Both Ian Alexander and Victoria Grace had by no means labored on a online game earlier than, and neither had any prior expertise with efficiency seize. However, in a latest interview with Polygon, each agreed that taking part in the Seraphite siblings in The Last of Us Part II was one of essentially the most transformative experiences they ever had.

Alexander performs Lev, a former member of the in-game extremist spiritual sect referred to as the Seraphites; he accompanies Abby all through a lot of her journey. Alexander beforehand had live-action performing roles in Netflix’s authentic collection The OA as Buck Vu and Vic in the 2018 movie, Every Day.

Naughty Dog truly reached out to him straight — nicely, virtually straight. At the time, Alexander didn’t have any illustration, so Naughty Dog contacted The OA’s director, Zal Batmanlij, in order to ask him to go on data about the position of Lev to Alexander and his mom. While he didn’t reside in Los Angeles on the time, Alexander submitted just a few self-taped auditions, and then he booked the position.

Alexander advised Polygon that he spent the subsequent three years engaged on The Last of Us Part II, throughout which era he felt extremely supported and appreciated by the Naughty Dog workforce. “I remember feeling so special to have been selected for the role of Lev and having the opportunity to bring my own lived experience as a trans person to the table,” he mentioned.

Grace, alternatively, mentioned that she was already acquainted with The Last of Us and was nicely conscious of the primary recreation’s achievements and accolades throughout the online game business. She performed the position of Yara, the older sister of Lev. Her mom had truly discovered the chance by means of a job itemizing that contained a breakdown of Yara’s character.

At that point, The Last of Us Part II was described below a code identify and the undertaking was extremely confidential. After sending an audition tape, Grace obtained invited to the movement seize stage for her callback. She met with Neil Druckmann and acted in just a few scenes with Laura Bailey and Halley Gross.

Victoria Grace and Ian Alexander

Victoria Grace (left) and Ian Alexander (proper) pose for a photograph in their movement seize fits.
Image: Victoria Grace

Eventually Grace discovered she had landed the position. She was particularly joyful, she mentioned, as a result of Yara’s description in the preliminary job posting had resonated a lot along with her: “I was immediately attached to Yara because of her strength, bravery, and selflessness.” Grace continued, “Her character breakdown described how she was willing to sacrifice everything she’s ever known for her younger brother. After reading it, I admired her and everything she stood for.”

Grace is the youngest of her 5 siblings. She famous that her views about household unconsciously carried over to her portrayal of Yara. Of course, Grace can’t relate to being an older sibling, a lot much less residing in a zombie apocalypse. However, she described how her shut bonds along with her circle of relatives allowed her to higher perceive the motivations behind Yara’s actions to guard Lev in The Last of Us Part II’s brutal world. “I would take a hammer to the arm for any of my siblings, and I know they’d do the same for me,” she says, referring to the graphic violence Yara endures in the course of the scene in which the 2 siblings get launched.

That very first scene introducing Lev and Yara was particularly memorable for Grace; it’s fairly the explosive entrance for each characters. Being thrown into an motion sequence instantly was exhilarating, Grace recalled: “I got knocked down onto mats, I got to kill people with styrofoam hammers, and I got to scream my heart out! It was a blast!” When Grace wasn’t filming, she mentioned that it was fascinating to look at behind-the-scenes as everybody else carried out their elements. She would typically arrive early simply to sit down again and watch the opposite actors.

Lev and Yara from The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II inventive workforce launched followers to Lev and Yara’s characters on the PlayStation Experience 2017 occasion, using this image as an illustration.
Image: Naughty Dog

A giant turning level in each Grace and Alexander’s journeys was the PlayStation Experience 2017 event, or PSX. This was when each Yara and Lev had been publicly launched for the primary time to followers. For Alexander in explicit, he felt empowered by all of the help that the neighborhood confirmed him in the course of the occasion. A fan truly got here out to Alexander as trans throughout a signing portion on the occasion, and advised Alexander that they had been so joyful to see a personality like Lev included in their favourite recreation franchise of all time.

“I remember seeing how their face lit up the moment that they saw the transgender symbol necklace I was wearing,” Alexander defined. “It makes me smile to be able to provide authentic transmasculine representation for other people like me.”

