Yuri Lowenthal: MCM Expo 2010 interview (part two)

Yuri is also the voice of Benjamin Tenjamin in Alien Force.

Have you read part one? If not, go back and read it immediately. Okay, ready? Let’s continue.

Yuri was asked if, between anime and videogame work, he found one to be easier.

“Videogames, dubbing, original recording animation… essentially at the core they’re the same, but it’s like different sports, I guess. The difficulty with dubbing is that it requires in many ways the most work. It’s all about rhythm and timing, and matching – to a certain extent – the emotion of the original performance. There are a lot of things to be juggling at the same time while you’re doing it. Ironically it also pays the least, so it’s the most work for the least amount of pay. But if you’re a nerd like I am, who grew up watching anime, it’s fun, it’s great.

Videogames have their own difficulties, in that oftentimes there’s a lot to record in a very limited amount of time. So it’s not like you get to take an hour to read the script, and talk with the director about what your character’s doing and what’s going on in the story. They give you an Excel document with the name of your character, and then ‘line, line, line’ without the context in between; and they need to get down the lines as fast as possible. A good director will give you just enough context to let you know what the situation is, so you can colour the different lines differently. And as well most of the time videogames are, as you know, full of people screaming and dying, and getting blown up, and set on fire. To really communicate that well, you need to really push it vocally. Those sessions can be exhausting.”

So he was a fan of anime before going into dubbing it?

Yes I was, not all voice actors are fans before they get into it, and sometimes I don’t understand that. I’ll be working with a group of people, some sort of nerdy project that I find particularly exciting, and I’ll like elbow one of the guys and say ‘Isn’t it great that we’re.. and you can play the…’ and he’ll be like ‘I don’t even know what this means’. ‘But you were so good!‘. It’s just because they’re a good actor. I’ve stopped assuming automatically that everyone in this industry is as big a nerd as I am. It’s hard to keep up these days with all the new stuff that’s coming out, but I grew up with comics, and Japanese animation and all that kind of stuff. And I still love it, which makes this a dream job for me.”

We couldn’t help noticing that Wikipedia has Yuri down for the role of Nightwing in Batman: Arkham Asylum 2…

Once again this would be my standard response if I was under a Non Disclosure Agreement, but I guess that must be internet rumour. I have not done any work on Arkham Asylum 2. I hope somebody calls me and asks me to work on that! I can say honestly that I’d love to do it, because I’m a fan, I’m a big Batman fan. The first game was so beautiful. I would love to be working on that, but I have not been contacted about that. I would love to spread that rumour though! For anybody who’s in casting out there, I would love to work on Arkham Asylum 2!”

Consider it done.” I say, and not without reason.

Wikipedia proves to be more accurate – at the least, less controversially so – when it comes to Yuri’s many uncredited videogame appearances.

Sometimes, the videogame company has a policy of crediting actors, and some don’t credit actors. I’ve found that a lot of the uncredited stuff often happens on games that were originated in another language. I haven’t played it [Bayonetta] to the end. I played it for an hour, hour and a half the other day, and I didn’t even get to Luka. I’m not very good at playing videogames any more. Is it uncredited at the end?”

"She'll never find me if I hide behind this camera."

I didn’t have time to check before going to the Expo; but I ask, slightly surprised, if not being credited is sometimes part of the deal when taking on a role?

Yeah. And usually with those uncredited things, it’s their policy. But they don’t tell me that I can’t own up to the fact that I did that, after the game’s released. So I will own up to the fact that I did Luka. And can’t wait to actually get to that point in the game! It’s a weird, weird, amazing, beautiful game.”

When asked about any roles he hasn’t yet had a chance to play that he’d like, Yuri takes the opportunity to get something off his chest.

Don’t look for me in a cameo in the Prince of Persia movie, because that was something I fought tooth and nail for, and could not get in.” He says it very good naturedly, and gets a sympathy laugh. “But I did see the movie and it’s exciting, and fun. There’s a list as long as my arm of projects I’d love to be involved in. It’s a tough call when you say ‘I wish I’d played that’ because on the one hand yes, but on the other hand if you’re a fan of that then I love the way it was done, and I wouldn’t want to change it in any way. So it’s hard to say ‘I wish I had played L in Death Note’ or whatever because, you know, it was good and I liked it.

I’d love to do a series of anything involving H.P. Lovecraft, anything sort of Hellboy… there are so many things that I’d love to be a part of, and I’m a fan of so many things. I wanna be a part of all that stuff! I wanna be in the next Star Trek movie! I wanna be the first American Doctor on Doctor Who! You can spread that rumour! Although I loved Matt, I didn’t think I was going to, I loved David Tennant so much. There are so many things.”

