On August 22nd, Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment are scheduled to release Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a standalone action-adventure game starring Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. The Lost Legacy takes place directly after Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and revolves around Chloe and Nadine exploring India in search of the mystical Tusk of Ganesha.
Every great story deserves an equally intriguing villain and luckily for us, Obie award-winning actor, Usman Ally is perfect for his role. Usman has had starring roles in TV Land’s Nobodies, HBO’s Veep and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Usman and gain insight on his transformation towards becoming a voice actor and what it was like to play a dangerous villain like Asav. Below is my in-depth interview along with further advice from Usman for aspiring actors and actresses.
Can you describe how you got your first big break as an actor?
Usman Ally: This is a tough question to answer because it all depends on how you define a “big break.” To most people, I would suppose it would be their first major on-screen role, but for me, it would have to be in the theater. When I first came to Chicago as a non-union actor, I attended a general audition for Steppenwolf Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. After waiting to be seen for over 8 hours, my turn to audition arrived, but I was told that they had run out of time and that while I would not be permitted to audition, I could say “hello.”
Upon seeing me, the artistic director for Lookingglass, Phil Smith recognized me as one of their education outreach interns, grabbed my resume and said to Erica Daniels, the head of casting at Steppenwolf Theatre, “This is Usman, and he’s a really great actor.” Erica responded by looking at my resume and saying “I think I have an audition for you.” She called me in the next day, and I booked my first major theatrical role in a union play at Steppenwolf. Mind you, Phil Smith said that about me without ever seeing me act. This event started a sequence where I booked play after play that took me all over the country, including New York, where I booked my first TV recurring role opposite Rose Byrne and Glenn Close on DAMAGES. So I have a lot to thank Phil Smith for.
When approached to work on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, how did you prepare for the role of Asav?
Usman Ally: I was actually approached by Naughty Dog through a motion capture audition that they invited me to. I went in, had a great audition with Shaun Escayg and the rest is history. Preparation for me involved meeting with Shaun to discuss the character and our shared experience of living through or having family members who have lived through despotic regimes that had their roots in what was perceived as a noble cause.
Asav is a man who is incredibly smart, steadfast and absolutely sure that what he is doing is for the benefit, longevity, and pride of his culture. While he has the propensity for rage and psychotic behavior, it is important for me as the actor to access his logic and understand what makes him tick. It’s my job to own his logic so that he doesn’t come across as a one-dimensional character, and I think relating him to real-life revolutionaries was a very helpful conversation to have early on.
Given the popularity of this franchise, did you feel any extra pressure while working on this project? Are you new to the series or a longtime fan?
Usman Ally: No pressure at all for me because I was unfamiliar with the game. I mean, I had heard of them but have not actually played any of them to this day. So I approached it in the way that I would approach any character, only this time, there was a lot of time trashing my voice in the audio booth, and a lot of time learning how to act with camera gear on your head, and dots all over your face! And not to mention the TIGHT body suit.
Having acted in other TV shows, how would you describe your transition towards becoming a voice actor?
Usman Ally: This is my first major role as a voice actor apart from a few cartoon voices that will be coming out later this year. Voice over acting is an incredible skill, and for me, the transition has been all about coming to grips with the technique involved in understanding the vocal dimensions of a character and then figuring out how to execute the sound you are trying to create. It is far more technical than one might think.
With Uncharted: The Lost Legacy being your first major project as a voice actor, are you now interested in pursuing more voice acting opportunities down the road?
Usman Ally: Absolutely! I appreciate the diversity in the work that I’ve had in my career, and I hope to do even more video game voice work.
What advice would you give to any aspiring actors or voice actors who are trying to catch their big break in the film or video game industry?
Usman Ally: My advice to all young actors is the same: get the training! It’s all well and good to have some luck, charisma, and personality, but unless you are one of the less than 1% of actors who make it big based on just those three assets, you get found out pretty quickly if you haven’t gone through some form of professional training. For me, it was getting an MFA in Acting and then spending a good portion of my career in Chicago which is a very educational experience in itself. The training makes you stand out.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a PlayStation 4 exclusive scheduled to launch worldwide on August 22nd.
This concludes my interview with Usman Ally for his work on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Are any of you looking forward to this title? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on The Lost Legacy and more in the comments section below.