At Sydney’s pop culture convention, Supanova, we got a chance to speak with one of voice acting’s biggest stars, Troy Baker, and dive into his experience with Telltale Games’ upcoming Batman, voice acting as a career, and the conflict between voice actors and game publishers.
Troy Baker as Batman
Baker has played a variety of Batman roles, including the Arkham series’ Arkham Knight and the Joker in Arkham Origins. He’s now playing the voice of Batman in Telltale Games’ upcoming take on the series, a role that requires he keep his multiple characters separate.
“As an actor, you want to separate every role that you can,” he said. “What I try to do is treat each project, each opportunity, and each character as their own separate thing, otherwise I’m bringing my stuff into it as opposed to doing the character service. It really is trying to separate between the two.”
Troy is also excited for his other upcoming projects, some of which he said were expected to be revealed at E3. “Everyone decided to wait,” he said. “Very soon we’ll be able to know about these projects but I was glad to at least get some of the steam off by Telltale announcing Batman.”
“What I love [about] where I’m at right now is that the last few years have been – there’s been a lot of crazy stuff – and what [I’ve] been trying to do is carve out more, working on fewer projects that are really outside the scope of what [I’ve] done in the past,” he continued. “I’m excited about where I am at now. The projects I’ve been involved with, I’m really heavily involved as opposed to just being a guy who comes in and does the role. [I’m] being able to, in some way, take on a producer or adviser role.”
With a wealth of experience behind him, Baker did mention that he will turn down roles that would be repetitive, or roles he feels someone else would perform better. He says that both he and other veterans like Nolan North and Laura Bailey favor building a relationship with studios and recommending actors rather than taking roles outright.
“A career is not a culmination of jobs, it’s a culmination of relationships,” he said. “If I can build a relationship with a studio that I really respect and say, ‘I want to play the long game in this,’ and maybe that means I may never get to work with you but I want to do you a service and actually looked at this person because I think they can do a better job with that.”
“At some point, I don’t want to be in every game. I don’t want to over-saturate the market with myself, so there are times when I go, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have to pass on this.’ That gives us the opportunity to really give all of our energy into the projects that I am attached to.”
In light of Naughty Dog developing single-player downloadable content for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Troy believes the team could branch off into a variety of stories, including Sam and Sully’s adventures in the epilogue.
“After playing the game, I find myself really torn because a part of me wants [to see] what Sam and Sully are going to do,” he said, adding that Nathan and Elena’s daughter or Nathan and Sam’s past could provide interesting avenues as well.
“I was so impressed with what Chase Austin did as young Sam that there’s a lot of me that wants to see [them] go back,” he continued. “We jumped from them being in the orphanage to the prison – I want to know what happened during that whole space in between.
As for what Naughty Dog has in the works, that’s up in the air according to Troy. “They’re still batting about ideas, I don’t think they’ve even landed on one. Those guys are still recuperating from shipping that game.” Baker isn’t worried, though: “When you work with someone like Naughty Dog, you just have to trust them and I’m sure they’re going to make the right decision.”
Voice Actors and Fairness
We also asked Baker for his thoughts on recent voice actor outcry, wherein Wil Wheaton and fellow members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio’s vocalized a need for better treatment.
“If we truly are being fairly treated,” Baker shared, “then we should be doing this for free because this is something that we love doing. If you genuinely love it, the fact that someone pays me to do this is a value added benefit.”
“I think what a lot of people are trying to do is institute an archaic system that doesn’t apply to this industry – the TV and film model into the video game industry,” he continued, noting the many hardworking people in the industry deserving of praise. “QC [Quality Control] people spend eight hours a day for months, if not years, testing a game to make sure that when it ships it doesn’t have any bugs,” he said. “How about those people get something bonus?”
“I’m not too worried about actors by the whole getting any kind of bonus compensation,” Baker said, acknowledging the possibility of a voice actor strike should publisher negotiations fail. “If they want something like that, then maybe they should ask on an individual level as opposed to making demands as an industry that would literally crumble if that happened.”
“I never tried to worry about what’s fair and what my rights are. What I try to do is focus on making really good material that connects with an audience that really cares and has an impact.”