With treasure hunter Chloe as its hero, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (opens in new tab) was never going to be boring, but damn did that game know how to bring the feels as well as the archaeological action. By partnering up our favorite rebel with the kick-ass mercenary Nadine we got to see Chloe at her very best, and even glimpse the gooey middle hiding under the hard as nails shell.
So much of the success of the story rests on the performer that gives Chloe her soul, and that's Claudia Black. Star of Stargate SG-1, Farscape and Pitch Black as well as basically every massive game you've ever loved, she's played Chloe since the character first appeared in Uncharted 2 (opens in new tab). Chatting to her on the phone in Los Angeles, you quickly realize she's whip smart and just as in love with Chloe as the biggest Uncharted fan ever could be.
GamesRadar+: You must get recognized for your acting, do people recognize your voice too?
Claudia Black: Not so much on the phone, it's more in person. Now that I'm blonde people will have this reaction. I can sense energetically that they're trying to figure something out and as soon as I open my mouth - which is a life lesson - they're like "oh my god it's you."
Where you excited that you, and Chloe, got the chance to be the star of an Uncharted adventure?
Absolutely. Chloe is one of my all time favorite characters. They all become like children and we don't like to pick favorites but there was always this - if you'll pardon the pun - Uncharted territory with her. Even though her backstory was quite rich to begin with for Uncharted 2 - there were a lot of elements to play with given her history with Nate and her history as a swashbuckler - what I find so exciting about the opportunity to work on a Naughty Dog game is they honor and prioritize everything that happens in the relational field. That's what interests me in life and as an actor as well. I'm always looking for what's underneath everything.
I never felt comfortable as a child when I could tell people were saying things that they didn't mean. That's been a lifelong exploration for me of trusting my gut and trying to understand what's really going on. We really get to play with that with Chloe. There's an interesting unfolding of who she is with an unlikely partnership and I think Naughty Dog is really great at figuring out where the inherent tension is and where the potential is for growth, for the individuals and for the relationship. That's always really juicy terrain.
Where the things that we find out about Chloe's past and her relationship with her father, were things you've known since Uncharted 2?
No, I didn't know what her heritage was, this was all a big discovery. It's kind [of] like working - from what I hear - on a Woody Allen film. You don't get the full script, you're just given scenes and you play them and in the context you're given. That's been the process with Chloe and it's entirely non-linear. We'll do a scene that everyone has agreed on and then we wait for the developers to let the storytellers know where we need to go next and then the cutscenes evolve from there. While Shaun Escayg [creative director and writer on The Lost Legacy] and others had a better sense of what their intentions were and where they wanted to head, we were just engaging with these scenes on pure faith.
It was interesting to learn more and more about Nadine because Chloe has only known about her professionally and it's an interesting choice to choose her for this mission. With all the skills that Chloe has she's kind of messy and makes things up as she goes a long and Nadine is very heavily motivated, skilled and trained, and it's interesting to see that pairing. I like playing in universes where if violence is involved the people actually do get hurt. Chloe doesn't apologise for her fighting style, she tries to take the lead throughout the game and Nadine will just subvert her and do her own thing. That's a nice reality to play with, that this isn't the military, they're not following protocols, they're renegades, so what happens in that space when people are not beholden to each other, they're just on the same mission as mercenaries.
The relationship between Nadine and Chloe felt so natural, how do you capture that spontaneity when you're recording?
They are key elements to the process that Naughty Dog uses and that's put them at the forefront in a lot of ways. They decided from the beginning that in order to get interesting chemistry you really do need to be in the room with one another. That's a lot more expensive, there's a lot more movable pieces which can make for a more difficult scheduling situation and yet they knew that if they had people actually moving together in the mo-cap set that they would be able to humanize what they would then have to animate. So we're giving them so much data by just moving and interacting that it ultimately gives the result they wanted to achieve, that it seems and feels organic.
Another element that's very key to their process is allowing for flexibility. Encouraging the actors - I'm so far from being in the realm of deserving a writer's credit - but they will allow us to fill the spaces and the moments.
