Uncharted 4 Creator Stands By Having White Actor Voice Black Character

"I wouldn't change anything," Uncharted 4 creative director Neil Druckmann said during a panel today at the PlayStation Experience event in San Francisco, when asked about having a white actress play a black character in the upcoming PS4 game. The casting had drawn some controversy in the last two days, since the character's debut, but Druckmann said he saw the casting as a sign of gaming's distinct strengths.

"That, to me, is what's so awesome about our medium," he continued, describing the ability to have actors play characters that don't look like them. "Your awkward appearance doesn't matter at all. If it did, Troy [Baker] couldn't play Joel in The Last of Us. Ashley Johnson couldn't play Ellie. In a movie version they couldn't play those roles, but they played them to perfection."

The character in question is Nadine Ross. She kicked Nathan Drake's arse in a recent trailer. She's played by a white voice actress, Laura Bailey.

This sparked controversy on sites like NeoGAF, which Druckmann cited today. Some felt that this exacerbated a problem of under-representation in both the gaming industry and acting. Others said that Naughty Dog had a right to their own vision, and if they feel like Bailey is the right person for the job, more power to them.

During a PSX panel today, Uncharted 4 creative director Neil Druckmann explained the decisions that brought the game to this point and noted that Uncharted 4 also has a black actor playing a white character. His lengthy response is below. Notably, he also said that Uncharted 4 will have a white character who is voiced by a black actor:

Druckmann said that Nadine's look had not been finalised while his team was looking for voice actors. "We just had kind of who she is, the army she runs, and that she's from South Africa." So Naughty Dog sent out casting calls to a bunch of different people from all over the place — some American, some South African, and so on. According to Druckmann, though, Bailey "just killed it." So she was the obvious pick at that point.

Then they went back and really honed in on the character's design, and they found one they really liked — more or less the one seen in the recent trailer. "I was like, 'This is awesome,'" said Druckmann. "'How often do you see a character of colour like this that's ripped? This also is Nadine.'"

At that point, Druckmann said, someone else on the team pointed out that they had a black character with a white voice actress. "You're inviting controversy," they said. Druckmann acknowledged that they might be right, but he decided to hold off on major changes until they were able to put everything together — see Nadine as voiced by Bailey in action.

When Druckmann saw the combination, he said it just felt right. He added that he stands by his decision. "I'm so proud of Laura's performance, and I hope none of this takes away from what she was able to accomplish."

Druckmann's explanation was met largely with applause from the PlayStation fans in attendance.

We'll have more on Uncharted 4 soon.


Comments

    Am I crazy but I didn't know black people sounded any different to white people or vice versus there are accents sure but as far as talking goes there is no difference. When I'm listening to the radio I cant tell if the hosts or guests are black or white unless I know who they are and have seen them.

    Last edited 07/12/15 9:23 am

      "OH LORDY LORDY LORDY"

      White or black who cares, if the actor is good let them do it.

      But if they wanted a quailty South African voice actor they should of got Billy Birmingham.

        You mean Leo, because his accent in Blood Diamond is on point!

      You're doing it wrong. You are supposed to be outraged. I think you are also supposed to boycott the game and cancel your pre-order, but I will have to check that and get back to you

      if the internet has taught me anything, its that people get outraged at anything.

      God Firefox mobile is a pos.

      There's a clear difference in Caucasian American, afro American and Latin north America voices due to accents used in their communities, but the same thing isn't present in Australia, UK etc for some reason.

        Which community though? I mean that's being a bit generalistic too. By and large the only 'community' we see on entertainment is the low socio-economic 'gangsta' community, yet every single African American I've met in my life, grew up to speak in a normal manner and not in some hyperbolic hollywood representation/parody of 'gangsta's'.

        But that's not to say it doesn't exist, it's just not as widespread as entertainment would have us believe. But don't think a second those sort of things aren't present here, our Indigenous people have a variety of dialects ranging state to state, town to town and region to region. North Queensland Indigenous Australians from Arakoon for instance sound *entirely* different from the Murri indigenous from Gippsland in Victoria in slang, dialect, everything.

        It's just that we see the bad representations of it, aka the black version of 'white trash', on tv all the time so it's more ingrained in our mindset.

          Yeah I know it exists locally, aboriginal accents are a good example. I was gonna say something to that affect but seriously Firefox mobile. If only chrome wasn't google ;[

          There's plenty of examples - many notable athletes, celebrities, musicians, etc.

          I'm aware that socio-economic factors also impact language and speech also.

          Actually a good example would be, say, comparing Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Vín Diesel, and Jimmy Fallon. Each of them male, from New York, one is African American, one mixed, the other Caucasian European - they're all well spoken, yet Tyson and Diesel both have a distinct resonance that Fallon does not. A lot of the people who "sound black" tend to have deeper voices and speak in vocal fry also.

