In December of last year, fans of the Uncharted series were ecstatic with the first glimpse of Nadine Ross, a South African mercenary for hire and antagonist in the upcoming A Thief’s End. It didn’t take long, however, for the trailer to draw a backlash, because creative director Neil Druckmann had cast a white voice actress, Laura Bailey, to play a character of colour. In response, Druckmann stated:
[quote]I wouldn’t change anything.That, to me, is what’s so awesome about our medium. Your awkward appearance doesn’t matter at all. If it did, Troy [Baker] couldn’t play Joel in The Last of Us. Ashley Johnson couldn’t play Ellie. In a movie version they couldn’t play those roles, but they played them to perfection.[/quote]
He went on to say:
[quote]I’m so proud of Laura’s performance, and I hope none of this takes away from what she was able to accomplish.[/quote]
Recently, Bailey was contacted by the editor of Motherboard to comment on how she felt about being cast to play Nadine in Uncharted 4, despite not sharing the ethnic background of the character.
The issue of race is always a bit sensitive, but it seems to be an especially hot-button topic at the moment. Between the Oscars controversy in the States, and the recent Penny Sparrow uproar in South Africa, handling race-related issues can be difficult waters to navigate. As Bailey stated, Druckmann hired her for the role before he had created the final concept for Nadine, and at the time he didn’t know that she was going to be a person of colour. If what she said was true and she auditioned for the role among many other actresses of varied ethnicity, then it sounds like she landed the part because she was the best person for the job (although, I must admit that her SA accent sounds a bit like Leo’s in Blood Diamond, but to be fair, our accent can be tricky for foreigners to imitate). Of course, being white means that I can’t necessarily relate to the issues facing actors of colour, so perhaps I’m speaking out of turn. Feel free to voice your thoughts in the comments though, as I believe that open discourse is our best hope at addressing the issues in the games that we all love, regardless of race.