Elias Toufexis Interview

Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the highly anticipated prequel to the Deus Ex series, has finally arrived 8 years after the previous entry and 4 years after being announced. With hopes and expectations of fans running high and reviews including our own coming out to be overwhelmingly positive, we took the opportunity to chat with Elias Toufexis, the voice of lead character Adam Jensen, about his time spent working on the title - a game which he agrees "is awesome".

Image by Linda Mackie

RPGSite: Hi Elias, thanks for joining us today. How are you?
Elias Toufexis: Hey, no problem. I’m good. In Toronto working. A little tired.

RPGSite: You are increasingly becoming known for your screen and voice work but you are also a trained theatre actor, so what was it that made you want to become an actor?
Elias: I think the first time I wanted to be in movies was when I saw Star Wars, so I was a very little boy re-enacting scenes. I realized I wanted to study acting after I saw [Kenneth] Branagh’s Henry V.

RPGSite: I am a huge fan of Branagh's Hamlet myself but what exactly was it about the film that appealed to and inspired you?
Elias: It was just the majesty of it all. The power of the acting and how complicated it all seemed to be at the time. It made me become very interested in what exactly goes into a performance.

RPGSite: Your hometown of Montreal has been called Canada’s Cultural Capital and I am a big fan of the Just for Laughs comedy festival but what is the theatre scene like there?
E lias: The theatre scene is alright. Lots of Fringe theatre and a couple of professional English Theatres. Lots of good actors in Montreal. I used to work at the Just For Laughs festival. It’s always great in Montreal in the summertime. The city of festivals. Still my favourite place on Earth.

RPGSite: Talking of comedy, you have also written and performed in several sketch shows – when did you first start doing that and would you ever consider stand up?
Elias: I never really thought about stand-up. That’s way too hard. The sketch comedy was a lot of fun back in the day. We wrote and performed at bars all over Montreal. How do you even know this stuff?

RPGSite: Ah, the internet is a marvelous invention. Having done both, which do you think is hardest to write and perform – good drama or good comedy?
Elias: Anything good is difficult. Very few films and shows are any good. Both are difficult in their own way. Just give me something original and with character and I’m happy.

RPGSite: You were once the lead in Hamlet, which is often considered the pinnacle of dramatic writing. What was that like for you as an actor and was there a lot of pressure?
Elias: I guess there was pressure but I never really felt it other than wanting to give a good performance. Hamlet is the perfect character for an actor because you have the chance to go through pretty much any and every emotion a man can have. An actor can have so much fun playing him and I did. The show ran three weeks and I felt like I was only just getting a grip on Hamlet near the end. I could have used another 2 months. To finish shamelessly, I’m proud of the reviews I got for playing such a fantastic character.

RPGSite: As I mentioned at the start, you are now making a name for yourself as a screen and voice actor but are you still involved with the world of live theatre?
Elias: Not much these days. I’ll be honest and say that I have a family now and money is important. For the amount of time put in to doing a play, the pay isn’t what it is in film and TV. These days I’d rather spend time with my wife and daughter. Having said that however, I guarantee I’ll want to get back on stage again.

RPGSite: It has only been around eight years since you first began working in television and film – was that transition something you had always wanted or planned to do?
Elias: Yes. I love the live audience but I always wanted to work on films.


RPGSite: Since then it looks like the majority of your on screen appearances have been in sci-fi, fantasy or horror productions – is that a coincidence or are you a fan of those genres?
Elias: Though I am a huge comic book and sci-fi fan, a lot of it comes from opportunity knocking rather than actively seeking out the genre. I guess I just lend myself to being a sci-fi nerd.

RPGSite: Are there any comics and science fiction shows/films in particular that you follow?
Elias: Batman all the way. If Batman has ever appeared in any sort of television show or film, rest assured I have a copy of it on DVD. Not to mention my collection of Batman comics, toys etc. (I have a working Bat-Signal and a real Bat-Sword.) Original Star Trek as well. Every episode. I used to be a huge Star Wars fan, too. But I generally love science fiction and I'm in the theatre for every Super-hero movie. Even the crappy ones.

RPGSite: And now we come to your voice work. You have been voicing commercials, cartoons and video games for a few years now but what was your first ever voice over job?
Elias: Wow, I honestly don’t remember what my first paid gig was. It was probably a commercial for McDonalds or something.

RPGSite: With more and more titles on your résumé, your voice career has taken centre stage in recent years. Is it an area that you are looking to focus on even more in the future?
Elias: It has become a focus solely because the things I’m working on in voice are monstrously popular and the film and television I do is not as much in the limelight. I’d say I work on both pretty evenly. Still, I love doing voice work and I’m always looking to work more and more in the area. I’m working right now on my first radio drama. I took the job because I have never done it before. Yes, they still make radio dramas.

RPGSite: An increasing number of actors have now turned to voice acting – is part of the appeal that it is easier to fit around your other professional and personal commitments?
Elias: The most any voice actor is asked to work is about 4 consecutive hours so, yes, it makes it easier to manage your life around. Also because it’s becoming more and more available. Any actor is like any contract worker. They want to work. If voice gigs are out there, we’ll grab the opportunity. I’m lucky because I have a deep gravely voice so I fit many video game and animated characters.

