Usman Ally Interview - Meet The Man Who Plays Asav, The Main Villain In Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Usman Ally, this man is new to the video game industry but with the release of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy things could change dramatically and he could become one of the most sought-after voice actors of this generation. Usman plays Asav, the main villain in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Asav is an Indian rebel leader, not much is know about him, expect that he was has worked for the Indian government before, and has a connection to Nadine Ross.
We recently got in touch with Usman Ally and talked on wide range of topics such as with no previous connection with video game industry how he managed to grab the role in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, how working as a voice actor is different than his roles in TV Land's Nobodies, Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events. You guys can read my in-depth interview with Usman Ally below.
Gamepur: Hello, Welcome to the world of Video Games. My first question is about your first experience in the Video Games industry, how do you feel about it? Did you have fun, or faced any difficulties working in a digital environment?
Usman Ally: It was a great new challenge for me having never previously worked in the video game world in any capacity. I always say that the experience was a lot like marrying theatre acting and screen acting. We do all the motion-capture in the round, with cameras all around us. Therefore you don't have to worry too much about hitting your marks as you might on TV, and it feels like you're doing a piece of theatre, but you can still be quite intimate with your vocal work. I found it fascinating, and a really cool new experience.
Gamepur: Before coming to games you had worked Netflix and HBO, how do you compare their terms of scope and production, to a video game like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy?
Usman Ally: The work we do on the Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events is pretty grand in scope. Everything is built on some pretty elaborate sets and we have pretty long shoot days. It can take approximately two weeks to finish an episode. On VEEP the pace of the show is quite fast, and so much of the world created is based on realism. Working on Uncharted required a lot of make believe, where you have to pretend that when you're sitting on an acting block, its actually a tank or an elephant. You're really working on a blank canvas and the animators and creative team are coloring in the images on top of you. So much of the work is done in post-production. It's a massive enterprise.
Gamepur: And here we go with the question you sure weren't expecting from us – are you a gamer? If yes what is your favorite game?
Usman Ally: Ha, this is the question I get all the time! I am not a gamer per se, but I have been an avid and regular fan of playing the FIFA franchise, and for a while was also messing around with the NBA LIVE series. I love sports games, and I'm usually a few years behind on games like Call of Duty and Army of 2. When I was a kid I had the original Gameboy with all kinds of cartridges (Universal Soldier and Megaman come to mind) and later on I had the Sega MegaDrive (Genesis here in the states) but really haven't kept up with the world of gaming now. I'll certainly be checking out Lost Legacy.
Gamepur: The Lost Legacy is a standalone expansion to Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Had you tried the original and much acclaimed previous Uncharted series by Naughty Dog?
Usman Ally: No I haven't but I have friends who are absolutely OBSESSED with it. I remember I had a small role in Star Trek Into Darkness with Nolan North, and I didn't know who he was. I certainly know now!
Gamepur: Let's talk about your character – the villain Asav. Did you take any particular inspiration for your interpretation of the role?
Usman Ally: When Shaun Escayg and I sat down to talk about the character, he brought up Jose Manuel "El Doctor" Mireles from the documentary Cartel Land. I had just seen it as well, and we really honed in on this man as someone who had the charisma and belief in his people to rise up and lead a revolution of sorts. Asav firmly believes that what he is doing is noble in virtue and cause, much in the same way that Mireles does, and also has some of the same weaknesses, specifically in his attraction to women.
To me, Asav is really a case study in someone who has fought what he considers to be the good fight for his people by any means necessary, and yet his most obvious fallibility is his own human greed and corruptibility.
Gamepur: On top of that, we know you're from Swaziland and lived in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Pakistan for the first 18 years of your life. Did you take advantage of all of the years spent so close to where The Lost Legacy is located for some of the nuances of Asav?
Usman Ally: Yes, I did. I think my life experience, and particularly having lived in countries that were once run by charismatic populists who became corrupted and egomaniacal really helped me tap into that character quite easily. I have known, and had my life affected by men like Asav so finding the right balance of who he was came rather easily.
Gamepur: Overall, did you have freedom to add something of you and your experiences to the character you played?
Usman Ally: I think any good director allows the actor to find commonalities and express them in the work. The Naughty Dog team are very open to experimentation and finding the right tone and relationship between the characters. Our director, Shaun, was also very clear on what he wanted, so that was really helpful too.
Gamepur: Naughty Dog is one of the most appreciated developers out there, and in particular gamers love the way they tell stories and characters. Did you notice that, perhaps from some particulars of their way to work or just from what you've seen so far, during your cooperation with them?
Usman Ally: The whole team over there put a lot of effort, time and artistry into telling the stories as accurately as possible and with as much depth to the characters as they can muster. It was a really refreshing experience working with a group of people who were so eager to create an accurate representation of the India that they were presenting.
Gamepur: During a recent interview, the guys behind the story of the upcoming game Star Wars Battlefront II said they were offering a campaign playable from the perspective of the usual villains (also) to make it clear they had their good reasons to do what commonly is defined "bad deeds", or simply acting like villains against the Rebels. As a proper villain, do you feel your character similarly has reasons to act like that? In your opinion, could he be right from a different angle than the protagonists'?
Usman Ally: It's the job of the actor to understand the logic of the character, to figure out what he wants, how badly he wants it, what stands in his way, and how he will get around that obstacle. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't think that Asav had valid reasons for feeling the way he feels, and doing what he does. He has a very clear logic, and wants to reassert the glory of his people (who have been colonized, and exploited) over others. He honestly believes that what he is doing is for the benefit of his people, and no one ever feels like they are a villain even when they are doing villainous acts. So, yes, I think what he is doing is completely logical for him.
Gamepur: What's next for you? Do you plan on returning to video games sooner or later?
Usman Ally: I would love to do more video games, and I hope that they'll have me back at Naughty Dog and some of the other great production companies. Currently, I'm shooting season 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events for Netflix, and later in the summer you can catch me on Amazon's JUST ADD MAGIC, and the YoutubeRed Series LIFELINE produced by Dwayne The Rock Johnson.