Dragon Con, with all of its many themed tracks that range from puppetry to urban fantasy and filk, has something for everyone to enjoy. At this year’s convention (which had 65,000 attendees), one of the most well-known voice actors in the video game industry, Nolan North, stopped on by to sign autographs and participate in panel discussions. If you aren’t quite aware of who he is, then all you need to know is that he not only voices Ghost in the Destiny series and Nathan Drake in the Uncharted games, but he also played Dr. Chris Ramsey on Port Charles for the show’s entire run.
On one of the last days of this year’s con, I (along with reporters from Culture Slate and The Direct), caught up with Nolan North to talk about his lengthy career in the acting and voice acting industries, his foray into voicing the Uncharted audiobook adaptation, and what he thinks about his first visit to Dragon Con.
You can also buy a membership for next year’s Dragon Con here.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Nolan North: Hi, it’s September 4th, 2022, interview: Nolan North. Take One. There is no take two. [laughs]
Operation Rainfall: You took over the role of Ghost from Peter Dinklage in Destiny: The Taken King expansion. Can you talk a little bit what it was like recording new dialogue and re-recording old dialogue for a role that Bungie publicly disclosed that they recast not due to Mr. Dinklage’s performance but due to availability? Were you expected to approach the role like how Mr. Dinklage had [previously] voiced it?
Nolan North: It was [a] very, very interesting set of circumstances. It was the only time that I had been called for what they said was a ‘paid audition,’ which is like an actor’s dream. There is no such thing- they actually brought me in, but they didn’t tell me when I went in there that they were looking to recast the role. They just wanted to work on this character, this AI character. I had no real previous knowledge of Ghost and Destiny very much, even though my youngest played the game incessantly. I went in and said, ‘My son plays Destiny, what are we doing?’ They said, ‘We’re just talking about this character, and we’re trying to find this voice.’ And we were talking about it, and I had no idea. So, I went ahead, and we finally found a voice that worked [imitates Ghost’s voice] and we got down to it and we were sitting here in this kind of area.
And at the end of it, they said ‘thank you, and now we are going to tell you what is going on.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said that if this goes forward and is approved, this is going to replace Peter Dinklage. And I was like ‘Oh, is that who does Ghost?’ And they said ‘Yeah.’ And I literally remember going ‘How does he do that? He’s in Northern Ireland shooting.’ They go ‘It’s kind of why you’re here. And the internet and everyone is all ‘Oh, because of his performance.’ Peter Dinklage is a brilliant actor, but if you’ve ever been to Northern Ireland, it is full of sheep, grass, and wind. It’s really, really hard- I’ve been in Belfast one time, and I had a driver taking me around, and he drove a lot of the people from Game of Thrones. Some of them would be picked up at 2:30, 3 in the morning to drive three hours to the location where they would have to sit in a makeup chair for another 3-5 hours. You just can’t get things done, because this is my bread and butter, sometimes Bungie will call and [say that] we have to pick up some lines by Friday. It is just not going to happen with Peter and the schedule he had at the time.
It wasn’t anything having to do with anybody’s performance; I was happy to step in. I did not- this is the good news- the scary thing is that after we did Taken King and it was received really well, I was like ‘Great, I’ll be happy to go on.’ And they were like, ‘Next, we’re going to actually have you’ – they set up a bunch of sessions- ‘to go back and replace his dialogue.’ I’m 51 years old, and I had no idea that that could be done. I was like ‘There’s a disc, and the voices on the disc when you put it in-’ and they were like ‘It’s a live game.’ I said, ‘Are you telling me that you can replace-?’, and they said ‘Yeah, you’re going to record all of the lines and then one day, on a Friday, we’re going to update the system and he’s out and you’re in.’ And all I could think about was ‘Hang on kids, welcome to Uncharted starring Peter Dinklage as Nathan Drake someday.’ And he’s going to be like [imitates Peter Dinklage] ‘Hey, I’ve got your back.’
