“The fans make these events and everybody’s been pretty nice,” said Nolan North of being at MCM London Comic Con.
“Very nice,” said Richard McGonagle. “Some nicer than others.”
The Sunday of MCM London Comic Con, saw Uncharted actors Nolan North and Richard McGonagle at their first comic con together with a panel hosted by Tanavi P on the centre stage, celebrating Naughty Dog’s acclaimed videogame franchise. The Uncharted franchise has seen the release of four main games, with Nolan portraying treasure hunter Nathan Drake, and Richard as his old friend and fellow adventurer Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan.
Tanavi asked Nolan about a recent live show for his YouTube series Retro Replay, where he and Troy Baker talk while playing through retro videogames. Nolan revealed that they had planned to do a live show for MCM London that weekend, but Troy had been booked elsewhere. “Next year, we’re going to be taking it live here in London,” said Nolan. “If anyone was in Glasgow or Manchester, we did it live there and it was a pretty big hit. People just like to see me make an ass of myself live… and I do that daily.”
Tanavi then asked Richard if he would ever play videogames with Nolan, at which point he responded, “I haven’t been invited!” Nolan said that the show hasn’t had any guests because they don’t have a budget large enough to bring any down.
“Nobody comes for free,” said Nolan.
“You know I do,” said Richard. “Just give me a sandwich.”
“No,” said Nolan. “You know the size of the sandwich this guy eats?” Nolan then revealed that they have planned a partnership with Retro Replay and Twitch, which will involve live podcasts. While explaining this Nolan also said that he had never finished playing Uncharted. “I’m terrible at it. The idea of killing myself over and over has never really appealed to me.”
“The last game I could successfully get through was Pong,” said Richard. “I can make them, but I can’t play them.” He also brought up his experience playing Uncharted 2, saying, “In the beginning, when he gets stuck on that train, he gets into the train yard and all the cars are on fire… I couldn’t get him out of the train yard.”
The duo was then asked about the short Uncharted fan film which starred Nathan Fillion and their thoughts on it. “I haven’t seen it,” said Richard. “Is there a Sully in it?”
“Yeah,” responded Nolan.
“I won’t see it,” said Richard.
“You need to watch it,” said Nolan, who added that Nathan is a huge fan of Uncharted. “I loved what he said, he tweeted out, ‘Thanks for letting me scratch the itch.’ So it was fun to see him do that.”
The first question from an attendee had Nolan being asked about something he said when working on Uncharted 2, that Graham McTavish (who portrayed Zoran Lazarevic) did something during his performance which scared the crap out of him and forced him to become a better actor. The attendee wanted to know what that was. Nolan mentioned that they’re both friends and at the same voiceover agency. When doing the scene where Lazarevic meets Drake, Nolan said, “He walked up and the eyes went black, and he’s like, ‘So – this little man is Drake, hm?’ He got in my face and… he didn’t break. What scared the crap out of me was, ‘I better start doing this for real, or I’m going to look like an idiot.’” Nolan called it a moment of “good fear” adding, “He was at a different level and I tried to raise myself up to that.”
Asked about the Uncharted games strong narrative, the duo were asked what they felt Naughty Dog does that gives the games that reputation. Richard credited writer/director Amy Hennig for being a brilliant writer and for giving them a lot of leeway, saying that unlike film and television, they never worked from a full script. “She would just create these pieces as we went along,” said Richard. “She would say, ‘This is the script, this is what’s written, but whatever you guys want to do… do that.’”
“I think it was that spirit of collaboration,” elaborated Nolan. “That was permeated over all of Naughty Dog. Naughty Dog was one of the first studios to actually say, ‘You know, story matters and we’re going to be geniuses at what we do.’ And they really are.”
Tanavi mentioned how because of the rich narrative structure, each game could work well as a movie, and then asked which game they felt would work best as a movie.
“Oh, I think we made four movies,” responded Nolan, who then went on to explain why Uncharted works as a videogaming experience. “It’s hours and hours of you. You’re Drake. It’s your choices, where you run, you’re doing that stuff. Taking a personal experience and making it a passive experience…that little bit of separation takes away that suspension of disbelief, whatever you want to call it.”
Nolan then mentioned that Tom Holland had been cast to play Nathan Drake in the Uncharted movie, which would be a prequel to the Uncharted games, and that this would be something he could get behind as a fan. “Come up with new stories, how it got to the point where Drake’s Fortune started. How did he get there? Because we’ve already all played those movies, until he’s 45… a great looking 45. It’s a theory that I think the studio is going to try, and, why not?”
Richard then provided his own explanation of where Drake was during his 20s, and said, “He was learning everything he knew from me… from Sully. I carried his sorry butt through all those years, taught him everything he knows.”
