As time ticks on, the stage on which actors stand continues to alter and shift, blurring the lines between the digital and the real. It is due to this merging of worlds that more and more traditional actors are finding themselves drawn to alternative platforms to practice their craft. One such actor is Elias Toufexis.
Despite being a stage taught actor that sports a body of work on in film and television that could equal Santa Claus’ annual list, Elias made a name for himself playing Adam Jensen in 2011’s Canadian developed hit, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Though it was not his first role in the medium, his masterful portrayal of the fractured character skyrocketed him into stardom within the industry and has even allowed for the Quebec born actor to have hosted the Canadian Video game Awards in 2012.
Although Elias continues to act successfully in a variety of projects in traditional media, he has become one of Canada’s premier performers in the medium of video games; which is quite impressive considering the talent of his peers. Yet even with unforeseen success, comes unforeseen challenges; and I spoke with Elias about how he manages to keep those two dynamics in balance moving forward.
Brian Sharon: Many fans of video games may know you solely from iconic roles such as Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or Kobin from the Splinter Cell series, but in fact you have an impressively large pedigree on stage, television; and film. How has your immense success voice acting in the video game industry impacted your career as actor of many disciplines?
Elias Toufexis: It’s funny because it’s something I kind of stumbled into. I was doing some voice-over cartoons and commercials and so the natural step was to audition for games. Games, at that point, weren’t done the way they are now. They didn’t use performance capture to get the actor’s performance. It was simply voice-over. So I auditioned for Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and I booked the bad-guy. Then my name started getting out there as someone who was good at bringing these types of characters to life and it built from there. Now videogames are almost exclusively done through performance capture. (at least AAA games are) so I spend very little time in the booth and a majority of the time in a performance capture suit and helmet cam. (Think, Avatar).
To answer your question specifically, I can admit that initially it was a little strange. I’ve done multiple stage plays, films and a ton of TV shows. While occasionally I get recognized from one of them, the thing that has brought the most attention to my name is undoubtedly my work in videogames. When my name started getting out there I just ran with it. I started booking myself at conventions and panels and for interviews etc. Anything to get my name out there. This business is all about hustle. I dislike that part of it but it is a necessity.
You recently had the honour of hosting the 4th annual Canadian Video Game Awards. Could you share a bit about the experience and explain what hosting the event meant to you?
ET: I had a great time hosting the awards and was surprised to be asked. Again, I seem not to be able to grasp the popularity of the projects I work on. I thought “who the hell am I to host these awards?” They went well for the most part. The awards are only 3 years old and they are getting bigger and bigger so there are a lot of kinks that needed to be worked out. In the end, I had a great time and I think the show went real well. Especially live.
The 2013 Canadian Video Game Awards were also a big night for another actor, Michael Mando. You two have had playful public relationship that could be described by some as a rivalry. Is Michael truly as crazy as the roles he plays?
ET: Yes. Yes he is. Michael and I have a rivalry because he sucks.
Your distinct performance as Adam Jensen sent shock waves around the industry and it seems that your voice will forever be tied to that character, even though you have a varied vocal range. How do you manage to distance yourself from such a seminal role?
ET: It’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve been replaced on jobs after Jensen got so popular. People were a little worried about their characters sounding like one who, now, is very specifically recognizable. Of course I can vary my voice and I’ve done it on multiple projects. It’s just that my ‘normal’ voice is a gruff Adam Jensen sound. If you want me to play your protagonist and your protagonist is your basic “cool good guy” I’m going to sound like Adam Jensen. So I get it.
I’m not trying to distance myself because I don’t think it hurts my career at all. If people like my voice and buy other games I’ve performance captured characters in then that’s great. If they tune in when I’m on TV that’s fantastic. Sure, I’ve lost a job here and there because of Adam. Not enough to complain about it though. Especially with all the added, outside success it’s brought me.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you were afforded another opportunity to work with your lovely wife, and fellow Canadian Michelle Boback; who had a key role in the plot as Megan Reed. What was it like to star alongside your wife in a project of that magnitude?
ET: We can’t say we knew the magnitude of it when we were working on it. The uber success of Deus Ex surprised a lot of us. Michelle and I have done other projects together so we just treated this as another one. Although the day that we went in and shot the scene when Megan and Adam have an argument we actually had an argument that morning. Worked out great.
The video games industry is currently on the brink of the “next-generation” of consoles, given your more than half a decade of experience in the industry, how different is acting in games today from when you first began?
ET: It’s mostly the fact that most AAA games are simply not voiced anymore. We shoot them like a film. Everyone has seen behind the scenes footage of the great Andy Serkis fully performing Gollum. It’s the same thing. For Kobin in Splinter Cell: Blacklist I think, out of two years working on the game, I maybe did 3 hours of voice work. The rest, every little thing, was completely performance captured. If Kobin has a look on his face or moves his eyes or body in some way, that’s all me. Voicing games, at least big games, is becoming a thing of the past. Especially with the next gen systems coming out. Wait until you guys see what I’ve seen.
I know you are extremely busy but are there any games that you are playing at the moment?
ET: I’m Canadian so I play NHL14 until my thumbs bleed. I adore Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and not because I’m in it. I just love stealth games. Anything with Arkham in the title I love.
You have a lot of fans who are wondering which game you will lend your voice to next. Care to drop any clues?
ET: I’m working on a couple of games. Full performance capture again…of course I’d have to kill you
if I told you.