I had no idea that you could do that in a live game! That you could take years of a performance over different games and one day someone can go ‘Nyah! Let’s do something different.’ Terrifying technology, and it keeps me on my toes to try to do the best that I can. But it’s been a blessing, and I think Peter’s okay with it because he’s doing just fine, so I am glad for Peter’s success because it is one of the few times that you’ve replaced an actor because they are becoming too successful to continue the job because they’re not available. So, cheers to Peter.
Culture Slate: So, here’s a weird one for you- when you were filming Port Charles, what was your favorite episode?
Nolan North: So, you do know that we did over 250 episodes over five years? *laughs*
First of all, it’s been nice here at Dragon Con- Port Charles was very successful on the East Coast. I’ve been up in New England, New York, Philadelphia, in the Atlantic area or down in Tampa- wherever I go, people go ‘I remember you in Port Charles!’ Sometimes, they bring up a picture from when I was 26 years old, and I go ‘What happened to me?!’
What was my favorite episode…
There was an episode with Eddie Albert Jr. that I did. He played Charles Heston’s son in the original movie Midway, and I was a big fan of the movie and I couldn’t believe I was working with him. And he played the girl’s father- he was Doctor Devlin, a big, famous surgeon. But I got to work with him one-on-one, and we were both kind of shady characters. And just working opposite him was a lot of fun. There honestly so many memories from that show that it is hard to just pick one.
Culture Slate: That’s totally understandable- my grandmother used to watch it all the time when I was a kid, so I figured that I had to give something back to her.
Nolan North: You know, my grandmother was a big fan of soap operas, and I remember when I was coming home one time- I never had aspirations to be an actor- and I was coming home one time to watch Tom and Jerry or some cartoon I wanted to watch, and she was watching her stories. And I said, ‘These are stupid’, and she said ‘Don’t knock them, you’re going to be on one of these someday. Watch.’ And her name is Hazel- we used to call her ‘Witch Hazel’- and I was like ‘No I’m not, I’m going to be a baseball player.’ She said ‘Nope, you’re going to be on one of these and you’re going to take care of that Roman character for me. He’s a bad guy.’ [OR Note: Roman Brady was a character on Days of Our Lives.] And I got a laugh.
Years later, Roman was played by a guy named Wayne Northrup. When I got to Port Charles, the dressing rooms went down by alphabetical order- Julie Pinson, Nolan North, and right next to me was Wayne Northrup. He was on the show, I think he played Rex…something. I don’t remember. [OR Note: Rex Stanton.]
“But it was a blast, and that’s where I found [Nathan’s] voice [for the Uncharted audio book]. I just wanted to go a little younger, honor that Tom was playing in his twenties- he is in his twenties.”
The Direct: Uncharted 4 used to be a very different game, and you’ve spoken on record about some of the things that were different. One of them was how Cutter used to have a big role. He was one of my favorite characters in [Uncharted] 3, and when I got to what was released, Cutter wasn’t in it at all. I was wondering if you could shed any more light on what Cutter is doing.
Nolan North: So you know, we only got so far in the game, but there was a big heist. I don’t know if I am supposed to talk about it, but the franchise is kind of shutdown, but there is really no controversy or big story or big drama. The only thing I remember- Graham McTavish, who plays Cutter- a dear, dear friend of mine. It was some of the funniest stuff that I have ever been in and in what Graham did. And Graham was a very gruff exterior. He plays really tough characters and preachers and saint of killers and outlanders. He’s now the head of the guard in the new House of Dragons. He’s a sweetheart though, funny, smart, and so, so funny.
All I remember is there was- we had done some stuff, we had mo-capped everything, and it was a big heist scene that they actually had in Uncharted 4. But it just played out differently. And Cutter in the scene- all I remember- I am sorry to be vague, but Cutter insisted that he would be in disguise. They were terrible, I don’t know if it was a nose or he had teeth. He’s just talking very funny, and we couldn’t get through the scene. Remember, this isn’t just VO but full body motion capture and we’re doing it just like a film. And we couldn’t get through it. And I do remember one line where he turned to Sully. He says ‘Do you want a disguise?’ and he goes “No!”. [Then he goes] ‘How about a ‘mustáge’?’. [Sully] goes ‘I have a ‘mustáge’.” And he paused, and Graham goes ‘You want a better one?’ And I just remember it was that kind of humor- it was a little more of a caper, that kind of pulp. It was funny. That’s what I remember. And you should know- Graham McTavish was [Zoran] Lazarević in Uncharted 2. He and I became so close that Amy Hannig wrote him as Cutter for Uncharted 3, and that was one of the reasons. So I like to tell Graham that if it wasn’t for me being such a kind, good-hearted person taking on his friendship then it wouldn’t have happened. And he tells me [imitating McTavish’s Cutter] that ‘I’m an idiot.’
