“I put my heart and soul into making Jack Joyce a well-rounded character”–Shawn Ashmore.
In celebration of Quantum Break‘s launch this week, we got the pleasure to sit down and chat with Shawn Ashmore (Iceman in X-Men), who plays the main protagonist in the game, Jack Joyce. Several topics came up during our discussion about the third-person time-bending shooter, including a behind-the-scenes story about Beanie Babies, Shawn’s preferred super power, and even a look at how Iceman helped the lead actor prepare for the role of Jack.
When asked about the character he is portraying, he explained “Jack Joyce is sort of an everyman, he’s this normal guy who’s given these extraordinary [time] powers.” He elaborated, “He’s the kind of guy who’s not used to facing his issues head-on.” He also mentioned that all of his relationships, including the one with his brother and best friend, are strained when we meet him.
“From an actor’s perspective, it’s really cool to not just have this super heroic guy that understands all these things. From a performance and drama standpoint, it’s nice to have a guy who’s in over his head,” which is quickly made apparent as Jack stumbles around trying to figure out what in the world is going on with time in the first few chapters.
So, is Jack even a super hero? “In a way, yeah. This is Jack’s origin story.” He continued, “In my brain, being an X-Men [Iceman], I didn’t think about it like that, because the superhero I’ve been, was born with these abilities, as opposed to gaining the abilities.”
But don’t get it twisted, Shawn believes that there’s a little bit of something for everyone in the story: “I think that people who are into superhero and science fiction stories, will really dig this. But, this story is really about best-friends becoming worst enemies,” Shawn said. He explained that despite the crazy time collapsing situation, there’s a human element to it all. It’s easy to connect with the two friends who duke it out, Jack and Paul, because neither is necessarily correct–their approach is just different.
As for whether his role in the X-Men films helped, apparently he used the ice shooting gesture (displayed in the GIF below) as a reference when he was deciding how to act when Jack was using his time powers. When he had to do it for X-Men, he thought, “That looks so silly, is that going to be okay?” But if you’ve watched the mutant films then you know it looks pretty sweet, “Once it comes together with the effects, the lighting, the sound, it looks great. That’s what I drew upon from the X-Men films. It’s sort of similar when casting abilities [as Jack].”
“When nothing’s there, it feels sort of silly. So, I did trust the fact that once the effects are there, once all the animations come together, it looks cool, even if it feels silly,” he stated. I’m by no means an actor, but one can only imagine how strange it would be to watch grown men wearing balls covered leotards (standard motion capture gear) running around making the above hand gestures.
Speaking of mo-cap gear, there was a little game the cast played while on set. One of the stunt people admitted to liking Beanie Babies, and brought in a frog to leave on the stage. So naturally, they put velcro on the frog, enabling it to stick to the mo-cap gear. “The game was: you have to get the frog on someone’s back [without them knowing], and leave it there for as long as possible. You got more points the longer it was there.” Those who could toss it onto someone’s body without them feeling it would get even more points.
The actors also have a screen that shows them a rough representation of their surrounding as a guide (since they’re forced to imagine their surroundings while performing). Eventually, the frog ended up getting scanned into the system, which led to it showing up on the reference screen. So, when the actors would be doing their thing, they’d notice (thanks to the screen) that they’d become a victim to the frog.
In short, the cast definitely had a blast on the set.
Eventually, I had to ask the tough question though: Ice or time powers? “Iceman is technically an Omega level mutant, so he’s probably more powerful. But, we’re talking Quantum Break–so time powers” he exclaimed. “Time dodge would be cool just to get around quicker.” When asked when and where he would go if he could travel back in time, he said, “I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park. I would probably go back to a time before man existed, like where the world was so different.” Good, scary choice.
One thing that really struck out to me was just how much Shawn cares about this role. He mentioned how many tend to believe that actors don’t care about a role in video games, but that certainly wasn’t the case for him. Simply put, he said, “I care about this. This wasn’t just a side project for me.” As you can see by the quote at the beginning of this post, he wants this game to succeed. “I want everyone to know how passionate I am about this. This is something I’m proud of.”
He also understands that this experience is narrative-driven, but that it shouldn’t scare anyone off, “The great thing about the gaming industry is, you can make games for different people.”
Oh, one last thing, he likes to play Starcraft with his brother. He calls him up to say, “Yo, let’s roll up. Let’s get a couple of games going.” Plus, he beat Max Payne on the set of X2: X-Men United. He’s a pretty chill guy–no pun intended.
I want to once again thank Shawn for chatting with us and Microsoft for setting this up. Make sure to check out all of our Quantum Break coverage, including our review of the game, and the latest episode of Nerdist: Play, which features Shawn. Have you guys picked up Remedy Entertainment‘s latest and greatest? How are you enjoying it so far? Let us know in the comments below!
[Image: Microsoft, GaryNGuyen]