I start the next question by saying that Yuri’s acting, along with the excellent script, was an important part of the overall experience in Sands of Time. I probably come across as more sycophantic than I’d like but I don’t care; it’s true. I mention the fact that he wasn’t in Warrior Within; “lucky you” (this gets a little laugh from everyone round the table – hurrah, I’m popular!).

But I then ask how he feels about being passed up for Nolan North in the first current – gen Prince of Persia…

It’s tough because while there were several Prince of Persia games before Sands of Time, which I played when I was younger, I feel that I in a way originated that role. When they went in a different direction… yeah, I was chuffed [yes he’s American and yes, he said ‘chuffed’] that they went with somebody else. I understand because they took a different direction with the game, and it was much more aggro. You know, every actor will say ‘I could play that, I could play that‘ you know, ‘I could play a sixty year old woman, I could play a giant three hundred pound musclebound guy’. And I could’ve tried; but Rob [Downes] has more that kind of voice than I do.

And then for Two Thrones… that was a nice thing, they listened to the fans. After Warrior Within, they said ‘Well it’s a good game, but we miss a lot of stuff from Sands of Time… where was Yuri?’. So they brought me back. It was really nice to a) feel that I was appreciated, and b) that Ubisoft listened to the fans. Pre – heavy internet days, they wouldn’t have been able to gauge that, but they did for Two Thrones. Then they did a reboot, and so they wanted something different… and Uncharted had just come out, and everybody loved Drake, so… And I’ve talked to Nolan about it too, because contrary to popular belief, me and Robin and Nolan are actually really good friends.

He said ‘When I first got this, I asked if they wanted what they had done before, something more princely or regal, and they’re like No, no, we love Drake!!‘ and he’s like ‘…okay’. I was just really proud and happy that they came back to me for the recent game because I love that character so much. Yeah, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed every time I would get passed up, but it only made me happier and prouder to come back to it.”

No, wait, hang on a minute...

Which led to the question: Is voice acting an important part of the videogame experience now?

I think that the voice acting, as well as several other elements, have become more important in games. I think that because videogames have got more complicated and more expansive, players are demanding more. Once upon a time it wasn’t such a big deal if the acting side wasn’t strong, or the writing wasn’t strong – so long as it had good playability. But nowadays I think that the audience is more demanding. Certain games are certainly paying more attention to those elements. As a gamer and as an actor, I appreciate that.

Some of the writing we get for games nowadays is amazing. It rivals if not exceeds what you see in movie theatres. I’m really excited about the time we’re going through in the gaming industry. We’re sort of an invisible class, in that… like Jake Gyllenhaal, everybody would recognise him on the street and everybody knows who he is; but nobody necessarily knows who I am, because the face isn’t attached to the voice, so it’s an interesting place to be. But an exciting time for that.”

There are more questions begging to be asked, but our time with Yuri is now up. As I am somebody who hates to admit defeat (i.e. I am male), I renew my war with the dictaphone and its battery cover on the way down the corridor to the lift. There are lots of innocent members of the public downstairs however so, for the good of the people, I reluctantly ask Michael to replace the battery cover for me before I become particularly enraged, and the inevitable killing spree begins.

He hands me my dictaphone back, with the battery cover where it should be, within seconds.

It was easy.” he says, with an infuriating Northern grin.

Fans, potential clients, and random stalkers can find Yuri at www.yurilowenthal.com.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

2 comments

  1. paul eiding /

    Hi Luke,
    Lovely interviews, mate. Do you like the “mate” thing? Sorry, but I can’t help myself. Just returned from Australia, where I spent lots of time with Kyle Hebert. Your interview, which I have just read, is terrific. He’s very talented and a great guy to hang out with. Yuri, with whom I’ve worked for quite some time doing BEN 10, is another story.

    He’s a talentless, evil man, and I’m absolutely joking! Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I’ve been in this business for many years and I can’t think of anyone nicer than Yuri. Abundantly talented, kind, generous…and with the good sense to marry Tara. They make a wonderful couple.

    Kyle had mentioned the great time he had ‘across the pond’, and I then remembered Yuri had equally fond memories of his time there. It inspired me to check out the site and luckily found your interviews.

    Someday, I’ll get myself invited over.

    Nice work, my friend.

    All the best,
    Paul Eiding

    • Luke K /

      Paul Eiding (Perceptor in Transformers, Roy Campbell in Metal Gear, stacks and stacks of other stuff) read some of my stuff and liked it!

      *Cue girly screams and giggles*

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