I recently got the chance to talk to Shawn Baichoo about his role in the newest instalment of the ‘Deus Ex’ franchise. Here, Shawn talks about all things ‘Deus Ex’ and about his ongoing involvement in the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series…
Hey Shawn – thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ is finally out in gaming stores right now. It looks so good.
Thanks for having me, Matt. I really look forward to playing the game!
For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to play it yet, what’s the general plotline?
Basically it’s the story of Adam Jensen, the security chief at Sarif Industries (the world’s largest and most prominent cybernetics research institute). It takes place in 2027. After a devastating attack on Sarif industries, Jensen (who is nearly killed in the attack) is fitted with cybernetic arms and implants, and he uses his newfound abilities to hunt down those responsible. Of course, as the story progresses, he begins to uncover a sinister conspiracy…
Tell us a bit about your role in the ‘Deus Ex‘ universe – I hear you play a variety of different characters…
I got to play a number of varied and interesting characters, namely Anonymous X, Officer Nicholas, Brian Tindall and Tracer Tong. I also did quite a bit of motion capture for the game, including facial animation for Jensen, several cinematic sequences, and ‘living world’ stuff.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place? Did you know a lot about the series beforehand?
I had heard of the series before, though I’d never played it. I have a friend who was a pretty big fan of the series, and he had showed me some of it on his PC. But I’m a pretty diehard console gamer, so I’m excited to see the franchise finally come to X-BOX. As for my involvement, I had the chance to audition for the various voice roles, and I guess I did something right because I got cast! I think something that works to my advantage is that I’m fairly versatile with voices and dialects, so they could use me for several different characters. Tong and Anonymous Ex are Asian for example, which I could never pull off on-stage or screen, but it works just fine for voice. I’ve also played Indian, Arabic, French and Italian in other games.
Do you think the ‘Deus Ex’ franchise has the potential to be made into a feature film?
Absolutely! If you think about all the games that have been converted into movies, I really don’t see why ‘Deus Ex’ couldn’t get that treatment. They’d need to respect the source material, though. Too often you see great games simply mined for their ideas and concepts and wasted on some Hollywood crap. A lot of design and effort went into creating an immersive, believable world in ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, and I think that’s what the draw of the game will be, alongside the story. If those elements are respected, I think it could probably make for a visually stunning and action-packed movie! And in a sense it would actually be pretty relevant to the real world, because humankind is definitely headed in that direction (human augmentation), so the movie could have the potential to resonate with audiences in a very real way. I just hope they decide to shoot it in Montreal…
In ’Deus Ex’ language here – you could be ‘augmented’ with some sort of special ability – what would it be and why?
I think I’d go for some kind of brain enhancement / neural interface. I love information, and all the means we have to access it, so an implant that would let me do that without the use of external devices would be really cool. I just watched a documentary about Ray Kurzweil, and he spoke at length about humans augmenting their brains (and the capacity for data storage and access to information that would bring) as a very real possibility in the near future. I think knowledge is the source of true power, so I’d take that over cybernetic arms or integrated weapons any day.
Let’s talk a bit about you Shawn – what made you want to get into acting and voice-over in the first place?
I’ve always loved performing, but when I was young I didn’t really believe that making a career out of it was possible. It just looked too hard, too out of reach. But when I turned 20 something in me changed, and I decided I wanted to give it a try. So I did, and I’ve never looked back. Voices and dialects have always been a strong suit of mine, so voice acting seemed like a natural fit for me. I’ve always been a huge fan of video games, so that area in particular appealed to me. Then I discovered motion capture, which fits in naturally with voice acting, and I was lucky enough to get to work in that area as well. I’m a very physical actor, so wearing a special outfit and running around all day suits me just fine! Now I often get to do both, which is just so thrilling. I love popping in a game I’ve worked on for the first time and coming across my work! And I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some really amazing games, so that’s the icing on the cake.
Which actors and voice-over artists have inspired you as a person?
I’m a big fan of versatility, so I like actors who reflect that, who give me something to aspire to. I love Gary Oldman (I think his versatility is just superb), as well as Ian McKellan (the guy played King Lear, Magneto AND Gandalf! Amazing). As for voice actors, I am floored by John Di Maggio’s range; he plays Bender AND Marcus Fenix, two characters from some of my favourite shows and games! I also think Mark Hamill is a phenomenal voice actor, I never seem to recognize him, and I think his performance as the Joker in various ‘Batman’ titles is just brilliant.
You’ve been in a bunch of games and TV series’ – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far?
Oh man, that’s a tough question. I’ve been lucky to work with some really great people so far, and not just actors, but directors too. I’m not someone who’s easily star-struck, but I’d have to say that working with Brad Garrett on ‘Gleason’ was a truly awesome experience. He had everyone constantly in stitches, and yet he still managed to do some really great work on a pretty difficult part.
But I’ve also had the pleasure of working with phenomenal local actors on a bunch of projects, like Elias Toufexis, Neil Napier, Amber Goldfarb, Tristan D. Lalla and too many more to name here.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I guess my musical choices are a lot like my project choices, because it’s a mash-up of many different styles and artists! I’ve got Röyksopp on there, Hans Zimmer, Metallica, DJ Tiësto, Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Busta Rhymes, Florence And The Machine, Rihanna, Pearl Jam, and the list goes on. I find I’m someone who tends to react more to a particular song than to a particular artist.
You’ve been part of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise from literally day one – what does it feel like to be a part of such a popular franchise in a variety of different characters? Which one has been your favourite to voice?
I can honestly say that being a part of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series has been one of the highlights of my acting career so far. If you had told me, when I was 10, that one day I’d be voice acting and doing motion capture for one of the greatest and most successful game franchises in history, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s rewarding on all fronts! It’s paid work, but it’s so much fun that to me it’s not work at all. Of course I treat it seriously and professionally, but the hours in the voice studios and the days at the motion capture studios just fly by, and I always find myself wanting to do more. I also get to contribute to an awesome video game, and I like I’ve said I love video games! Finally, I get to play the game, which is always fun, and hearing my friends and I in there while I enjoy it only adds to the experience. Plus, my character of Father Maffei (from the webisodes of ‘Assassin’s Creed: Lineage’) made it into the game (AC2), so they scanned my face and mapped it onto the character. It was quite a surreal experience to see my face on the briefing about Ezio’s next targets! My favourite character would have to be Duccio, who’s in all three of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ instalments. He’s this arrogant and self-absorbed man who always has the misfortune of running afoul of Ezio. He was a lot of fun to voice! I also really enjoyed playing Machiavelli, though he was much more challenging.
If you could invite three historical guests to dinner – (living or dead) – who would they be and why?
- Bruce Lee – I’m an avid martial arts enthusiast, and this guy bridged the gap between the martial arts and show business. I’m sure I could learn a lot from him.
- Leonardo DaVinci – There’s no way a man of his staggering intellect and creativity would be a boring dinner guest. I’d love to show him the internet. I think he’d like it.
- Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) – I’m not a religious person, but I’m definitely spiritual. His wisdom, experience and perspective would no doubt make for life-altering conversations. Also, I’d probably be able to beat him at Twister.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
It’s been a pretty good year for me so far; I’ve had the chance to work a bit on ‘Assassins Creed 3’ and ‘Far Cry 3’, and I did a spot on ‘Blue Mountain State’. And coming up I’ll be playing a demonic clown in the film ‘Imaginaerum’ and doing another spot on ‘Being Human’. I’m also working on some personal projects with my stage-fighting crew, which should see the light of day soon.
Thanks for the interview!