There are very few celebrities in the gaming industry, but Nolan North and Troy Baker demand top billing. Having starred as the heroes in some of PlayStation’s biggest games, we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to grill the pair on their current projects – including The Last of Us: Part II, Marvel’s Avengers, and Death Stranding. Speaking at Manchester Comic-Con, we also learned a little more about the duo’s tight-knit relationship, which has led to the launch of a new YouTube channel named Retro Replay.
Push Square: Hey, it’s good to meet you. You guys are our heroes.
Nolan North: Oh. You need to set some higher standards.
Troy Baker: Who’s the sidekick?
[To Troy] You’re definitely the sidekick.
TB: Sh*t. Alright, cool. This is your interview, have fun with it.
NN: It’s just because of the way you dress.
Nolan, why are you so bad at games?
NN: Troy’s my teacher.
TB: Oh, d*ck move. Right under the belt.
NN: No, I’m not good at games. I was pretty good at some games back in the 80s, I just—y’know, life got in the way of gameplay and now I’m catching up. I’m getting better.
TB: I don’t think he’s a bad gamer; I think he’s a new gamer. A lot of people are like, “He’s a fake gamer.” But I’m like, “No, he’s not a fake gamer – he’s a new gamer.” He’s actually really adept because he ramped up pretty quickly. Like, he was getting headshots on Uncharted.
NN: I appreciate that.
TB: Yeah, dude.
NN: It’s a whole new thing because it’s incredibly addictive. If we weren’t doing [voice acting and meeting fans] and had time to play, I don’t think I’d ever get anything done at all.
I mean, I got a new PS4 that’s not for my kids and is just for me, and I still haven’t set it up because I just don’t think I’ll ever see my family again.
TB: Here’s the problem: the reason he got the PS4 was for Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m a little afraid to see him put that in. Literally, we’ll see him six months from now and he’ll have a beard and be like, “What year is it?”
NN: Yeah, is it 1865 or—?
TB: I just have to groom my horse!
Anything interesting happening in February, then, Troy?
A good month, yeah?
TB: I don’t know. Why February?
TB: Oh no, what did she say?
TB: No, no, I literally don’t know. I feel out of the loop. When did she say this?
She may have let something slip—
NN: I’m going to jump in on his question, and I’m going to tell you, I’ve done this a long time—until you see the game on the shelf, don’t believe any announcement from anybody. Until they stamp a date on it—
TB: It’ll be out 31st February.
NN: Oh, because there is no 31st February!
TB: It’ll be out 31st February, that’s what [Johnson] said – people just took it out of context. Wow, I’m sure she got a call from Sony saying, “Shut up!” She’s like, “Guys, it’s a f*cking joke!”
The truth is, I don’t know [when The Last of Us: Part II is coming out]. I think they’ve probably been smart not to tell us because we can’t slip up and say something stupid.
NN: Well, the one thing is—
TB: My question; my answer!
NN: The one thing about Naughty Dog is that they’re not going to release it until they’re ready to release it.
TB: Right. So last time we announced, we slipped. And they don’t want to do that again. We are still cranking on it, I can tell you that much. Where it’s at in development, I have no idea. Everybody feels like it’s broken until it’s shipping, and then when it’s shipping they’re like, “We shipped a broken game!” And that’s the gig of making a game.
I can tell you this: it’s hands down the most ambitious game that Naughty Dog has ever done for sure. It’s far larger than I thought was going to be possible.
That’s great – it’s a good answer. One game we do know the release date for is Death Stranding, so on a scale of 1-10, how bonkers is it?
TB: Overscale. It’s a [Hideo] Kojima game. What was cool was actually being able to see some gameplay and being like, “Oh, this is dope.” Like this is a game that—Metal Gear has always felt to me like I’m on-rails and I know where I’m going. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain opened up the world a lot more.
But if Kojima pulls off with this game what he’s setting out to do, it’ll be a statement.
TB: Yeah, it’ll definitely be a statement. If you know anything about Kojima, he doesn’t make ‘games’. He’s an amazing world builder. He’s trying to move the medium forward, not just trying to move copies. The game’s going to sell regardless, though. And what’s funny is—Norman Reedus, first of all, that guy’s work ethic is incredible. I’ve never seen somebody work harder.
But no, this will be a game that names sell. And it won’t be Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen, and it sure as sh*t won’t be Troy Baker. The name that’s going to sell this game is going to be Kojima.
Nolan, how many of Nathan Drake’s lines have you used in real-life? Be honest.
NN: Just one.