Nolan was then asked who his dream guest would be to have on Retro Replay. “PewDiePie, he’s got 50 million followers,” joked Nolan, “I’m just thinking business-wise.” He then mentioned that having guests was something he discussed with Troy. Eventually, he said that he doesn’t know if he has one but, “It would be Richard McGonagle is the short answer… if we can get him.”
“I’m very busy,” said Richard.
A question from an attendee had them being asked which of the games was their favourite to work on and if there were any parts when working that they didn’t enjoy.
“We had dinner last night talking about this,” replied Nolan. “It was the best job both of us ever had.”
“There were a few times he was deadly sick, and we still had a great time,” said Richard.
Nolan recounted having cracked two ribs when working on Uncharted 3, which resulted in him wearing a brace around his chest. Asked how he had cracked his ribs, Nolan replied, “I cracked it flipping over a bike. I was going down a hill, came around a corner…do you know, if you’re on a bike going quickly and it hits something, you will continue moving.”
As for his favourite to work on, Nolan had high praise for Uncharted 2, but decided on Uncharted 3, calling it “a special time, because we knew there was going to be a fourth. So we’re like, ‘We got jobs for a few more years.’
“It was the best game,” added Richard.
Nolan then recounted the experience recording the performance capture for the horse riding scenes. “They put me on boxes with a saddle. They said, ‘Now we have to do the whole [imitates riding].’ As I did that, they said, ‘Okay, we need two minutes. Go.’ Then they played the My Little Pony theme and I had to keep going.
When they finished, I said, ‘You better have got that.’
They go, ‘We need to do one more.’
I said, ‘Why?’
They said, ‘We were lying to you. You can’t move. The horse moves and your body will react through the digital process. We can’t use you moving. We just wanted to see you do that.’”
Given the work required for performance capture, the two were then asked which scene required the most imagination to pull off.
“All of them,” replied Richard, highlighting in particular moments when their characters are outside. “We also had to imagine what we were wearing, what the other person was wearing. Because you’re looking at a person who’s in the most ridiculous outfit you’ve ever seen, with little balls all over it. You would have to imagine everything and the things you would hold.” To illustrate his point, Richard then picked up his bottle of water and looked at it as if he had never seen it before, saying, “OH MY GOD, have you ever seen anything like this before? The jewels… but there’s nothing there but a stupid model. It was like being a kid. When you’re out playing in the yard you come up with everything, you create an entire world in your head. Very satisfying creatively.”
Nolan also added how with each game, as the technology got better, they had to use more of their imagination. For Drake’s Fortune, a jeep was hired for Nolan and Emily Rose (who portrayed Elena Fisher) to work with. For Among Thieves, a jeep was built out of plywood boxes. For Drake’s Deception, it was just two chairs and a steering wheel. For A Thief’s End, it was just a steering wheel.
An attendee then asked what the most humiliating scene was to shoot. “Humiliating?” asked Nolan. “Have you have seen a mocap suit?” He then mentioned working on the first game and seeing himself wearing a brown motion capture suit, saying, “I looked like ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag. I’m sitting there watching myself in this suit, it looked like somebody had shaved a chimpanzee down and gave it some lines to say.”
Richard then recalled hitting Nolan in the head with a gun he threw away as they filled in to play extra characters for Uncharted 3.
“He almost knocked me out,” said Nolan. “We had these really heavy fake guns.”
“They’re very heavy, hard plastic, but they weigh the same as a regular weapon,” said Richard. “I threw it off to the side and all I hear was this, ‘Ow.’ I didn’t want to break the scene, so I kept going. That was embarrassing. I felt bad.”
Asked on which was the most difficult game to work on, Nolan cited how Uncharted 4 took a long time given that the game went through some development hell. He also noted how he didn’t have to do as much due to age. “By the fourth game, they were like, ‘We’re going to have [Nate] run up the side.’
I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that.’
They were like, ‘Yeah, we know you can’t. We have a professional parkour guy.’”
Richard also noted how damage on his left knee and sciatica meant that by the third game, “Sully was limping through.” He also recalled how Amy would ask if he was okay and if he required a stuntman to finish his scenes.
As the panel drew to a close, given that both Nolan and Richard celebrate their birthdays days apart from each other in October, Tanavi got the crowd to sing them Happy Birthday. They were also gifted a birthday card, two cakes from Amazing Cake Company and games from Big Potato Games. Nolan received an additional gift of a lollipop, at which point he said, “One more thank you, because I’m a massive sucker.”
By Shalimar Sahota
Photos by Harriett Greene (Manga Girl Photography)