That’s another great line that he did in Uncharted 3– When they’re going through and he [is supposed to go] ‘Lead on, McDuff’, he goes ‘It’s ‘Lay on, McDuff’. We had written it as ‘Lead on’, and he goes ‘It’s Lay on, McDuff.’ And we go ‘What?’ And he goes ‘It’s lay on- shut up.’ And we get through the squeezing through of this thing, and when we get out I kind of adlib ‘Who’s McDuff?’ And we thought ‘Haha.’ We finish the scene, and Graham just stopped, looked, [and said] ‘Is there no bottom to your ignorance?’ And Amy’s over there laughing, ‘Yeah, that’s in.’ People sometimes think we’ve done all kind of improv. Amy wrote 95 percent of it or more, she wrote it all. But every now and then, we throw something out and sometimes it made it into that: ‘Who’s McDuff?’ ‘Is there no bottom to your ignorance?’ Just said it, it’s one of my funniest. I told you I would give you short answers!
Operation Rainfall: You voiced the 2022 audiobook of the Uncharted movie. What was it like voicing the written adaptation of Tom Holland’s adaptation of a character you’ve been bringing to life since 2007, and how did you end up finding the voice you ended up using for Nate? It’s not quite like the voice from the games, and it’s not quite like Tom Holland’s [voice].
Nolan North: That’s kind of interesting- you noticed that.
Operation Rainfall: I bought the audiobook.
Nolan North: It’s better than the movie. *laughs* You know, the one thing is- it’s always those people [who are like] ‘Did you read the book? The book’s better than the movie.’ It does go a little deeper though, there’s more time. When I did my cameo and went to Barcelona- we did the cameo for the film, and they were planning publicity and what they were going to do around it. And then they called me, and they said they wanted me to do the audio[book] version. And I was ‘Yeah, that’d be cool. I’d want to do that, that’d be fun.’ Mostly because I wanted [imitates Antonio Banderas] to do my Antonio Banderas- which I did. And doing a lot of female Australian [accents].
But it was interesting, because the audiobook has so much more time- it’s Moncada’s father, you understand why [Santiago] kills him. But Moncada has two scenes: you meet him and then you kill him in the movie. And I was ‘Oh no, that doesn’t make sense’, because you find out what he was doing, and it just goes a little more in depth. It was very rewarding, and I had never seen the script. They offered me, when I did the cameo, to see the script and I said ‘Nope, I want my popcorn and I want to see it for the first time. I don’t want that.’ And then they hired me to do the book, and I’m like ‘Oh! Well, I know what’s going to happen.’
Funniest part about reading that novel- the novelization- was doing my own cameo. It was the first time that I realized ‘Well, it made the film’- number one, there’s never a guarantee. But I wanted to do Nate, but all I did was just my voice. But I just placed it [imitates Nate in the audiobook] a little higher, a little younger- ‘Sully, what are we doing?’. So, rather than [imitates Nate in the game series] ‘No, no no. Oh, crap. No no no! Oh crap!’ So it was somewhere, just- first of all, when you’re doing that many different voices like Chloe and Moncada, and I kind of want to do my- because I grew up in New England near Boston, my mom’s from Boston- so I kind of knew Wahlberg and what he was doing, that kind of do him with a little bit of an edge to it for Sully, [imitates Mark Wahlberg] ‘because everyone wants’ to do [Richard] McGonagle, but you can’t do that Sully. But it was a blast, it was hard though. Hats off to people who read books, because there’s an engineer listening going ‘Let’s stop for a second, take a break, because you start to drone when you’re reading the story.’