Just one? Which one?
NN: “Aw, crap.”
TB: “Kitty got wet?”
NN: Nah, I don’t say that. That’s one that people ask me to say, but “Aw, crap” is one that’s in my vernacular.
Did you put that line into the character, then?
NN: I think actually I remember saying that mistakenly in an interview and [series creator Amy Hennig] wrote that in, because I say, “Aw, crap.” And she corrected me one time, she said, “Actually, I wrote, ‘Oh, crap.’” And she had gotten that from somewhere else and didn’t realise I had said it.
Actually, somebody said to me today here in Manchester that they love watching me play Uncharted on Retro Replay. She said, “You really do say ‘Aw, crap’ a lot. And I’m sometimes not sure if it’s in the game or if it’s you saying it.” So that’s the biggest one.
You’re both superheroes now in Marvel’s Avengers. How’s it feel playing Tony Stark and Bruce Banner? Hopefully we got your characters right!
NN: You did! It’s great. I’ve been a fan of Marvel and the Avengers as a kid, and the movies—y’know, it’s great to take a great character that’s beloved by so many people and put my own stamp on it. You just hope you don’t ruin it.
You don’t want to be like, “Top ten Iron Mans.” And, y’know, number 11 is Nolan North.
TB: We’ll always be on someone’s sh*t list, right? So when they launched the latest trailer and put it out there, the immediate backlash from fans was, “It doesn’t look like Chris Evans! It doesn’t look like Robert Downey Jr!” Well, you know who it does look like? It looks exactly like Iron Man. It looks exactly like Captain America. It looks exactly like Bruce Banner.
So, there is nothing that we will ever be able to do that will top what you saw in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Avengers movies. So don’t do that – do something different.
For me, the second they showed me what Bruce looked like, I was like, “Oh, you stole from the Ultimates.” It looks 100 per cent like the guy from Ultimates. And I’m like, “That’s my Bruce Banner. That’s the guy that literally ate New York and cannot reconcile the guilt.” And they were like, “That’s exactly what we want. We want the guy that’s like—everybody else feels like a superhero, but we are monsters. We should be locked up.”
I’m really, really glad that they—because I never really felt like they did that [in the movies]. Once they made Thor: Ragnarok, I think they were like, “Ah, we’ve got to make the Hulk cute and funny.” And I didn’t like that. I wanted Bruce to be—the only thing he struggled with in the movie is, “I don’t want to be Bruce Banner anymore, I’m way better as the Hulk.” I’m like, “No, man – you should never want to be the Hulk.” And that’s the storyline that we really get to explore in our game.
NN: I think a lot of the fans of the movies, because it was so ingrained in pop culture, are—
TB: It’s a hot take!
NN: Yeah, it’s a hot take. But I think we’re doing real justice to the true nature of the characters and to the real fans of the comic books.
TB: What we did growing up, imagining ourselves in those panels – that’s what the game lets you do. They should really hire us.
Put it on the box!
NN: I’m going to send them an invoice.
You two must audition for a lot of the same jobs, so I feel like you should hate each other. But you seem to get on really well!
TB: Do we?
NN: No, I don’t think we read for a lot of the same—
TB: You audition?
NN: First of all, no. But no, we don’t actually—I think somebody once said, and you repeated this, they said, “If you want the smart ass, you get me; if you want the…” Hm, what was it?
TB: I like where this is going, keep working on it. It’s got a lot of potential.
NN: No, no, it was like, “If you want the smart ass, you get me; if you want the bad ass, you get Troy.”
He loves it!
NN: And I liked it, too!
TB: That’s awesome, I want that as a shirt. Somebody actually said that? Those words came out of someone’s face? That’s dope. Who was the wise person who said that? Hey, it’s raining right now!
NN: It’s Manchester!
NN: No, I don’t think we ever really auditioned for the same part, but I do think because we broke out in the same industry that people thought there may be a rivalry and there never really was. And that’s why we started Retro Replay – it’s one of the big reasons. Like, we love hanging out with each other. We started doing conventions, and we’d do our panels separately. But then one day he crashed my panel and I crashed him and I remember finding—like, whenever he’d come in and join it was way more fun. We could play off each other really well, so it was a natural progression for that.
TB: We can’t get rid of each other. When we signed up for the Rooster Teeth Network, we were like, “Well, two years.”
Thank you so much to Troy Baker and Nolan North for their valuable time, and to Manchester Comic-Con for organising this interview. Don't forget to subscribe to Troy and Nolan's YouTube channel Retro Replay through the link.