I had the opportunity to chat with Michael Antonakos, a motion capture and voice actor who I am sure you have seen and heard multiple times. He has been part of a number of video games, including the most recently released Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. He shared details about his work in motion capture and voice, his philanthropic work, and his group, The Actor’s Chop Shop. Thank you again to Michael Antonakos for sharing his time with me.
Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I moved to Canada from Greece when I was about three years old. I grew up primarily in the Canadian Rockies, the East Kootenays, and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. I moved to Vancouver to pursue a professional career in acting at nineteen and have made a career in theatre, musical theatre, classical, film, television, voice-over in animation and commercial advertising, as well as video games. So to sum it up…I’ve spent a majority of my life acting.
How did you begin your work as an actor?
I fell in love with acting at a very young age, seven years old to be exact. I was doing a play and once I heard the roar of laughter from the audience after they reacted to something I did, I was hooked! I continued doing everything I could in the small towns I was in to act and learn, and then at 16-17 years old, I moved away from home. I saved up enough money during my summer jobs. I had three at the time, working seven days a week so that I could afford to attend an incredible performing arts high school (Claremont) in Victoria, British Columbia. Those last years of high school are still some of the greatest memories of my life. I am so grateful to the school, the teachers (Sylvia Hosie in particular) and the incredibly talented peers I had for taking me in and giving me the confidence I would use for the rest of my life.
As a follow up, how did you transition to motion capture?
I had an audition for Electronic Arts (EA) about 15 years ago for Lord of The Rings: The Third Age. I guess I was one of the few actors who came in and was able to play a dwarf convincingly! It was my first motion-capture audition, and that job became the beginning of a new career path I’d never imagined getting into. I’ve been fortunate that I was good at physical and vocal manipulation and people continued to hire me for more jobs, so it was very serendipitous.
What have been some of your favourite motion capture projects?
Apart from this game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I’d have to say doing motion capture on Mass Effect: Andromeda was a highlight as well. I got to play five different characters in the game (physically), and they were all so different – aliens and humans! It was a blast changing up my body and voice to become all these unique beings every day. I fell in love with them all and I never felt more free as an actor.
You will be appearing in the new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, what can you tell me about the game and your role in it?
The game is set in Ancient Greece around 448 BC. You are brought into the world of new ideas, creativity, and the dawn of Western Civilization. At the same time, there is a war happening between Athens and Sparta. Alexios or Kassandra (your choice of protagonist) is a mercenary/misthios, who is of Spartan decent, and was banished and presumed dead at the age of six. He grows up on the island of Kefalonia surrounded by thugs and thieves, learning how to survive in such a harsh world hiding from their past. At the beginning of your experience, you will be sent on a quest and will have to face your past, your family and overall your destiny…which is your choice on how you get there. Choose your own adventure style.
What do you most look forward to players experiencing in this new game?
The vast world of Ancient Greece. Ubisoft created an incredible immersive world that reflects the actual time. You can see all the ancient sites rebuilt; explore all the islands and even myths that you may have heard as a child. It’s really something special that everyone can appreciate.
You’ve also appeared in one of my favorite shows, iZombie, what was that experience like?
Very fun, the cast and crew were a blast to work with. I got to play a vampire army surgeon. What a strange combo! Hopefully they’ll bring me back, really lovely group.
Beyond that, what have been some of your favourite in person acting moments?
I have a deep love for the stage. I think because it is so connected and in the moment. No going back for a second take. I like when something spontaneous happens on stage and you just have to go with it and see where it takes you. I remember once I was doing a scene in a musical and my scene partner was very sick that day and halfway through the scene she just up and left the stage. I was all by myself and had no clue of how to continue. So I started writing a song aloud on stage hoping to buy some time till someone got there and save me! I later found out she rushed to the bathroom to vomit. Couldn’t knock her for that, better than on the stage!
You’ve also done some voiceover work, could you talk a bit about what that is like?
It’s a really fun way to act, you can play around with your voice in so many ways. You go into a voice studio with other actors and sometimes alone and read lines off a script while performing your voice in front of a microphone. I’ve been doing cartoons/animations for quite a few years now and also voice a lot of commercials, and I am so grateful.
You are a very dedicated philanthropist, could you tell me about the organizations that you work with?
I just like supporting things and doing what I can. I always give a little to many causes. Avaaz, Oxfam, Wilderness BC, Doctor’s Without Borders, and Greenpeace. Even when I’ve been broke I always tried to donate a little. Because I know there are people out there fighting for important things that I wish I had to time to be a part of, so I do what I can. Strength is always in numbers and every little bit counts.
What can you tell me about The Actor’s Chop Shop?
One of my pride and joys! Six years ago, a few friends of mine got together at a former UVIC professor’s (Scott Malcolm) garage, which was converted into a little studio. He had an old video mixing board and some old video cameras, and we stared doing scenes from movies while two of us acted as camera operators and another worked on the switcher as a live editor. When the actors were done, we’d watch the edited scene and then give each other notes and do it again. We did this weekly and slowly added more actors to the group. After a couple years of this we joined forces with an acting school I had taught at, Shoreline Studios in Vancouver, and we opened classes to teach this method of training. It is amazing, and something I am so proud of. It has turned some good actors into great actors for film and television.
Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what are some of your favorite games?
I was when I was younger. I loved first person shooter games and stealth games like Splinter Cell. But as I’ve gotten older and now have a kid I haven’t found the time to play games. I miss it…adulting is hard sometimes!
Where can our readers find you online?
Instagram – @michaelantonakos
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.