nature of the studio works in North's favor. “I like the secrecy and Naughty Dog's never-say-anything policy, because it keeps me in shape,” he said. “I can't let myself go. If they had the call and I went in for a meeting they wouldn't go, ‘oh dear.' I'll stay in shape so if they call, I'll be ready.”

“You never know. If any game would be brought back, it would be this one,” he added.

North and fellow voice actor extraordinaire Troy Baker can be found on the new YouTube series Retro Replay, where the duo explore older video games, while telling stories and goofing off along the way. Footage from the event will be uploaded to the BAFTA Guru website.

So what do you think? What has been your favorite Nolan North performance so far? Would you like to see another Uncharted game starring Nathan Drake? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.