RPGSite: Most recently you took on the lead role Deus Ex: Human Revolution, prequel to Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War. Did you ever play the first two games in the series?
Elias: I played the first one back in the day. Loved it. I was a big fan of games like Wing Commander where the choices you make affect the outcome so Deus Ex was right up my alley.

RPGSite: As someone familiar with the series, did you actively seek out an audition for Human Revolution?
Elias: I didn’t know what I was auditioning for! These videogame companies don’t tell you anything. All I remember was a character description for an ‘undisclosed’ videogame.


RPGSite: What can you tell us about your character, Adam Jensen, and the journey he takes?
Elias: Not much. I’m sure we want to keep the journey secret. Besides, Adam’s journey is up to the player. The only thing is that I tried playing Adam very understated and cool.

RPGSite: There have been reports that the player will be able to talk to everyone in the game and that vocals were recorded for every conversation, so just how much dialogue did you have and how long did it take to record?
Elias: Uh. A whole freaking lot. Three years worth.

RPGSite: Did you find it easy to slip back into the character whenever you returned to the studio or was it a challenge to maintain a consistent voice for Adam over such a lengthy period of time?
Elias: It's funny when I see parts of the game and I think "I had a cold that day, I sound just a bit different". But that happens with everything. Movies shoot for months and sometimes you're glad they shoot out of sequence so no one notices that your performance waivers a bit.

RPGSite: Were you working with the same crew for the entire time and if so did that help when it came to developing the character of Adam and with your understanding of the script?
Elias: Yes, of course. The writer, sound / audio director and the voice performance director were there for every session. Kept me in check. Reminded me of things. They were great.

RPGSite: How much freedom did you have when it came to building Adam's personality and was there a moment in the studio where you thought 'this is it, I've found Adam' or was it a more gradual thing?
Elias: Just like when I watch it now, there are days when I say "Perfect! I couldn't have done it better" and times when I wish I could just go back and re-record one sentence. It definitely took a few sessions but we hit our stride pretty quick. In terms of freedom I didn't really need any as we all agreed on who Adam is early on. We all valued each other's opinion on the subject.

RPGSite: Were there any lines or scenes that you particularly enjoyed recording and that we should look out for?
Elias: I really like the scene with Adam and Megan's mother. It happens pretty early in the game... and the end scenes were a lot of fun.

RPGSite: While Human Revolution is set before the previous two games in the franchise, does it tie into the existing story and are there any little nods for fans of the series?
Elias: You’d be better off asking the creative team questions like that. I can say that Deus Ex fans will definitely see some connections…but I can’t say what or how.

RPGSite: Part way through development, Eidos Interactive was purchased by Square Enix. It is known that this resulted in new CGI sequences being created for the game but did it have any effect on the script and those of you in the recording studio?
Elias: I wouldn’t know. I know that our approach to the recording sessions and character didn’t change at all.

RPGSite: Human Revolution has been pushed back several times, most recently from a Spring to a Summer release, with production finally coming to an end just a few weeks ago. Have you been in the studio for the game at all during that time and if so, were you retouching previous recordings or working on brand new dialogue?
Elias: I've been back a few times to work on trailers and a couple of minor touches. Mostly to match animation. I hope I keep coming back even after the game is released for some reason. It wouldn't make sense, but I already miss Adam.

RPGSite: Well, there is always downloadable content, which in modern gaming is just as important as what comes on the disc for the initial release. We know it is already being developed for Deus Ex, as David Anfossi announced as much last year, but do you know what we can expect when it arrives and have you perhaps already been in the studio working on DLC material?
Elias: Can't say. Can I say? I'd better not say. I may be augmented but Eidos can still kill me if I talk. Yes, if David said there's some DLC then there's DLC... did I record stuff for it? Maybe.


RPGSite: The idea of humans over-reaching themselves and technology getting the better of us is a familiar subject across all mediums but what is your own opinion - do we need to be careful about how advanced we become and how quickly we get there or is this a concern purely for fiction?
Elias: It's funny that I've never been asked that. Personally, I think if technology helps then mankind is all the better for it. The problem comes in when technology replaces man. (Hey remember that Star Trek episode The Ultimate Computer where the M5 computer takes over the Enterprise? We can't have that kind of stuff. See, I told you I'm a Sci-fi geek. I didn't even have to look that up.)

RPGSite: The game is set to be released on Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – have you checked out all the versions? Do you prefer one?
Elias: I’ve only played the Xbox and PlayStation version so I don’t really know the answer to that one. I can say that the game is awesome.

RPGSite: Time is nearly up but before we go, one of the cities featured in the game is Montreal – did you have a chance to see what your city is going to look like in the year 2027?
Elias: I actually haven't seen that far into the game yet. I saw some pre-viz pictures. It looked great. Maybe I'll go back to live in Montreal in 2027.  Maybe I'll have some augs.

RPGSite: And finally, in previous years you have been voted the 9th, 6th, 4th and 3rd best actor from Montreal, so where do you think you will rank come 2027?
Elias: Hopefully I'll make the 'Still alive and working' list.

RPGSite: Elias, thanks again for your time. We really appreciate it.
Elias: No problem!