The Voice of Jonah – Interview with Earl Baylon

By on February 12, 2014 | 476 comments

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Jonah Maiava is an exceptional cook, and a very intuitive member of the endurance. Jonah has more so taken on the role of an uncle-figure to Lara, who helps her evoke her raw instincts as he and the crew rely on Lara to help them escape the island’s persistent hold.

Tomb Raiding recently got the chance to speak with Earl Baylon about his work as Jonah in the new Tomb Raider reboot!

RELATED: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – New Screenshots!

 

What was the process like for filming Tomb Raider?

Working on Tomb Raider was quite and interesting and enlightening process. This was the first time I ever did motion capture, so there was a lot of learning to be done. This is because MoCap is different from film in a few ways. The biggest thing, of course, is that it’s on pretty much a blank soundstage, with very little to reference in terms of what your environment looks like. The good majority of your setting is in your head. Secondly, the shooting process goes a bit differently from film sets. On film shoots, you’ll film a scene through once, and they call this a master shot. Then you run bits of the same scene again to get what’s called “coverage.” They reposition the cameras and get all the close ups and medium shots to use when they edit the film together. Because the MoCap volume is a 3-dimensional space, and they’re recording you essentially from every angle at once, there’s no need to shoot coverage. So, instead of running little chunks of a scene, over and over, MoCap actors can run the scene in its entirety every take. Finally, the motion capture suit itself is definitely a thing that needs some getting used to. I mean, you’re covered in like 60-ish reflective balls, wearing a helmet with tiny cameras pointed at your face, all connected to doodads strapped to your back. Cool tech. Definitely a new experience.

I worked on the project here and there for probably about a year, so I did eventually get more used to it. Haha.

What was it like on set, working with the other cast members?

Everyone on set was great! I know every actor says that when asked about their cast members. But really, it was great hanging out with everyone between takes. Because we would go maybe months at a time between shooting dates, it was always a nice mini-reunion when we would see each other in the dressing room.

There was this one time, a few of us were hanging out in the waiting/eating area between scenes. It was toward the end of the shooting day, so the craft table had been pretty much raided. Andy, the guy who played the role of Alex, and I were standing at the table, looking for something to snack on. One of the few things left were donuts and some leftover bacon from brunch. I turned to him and said something like, “We could probably put the bacon on the donuts.” I was half joking. He looks at me, and says, “I’ll do it if you do it.”

Yes. It was tasty.

What is it like performing the role of Jonah?

It was a lot of fun being Jonah. He’s a laid back kinda guy, generally jovial. Not quick to anger, but fiercely protective of his friends. At the same time, he has a bit of a dark side, which gets alluded to if you have game completionist tendencies. IRL me does actually identify a little with Jonah. First off, we’re both cooks. I cook… like incessantly. Also, if you ever see me walking around LA, especially in the summer, I could be accused of cosplaying as Jonah. When seriously, that’s just kinda how I dress. No joke, right now… I’m wearing cargo shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. I so wish I was joking. I guess what I’m saying is that I tapped into aspects of myself and brought that to the character.

How did you get cast for Jonah and what were the auditions like?

Well, like most things, I got the audition from my agent. We actually had no idea that it was Tomb Raider, because they had it listed under a code name. Even the sides, which in an audition is usually a portion of the actual script, were all secret-y. Character names were changed, and the scene from the audition had actually been written *just* for the audition, so it wasn’t part of the script at all. I went into the initial audition, and there I met Toby Gard, whose name we all know. I guess I could have drawn a conclusion as to a possible game title, but I had been out of the gaming community for about a year, and I wasn’t knowledgable at the time about projects in development. It was a more physical audition than your regular film/tv gig, because it was motion capture, and they needed to have an idea of what you looked like in
motion. So, in addition to give a read of the sides, they had me doing some running, jumping, and shadowboxing. First time ever in an audition. I remember walking out of the building, thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

They brought me into a callback about a week later, and the next week I was squeezing my corpulent self into a skin-tight MoCap suit.

Have you had a chance to play and complete Tomb Raider yet?

Hell yes I played and completed the game! I think I’m at 98% or something. I can’t find that last totem for the Ghost Hunter challenge, dammit. And I’m totally not into using walkthroughs unless I really, really have no idea what to do. So, what I’m saying is that I’m gonna go onto Stella’s Tomb Raider site and look for help.

While working on the project, we didn’t really get to see too much of the final product. When I finally sat down and booted up my PC to play, I was kinda blown away. Gorgeous, gorgeous game. I was popping screencaps constantly. Also, I pretty much loved the mechanics/control scheme of the cover system. It was just so damn intuitive to me. There were [times] where I actually restored to a save point previous to a fight, just so I could re-play it. For example, the stealthy part in the Coastal Forest.

I did play a couple of the old Tomb Raider games (II & III specifically) back in college. I’m not necessarily a hardcore or casual gamer, but I’m an old school one, like Atari 2600 old. And I really liked the choices that Crystal Dynamics made for the reboot. It’s a delicate thing, rebooting such a storied franchise as Tomb Raider, and I, for one, think they did an amazing job with the game.

Will you be reprising your role as Jonah in the next Tomb Raider sequel?

I’ve never really been good at speculating specifics with regards to the future story direction of franchises I enjoy, like Tomb Raider of course. In the end, I just hope that they keep on telling good stories, and if Jonah is part of that narrative, then awesome!

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Mmmm… I don’t know if I have anything else to share with you off the top of my head, other than I’m really impressed by the awesomeness of Tomb Raider’s fandom. I did quite a bit of surfing after the game came out, reading reviews and such, and just the cool photosets, cosplay, fan art, articles, and fanfics I came across really were astounding. Pretty awesome stuff.

Lara-and-Jonah-(Competition-Bow)


Connect with Earl Baylon:
Twitter | Facebook

Interested in reading more about Earl’s Tomb Raider experience?
You can check out an article he wrote about taking on the role of Jonah, here!

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  • Ricardo J. Barberis

    Great interview, thank you both!