Both Ian Alexander and Victoria Grace had by no means labored on a online game earlier than, and neither had any prior expertise with efficiency seize. However, in a latest interview with Polygon, each agreed that taking part in the Seraphite siblings in The Last of Us Part II was one of the crucial transformative experiences they ever had.
Alexander performs Lev, a former member of the in-game extremist spiritual sect referred to as the Seraphites; he accompanies Abby all through a lot of her journey. Alexander beforehand had live-action performing roles in Netflix’s authentic sequence The OA as Buck Vu and Vic within the 2018 movie, Every Day.
Naughty Dog truly reached out to him instantly — effectively, virtually instantly. At the time, Alexander didn’t have any illustration, so Naughty Dog contacted The OA’s director, Zal Batmanlij, with the intention to ask him to cross on details about the position of Lev to Alexander and his mom. While he didn’t reside in Los Angeles on the time, Alexander submitted a couple of self-taped auditions, after which he booked the position.
Alexander instructed Polygon that he spent the subsequent three years engaged on The Last of Us Part II, throughout which era he felt extremely supported and appreciated by the Naughty Dog group. “I remember feeling so special to have been selected for the role of Lev and having the opportunity to bring my own lived experience as a trans person to the table,” he stated.
Grace, then again, stated that she was already aware of The Last of Us and was effectively conscious of the primary sport’s achievements and accolades throughout the online game trade. She performed the position of Yara, the older sister of Lev. Her mom had truly discovered the chance by way of a job itemizing that contained a breakdown of Yara’s character.
At that point, The Last of Us Part II was described beneath a code identify and the undertaking was extremely confidential. After sending an audition tape, Grace acquired invited to the movement seize stage for her callback. She met with Neil Druckmann and acted in a couple of scenes with Laura Bailey and Halley Gross.
Eventually Grace came upon she had landed the position. She was particularly pleased, she stated, as a result of Yara’s description within the preliminary job posting had resonated a lot together with her: “I was immediately attached to Yara because of her strength, bravery, and selflessness.” Grace continued, “Her character breakdown described how she was willing to sacrifice everything she’s ever known for her younger brother. After reading it, I admired her and everything she stood for.”
Grace is the youngest of her 5 siblings. She famous that her views about household unconsciously carried over to her portrayal of Yara. Of course, Grace can’t relate to being an older sibling, a lot much less residing in a zombie apocalypse. However, she described how her shut bonds together with her family allowed her to higher perceive the motivations behind Yara’s actions to guard Lev in The Last of Us Part II’s brutal world. “I would take a hammer to the arm for any of my siblings, and I know they’d do the same for me,” she says, referring to the graphic violence Yara endures in the course of the scene wherein the 2 siblings get launched.
That very first scene introducing Lev and Yara was particularly memorable for Grace; it’s fairly the explosive entrance for each characters. Being thrown into an motion sequence instantly was exhilarating, Grace recalled: “I got knocked down onto mats, I got to kill people with styrofoam hammers, and I got to scream my heart out! It was a blast!” When Grace wasn’t filming, she stated that it was fascinating to look at behind-the-scenes as everybody else carried out their components. She would typically arrive early simply to sit down again and watch the opposite actors.
A giant turning level in each Grace and Alexander’s journeys was the PlayStation Experience 2017 event, or PSX. This was when each Yara and Lev have been publicly launched for the primary time to followers. For Alexander particularly, he felt empowered by all of the assist that the neighborhood confirmed him in the course of the occasion. A fan truly got here out to Alexander as trans throughout a signing portion on the occasion, and instructed Alexander that they have been so pleased to see a personality like Lev included of their favourite sport franchise of all time.
“I remember seeing how their face lit up the moment that they saw the transgender symbol necklace I was wearing,” Alexander defined. “It makes me smile to be able to provide authentic transmasculine representation for other people like me.”
Alexander instructed me that his prior performing experiences taking part in trans characters ready him to deal with critique, in addition to to be his personal genuine self throughout his performances. His mother and father struggled to simply accept his gender identification, at the same time as he took on roles in The OA and Every Day that put a highlight on the trans expertise. Alexander described how he was ready to attract from his private experiences when portraying Buck Vu and Vic, respectively. Portraying Lev was a way more rigorous journey than his earlier ones, he stated: “Each position I’ve performed has felt like an extension of myself, and so I undoubtedly felt like Lev was the braver, post-apocalyptic model of myself.“
Lev’s storyline and portrayal as a trans character in The Last of Us Part II has impressed numerous deep evaluation, notably round the way in which that Lev’s standing as a trans particular person is revealed (the opposite Seraphites name Lev by his birth name). Waverly at Paste Magazine described Lev’s storyline as a trans narrative as told through a “cisgender voyeur” lens. Other critics, like frequent Polygon contributor Carolyn Petit, praised the sport for portraying Lev as someone who “doesn’t hate himself” and who believes he deserves higher.
