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Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, for all intents and purposes little more than an interactive movie, was critically acclaimed and loved by many gamers. So how could the French developer top it? By hiring kick-ass big name actors like Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe for the follow-up Beyond: Two Souls, of course.
A game driven by narrative needs that narrative to be believable, and while we liked Heavy Rain just fine, some of the game's performances fell unfortunately flat. Beyond doesn't have that problem (not with the two leads, at least). And Ellen Page kills it in the starring role.
As Jodie Holmes, Page plays a CIA spy, a boots-on-the-ground soldier, a miracle worker, and a homeless woman, and she does it without batting an eye. In our interview this week Page gave credit to Quantic Dream founder and Beyond director David Cage for creating such a fantastic character.
But let's be honest, people. Page deserves plenty of credit as well. We also chatted about the game's dark, emotional story, the potential of video games, and the need for more strong female characters across all mediums. Read on for the full interview.
Something Beyond: Two Souls excels at is taking gamers out of their comfort zones. Did it take you out of your comfort zone as well?
Yeah, I mean, it took me out of my comfort zone because it's very different from shooting a film, you know? I mean A., I've never done motion capture before, and then B., you're making a video game. Very, very different process. And then, yeah, the game goes to really intense emotional places. And intense places just in regards to deaths and specific things that happen. So I mean for an actor it was actually an incredibly, incredibly challenging job.
Have you played it?
Yes—not all of it, but I'm playing it right now.
You play a huge range of different personas, from a secret agent to someone who's been living on the streets. Is it weird seeing all those different sides of you in video game form?
Yeah, of course. I think what's weird is yes, A., being in a video game—it's weird. I just wouldn't have expected that that was going to happen. If you'd told me that like three years ago, I would have been like, you're drunk, you know? [laughing] But you don't think about that. I didn't know that this opportunity would happen.
And then I think what's the weirdest is, like, remembering being in a room with nothing and just seeing how much they were able to capture, and then what they're able to create. You know, I'm such a minuscule part of this. Like just a tiny part. Hundreds of people all have put years of work into this, and I did what I could do, and, you know, for me it's like just as interesting to see it all come together as it would be for anyone else.
You were saying that this is outside your comfort zone—but it seems like a lot of actors are getting into games, like Kiefer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V and Martin Sheen in Mass Effect. What's the appeal as an actor to enter this realm that you consider radically different?
Well for me, with this game, it's the same as choosing to do any job, quite frankly. It's the material and the character and the director that you're going to work with. I wasn't looking at it as like, "Oh, I want to explore the video game world, so I'm going to do it." It really was like, "What the hell? A video game?" And "Oh wow, this is actually really compelling and really intriguing, and this protagonist is, like, so incredible, and what a great role! And what a great opportunity! And I totally want to go do this." So it wasn't so much like, "Oh I want to explore the video game world," do you know what I mean? Because I hadn't played a video game in ten years. I didn't even know what video games were now.
A lot has changed in ten years. Do you think that the technology and the ways games are made and look has finally caught up with the incredible stories game makers want to tell?
I don't know. And because, yeah, I'm not so much in the game world, I feel like it's not really fair for me to have any sort of educated opinion about that. All I think is, you know, video games are a younger medium than filmmaking, and as it is developing more people are starting to use it as another way to tell stories. And I think that's really exciting and cool, and I feel super grateful to be a part of it—when it feels sort of new and a new thing that's being explored.
Can you describe the "gift" that your character has?
Basically Jodie is attached to some kind of entity, and we don't know what that is, and she's the only person who can see it and talk to it. Sometimes it can be caring and nurturing, and other times it can be really scary and dangerous. So it's something that she's been struggling with and something that's obviously made her incredibly different and separated from all other people. She's grown up in a lab being studied. So essentially the game and the whole story is about her having to learn how to live with it and accept it. Of course you start learning about it as the game goes on, and of course I can't talk about that.
In real life a lot of people have some sort of belief in guardian angels or some presence looking out for them—and like Jodie you've had a gift (in your case acting) since you were young. Did you feel any connection to Jodie because of that?
I mean, I think I felt a connection with her like you feel with any well-written character, to be honest with you. I don't know if I specifically connect in relation to that. I mean, yeah, I guess being an actor and working when you're young makes your life different, sure. But I don't think so to that extreme. And then in regards to guardian angels and things, it's not really something that I believe in. I'm not really that kind of a person.
One common theme throughout your career is you play a lot of strong female characters. Some people would say there's a lack of those in games. Is that something that came up during production? When David Cage was writing the script, is that something that he addressed?
I think David always saw the protagonist in this game and in this idea as a girl. Just he always did. And yeah, I think it's really incredible that a female protagonist, that he's written, is so strong and smart, but also very vulnerable and has an incredible amount of sadness and is just ultimately a very, very complex and very real character.
And let's face it, I think we can all agree, as others will probably, that I do not look like Lara Croft [laughing]. And I think it's cool that there's a character in this game who to me is a vision of what a woman can be that isn't sort of in a very, very narrow gaze that we're used to seeing—not just in the video game world, but in the film world as well. So I'm just grateful to David for writing such a great role for a young woman.
What's something you haven't done yet in your career that you'd really like to do?
I'm starting to produce, and that's something that I'm really, really enjoying. I think starting to focus more on the developing side of things and sort of having that control is something that's really exciting me and really making me feel super inspired. So that's something I'm looking forward to continuing to pursue.
Could there be a sequel to Beyond and would you be up for it?
I honestly have no idea whatsoever. That would obviously be up to David, but I've heard nothing along those lines.