But it was a blast, and that’s where I found the voice. I just wanted to go a little younger, honor that Tom was playing in his 20s- he is in his 20s. And fortunately, I can just get up there a little higher, and it’s my voice, but if you ever want to go higher in your register [then] take a deep breath and just talk. Because that’s where you stay higher, and when you let it go, you can relax, and you can be lower. If you want to impress a girl- [lowers his vocal register humorously] then stay down low.
Culture Slate: What made you make the decision to go from a visual medium like television/film to voice acting, mostly, in video games and novelizations?
Nolan North: I had children, I needed to pay for them. I was doing theatre in New York, and I moved to LA. I did Port Charles– that was my first real job. I did little things here and there, but that was my first series regular for five years. And not even five seasons, it’s five years because those shows shoot year-round. And every day, five days a week- it was crazy. So, when that ended, you do a CSI Miami and do JAG. I did Big Love and Six Feet Under for HBO. And just little bit parts. And every actor thinks ‘Well, I’ll just jump on the next big series, and I’ll be on my way! I’ll get my Law & Order, I’m going to do this.’ And those things don’t happen. In the meantime, I do have a family. And Jon Lindstrom actually, who was Kevin in Port Charles, friend of mine said ‘You know, you always used to make us laugh at those voices. You should talk to my voice over agent.’ And I did, and [I] signed on with her. She was my agent up until she just retired a few months back, and I’m still with that company that we were at.
I never- I always did both. I did seven seasons of Pretty Little Liar, I just got so busy, and it just started to snowball. It’s so much fun, and it’s rewarding. On camera stuff, I am what I look like. But I can be anything in voice over. I can be Nathan Drake, I can be Viking Beaver in Breadwinners for Nickelodeon, I am Blaze in [Blaze and the] Monster Machines, I can be Superman or Superboy or Green Lantern or whatever I’ve done- [imitates Deadpool] ‘Deadpool, let’s go baby’. All these different characters- and it’s just so much fun. So, I leaned into it. And especially with kids, I had friends who would do series and I kind of be a bit envious until I realized that they were in Atlanta or Toronto or New York or Vancouver. Six, seven months, missing birthdays and different things. I was home at night for dinner. I didn’t miss soccer games or football or plays that my kids did. It was important to me- and I remember that I was offered a show that shot out of state, it was just a guest star. It was not going to be a career builder, and I remember thinking ‘I’m going to go down there for a week and lose money, whereas if I work these three days here’- I was booked like a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, I’ll never forget this- ‘I’ll make three times what I would doing that show for a week.’ And I went ‘Well, that just doesn’t make sense, and I would miss different things.’ I’d miss soccer practice, ballgames. I just made that decision. And now that they’re in college and they’re older, I’ve actually started doing more of that again.
And just opening myself to- I did a great independent film we shot last year. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s a great script, no money, shot up in Michigan, but it was a great script and great people to work with, and I was happy to do it. I like doing all that stuff, but that’s why I leaned into [voice acting], and now I kind of look back and I’m trying to find the next thing. I am at a great point of my career where, you know, I don’t need anything. It’s ‘What fulfills me?’ My thing, and this is for any business- I want to work with people that are friends of mine, people I like, and take roles that are challenging and interesting, and find something that’s fun. Or something terrible that pays me a fortune- let’s do that too! ‘Here’s a terrible show, but we’ll pay you too much money.’ That’ll do it for one season, and we’ll all go to the Caribbean! Who wants to go to Cayman [Islands]? Arms up!
“It’s a blast, and if you haven’t- anybody who is listening- never experienced Dragon Con, put it on your bucket list. It’s something to behold.”
The Direct: Uncharted is obviously one of your biggest things, but then more recently, you did The Avengers. So, I wanted to ask- what was your difference in experience [between] those two games, and also those two projects got very different reactions from fans. How does a positive reaction or a really negative [one] play into your experience with the part?
