This week, APGNation’s Jordan Handler had the pleasure of speaking with Elias Toufexis, the voice actor behind Deus Ex’s Adam Jensen and Andiry Kobin of the Splinter Cell series. In this exclusive interview, Toufexis talks about his experiences in acting in both television and video games, being Adam Jensen, and being a gamer.
APGNation: Thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to answer some of our questions. Could you introduce yourself to our readers who are less familiar with your work?
Elias Toufexis: I’m an actor. I grew up in Montreal, Canada. I presently split my time between Toronto and Los Angeles. I’ve been on a multitude of television shows, mostly playing bad guys or flat out jerks. I’ve been in dozens of videogames. Adam Jensen easily being the most popular character I’ve played.
APGNation: Why did you decide to become an actor?
Elias Toufexis: When I saw Star Wars for the first time I knew what I wanted to be. A Jedi.
The only way that could realistically happen was to work in the entertainment business. When I discovered theatre and, more specifically, Shakespeare I realized I wanted to look into what it takes to be an actor.
APGNation: Around 2007, you started to do voice work in the gaming industry, with one of your earliest games being Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. What made you begin to shift some of your focus to voice work?
Elias Toufexis: For an actor, work is work. Your agent gets you auditions, and you try to land the role. The videogame thing kind of was just a part of that. I’ve always been a pretty heavy gamer. Specifically, a console gamer starting with The NES and SNES. My first videogame was actually Need For Speed: Carbon. It was a live action performance that they inserted into the game (Where I used my Joe Pesci impression for my character).
It’s funny because my first game was live action, my second game (Rainbow Six) was just voice and now, for almost every AAA game, it’s a combination of both in Performance Capture.
APGNation: Since that time, you’ve done further voice acting for a number of characters in AAA title series, with arguably your best-known work being Adam Jensen from Deus Ex. How did you end up becoming the voice of Adam Jensen?
Elias Toufexis: I was just auditioning for whatever came my way. They brought me in for a game and they wouldn’t tell me what it was. Just that the character was kind of a Clint Eastwood type. I did the audition, it was voice only at the time, and they cast me.
APGNation: In the past, you’ve stated that you’ve enjoyed playing the Deus Ex series and have done a few videos on playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Do you play some of the other games that you have done voice work in? If so, how do you feel when you hear your voice in the game?
Elias Toufexis: Yeah, I’d say I’m a moderate gamer. In that I don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to playing them these days, but I still very much enjoy it. (I just finished Arkham Knight. Loved it.)
But I play every game I work on. Some of them I finish, some of them are just work. I adore the Splinter Cell series so playing a character in the last two games was a huge thing for me. I definitely played the hell out of Blacklist. I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution two times. Both times trying to not kill anyone but ending up killing eeeevvvveerrryyooone.
APGNation: Over the past decade, games have become far more complex with socioeconomic and political themes provoking more thought and discussions among gamers. Some have argued that games can be used as works of art or as an interactive thesis to address some issues or themes we see in our own world. As a gamer and a voice actor, do you believe that is an accurate statement?
Elias Toufexis: Absolutely. Games, especially now, are art forms. The best art usually has something to say. I mean, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mankind Divided have social and political themes at their very core. The whole basis of the character in the game is hinged upon moral or ethical choices.
APGNation: You are currently set to return as the voice of Adam Jensen in the upcoming Deux Ex: Mankind Divided. According to the developers, the game is set in a society where augmentation is seen as a blight upon mankind and those who have artificial limbs or augmentations face persecution. Some expressed their concerns in a variety of ways over the setting and themes being pursued. Recently, you tweeted in response to some of those concerns. Could you elaborate on your feelings on the direction the series is taking?
Elias Toufexis: One of my favourite shows growing up was Star Trek (the original and Next Generation). The reason that those shows worked so well wasn’t that it had phasers and space battles. The shows endured because they would take social issues and put them in a science fiction context, thereby examining them through character choices, etc. That’s exactly what Deus Ex does, and that’s why it endures. Sure, I like double-arm blading some bad guy in the larynx as much as the next man, but at its core, the game isn’t about that. For me at least, the game is about Adam living in a world where people like him are hated and shuffled off into ghettos, but he remains on the outside and has to witness it all. How it influences his choices. That’s what makes good storytelling.
APGNation: What is the process that goes behind being a voice actor?
Elias Toufexis: Well, these days the voice acting in videogames is only 50% of it. Now everything is fully performance captured. A game I’m working on right now, my character is completely first-person, meaning you never see him. Yet I’m still on a stage in a full [motion capture] suit with a camera on my head while every other character is being captured. Games are rarely solely in a sound booth anymore. Jensen, because he’s also mostly heard and not seen, does have a lot of voice work, but every time you see him in a dramatic moment, that’s my face and body being captured. The full performance.
To answer your question specifically though. Aside from some small tricks and tools you pick up on the way, you approach every project from the standpoint of character. It doesn’t matter what medium. Theatre, film, TV or voice.
APGNation: Is there a technique you have to help you get into character before recording? Is it different for each role, especially between television and video games?
Elias Toufexis: Each actor has their own technique. I don’t really have one. I just need to be relaxed and at ease before I begin. Then, sure, I’ll get into the character’s headspace a few seconds before we roll.
APGNation: Is the process different for each character you voice? If there is, could you explain?
Elias Toufexis: The process in its most basic form is the same. And, like I said, you always approach a role from the standpoint of the character. What he wants and what’s he doing/saying to get it.
It gets tricky if you have to change your voice, or speak in an accent or a different language. Then, of course, the process changes from job to job.
APGNation: What are some of the challenges that are unique to voice acting?
Elias Toufexis: Staying energized and giving the character his or her proper respect. You’re in a small booth most of the day when you’re voice acting, it’s easy to get tired and lose sight of who you’re playing (I’ll watch parts of games or cartoons I’m in and catch when that happened to me. Others may not hear it but I do). For games specifically, though a lot of them are performance captured now, in sound booths people tend to go big or cartoon-ey. Subtlety in games is what works now. Realistic and grounded characters and performances.
APGNation: You’ve had a fairly long career in both television and gaming. What would you say is your favorite role thus far?
Elias Toufexis: In games it’s Adam Jensen and Andriy Kobin from Splinter Cell. As for my TV work? I’m still partial to the psycho mind reader I played on Supernatural. The character I play in the new Syfy show The Expanse (coming in December) is my new favourite though. He’s a scoundrel.
APGNation: What advice do you have for those aspiring to become voice actors for the gaming industry?
Elias Toufexis: Take classes. Meet people. Spend money on a good demo reel. If you audition for something where you hear they “might cast Elias Toufexis” then step down and tell them to cast me.
Once again, thanks to Elias Toufexis for taking the time to answer our questions! Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is slated to be released on February 23, 2016, on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.