By: Kat Harlton
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by Ubisoft, encourages you to “write your own epic odyssey and become a legendary Spartan hero in an inspiring adventure where you must forge your destiny and define your own path in a world on the brink of tearing itself apart. Influence how history unfolds as you experience a rich and ever-changing world shaped by your decisions.”
We had the opportunity to catch up with actor Michael Antonakos who portrays Alexios in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to discuss his role, how he prepares and what he hopes fans take away from the game.
Kat: For those who are unfamiliar with the process, can you share what your role is in creating a video game, and how you prepare for the project?
Michael: Well, the difference in creating a video game character from anything else is that you have no limits in regards to your looks and physical appearance. The acting is similar, but you have to use your body more to tell the story.
I tend to use an image that the companies give me and then I build a voice and physicality for them, something I think they would sound like. Sometimes I’ll use references from a character someone has done before and sometimes I’ll just find it for myself. Depends on the role and how much I’m given.
For this game I wasn’t given much to work on. I was given a small character description and a little black and white drawing of the character (Alexios), he had a hood on so I couldn’t see his face, hair or eyes. So I tried to build something from there. I wanted something familiar to the franchise, so I took a little from Ezio (Assassin’s Creed II), but then I wanted something powerful and threatening, so I took a little from Batman and Wolverine animated series characters, he’s like boisterous Bruce Wayne with a Greek accent, and when he’s angry he’s like and explosive Wolverine. He’s got some 80s/90s cartoon elements in him. To me he’s like a Greek Con.
After I was hired and given a backstory, I was trying to ground him into something deeper for me, so I found a song for him, a soundtrack to his pain. Pink Floyds- Wish You Were Here. I would listen to it while walking around, getting into his body, his physicality, his walk. It centred me. The song captured the feeling of his life at the beginning of the game. But every game and every role I do I seem to have a different process.
Kat: Was there anything challenging about your role in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey?
Michael: The amount of dialogue we had to read and prepare for the VO elements of the game was daunting. We would get scripts that were hundreds of pages long (150-450 pages on average), and we’d only have a couple days to read them before recording. It didn’t allow for time to prepare and rehearse, only read it through. Also, because of the way we recorded (choice options) it was hard to keep track of the flow of the scenes. We’d start scenes and then have to jump to different choices and try to remember how you were talking and what emotional level you were at. And to clarify for the readers, I was alone in a VO studio, talking to no one.
For the majority of the work I did on the game I didn’t know what the other performers would sound like or how they were talking to me, and that was a challenge. I’m more used to working with other actors in the studio and playing off of them, or at least their voices after they’ve recorded, but I was first to record most of the time. Since the game has come out I’ve been watching my work and seeing what I could improve at, how the games overall tone and pace is and am adjusting for the DLC’s (downloadable content) coming out over the next year.
But seriously, this job wasn’t like anything I’ve ever done before. It’s been whole new skill to learn, fail at, learn again, and get better!
Kat: Do you ever play the games that you’re part of? Have you played Assassin’s Creed and if so, as which character?
Michael: I would love to say “yes” to this, but sadly I haven’t been able to find the time to play games in quite a while. And being a newish father (two-year-old) it’s even harder for me to find the time! But…I still sneak over to friend’s house’s to play multiplayers games if I can once in a blue moon! I wish I could play them more cause I love them! This (AC Odyssey) will probably be the first game I’ll play in years, cause I have to! I’ll treat it as homework and not just a good time, Hahaha!
Kat: What are you most excited for fans to discover about the game?
Michael: The amazing amount of plot twists and directions the game can take you. There is so much to learn and explore. As well, the opportunity to see the ancient Greek world in all its glory! What a special thing that is. I cried the first time I started playing it because I finally got to see all these ancient sites that I grew up looking at, imagining in my head what they may have looked like, and now I can finally see them. It’s so special, and something I think only Ubisoft has done with their games, and I commend them for putting so much detail into all of it. I look forward to the educational exploration mode they are making as well. Let people be tourists of ancient Greece from their own homes and learn about the sites. I hope it inspires people to travel there and see it for themselves.
Kat: Do you have any advice for actors looking to get into motion capture and voice?
Michael: Man, I want to impart so many useful things that people have given me. I think one of the key things to pursuing anything you want to do or be in life, is the deep burning desire to want it, and to know ‘why’ you want it. Is it just for selfish means or do you have something to give, something to serve. I love acting, always have, I love expressing myself physically and emotionally, I love connecting with other actors, and the audience members. And I aim to serve the story, the characters, and share my gifts to entertain and inspire others through the messages of the beautiful writer’s. So, whatever you do, do it because deep down you know you have to. After that, just go get your hands dirty in the sandbox and play.
If you want to be a voice actor, learn, watch cartoons, listen to the radio, practice what the professionals are doing. Take classes with people who can give you great tips and guidance, so you don’t make too many mistakes starting out like I did. And most of all have fun! You let go of the fear when you’re having fun. Embrace your amazing peers and challenge each other to your best. Voice over is as much a team sport as any other. We’re all insecure, we’re all vulnerable, we all crave love and validation, so be the first to give it, and lead the way. Love your life, love for your fellow human, shine your light, and be okay with that, because there is no one in the world like you. You are you, unique and special, and the world deserves your gifts, whatever they may be.