Watch Dogs 2 Josh Credit Ubisoft
Actors involved in video games are what bring our most beloved characters and stories to life. As they inject their personalities, sensibilities and passion into their craft, we see a fictional character transform into something lifelike and relatable, which is one of the key elements in making a video game captivating and immersive.
With the release of Watch Dogs 2 on November 15 for consoles and November 29 for PC’s, it’s been received very positively. Players have all come to know and love the whole array of talented actors who have brought to life the band of Dedsec protagonists. Amongst our hacker heroes was Jonathan Dubsky who voiced and motion-captured Josh.
Dubsky is a relative newcomer to acting in the video game scene, predominantly focusing his efforts in television, film and also film-making. We spoke to Jonathan recently about his Watch Dogs 2 experience, the life-long friends he made and his experience bringing something truly authentic to his character Josh.
Being particularly new in the gaming industry, how did the opportunity to play Josh come about?
The whole experience was out of the ordinary. For this I didn’t actually audition in the regular rounds. They brought me in to do temporary voice work for one of the characters they were working on, who at the time was called Simon (which was later changed to Josh). So while doing the voice work for this temporary character for the game, in one of the sessions we were just having a really great time and then after we finished they just asked me, “Have you auditioned for this?” and I said no, then they asked, “Would you like to?” and I said yes. This was all taking place in Montreal and I live in Toronto, so the entire audition process for me was continuously sending back and forth self-tapes for a couple rounds, until I found out that I had booked the part.
You mentioned the character you were doing temporary work on was originally called Simon which then changed to Josh. Why did the writers change their direction?
From what I understand the way Josh, or Simon at the time, was originally written to be a hacker but he was also this YouTube personality that would constantly do these silly challenges like the Cinnamon one for instance. So he was that kind of person in-front of the camera but behind the camera at his computer – he was a genius hacker.
It was only at the final audition round where they told me, “Okay, we’re going in a different direction with this character. Now we want him to have Asperger’s.” I would imagine that while the writers are developing these characters, the dynamic of the group, certain pieces have to fit in certain places, so when everything was put together these were the changes they wanted to have made. Shawn Baichoo who plays Wrench from what I understand even his character was supposed to be much more of a brute. So, I wonder if perhaps the dynamic of the characters wouldn’t have worked if Shawn and Josh were both big personalities.
Jonathan Dubsky Photo courtesy of Lane Dorsey
How much of a contribution were you able to make to Josh that wasn’t scripted?
Working on this project has been an incredibly collaborative experience. When we all met together in early 2016, we met as a cast, developers and writers. So we sat down and went through the script and prior to this meeting I had done a lot of research on Asperger’s because I wanted to make sure that whatever I bring makes sense. There were moments where I had questions going through the script and I would ask, “Are you guys sure about this, because from what I understand Asperger’s may do something slightly different” and they were completely open to it, they totally embraced it.
In fact, Ethan who was one of the writers has a family member who has Asperger’s and most of the suggestions I made he would say, “Absolutely, that totally makes sense.” So it was all just a wonderfully collaborative, open experience that allowed me to bring my two cents in when it was appropriate.
The dynamic relationships that are seen in-game, was it the same behind the scenes?
Within Dedsec we got to know each other pretty well and hopefully we brought that to the scenes. I think one of the greatest things about casting people who get along is you get to bring that relationship to the work, the craft and the scene. It’s funny because if anybody butts heads in Dedsec, it’s Wrench and Josh, and the reality is in real life that I probably get along better with Shawn Baichoo than most people I know. We’re both really avid gamers, we’re both drummers, we like a lot of the same things. We were always finding clever ways of annoying the other person during the scene so we developed that kind of relationship which was a lot of fun.
