This Day in PlayStation History – Nolan North Birthday!
Perhaps one of the most historic landmarks in the video game industry was the advent of voice acting. You’d have to cast your mind back to the early ‘80s for the first instance of voice synthesis — think Space Spartans or Gauntlet — when arcade titles often touted a specific catchphrase or a chilling line to ramp up the immersion factor.
Fast forward to the ‘90s and Metal Gear Solid stands as an early example of a title that featured voice acting, yes, but also real, tangible performances — performances backed up by an intriguing script of espionage and nuclear proliferation that brought those pixels to life like never before. In those intervening years, technology has evolved exponentially to the extent that, by the launch of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the line between gaming and film is all but indiscernible.
With such photo-realistic graphics on display, that places the onus on voice actors to not only recite lines in a convincing, emphatic manner, but to perform as though they were the in-game hero/heroine themselves through the power of motion capture. It’s a remarkable feat when done correctly, and one performer that has been at the forefront of video game acting for a generation is Nolan North.
The King of Theater in Spandex
You may know him primarily for Nathan Drake, the swashbuckling treasure hunter that’s headlined Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, but North’s career spans far beyond the confines of Sony’s crown jewel.
Welcome to This Day in PlayStation History, your window into the archives of all things PlayStation. In the time since this original feature began, we’ve placed the spotlight on console hardware, industry icons such as Hideo Kojima, and bona fide gaming mascots in Sly Cooper and Crash Bandicoot. On this, October 31 (happy Halloween!), it’s time to welcome voice acting extraordinaire Nolan North into the limelight.
Described as “the nearest thing the games industry has to a bona fide leading man,” North cut his teeth through the film industry — as is often the case — landing a recurring role in General Hospital spin-off series Port Charles during the late ‘90s. What followed was a string of bit-parts in the video game industry ranging from God of War to Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, though it wasn’t until the release of Uncharted in 2007 that Nolan North struck gold — in every sense of the word — by clinching the role of Nathan Drake.
It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the actor and Naughty Dog, who later cast him as David in post-apocalyptic masterpiece The Last of Us. Venturing into full-blown villain territory, it was a role that North enjoyed immensely, resulting in a truly chilling exchange between David and Ashley Johnson’s Ellie during the latter stages of the game.
Then again, for many Nolan North is Nathan Drake, and his scenery-chewing charisma has not only landed him multiple accolades — two Spike Video Game Awards in the “Best Performance by a Human Male” to date — but also ensured that North is considered a bankable performer by many studios, as evidenced by Bungie’s decision to draft in the Uncharted stalwart in place of Peter Dinklage for Destiny. So long, Dinklebot. We hardly knew ye. Heck, North’s tenure as Nathan Drake has even been recognized by Hollywood. Three years ago, director J.J. Abrams recruited Nolan North for Star Trek Into Darkness and though it was only a minor role in the grand scheme of things, a foray into blockbuster territory is commendable in and of itself.
Northbot or Nolandroid?
All in all, even after the launch of A Thief’s End earlier this year, Nolan North continues to be synonymous with Naughty Dog’s action-adventure series. Could he circle back to the Uncharted franchise further down the line? It’s something that the actor refuses to rule out at this time and don’t worry, for those of you yet to play or indeed finish Uncharted 4 (!), there are no spoilers to be found in North’s comments.
Depending on how much money this game makes, Sony might want to do another one with another studio. And I would certainly come back.
Golden Abyss is a fine example of an Uncharted game that was crafted beyond the walls of Naughty Dog — you can thank Sony Bend for the portable spinoff — but given the way in which Uncharted 4 ended, if and when Sony decides to revive its marquee exclusive, chances are it’ll be far, far down the line.
So here’s to you, Nolan North. For keeping us rooted to the edge of our seats all across the Uncharted series, for indulging in some morally grey territory in Spec Ops: The Line, and even those sneaky one-liners peppered throughout Deadpool — not to mention that killer Christopher Walken impression — few video game voice actors have resonated with the gaming industry quite like North. From all of us here at PlayStation LifeStyle, happy birthday!
Tell us, upon looking through Nolan North’s decorated résumé, which role do you consider your favorite? Indeed is there a particular part that you’ll remember for all the wrong reasons? I’ll see you in the comments.
This Day in PlayStation History is a new and recurring feature here on PlayStation LifeStyle that will be acting as your window into the archives of all things PlayStation — birthdays, anniversaries, milestones and more.