          Last edited 07/12/15 11:14 am

            That's hardly a valid comparison, the sample size is far too small. On timbre alone, if you compared Chris Rock, Chris Tucker and Brad Garrett, you'd come to the opposite conclusion. That said, even if there is a statistical disposition towards more resonant voices in black males, that's not really relevant to voice acting for a black female character. Laura Bailey is a talented voice actor with a wide range and based on the video above there doesn't seem to be any dissonance between voice and appearance to my ear. A slight sync problem, sure, but that's a different thing.

              Brad Garrett... first time I heard him NOT speak as Robert.... I was kinda disappointed :O

          When I lived in Florida for 3 years, meeting a black person who didn't speak with the thickest Ebonics was incredibly rare and I listened to thousands of African Americans speak. I guess it all depends on the location. But yeah, there are places you go where almost every African American sounds Ebonic (what us Australians imagine as gangsta).

            Undebiably true, it's most definitely locational. Florida is known to have that aspect, as are certain parts of California. However, if you go to San Francisco, or Americas midwest, or the Cornbelt, you'll find a drastic difference. It's all differential. But, you're most definitely right.

            It's like I said with Arakoon, the school where I worked had a deal with the mining company up there, the children got free tuition and board if the parents all worked onsite etc. It was a pretty sweet deal for the folks tbh. The kids *all* had the same thick, heavy, barely ledgible accent (to me). However those from down south in Victoria, spoke in a sharp, clear dialect, very westernised (generations of integration obviously brought this on).

            But yeah, like I said you're most definitely right.

      You're missing the point of the backlash, coming from black people. Its not the fact that blacks and whites, sound the same or not ( which i completely disagree with you on by the way, black people do not sound like white people and vice versa ) Its about representation, diversity and work! How many black voice actors get jobs in video games or animated series? not very much.

      How many black people, would like to hear ( someone that sounds like them ) and know ( a black person being credited for a black character in a video game ) Millions of black people would be enjoy that fact and buy that video game for that very fact!

      However, the fact remains that video games, animated series and other media, isn't reflective of the the society in which they represent.

      So the backlash isn't solely about whether a black person and a white person sounds the same but a culmination of things. Diversity, representation, job opportunities for black people to voice a character, that resembles them in Race and culture.

      Whitewashing is rampant through out the movie,music,animated industry and it needs to stop.

        Why are we even having a discussion about this if nobody told me the voice actress was white I wouldn't have known it Job well done. Kratos was a black voice actor he did a fantastic Job not that I even care what color he was.

    This is what voice actors do. They play characters of all ranges. Their personal skin colour, culture, race, whatever really has nothing to do with it at all.

    This is simply another one of those times where there really isn't an issue until someone goes out of their way to be offended just for the sake of being offended, and running around trying to right some imaginary injustice that simply isn't there.

    Last edited 07/12/15 8:32 am

      I don't think it's fair to say someone has imagined injustice, or that they are just offended for the sake of it. If someone is offended by something, it's only in their right as a human to raise their voice. I think it's a great discussion to have and the creative director at naughty dog has responded in the best way possible. I believe this may have been an issue 40 years ago, but in this day and age... Nah

      I believe that sometimes there actually isn't anyone taking offense and some media/news outlets decide that either we should be offended or they want some publicity. I do think it's great to ask the question why and have open discussions behind these and similar decisions, and I honestly wished this happened more often.

        I don't mind seeing open discussion on decisions like this... Though I feel that for the most part people only ever feel it is necessary because someone at some point has, to put it bluntly, flipped their shit and acted like a massive injustice had been perpetuated about something similar.

        The fact that in this day and age people feel they even have to defend such a decision is what I take issue with more than anything. In the same breath this article shouldn't even exist, and I absolutely understand your point about the media's part in making something of nothing just for hits.

        "Best person for the job" is so simple it really shouldn't have to be explained, but it unfortunately does; And the reason is almost entirely down to the ever increasing occurrence of people just waiting to be offended by something so they can cry racism, sexism, etc, whether it is valid or not.

      Agree, its only an issue when people want it to be. Look at Bart Simpson, he's voiced by a girl. What about the many roles Sam Worthington, Hugh Jackman or Heath Ledger has played an American? Or Liu Bei and Zhao Yun aren't speaking in Mandarin? If an American doesn't have to voice an American, a boy doesn't have to voice a boy, a nationality doesnt voice characters from their heritage, then what does it matter about colour?

      Their personal skin colour, culture, race, whatever really has nothing to do with it at all.
      You sound alarmingly similar to Skull Face

        Well I have no desire to cleanse the world through mass genocide... So there's that at least.