Alexander advised me that his prior performing experiences taking part in trans characters ready him to deal with critique, in addition to to be his personal genuine self throughout his performances. His dad and mom struggled to just accept his gender identification, whilst he took on roles in The OA and Every Day that put a highlight on the trans expertise. Alexander described how he was ready to attract from his private experiences when portraying Buck Vu and Vic, respectively. Portraying Lev was a way more rigorous journey than his earlier ones, he mentioned: “Each position I’ve performed has felt like an extension of myself, and so I positively felt like Lev was the braver, post-apocalyptic model of myself.“

Lev’s storyline and portrayal as a trans character in The Last of Us Part II has impressed lots of deep evaluation, significantly round the best way that Lev’s standing as a trans particular person is revealed (the opposite Seraphites name Lev by his birth name). Waverly at Paste Magazine described Lev’s storyline as a trans narrative as told through a “cisgender voyeur” lens. Other critics, like frequent Polygon contributor Carolyn Petit, praised the sport for portraying Lev as someone who “doesn’t hate himself” and who believes he deserves higher.

Alexander advised me that he utterly understands the place individuals are coming from in their criticism. Trans illustration continues to be a brand new idea to a big quantity of executives in the leisure business. Alexander mentioned that he feels offering full company for trans characters to reveal their gender identities could make for highly effective storylines, when advised by means of a trans particular person’s perspective.

Alexander additionally defined that he felt like The Last of Us Part II precisely portrays his personal private expertise coping with transphobia in actual life, in addition to his personal private turmoil over the faith he grew up with, Mormonism, and his acceptance of his personal gender identification.

“From my perspective as a transmasculine person who has faced transphobic discrimination as a result of religion and overall ignorance, it’s not uncommon for me to be misgendered by a stranger or by someone from my past,” he defined. He mentioned that he personally didn’t really feel triggered or retraumatized by the use of Lev’s delivery identify in the course of the recreation. However, he additionally clarified that his expertise is solely his personal and that he can not communicate on behalf of each trans particular person.

There are some similarities, and additionally some variations, between Alexander’s and Lev’s life tales. Rather than abandoning what he was taught as a Seraphite, Lev determined to make use of his religion to consolation him by means of hardship. In the sport, he tells Abby that the Seraphites have misinterpreted the phrases of the prophet that had been purported to be about peace and unity, and they’ve as a substitute chosen violence and hatred.

Alexander advised me he did the exact opposite of what Lev did. In order to manage and heal from the discrimination he confronted from his circle of relatives, he selected to disconnect from his personal religion. Even so, he elaborated that he believes that Lev’s personal rules are what truly drives his actions, along with his faith being the motivation for his empathy.

Although they took completely different paths, that is the place Alexander mentioned he may actually see himself in Lev. “Even when his religion is used in opposition to him by different Seraphites or Abby, he nonetheless holds onto his ethical compass to information him … We each simply need to be true to ourselves, do the morally proper factor, and to guard those we love.“

He additionally advised me that the racial range represented in The Last of Us Part II meant lots to him. Lev and Yara are Asian American, however their racial identities don’t actually have something to do with their very own character arcs. For Alexander, he mentioned that it’s refreshing to see Asian, Latinx, and Black characters simply merely exist in the sport’s world and not need to be outlined by their very own racial identities.

Grace agreed, noting that with regards to characters of colour, it is not uncommon for the story to position an emphasis on their backgrounds. She mentioned that she felt like The Last of Us Part II offered a more true image of illustration, one which displays the true world.

“If someone asked me which characteristics I would use to describe Yara and Lev, ‘being Asian’ wouldn’t be my first thought, because Neil and Halley are so great at developing three-dimensional characters,” Grace mentioned.

Motion capture actors working on The Last of Us Part II

Image: Victoria Grace

Both actors imagine that being concerned in this recreation will open the door for extra alternatives for themselves in different realms of the leisure business. Alexander acknowledged that he has completely seen a distinction in the business in the previous few years, particularly now that trans individuals are extra seen than ever.

Alexander additionally emphasised the significance of trans folks being concerned in each step of the manufacturing course of, each in entrance of the digicam and behind it. “I’m also really eager to see how the industry will uplift Black and Indigenous trans voices, who have been ignored and silenced for far too long.”

Grace is grateful that Druckmann took an opportunity on her to be an element of Naughty Dog’s newest story. “As far as representation goes, I’m hoping that Part II will inspire other creators and writers to push for more inclusive stories. Not only in video games, but in the media as a whole.”

Hopefully, having performed such essential characters in Part II will result in extra roles in future video video games for Alexander and Grace, too. Since Grace had such a enjoyable time on set, one of her new objectives is to take part in extra efficiency movement seize roles.

At Grace’s name again, Druckmann requested her if she performed video video games. Although she was acquainted with The Last of Us, she replied truthfully by saying “No, I’m not really allowed … ” and he laughed, nodding his head in understanding. “That wasn’t a very smart thing to say, from a business perspective, but what was done was done,” she recalled with a smile.

As a end result of working with Naughty Dog, she has began taking part in extra video video games and completely loves them. “I would now call myself a gamer, albeit not a very good one, but I’m getting there. It’s thanks to Naughty Dog and Part II.”