Alexander instructed me that he utterly understands the place persons are coming from of their criticism. Trans illustration continues to be a brand new idea to numerous executives within the leisure trade. Alexander stated that he feels offering full company for trans characters to reveal their gender identities could make for highly effective storylines, when instructed by way of a trans particular person’s perspective.
Alexander additionally defined that he felt like The Last of Us Part II precisely portrays his personal private expertise coping with transphobia in actual life, in addition to his personal private turmoil over the faith he grew up with, Mormonism, and his acceptance of his personal gender identification.
“From my perspective as a transmasculine person who has faced transphobic discrimination as a result of religion and overall ignorance, it’s not uncommon for me to be misgendered by a stranger or by someone from my past,” he defined. He stated that he personally didn’t really feel triggered or retraumatized by way of Lev’s delivery identify in the course of the sport. However, he additionally clarified that his expertise is solely his personal and that he can not converse on behalf of each trans particular person.
There are some similarities, and likewise some variations, between Alexander’s and Lev’s life tales. Rather than abandoning what he was taught as a Seraphite, Lev determined to make use of his religion to consolation him by way of hardship. In the sport, he tells Abby that the Seraphites have misinterpreted the phrases of the prophet that have been presupposed to be about peace and unity, and so they have as an alternative chosen violence and hatred.
Alexander instructed me he did the exact opposite of what Lev did. In order to manage and heal from the discrimination he confronted from his family, he selected to disconnect from his personal religion. Even so, he elaborated that he believes that Lev’s personal rules are what truly drives his actions, along with his faith being the motivation for his empathy.
Although they took completely different paths, that is the place Alexander stated he may actually see himself in Lev. “Even when his religion is used towards him by different Seraphites or Abby, he nonetheless holds onto his ethical compass to information him … We each simply wish to be true to ourselves, do the morally proper factor, and to guard those we love.“
He additionally instructed me that the racial range represented in The Last of Us Part II meant loads to him. Lev and Yara are Asian American, however their racial identities don’t actually have something to do with their very own character arcs. For Alexander, he stated that it’s refreshing to see Asian, Latinx, and Black characters simply merely exist within the sport’s world and never need to be outlined by their very own racial identities.
Grace agreed, noting that in terms of characters of shade, it’s common for the story to position an emphasis on their backgrounds. She stated that she felt like The Last of Us Part II supplied a more true image of illustration, one which displays the actual world.
“If someone asked me which characteristics I would use to describe Yara and Lev, ‘being Asian’ wouldn’t be my first thought, because Neil and Halley are so great at developing three-dimensional characters,” Grace stated.
Both actors consider that being concerned on this sport will open the door for extra alternatives for themselves in different realms of the leisure trade. Alexander acknowledged that he has completely seen a distinction within the trade in the previous couple of years, particularly now that trans persons are extra seen than ever.
Alexander additionally emphasised the significance of trans folks being concerned in each step of the manufacturing course of, each in entrance of the digital camera and behind it. “I’m also really eager to see how the industry will uplift Black and Indigenous trans voices, who have been ignored and silenced for far too long.”
Grace is grateful that Druckmann took an opportunity on her to be part of Naughty Dog’s newest story. “As far as illustration goes, I’m hoping that Part II will encourage different creators and writers to push for extra inclusive tales. Not solely in video video games, however within the media as a complete.”
Hopefully, having performed such essential characters in Part II will result in extra roles in future video video games for Alexander and Grace, too. Since Grace had such a enjoyable time on set, one in all her new objectives is to take part in additional efficiency movement seize roles.
At Grace’s name again, Druckmann requested her if she performed video video games. Although she was aware of The Last of Us, she replied actually by saying “No, I’m not really allowed … ” and he laughed, nodding his head in understanding. “That wasn’t a very smart thing to say, from a business perspective, but what was done was done,” she recalled with a smile.
As a results of working with Naughty Dog, she has began taking part in extra video video games and completely loves them. “I might now name myself a gamer, albeit not an excellent one, however I’m getting there. It’s due to Naughty Dog and Part II.”