    Kratos in the God of War games is Greek (ie white) but voiced by a black actor and I don't recall too many complaints. How is this different?

      Or Rucks from Bastion, an old white man and the narrator of the game, played by Logan Cunningham, an African American voice actor.

      That was one of the first examples I thought of - I really liked Kratos' voice, too. Very effective.

      Also, the Narrator in Bastion is a white (a bit reddish, even) character voiced by that amazing black actor Logan Cunningham.

      I think the problem is not that this is some kind of digital blackface and offensive on the grounds of a white person not knowing how to play black or vice-versa (although some will doubtless make that cry). It seems to tap more into the whole 'whitewashing' that actors experience across many acting industries, where characters of various ethnicities get 'whitewashed' into being white characters so that white actors can play them.

      I think the complaint is that there are so few non-white characters as it is that non-white actors barely get a look in, but to then cast white folks in non-white roles only makes the competition even worse.

      I can understand people feeling pissed off by that.

    This is like an American being offended by Kate Blanchet for acting with an American accent.

    Last edited 07/12/15 8:48 am

      Or men being offended by Elizabeth Daily for voicing boys in cartoons....

    On a positive, I never showed any excitement for uncharted 4 until now. How good are those graphics! Naughty dog never fail to up the ante :-)

      Really? If that E3 demo didn't generate any excitement for you then you may want to consult a doctor - you may actually be dead :P

        I must be a zombie :P

          As long as you're not one of those shithouse running zombies, that's ok.

            I run a classic games emporium.

              "Shamble". When you're a zombie, you "shamble" a classic games emporium.

    Laura Bailey is fantastic! Catherine, Serah, Platnium.. and best girl Rise! I could listen to her voice all day long.

      Don't forget Rayne from the Bloodrayne series, Lady Comstock from Bioshock Infinite, and Jaina Proudmoore from World of Warcraft/Hearthstone/Heroes of the Storm.

      Last edited 07/12/15 8:33 pm

    Wasn't Vader played by a black guy originally? This kinda thing happens.

      You mean that god that is "James Earl Jones"?

      I wonder why he never achieved RON PERLMAN status...

        Man... James Earl Jones as the voice of Vader.. if it was anyone else, it just wouldn't be the same.

          Heh. Track down the original footage of David Prowse voicing Darth Vader - it's worth a laugh or two.

            I think i have seen that. Is that the one with the guy talking from behind the mask in one of the takes? "You are part of the rebel alliance and a traitor!"

            Last edited 07/12/15 12:02 pm

              That's it, with the Brit accent and everything :)

      The guy in the suit (David Prowse) was white, but the voice was James Earl Jones, who is black. So yeah.

      Yeah, but that's because Darth Vader is black duh! ;)

      I'm not sure what the issue is here. Oh no! A white actor is playing a black character, I'm so outraged. So why then are we not outraged when later in the article Neil talks about a black actor playing a white character? Sorry, this whole 'race' thing has me totally confused. We're constantly striving for equality, yet continually bringing up crap like this.

    Take a look at The Simpsons, you have women voicing male characters, white guys doing characters of all types.

    Oh, and the guy that voices "Archer" looks like this.
    http://www.maximumfun.org/images/h-jon-benjamin1.jpg
    He doesn't even wear turtle-necks!!

    It is called voice acting....

      The guy played a talking can of beans, he can do pretty much anything he wants.

      the H. Jon Benjamin thing is also kind interesting considering a lot of the other characters do look like their voice actor

    Ah fringe people looking for trouble where sensible people will find none again I see.

    Oh oh, and tell me, how many of the voice actors for TMNT were green? How many, huh? NONE!

    I wish Nathan Grayson "honed in on" using words correctly...

    Man, the idiots protesting this must've shit a brick when they looked at the casting sheet of Family Guy...

    Woah, no one was this mad when Terrence C. Carson (a perfectly qualified black voice actor) was cast as Kratos (literally the whitest video game character ever) but maybe I just don't know how this whole "overreacting" shtick goes.

      It's probably got a lot to do with the fact that 'outrage culture' of this sort has really only started taking off in larger scale in the last few years... And they're too busy being offended by everything current.

    THIS JUST IN....

    Humans voice the Muppets! Outrage at 6!

    The guy who voices batman in the cartoons is neither a crime fighter or a billionaire. This outrages me !

    I'm glad this issue is finally gaining momentum. For years it's been pissing me off that every alien race in every video game I've ever played has been voiced by a human. Where's the diversity?!

    Nobody has a problem with Phil LaMarr doing black, white and asian voices, what's so bad about this example?

    Is that all it was? Someone casting the right voice for a character? I had my indignant on and everything but now I have to put it away. Since it was supposed to be a controversy I thought it was going to be at least the level of a black person being turned down in favour of a white person.

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