Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Love Letter To "The Last Of Us"

Wow.  Okay, so I know it's been a while since I've posted.  I've been meaning to for a while, but I just haven't had the chance.

Now that "The Last Of Us" and "Left Behind" have come out, I felt like it was time to make a post dedicated to the game.

The BAFTAs were today and I watched the live stream from home.  It was so exciting to watch the boys get up in their tuxes and accept the awards.  When they announced that I won, I cried, happy tears of course.  I was also so happy Brian was with me to share in the excitement.  The speech that Troy gave was just perfect and Brian and I both laughed and agreed that he gave a much better speech than I would have.  Hahaha.

I'll be honest, I have a bit of a public speaking fear.  Not only that, I'm not the biggest fan of large crowds.  More specifically, large crowds that have their attention solely focused on me.  I know it sounds crazy, given the profession that I've chosen, but it's different when you're playing a character and have a script.  You get to be somebody else.  I'm an intensely private person and when I'm just being "me", I get a little nervous.  When I'm nervous, I feel I can't fully express myself or communicate my feelings and I just want to crawl in a hole and never come out.  Truth bomb.

So, why do I have a blog?  Well, I have an easier time expressing myself through writing.  And it's an open space to give thanks or share things that I want to share.  And today I want to share my gratitude for one of the greatest games of all time (at least to me), The Last Of Us.

Working on this game has changed my life.  I remember from the moment Rebecca Dodd (my then agent, who now works at Naughty Dog in casting, because she's awesome), sent me the material for a "Naughty Dog Project" back in October of 2010. I read the scenes and saw the first picture I would ever see of Ellie.  I was hooked.  I wanted to be a part of the project and most of all, I wanted to be Ellie.

Thankfully, I got the job.  :)

I worked on the game for over 3 years and it was one of the most creatively satisfying and fun things I've ever been able to work on.  I don't think any of us realized the impact it would have, we only hoped.  The response has been extraordinary.  I feel so lucky that I got to play Ellie.  To play a female character in a game that for once isn't sexualized and is a real 14 year old girl.  A 14 year old girl that has insecurities and emotional ups and downs but can also hold her own in a fight if she needs to.  Ellie is a complete badass to me and I'm proud of who and what she represents as a woman.

There's a few people that I would like to properly thank.  Because whenever I try, I turn into a bumbling idiot and don't end up saying what I really want to say, so here it goes:

I'm going to start with Naughty Dog.  I adore those Dogs and who they stand for as a company.  They're legends in my book and are changing the way video games are made.  Yes, I know I may be biased, but to be honest, I don't really give a shit. The volume of artistic genius at that studio astounds me.  Every single person working there is a revolutionary in their own way.  Christophe Balestra and Evan Wells run a company that straight up kicks ass.  Thank you for inviting me to be in the Dog family, if only for a little while.

The animation team in both cinematics and in-game.  Now, I'm going to give it to you all straight.  The impact Ellie (or the game for that matter), wouldn't have been possible without them.  They're the unsung heroes that most of the time remain nameless.  They made Ellie.  Of course it was a joint effort but without them, there would be nothing.  The subtleties they put together just in the behavior of Ellie alone, were astounding.  I want to thank every single one of you.  Some of you I've met and some of you I haven't, but I know you guys probably know my face better than I know it myself, being that you had to look at my stupid mug for over two years.  For that alone you should win an award.  ;)

A huge, ginormous, gigantic thank you to everyone on Stage 2. Bill Beemer, I've always said that WHEN the zombie apocalypse happens, I want Bill Beemer on my team. That man can build anything and he's pretty much just the coolest ever. Walt, Alexa, Scott Pocket, Matt, Vince and Kola, Aimee...  Guys, you make the day better and none of it would've been as amazing if it weren't for you.  You ran the show and pretty much made it happen.

Rebecca Dodd.  Firstly, I adore you.  Secondly, I adore you.  Thirdly, thank you.  I've told you this before, but I'll say it again and again, you brought me one of my favorite jobs I've ever had.  You're amazing.  I love you.

Bruce Straley.  I could listen to this man talk for hours.  His creative vision is insane and being around him pretty much makes you excited to be alive.  Yes, I know that sounds dramatic, but it's kind of true.  The amount of care and passion he put into every little detail of this game is incredible to me.  He's also one of the most positive people I've ever met. No matter how stressful a situation, he makes you feel like everything is going to be okay. He masterfully steered the ship and turned this game into something awesome.  You're amazing to me, Straley.  (Also, he's an amazing painter just FYI).

Troy Baker.  I love this man.  He's a beast on the stage and it was an absolute honor to work with him.  He alone has changed my life in so many ways and I can confidently say, my performance wouldn't have been the same without him. The two of us needed to have chemistry to make these characters work and that chemistry was there from day one.  Not only that, he's an incredible actor.  He pours himself into a role with every fiber of his being and that is an amazing thing to watch. One of my favorite scenes in the game is when Joel is asking David's minions where Ellie is.  You know the one, where Joel stabs the guy in the knee?  Well, I remember I was on set, watching from the side and in that moment, was completely blown away by Troy.  He was Joel.  He is Joel.

There's a saying that goes like this, "You're only as good as your other actors."  If that's the case, then I'm doing just fine with Troy by my side.
He was my mentor in the beginning, my teacher and now, at the end of all this, I get to call him my friend.  One of my best friends.  We've been on so many adventures together AND, he also introduced me to one of the greatest loves of my life.  :) I love you, brother.

Neil Druckmann.  Good God, where do I even start.  When we started shooting this game, Neil wasn't directing.  He called me one day, fairly early on, and told me he needed to talk to me about something important.  I thought I was getting fired. Then he proceeded to tell me that he was going to take over as director.  I was so excited in that moment.  At the time, I'd always looked to him anyway whenever I had a question.  This was his baby, after all.  This story came out of his brain.

I know he was a little nervous.  I know he had his reservations about whether or not he'd be able to do it.  To take on the insane task of directing crazy actors.  But let me tell you, he nailed it.  Neil is brilliant and I know he'll get all "awww shucks" if he ever reads this, but it's the truth.  I feel so lucky that I got to be one of the first people he directed because I certainly won't be the last.  I can't wait to see where he's going to go and what he's going to do with his career, but I know it will be magnificent.  And I will be first in line for whatever it is.  You've changed my life Druckmann and for that, there aren't enough words of thanks, in any language, to show my gratitude.

I would also like to thank my family for being so unbelievably supportive.  I love my family so much and they are just as proud of this game as I am.  And I'm sorry Mom that you had to watch the "Ellie Swearing Montage".  But you remained supportive through and through.

And last, but certainly not least, to the fans of the game.  Thank you for playing the game.  Thank you for loving the game. Thank you for your positive words and all the love and support you've shown all of us.  And thank you for loving Ellie. Also, to all the girls/women who have cosplayed as Ellie, basically I want to tell you that you kick ass.

There are so many more people to thank, but maybe that's a start.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for for being awesome.  Cause I know you are.

And remember:

"Endure and Survive"