The hilarious and witty Nolan North has cemented himself as royalty within the video game & pop culture communities. Providing the voices for countless characters -including Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, Assassin’s Creed’s Desmond Miles, Batman: Arkham series’ Penguin and even the irrepressible anti-hero Deadpool – North is a legend in his field. Recently delighting Aussie fans at Melbourne’s Supanova Comic-Con and Gaming convention, North talks character creation, gaming movies and shutting down convention halls…
Thank you so much for coming out to Australia – do you notice a unique way in which Australians consume and interpret pop culture, or do you find that that sort of “crosses the boundary” pretty quickly?
Yeah, I think it crosses the boundary very quickly. I will say, they’re some of the most enthusiastic fans I’ve seen, in a lot of places. Maybe because you’re this massive continent-slash-country… There’s an enthusiasm and a friendliness. It’s been such a brilliant trip. I’ve bought my son with me, and he’s had such a great time. We had a chance to go to the Gold Coast and see the differences of Melbourne – I’m still trying to figure out, “oh, wow, so the further south you go, the colder it gets”. I’m not much on (slips into Southern accent) “book-learnin’ about the equator”. It’s been great. I think that it’s been – that kind of enthusiasm for pop culture is pretty much universal.
You’ve had an opportunity to see a couple of the sights then, I imagine? Savour some of the stuff that’s been going on, I guess?
Yeah! Some of them. You’re kind of bouncing around. Of course, the first time in Australia, you have to do the tourist-y, y’know, “hold-the-koala”, “kick-a-kangaroo”, and “wrestle-the-croc”. I did that. (Laughs) You have to do some of those things because there’s something about seeing a kangaroo at the Los Angeles Zoo that is just not as authentic as coming to Australia and seeing them just lying around sleeping. I don’t know, they look like they’re on heroin sometimes in some of these places (laughs). Of course, you’ve gotta do some of that tourist-y stuff, but the other thing is just – the restaurants, the culture, the people. Just getting to know some of the people here at Supanova, just getting to kick back and hang with the locals and find the local places to grab something – grab a beer and something to eat.
I imagine that to become a great voice actor, I must imagine that you have an extremely good imagination – very visual imagination, to visualise the scenarios, and the characters, and whatnot, as the process develops. Do you have any sort of rituals or techniques that you sort of pride yourself on to get into character, or do you just sort of take it as it comes?
Yeah, I don’t have any kind of… Ritual is just – and it’s not even days at work – it’s just, go get your coffee and let’s go. I don’t have any kind of warm-up or any kind of “find-the-character”. It does require a good imagination, but it’s storytelling. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I think actually reading a book in which you get the mental picture in your head – anybody does, whenever they read. My kids, when they were younger, I always read to them, and because I always liked doing voices since I was a kid – I could imitate anybody in my family – I had an ear for accents and things like that. So, I’ll go and read a whole book and just kind of do little character voices and make up, you know, look at the animation in the book, and make up stories for my kids. I mean, I was already doing this when they were born, but I think I always just liked to play, just create voices. I could see somebody walking down the street, fighting with an umbrella for instance, and just give him a voice. (Slips into gruff voice) “Oh, this thing, I’m gonna go buy a new one, GahdDahmit!” I don’t know, it’s – I’m not well. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Well, thank you very much for not seeking the help, you’ve got some amazing roles out of it, and some amazing characters. Is there a specific type of character that you have the most fun playing?
No, no! Actually, absolutely not, because that’s the best part of a voiceover. It’s the best part about animation: It’s the fact that you can be anything. You can do all these different type of roles. For my “on-camera” career, I look a certain way, which most of Hollywood says is a lawyers. I’ve played so many lawyers, from Rizzoli & Isles to Big Love on HBO. I’m always a lawyer – and a doctor. If I’m not that, I’m a doctor. It’s very limiting – my height, my size, this is what I look like, that’s the kind of roles you’re going to play. I love the fact that in these other mediums you can be anything you can think of, or another creator of the program can think of. The point is, it keeps me excited, because I get bored very quickly.
(Laughs) I was searching for the Media Room, and I noticed out in the hallway a couple of hours ago a humongous line, hundreds of people out there. I appreciate your time, you’ve been doing a lot of signings today and everything –
Yeeaaah, but it’s been brilliant! I mean – I just shut down a convention hall, of whatever that massive building is. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. Sometimes I get a little chatty, and I talk, and the line backs off – they just – everybody, they just kept coming. It’s so exciting, and yet it’s going to be just debilitating if I get here tomorrow and nobody comes. Like, (nonchalantly) “nah, we got you yesterday”. It’s like, “dang it… so close”.
(Laughs) I suppose, in summary, how – from your own personal perspective, and what you’ve witnessed and experienced today and i assume tomorrow – what’s so integral about an event like Supanova? Elementally, what do you think makes it so important, for the people and for everybody involved?
I can only speak in terms of… well, my fans – but I think any time you get to meet up-close and personal people that you watch on a show, a movie, something – it’s pretty cool, y’know, It doesn’t happen all the time. For me personally, especially with people in gaming – they get to meet the person who’s done the voice or the motion capture that they are the character of. Now, I do those things, but they’re the player. They’re the person with the controller, so I play Nathan Drake, but you are Nathan Drake. You are Desmond Miles. You are Dr. Richtofen. You get to run around and be that person, so there’s a much more one-on-one connection for a gamer – which is why I think so many gaming movies kind of fizzle out, because now you’re a passive observer of something for two hours, rather than the active participant for dozens and dozens of hours in a game. I think it’s just different, it just is that way. I think if there are other people with some animation that they’re like, “I want to meet the guy who did that” or “the woman who did that” – some people can’t conceive of that, like, “wow, it’s a cartoon, how did that voice come by?”
Yeah, it’s an incredible thing.
But I tell ya – the great thing is, there’s great fans, there’s great people – this Con in particular is run like clockwork – and great, great volunteers, and people helping. It’s a big logistical nightmare, I can imagine, just to shuffle and deal with all the… “insane actors and actresses”. Just amazing. (Laughs)
BY JACOB COLLIVER
Thank you to all involved at Melbourne’s Supanova Comic-Con and Gaming.