Watch Dogs 2 Dedsec Crew (Left to Right: Josh, Sitara, Marcus, Wrench, Ray & Horatio)
The truth of it is, one of the worst parts about finishing a job like this is saying goodbye to your friends because the people you generally meet in this line of work, if you’re lucky, you’ll have lifelong friendships. So I will hopefully now have friends for the rest of my life who I love deeply. I spent a lot of time with Tasya Teles who voices Sitara and Ruffin Prentiss who plays Marcus. Tasya is a champion for me, she is an incredibly experienced actress, she is aggressively strong at her craft and she works like no one I have ever met. Just being around her I wanted to better myself as an artist but also as the business side of the actor in terms of what I should be doing for myself, what you deserve and what you could work towards. Ruffin who plays Marcus, honestly this was like a brother I never met.
We’re both incredibly sensitive people and I connected with Ruffin on a level that made me feel like I had known the guy my entire life.
What sort of reactions are you seeing from people since the release?
It’s been overwhelmingly good for the most part. The reactions I’ve gotten from fans have been really wonderful and not only just the fans of the game but people from different communities such as the Asperger’s community who have reached out. Individuals that do have Asperger’s have messaged me and told me they appreciate me portraying the character as honestly as I can and giving a voice to Asperger’s because not a lot of people know a lot about it to be truthful. They’re portrayed in lots of different ways in various shows and movies with a bit more of a caricature edge that I really wanted to steer clear of because of my own personal experiences dealing with people who are autistic across the spectrum. As a challenge to myself I wanted to try and find something real that I could attach to Josh. So it was important to me to do that, but yes the reaction has been so incredible which I didn’t expect and it’s just been amazing so far. It makes me really honoured and privileged to get the chance to do this and hopefully do it well.
Watch Dogs 2 Dedsec Credit Ubisoft
Were you a fan of Watch Dogs 1? What did you think of the change in direction and mood shift from the first title to number two?
When I first found out the game that I was going to be working on, I immediately checked out Watch Dogs 1. As a gamer I wanted to find out what people thought about the game so I went online and read reviews, the good and the bad, and made sure I knew going into this project what things I could help in terms of being an actor and what things people wanted to see change. From what I read about the fans reactions in the first game, I’m grateful they went in the direction they did because that gave me a great job and it allowed me to do something that I really wanted to do for a long time. Personally being a Nintendo guy, I like bright, open world, fun environments with playful game-play as opposed to the darker types of games. At the end of the day it’s a game and I want a little escapism from the craziness that is life.
What are the key differences between the approaches in acting you’re accustomed to compared to the work you did for Watch Dogs 2?
When you work as an actor sometimes you have to do things that require a lot of yourself – long hours and night shoots, you have to look a certain way and be a certain kind of person. In performance capture, all of that is completely disregarded and all that really matters is what you have to bring. It’s a little more freeing, which is weird because you’re wearing this really tight suit with dots all over it and a helmet that restricts your movement. Every time you get close to another actor you head butt each other but after a couple of minutes you do actually forget all of that’s there. There’s an incredible sense of freedom – when you’re in a digital world your performance is being recorded and the cameras could be anywhere at any time. It’s kind of like film meets theatre in the sense that you have this incredible space that you can take advantage of. For me as an actor and I think I can speak for many actors, it really helps them get involved with what’s going on without breaking that concentration or focus.
One final question – If you had the choice to play in another game, whether it is Indie or AAA, which title would that be?
Watch Dogs 3! Seriously, you play a character in a game and by the time you’re done you’re still learning stuff about your character and I miss that. I miss learning more about Josh – so if there was ever going to be a Watch Dogs 3 and we had the chance to do it, then yes definitely that. However, another franchise that would be cool since I am a big fan of Square Enix and the Kingdom Hearts series – Kingdom Hearts 3. That would be fantastic if I had the chance to do that. What I love about those games is that it’s not about one person trying to save the universe; it’s about one person trying to save their best friend. It’s a really intimate story that involves a couple of people and to what lengths they’re willing to go for each other on top of the awesome adventure that is Disney and Square Enix.
To learn more about Jonathan Dubsky don’t forget to follow him on his official Twitter page @JonathanDubsky.
To view the original article click The North Agency link here