It's a dream to work with directors who believe that actors can convey a lot without opening their mouths. So all of that, working on the in motion capture, the playfulness of it, combining all of these disciplines of theater, film, television and voice over really deepens the relationships. Then the key ingredient for me is always who I'm in the sandbox with and it's just add water with Laura Bailey, it's just instant connection and instant chemistry. There's just so much playfulness and thoughtfulness and collaboration. As soon as I've got someone I can collaborate with, then I know I feel safe to just let the character run me rather than the other way around.
The community seems to have really warmed to Chloe. Do you find she's the character that most people relate to of all your work in game?
She's a flawed person and we've made, from the beginning, no apology about that. Chloe just has that element of unpredictability that keep her fresh and interesting and playful and she's flawed. I have fun with her and I hope, and it sounds like, that conveys.
She's just super fun. That's what people direct you to do in life, the advice that people give you is do what lights you up, go where the fun is, do what you're passionate about and Chloe just gives me this wonderful opportunity to be childish and inappropriate. What's interesting and striking a balance in this particular game is that Chloe is having to grow up and Nadine is kind of forcing her to. Now she's working with someone who's going to hold her to things and have certain expectations of her that Nate wouldn't. Because she's never stayed in relationship long enough to be really seen, there are layers to her that are revealed in this game that couldn't possibly have been revealed before.
Which parts of the script do you enjoy performing most?
Some of those reaction things, if there's a place to really own them and make them quintessentially Chloe, those become fun. Some of them are weird as an actor because we don't die and come back to life usually - though I have heard some odd stories from people in real life - I like surprising myself. I like being so in the moment and we do take after take, and the beauty and the freedom of us being captured by all these cameras simultaneously is that if something arises as a result of us not having to honor continuity - like you do on a regular TV and film set - there are these new moments, so we're keeping it fresh.
Along the way there is some attrition, some things that end up on the floor that you really like, so right now because I haven't seen all the cutscenes and haven't played the game, I don't know what the total picture is. Part of the beauty of that is if they do decide to do another game that does include Chloe again, there will still be more things to explore that we thought about revealing or that surprised us that we can play out somewhere else.
Would you be ready to play Chloe again if the chance came up
I adore her and she's such a privilege to play as long as they can find ways to keep reinvigorating the franchise. [With Lost Legacy] they went to so much trouble into choosing a world to inhabit, where in the world they would go, what the story would be, and the historical context for the Tusk of Ganesh, how much information we give the players, will the players care?
I was interested in coming back and I said "what's the idea?" I don't want to go into a space where we're rehashing things. Someone told me once that there are these women that get paid in France to go funerals and cry so that it gives everyone else in the room permission to grieve. As performers if we're helping people to feel something, to feel connected and identify with the characters, to be entertained, to laugh, if we can still keep doing that... Chloe will always have a place in my heart and if Naughty Dog keeps seeing the potential in her then I'm absolutely along for the ride.
Would you ever want to see her get a happy ending?
I think she has to continue growing. I think people have to earn their relationships and in Lost Legacy we see that she's learning the value of no longer hiding. Does she have value beyond her skills as a treasure hunter? Her moral compass makes her an interesting choice for Lost Legacy but does that prohibit her from having intimacy with people? That's something to explore.
And what does that do to her? Has Chloe had her heart truly broken? Has Chloe trusted people and it ended very badly for her? I think it happens to humans in general that we build this kind of egoistic armored system around ourselves to survive and then something in our life triggers a dismantling of those structures and then makes us extremely vulnerable. How do you rebuild yourself after that dismantling? Do you become the villain or a much better, deeper person. Chloe having a happy ending, I think she'd have to earn it. I don't think audiences - Nate is a good guy and he's motivated by doing the right thing and he learns when he makes mistakes - if Chloe as we've seen in Lost Legacy, when she starts to reveal herself and actually trust she softens and there are parts of her we haven't seen before. So happy endings, if they earned - as I think Nate and Elena's was - they're important for the people who've come along for the ride.
What people expect of Chloe or what they hope for her is an interesting question. It just depends on the rate that she grows up. Who is she? Does she deserve this? Let's not wrap it up in a bow, let's continue to honor who she really is. Is she going to settle down? I seriously doubt it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Image credit: Getty