Nolan North is the voice of Nathan Drake. But maybe the individual who most closely resembles the Uncharted protagonist is actor Ryan Culver who, for all intents and purposes, is Nathan Drake.
You saw Culver play Drake in that fantastic live action trailer for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale . At the time, a great many Sony fans went, "Wait, who's that…? It's kinda like Drake come to life!" And that's Ryan, who not only looks like Drake, he also exhibits many of the same personality traits. Hell, he even loves exploring, traveling, adventuring and thrills…perhaps he'd be the perfect fit for that Uncharted movie.
Check out this interview and see what you think. Ryan talks about his experience filming that trailer, and how he stepped into the shoes of one of the most popular and well-drawn characters of the generation.
PSXE: Nathan Drake is now a well-known and much-loved character in the gaming industry. What was it like stepping into those shoes?
Ryan: "‘laughs’ Daunting! It really was. I didn’t know a whole lot about the franchise going in, so it was like trial by fire. But I realized very quickly just what a big deal he is, and what a big deal the franchise is around the world. It’s interesting taking on a character like that; you get to have an outline in your head because there’s so much to look at and draw when you start such a project.
First of all, I got to know about the huge following the game has; the fan base behind [Uncharted] is just unbelievable and I quickly learned that. I realized from the very beginning that the process of jumping into Drake as a real-life person was going to be so very important because of the fans. As an actor, you say, ‘I’ll just bring a lot myself to this role’ and a lot of jobs are like that but that wasn’t the case here. It was important to go the other way, to learn as much I could about this guy, to get his personality and facial expressions."
PSXE: Were you given a lot of background information on Drake to help you prepare?
Ryan: "I did it myself. I called up a lot of people; I talked to my friends who were gamers and I talked to everybody in production. I talked to the people at PlayStation and said, ‘Look guys, I need advice on bringing Drake to life.' I took it all to heart because the last thing I wanted to do is step outside the boundary of who Nathan Drake is. I think if you take something from a game and bring it to life, sometimes people put their own spin on it and the idea gets lost. But they’ve already got an amazing character and storyline and they’ve done such an incredible job, so why add new elements? It’s already fully developed.
I just knew that I didn’t want to do this without knowing as much as I could about this guy. Because when you start and get going, you don’t really have time to think. You just have to feel that the character is inside. You can’t just wear his clothes; you have to move, act and react as you’d imagine Drake would."
PSXE: What do you have in common with the character of Nathan Drake?
Ryan: "Having learned so much about Nathan Drake, I came to realize that there are a lot of similarities in the way I lead my life and the things that I do. What was really funny was that my natural reaction to certain situations is to just say, “Oh, crap,” and then I laughed when I saw parts of these games, and saw that Drake uses that exact phrase a lot. It was really great because I could bring a lot of my own stuff to the role; I was already like him.
The guy is a world-traveling adventure-seeker and that’s kind of how I’ve grown up. I’ve been an adventurer and extreme sports athlete my whole life (rock-climbing, surfing, etc.). I’m also a pilot; I have a company that delivers small aircraft to people all over the world. So when I’m not acting, I end up going on all these adventures where I’m landing in all sorts of interesting and remote places all over the world, seeing amazing sights and people. So I’m constantly out and exploring and I’m a thrill-seeker, and that’s what I understand Drake to be. He and I are a lot alike, right down the line, in a lot of different ways.
I was probably born to play somebody like Nathan Drake."
PSXE: There has been a lot of talk about an Uncharted movie. What would you say to playing Drake in a film?
Ryan: "I can’t imagine anybody saying, ‘Nah, that wouldn’t be any fun at all.” It would be one of the most fun jobs I could ever think of having, and I would be incredibly honored to have the support of the gaming community. I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the reaction of the fans; there has been amazing fan support since the trailer came out.
And I think some of the problems with a project like that is that people outside the gaming community want to do their own thing with it. And when they do, they lose a lot of that community. The gamers are the ones who understand it and they’re going to be the ones driving a film franchise forward. So the best way to approach that is to stay as true to the game as possible. It’s so rich and well developed so they should just expand on that while still staying true to the storyline.
It’d be an incredible opportunity for me and I’d take this approach— What do the fans expect? Gamers have a huge voice and if they put their weight behind it, if they put that power to work, the right decisions can be made. Naughty Dog understands who their fans are; they listen to that community, so the louder and more vocal that community is… I just know there’s a lot of great opinion and passion among gamers."
PSXE: Can you see yourself doing more work in the gaming industry?
Ryan: "I would love to. I’ve had some great positive feedback from the gaming community, and it’s such a fun and encapsulating group of people. It’s kind of cool to be part of these games because these universes are completely unlimited. It’d be a really exciting project to be a part of, whether I do live action, voiceover; whatever, I’d be thrilled.
We had an absolute blast doing the trailer; we spent a number of nights together and we had a great time. Everyone was just fabulous to work with and I’ve had so many wonderful compliments. One of the PlayStation guys even said to me— 'It’s unbelievable; when I see you walk on camera, I think I’m looking at the video game.' That was just so amazing and I love connecting with the fans."
We thank Mr. Culver for his time and we appreciate his insights. More and more actors are starting to work in the video game industry, and so many of them are just loving it. A lot of what we heard from Ryan is similar to what we heard in our recent Wendy Braun interview , in that these people are just having an absolute blast doing stuff for games.
And really, could this guy be any more like Drake? We all wanted Nathan Fillion to fill that role but maybe he's a little older now, and maybe an Uncharted movie would be the perfect place to give someone like Culver a shot at superstardom. He kept saying he only wanted to satisfy the fans; to make us say, "Yes, that's Drake brought to life." I don't know about you, but that's precisely the kind of actor we'd want in a big-screen adaptation of a video game, right? Somebody who understands and respects that concept…?