The man behind GTA V's Trevor

Steven Ogg, the voice behind GTA V's meth tweaking, homicidal maniac Trevor, talks to QMI's Chris...

Steven Ogg, the voice behind GTA V's meth tweaking, homicidal maniac Trevor, talks to QMI's Chris Vandergaag about the experience of portraying one of the biggest characters in video game history. (Supplied by Steven Ogg)

Chris Vandergaag, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:30 PM ET

Turns out Grand Theft Auto V is an international juggernaut with a big dose of Canadian content: Calgary-born actor Steven Ogg wore a motion-capture suit for three years and endured innumerable moose jokes to portray the hilariously unhinged Trevor Phillips, who might go down as the most unforgettable protagonist in Grand Theft Auto history.

In our Q&A, Ogg was forthcoming, funny and quick to praise colleagues. And if you’ve played GTA V, you’ll recognize what an achievement it is for him to open up about Trevor while keeping things fit for print.

Trevor is easily the most memorable character in GTA V. Congrats on the terrific performance, on behalf of Canadian GTA V fans. Want to give them a shout-out? Ideally something obscene, yet oddly heartwarming?

A shout-out?! Do we do that in Canada? If so, I would imagine we would just end up saying sorry for “shouting” too loud. Thank you so much for the maple glazed love – appreciate very much. I have to give my “shout-outs” to Rockstar Games, Rod Edge – the director – and the many talented people on and around set, especially my wonderful co-stars: Ned Luke [who portrays Michael] and Shawn Fonteno [as Franklin.]

Still thinking about a damn shout out that is both Canadian-worthy and appropriate. Let me think. Do I quote my favourite Hip song? Maybe City and Colour or Stompin Tom? Should I attempt to match the wit and intellect of Jian Ghomeshi or George Stroumboulopoulos? A quote from Robertson Davies or the queen of Canadian content, Margaret Atwood? Oh, hang on. I think that WAS my shout out!!

I YouTubed your acting reel. You’ve been on TV a lot, and always bring that intensity that’s now synonymous with Trevor Phillips in the minds of GTA fans. So I imagine that in recording/motion capture sessions for GTA, things were dialed up to 11?

Actors like Peter Mullan, Tom Hardy or Matthias Schoenaerts, to name a few, all bring tons of intensity to their roles so it means a lot to me to hear that. During the three years it took to film the motion capture for GTA, it definitely got pretty intense, but we had lots and lots of laughs. One of the most fun experiences of my life.

I guess the intensity was dialed to 11 when you consider we were dressed in skin tight [motion capture] suits covered in balls!! Ned and I went head to head on some scenes that were incredibly intense, but always managed to squeeze a good laugh in or drop a good ball joke (those ball jokes NEVER got old!)

You seem like a witty, funny dude. Is comedy something you always deliberately inject into roles? Is it front and centre in your process?

I think not taking oneself too seriously in life and in work is definitely front and centre in my process of living. It is an extra challenge and exciting to try and find the humor in a character like Trevor – I think if you can, you end up connecting to the character in ways they did not expect, and questioning why you don’t just find the character loathesome.

I hear that you don’t kill people or use or manufacture meth in real life. But does Steven Ogg share Trevor Phillips’ sense of humor?

Ahhhh, I love the Canadian wit – even these questions bely our sense of humor and what makes us different. I did have to destroy my meth lab when we started shooting GTA V and the bodies that were... no, wait. Sorry, what was the question?

When playing as Trevor, I kept thinking Eric Cartman from South Park in later seasons. Complete sociopath yet worryingly intelligent, always getting the bigger picture. One of my favourite fictional evil bastards. When a character is that ‘bad’ but still so watchable, that’s really cool. And I think there’s a little Jack from The Shining in Trevor, too. Were you inspired by specific villains or anti-heroes?

Ha ha. I love it! First time I had a Cartman comparison. Definitely was the most challenging and fun thing about Trevor – trying to walk that line and not make him a one-dimensional sociopath. There were certainly performances I found inspiring: Tom Hardy’s performance in Bronson – intense, theatrical, and funny despite the brutality. Matthias Schoenaerts from Bullhead – intensity and sensitivity. Maybe a little Chauncey Gardner in Being There, for his loyalty and just being at the right place at the right or wrong time depending how you view it. Strangely enough the music of City and Colour was helpful – [noted Canadian musician and Alexisonfire frontman] Dallas Green’s passion was inspiring!! I get a lot of my inspiration from passion and intensity, be it music, art, performances or a good book.

Trevor is usually blunt but sometimes subtle, like when he’s relentlessly mocking the border patrol nuts on the ride-along missions. Did you have fun with that?

It was such a blast! That’s just the crazy, ridiculously inappropriate world of Trevor. It generally went way off the tracks pretty quickly especially when I would improvise off script. We all found ourselves cracking up at some of the things coming out of Trevor’s mouth – just so inappropriate and wrong that you had to laugh about it.

How much did Trevor’s character change, from the point that you first saw the script to the finished product?

It’s interesting because on the first day of filming I had to do a pretty violent, psychotic yet oddly funny-in-that-disturbing-kind-of-way scene. It was early on so I really had to trust what was written on the page. After three years I could still trust that writing to take me into Trevor’s character. So there wasn’t so much change in Trevor over those years, as there was a deepening of the understanding of the character. Trevor was already in the pages Rockstar provided, he just needed to be accessorized.

Was Trevor originally Canadian? Did you get ribbed by the Rockstar team, e.g. “noo doot aboot it”? And did you waterboard them for it?

There were definitely a lot of, “Let’s go ouuuut and abouuuut with my muuuuuuum and a mooooose in my houuuuse.” With so many Brits around I generally tried to keep the Commonwealth united and strong and would ask kindly not to be teased. If people continued to tease, I would cry, sob, and heave. There is nothing sadder than a six-foot-three actor wearing a motion capture suit having a meltdown on set to distract people and get everyone to change the topic. Sometimes I’d let my mascara run down my face to further silence the taunters.

Any ridiculous and memorable moments during recording sessions?

We had very few actual “recording sessions” during the three years – the performances were motion captured so we had face, body and voice all recorded at the same time. Some incredibly funny times and an experience I will never forget. Something that always provided a laugh was the constant banter when getting changed into our motion capture suits and having the crew place the balls on us... a lot of testosterone on set PLUS spandex PLUS balls EQUALS a continuous stream of puerile jokes.

In GTA V you play it big: big gestures, lots of intonation. Was that all you, or was that how the scenes were directed?

It started with the writing, and then the physicality and intonations just began to happen naturally when Trevor spoke. He has a certain theatricality about him that I would play around with. Rod Edge, the director, would be sure to steer me into the right direction if he thought I was heading off course. Lucky for me, a character like Trevor affords A LOT of play.

Also, when you feel as comfortable as we did on set, there is more freedom to play and take big risks. We were always encouraged to take chances, but had Rod to keep us in the park.

Any favourite Trevor dialogue?

There were so many classics – the writing is so damn funny and had such sarcastic wit and bite. I don’t think my favorites can be printed, but a few I think are classic:

“I have a protruding hip, it’s not a semi.”

“I need to meditate or masturbate... or both of them.”

“I’ll be there later to sign the contracts. Just ignore the bodies.”


Videos

Photos