“Man, that was a great day. It was a sad day.”
What kind of event could prompt such an emotional whip-turn, such a wide-varying reaction that seems to contradict itself while implying there’s more complexity that meets the eye? For Troy Baker, the veteran voice actor who plays Joel in The Last of Us Part II, it was his last day of filming (motion capture style) alongside Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie in the game. In his exclusive appearance on Collider Games Podcast with our very own Dorian Parks and Dennis Tzeng, Baker got into the tumultuous ups and downs of wrapping up on such an undertaking as Naughty Dog’s magnum opus.
The rumors about TLOU2 are true. It’s very violent, and very brutal. As Baker put it, “It’s the most brutal game I’ve ever played… But it’s not gratuitous.” In fact — and those of you who remember that damn giraffe moment from the first one will agree — The Last of Us games are often home to surprising moments of beauty among the carnage. Baker argues that these brutal moments are necessary for the beautiful moments: “This game rests on a pendulum, and in order to reach the heights that it does, it must go to the depths. So in order to achieve that level of beauty, we must have that level of despair. That’s how it works, that’s the physics of emotion.”
That pendulum swings even harder when you have such a “fully fleshed out character” as Ellie, and the game allows “you to be whatever version of Ellie you want to be.” I, like many gamers of TLOU, have grown very fond of both Ellie and Joel. So did, naturally, Baker and Johnson, the performers of these iconic characters. And when it came to the last moments of these two performers working together… well, Baker can tell the story (and throw some shade at Uncharted actor Nolan North for good measure).
“There was not a dry eye on the stage. There’s about 30 people on the stage. And it’s one scene. That was an interesting thing; there were a couple of scenes in there that I was like, ‘Holy shit, that was our entire morning. Like, we worked an entire morning on one scene, or we spent the entire afternoon on one scene,’ and that was one of them. And that’s the one thing that nobody ever wants to hear is, ‘That’s a wrap…’ And I had just watched Nolan go through this with Uncharted. And I was giving him shit… because he always loves to hold court, but he doesn’t wanna be the center of attention when it’s a real moment. And all of a sudden I look, and he’s not paying attention on Uncharted 4. And they’re wheeling the cart out with a cake and champagne and I’m like, ‘Ohhhhh shit.’ And they’re like, ‘Everybody, that’s a wrap on Nathan Drake.’ And they’re like, ‘Speech!’ And he’s like, ‘I just wanna go to my car and get out of here.’ And so, here it is, we’re wrapping on e, and here comes the champagne, and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ Everyone just hung out because we didn’t want to leave.”
As if that wasn’t enough emotional damage for Mr. Baker, wait ’til you hear what he texted his scene partner Johnson after their wrap: “‘A lot of life has happened between that day and this. In so many ways, the story of this game and that journey reflects our individual paths.’ And I told her, I said, ‘I can’t say I’m blown away by your performance because it has the opposite effect. I’m pulled in closer and closer the further I go. Every choice is wielded with deftness and honesty.’ I can’t say enough, dude. Ashley is next level lights out. Next level lights out.”
Check out Baker’s emotional story in the clip below. To see these two work together with their “next level lights out” majesty, check out The Last of Us Part II, on PlayStation 4 now. And if you wanna know how to get all the trophies, we’ve got your back.