Nolan North: Doesn’t affect my experience at all, is the short answer for that. My experience is before the game even comes out. The difference between the two is that Nathan Drake is the lead character, not only am I doing all the scenes but I’m doing all the motion capture work. The running, jumping through fire, rolling, shooting- every game set move, I’m doing that. I’m in everything. With Avengers– love playing Tony Stark, Iron Man. I mean, how cool is that? We used to joke ‘Oh, it’s Nathan Drake in Mach 4.’ It was a different character, a different kind of style. But it was an ensemble cast. So, it’s like being Iron Man- Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man or in The Avengers. It’s a different dynamic when you’re sharing it with everybody else. A lot of fun on set to be working with Troy [Baker], Travis [Willingham], Jeff [Schine], Laura [Bailey], and everybody. It was a blast, but it just [is] different. You don’t feel as much responsibility like you’re the main guy, you know. A little more time for goofing around.
And I think the reaction had nothing to do with performances or anything. From what I understand, and I’m not knocking anybody, they had a lot of problems with the mechanics of the game. And that’s what I’ve read. It’s not an indictment of the studio or anything, it’s what I’ve read. I think what happens is people have to understand- I could go out and give the best performance of my life. If the game isn’t a good game, no one’s going to play it. You can give a great performance in a bad movie, and people will go ‘Ah, the movie sucked, but wasn’t Philip Seymour Hoffman amazing in that?’, whatever. In a game, it’s a game first. As actors, we got to put our ego aside and go ‘The game has to be good.’
The one exception, in my knowledge, was Deadpool. It has simple mechanics and fights and everything, but it was so funny and ridiculous. And they just- people didn’t even realize it, they wrote a song that was supposed to be in it called F U Legal. And it wasn’t ‘F’. And it was literally to their legal team who kept saying ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ And Deadpool did this whole song and dance number, and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. And the guys who wrote that were hysterical.
The Direct: Did you sing it?
Nolan North: We did. I don’t remember, and I won’t, but it never made it into the game. And High Moon Studios was shut down the second that thing went gold. [OR Note: High Noon Studios is currently owned by Activision.] So I don’t know! I don’t know the ins and outs of the- I am hoping Marvel will let me- I want Marvel to let me do a Deadpool 2 game. I want to shoot it, I want to direct it, and I want to do it the same style as Uncharted. I want to do a very narrative-driven game, and hopefully get Ryan Reynolds to come in and do a cameo.
Operation Rainfall: Real quick- what has your experience been like at Dragon Con this year?
Nolan North: Dragon Con has been amazing. It is- I’ve never really experienced it like this, it is an absolute party. There are so many people, and we did a great Twisted Toonz panel last night at 8 o’clock, and it was so much fun. I’ve had people coming up today saying ‘We were partying in our hotel room, and everybody quieted down. We were laughing and watching it in the hotel rooms.’ So, there is streaming up there, I didn’t know that. People who couldn’t make it down there, but we finished, and we had to walk through the hotel to the other hotel, and there’s just bridges and people everywhere, and it’s just packed. It is thumping music and you’re like ‘This is- the energy is like no other con that I’ve been at.’
And it makes me wish that I wasn’t here signing and doing stuff. Just put me in a Nathan Drake costume and let me run around- ‘You look just like him!’ ‘Yeah, I know right?’ And it’s so great after what we’ve gone through with the pandemic and everything to see people out, having a good time. Masked or unmasked, whatever, it’s just a party. I guessed it was over three hotels, and it’s over seven. Seven hotels.
I mean, and Saturday, Georgia’s playing Oregon, downtown Atlanta was hoppin’. I can only imagine what the people who live downtown, waking up one day, going ‘Ah, Chewbacca is out front of the building.’ ‘Oh my God, take your pills Laurie.’ It’s a blast, and if you haven’t- anybody who is listening- never experienced Dragon Con, put it on your bucket list. It’s something to behold.
Operation Rainfall/Culture Slate/The Direct: Thank you.
You can also buy a membership for next year’s Dragon Con here.
What is your favorite role that Nolan North has voiced or acted in? Are you planning on coming to Dragon Con next year?
Let us know in the comments below!