Actor Steven Ogg spent the past three years wearing a lycra suit lined with balls and a camera strapped around his head to capture his every facial expression. The goal? Bring Trevor Philips to life. Rockstar Games employed performance capture for the first time in a Grand Theft Auto game with GTA 5. Ogg, who has worked on television shows like Unforgettable and Person of Interest, found this work similar in some ways to his Hollywood jobs, but no character he portrayed stands out like the ultra-violent Trevor.
Ogg talks about Trevor’s rage in this exclusive interview.
What was it like bringing Trevor to life in GTA 5?
He’s kind of the id. He’s the freedom. He’s that little dark matter in our head that we’ve all heard to different degrees walking down the street. He’s the impulse. Trevor’s a little devil. That gave me the freedom to react to any impulse. I was so curious to see how that would be. Like when someone in a car cuts you off, my mother would think “I’m going to ring his bloody neck.” My mother’s not going to do anything. Trevor does, and that’s exciting. It doesn’t have to be violent. If he’s attracted to someone or something, he’ll have sex with that, be it an object or a woman or man. He goes with whatever he feels. That’s pretty attractive as an actor to go like, “Wow, if I feel like yelling, I can yell. If I just killed someone and I want to cry, I can cry. If I want to go to the bathroom on someone, I can.” Things you’d never do but in the darkest, craziest places in your head.
What was it like bringing some of this violence to life with other actors in the performance capture?
It’s intense. It’s just like shooting a scene in a movie or TV show. Let’s say I’m going to shoot or beat you. You have to warn each other about the parameters. Do you mind if I grab your crouch? That’s a respectful question to ask and actor, because some don’t. I’m not going to name names. I’m not talking about our shoot, but there are actors in this world that you work with who think it’s funny to f**k with you on set when they’re getting ready to do something physical, like hit you in the ear. As an actor, if you don’t tell me you’re going to hit me in my ear and you do, it’s pretty hard for me to not just level you. So to perform the rage with Trevor, I’d explain to everyone some ideas in my head as to what I’d do. We’ve got a director and we’ve got the script telling us what to do, but the rage was generally, “Are you comfortable with this?” I wasn’t always going to tell everyone what I was going to do and ruin the spontaneity. That’s part of who Trevor is and I love that. I don’t want the person to know what he’s going to do, especially when the rage hits.
What’s an example of that?
There’s that first scene, which is actually one of the first things I shot, where Trevor is like, “Hey cowboy, come here.” He’s giving him a hug and is all “boosy, booby baby,” and then he just explodes and shoves him down and stomps his face. Well, both actors knows what’s going to happen, but you also have to say, “Are you cool if I shove your head when I push you down instead of pushing you by the back, because everyone pushes by the back. I might shove you by the face. You cool with that?” That’s how the rage was dealt with Trevor. I’d always set up the boundaries of comfort. I don’t want to screw with another actor, but if they say, “Yeah, do whatever,” I’ll do whatever is necessary for the scene.
How has being in this $1 billion game impacted your life?
Wow, you’re looking up at the screen and you’re seeing essentially the animated version of yourself. I didn’t realize the enormity of this until I started to see my face all over the world. I don’t think like, “I am GTA, I am huge.” But speaking of the GTA franchise and Rockstar Games, I had no idea how big this was. It wasn’t until I was biking along, seeing Trevor hand-painted in Brooklyn. Seeing, the Figueroa Hotel in LA and the entire building is painted, or in Japan and in London, it’s like, “Holy sh*t, this is pretty big.” Then when it makes the money it did, you’re like, “Whoa.” I was hired to do a job and I did it and I don’t feel like I am the GTA. I’m not walking around like that. I’m still the same idiot I was yesterday looking for the next gig, but it’s special. It’s definitely something that I feel like you can put in a time capsule because of the cultural significance of what it is. I feel this game and the commentary it makes on our society as a whole is something I’m proud of.
For more, check out Prima’s free GTA 5 guide.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.