Angela Bassett on skipping straight from Pac-Man to her role in Rainbow Six: Siege

angela bassett rainbow six siege interview
Academy Award-nominated actress Angela Bassett is the latest A-list Hollywood star to make the leap to video games, playing the first female agent “Six” in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege from Ubisoft. Bassett has been a hot commodity as of late, starring in FX’s hit American Horror Story franchise for the past two seasons, and coming back for a third with the upcoming American Horror Story: Hotel. She’ll also be seen on the big screen alongside Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in the January 2016 action flick, London Has Fallen, the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen.

We recently met up with Bassett at her first E3 video game convention to talk about her character, Six, who is deputy director of the Rainbow Six counter-terrorism unit, as well as discussing her own video game background.

“When Pac-Man came out that was my favorite video game,” said Bassett. “I remember being obsessed with it and whenever I’d see it, I’d get very excited and exuberant and loud playing it. But enjoyed it.”

“It was crazy … I didn’t know all that goes on behind-the-scenes to make [Rainbow Six Siege] come to life.”

She’s watched as video games have come “a tremendous distance since then” growing to become “more realistic, more sophisticated, more exciting, and more daring.” She said it’s been exciting to watch as the technology of gaming has grown by leaps and bounds. And now she’s had a first-hand experience going digital.

“It was crazy working on this game,” Bassett said. “I didn’t know all that goes on behind-the-scenes to make that game come to life, all the different layers that are required, all the different hands that go into it, so it was a little bit of a learning curve from doing movies. But there were similarities to film and TV because there’s a lot of creativity and make believe. I enjoyed it tremendously on the set because every day was brand new.  It wasn’t something I had done before, so it was like being a new kid on the set.”

Working on the game, Bassett still relied on the director, but she was working alone in a room simulating an office with a desk. She said it was “four intense days” of work. She spent the first day working out the action performance capture, and the second day doing facial capture. A third day focused on depth capture of the face, and a fourth was spent on additional dialogue.

“Six doesn’t have a lot of movement because I sit behind a desk,” said Bassett. “She’s the boss. She’s in control. She’s giving Team Rainbow the Intel so that they can go out there and quell this danger. I didn’t have a lot of motion capture of getting into helicopters or running or the kind of stuff Kevin Spacey and some other actors have done in games.”

“[Agent] Six is very strong. You can imagine what she’s had to do, having to prove herself in a male-dominated field”

She did take advantage of one part of the performance capture process, however. Ubisoft spray painted her face with a make-up-like compound that she says looked like pavement under black light. She made a video of that and sent it to her kids saying, “Hi, this is mom’s stone face. Go to bed. Be good. This is what I look like in your nightmares.”

The entire facial capture process allows the development team to track every single pore in her face realistically, something gamers will see first hand on October 13 when the game is released for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. They’ll also experience an intense story line in the campaign, with a plot pulled right out of a Hollywood movie.

“Reading the script, it had aspects of other characters that I’ve portrayed, where she’s a very accomplished and intelligent character,” said Bassett. “Six is very strong. You can imagine what she’s had to do, having to prove herself in a male-dominated field, how accomplished she must be, what things she’s had to put up with and that have made her a stronger individual.”

Inspired by real-world counter-terrorist organizations, Ubisoft’s latest Rainbow Six game puts players in the middle of lethal close-quarter confrontations, engaging in “sieges,” a new style of assault where enemies have the means to transform their environments into modern strongholds while Rainbow Six teams lead the assault to breach the enemy’s position. Gamers can reinforce their position by fortifying walls and doors and laying traps before the terrorists attack. On the terrorist side, players can use observation drones, charges, and other technology to help prepare for the attack.

The Golden Globe-winning actress knows she’ll now reach a huge gaming audience with the latest Rainbow Six title. She’s happy to see the large female gaming audience that exists today.

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm there is for gaming today, which is evident here at the E3 Expo,” said Bassett. “This excitement for gaming isn’t going away. The technology is getting better and better and will continue to improve at a rapid pace. I’m very happy to be a part of it, especially as one of the few women in this position in the game — and an African American woman. Really, it’s kind of novel, so I’m glad to be a part of that breakthrough.”

Bassett is committed to playing the game, once it comes out — something she hasn’t done since those Pac-Man days. It does help that the game is playable with up to four players co-op, so she can have some help as she hunts down the terrorist cell known as the White Masks in the game.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six:Siege is slated to debut October 13. Those who want to experience the game early can sign up for the closed beta, which commences September 24.

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