An interview with Far Cry 3’s Vaas, Michael Mando
Glaring at you across the box of Far Cry 3’s cover, he sits in sand as if born from it. A human head – dead? Alive? Between? – is submerged next to him, as if he’s bored playing with it. The gaming world was in awe and fear of Vaas from the first time he narrated the definition of insanity. This madness and darkness and all-round Conradian horror pulsates out of every moment Vaas is on-screen. Delivered to us through the brilliance of Michael Mando, Vaas as a whole came into existence through Mando’s brilliance – not through original planning. As if he’d tapped into and did his summoning from some dark realm, Michael told me of his own journey into Far Cry 3’s background “insanity”, with the incredible clarity of focus that makes his performance in Far Cry 3 the best performance in any medium of 2012.
Your performance as Vaas is one of the reasons that I both yearn for and fear playing Far Cry 3. The only other time I’ve been this fearful of a character was Tom Hardy’s Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Thank you, that is very kind of you, glad you like it.
What goes into preparing for a role like Vaas? I recall hearing that you blew the creators away in your audition. Was Vaas an already established character or did you fill him out completely?
Vaas didn’t exist when I auditioned for Far Cry 3. It’s true, Ubisoft liked my audition very much that they decided to write a new character for me, and asked me to help them create him. He was based on my liking: I did the full body and face motion capture, as well as the voice – all simultaneously. They were such a generous and collaborative team that they even designed his wardrobe and hair from rehearsal sessions where I had dressed up in order to help me get into character.
What kind of info were you given about him, in terms of origin and character profile?
It wasn’t so much that I was given info, but that I was asked the right questions. I was in the motion capture room, and the director at the time, Brent George, asked me a series of questions that I needed to improvise an answer for (while staying in character). The writers took all that info, along with other scenes we workshopped, and used that material to write Vaas into their script.
Voice actors are often overlooked in video games, but with motion capture and better facial animations, characters are increasingly able to convey emotions that they weren’t able to before. Do you find yourself more recognized for your role as Vaas now that Far Cry 3 has been released?
Sure, people definitely recognize the actor behind the character with this new technology. I also did a series that is on the internet right now called The Far Cry Experience, with Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass and Superbad), where I actually play Vaas in real life… so that also had a big impact in marrying the actor to the character. Those episodes were shots in beautiful Thailand, Krabi – and were lots of fun to do!
How did you decide on his actions, mannerisms and how much came through? Were you given the context of your dialogues and speeches?
Vaas was really a visceral creation. Since my first audition, I knew exactly who he was and what I wanted to do with him… I don’t know how to explain it, sometimes the timing is just right and you feel an overwhelming desire to express something… And when a wonderful company like Ubisoft comes by and gives you that opportunity to just be free and create, it’s a dream come true.
How often were you in contact with other performers?
I was in contact with other performers (who were all brilliantly played by great Canadian actors – like Mylene Dinh-Robic, for example, who plays Liza) in all the scenes where other characters were involved. The Definition of Insanity monologue for example was played to a Tennis ball.
Have you yourself played the game? If so, what is it like being threatened by your very dark performance?
Yes, I have played it… it feels surreal. It really is a blessing and I am grateful to have been given this opportunity.
How is working in video games – especially as such a powerful character – different from other television/film performances?
In this case, it’s the same, since we are simultaneously doing the full face, body and voice for the character. The only challenge is imagining the environment (since we’re shooting the game in a studio), which is similar to what theatre actors do, or film actors who act in front of a green screen.
Thank you very much for your time!
My pleasure! If you guys have any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter and Facebook: @mandomichael and facebook.com/michaelmando.official ! Cheers and much L.O.V.E