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Troy Baker and Nolan North talk their Dirt 5 rivalry: ‘There was no script’

Dirt 5, set for release on November 6, is among the cross-gen games that Microsoft has used to promote the smart delivery capabilities of its upcoming Xbox Series X|S consoles (though it also will come to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5), and it is garnering praise among critics. The title reunites voice acting veterans Nolan North and Troy Baker in a campaign that pits the two in an epic racing rivalry.

Digital Trends sat down with the performers to talk about their roles, get the dirt on why Dirt 5 is among their most unique projects.

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Digital Trends: Could you describe the roles you play in Dirt 5?

Troy Baker: I get to play AJ, who’s going to be your mentor as you craft your own career bespoke to your decisions and your choices. I will be their coach, their mentor, the voice in their head as they do that.

Nolan North: My character, Bruno Durand, and I’m very specific about this, is the antagonist in Dirt 5, not the villain. Bruno is a very complex character. I got an absolute dossier on who he was, his background, his achievements, his likes, dislikes. I basically was able to just take that information and then sit in a podcast format. And be the character, completely improvised.

Baker: With the characters, the temptation might be to go, “Here’s the good guy, and here’s the bad guy.” What I love is that the writers didn’t play into that temptation. This is more like the Beatles and the Stones. These are two incredibly talented people that need each other as iron sharpens iron. 

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North: They need each other. I’ve likened it to, in a few interviews, to anybody who’s a soccer fan. Renaldo and Messi. You know, who’s the best, who’s the greatest? People always go into these super loops. They’re both very, very good at what they do, both very different in their styles and in their personalities. 

That’s one of the interesting things about the story, that podcast format. What was the process for creating that?

North: There was no script. There were bullet points. You know, you want to get in the fact that, OK, we’re racing on this date or, you know, be driving this car. There was some information. But when I say it was improvised, it was 98 to 99% improvised. I just read the facts of who he is as a person, took that in, and just created this kind of persona.

We just kind of made it up on all the background information. It was a very unique one, and because it was so unique, it’s what drew me to the project in the first place.

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Baker: The writers did an incredible job of providing us characters with incredibly fleshed-out backstories. It feels like this is a real conversation happening between two people. It’s that level of commitment to the authenticity that helps this feel not just like there’s two actors that are doing their lines of dialogue.

Codemasters could have done this kick-ass 20 to 30 minutes of cinematic content with performance and full facial capture, and all of that, if they wanted to. That is kind of a hat on a hat. It’s already a great game, it’s already a great experience. The fidelity is going to be second to none. We don’t have to do that in order to have a good narrative. 

The two of you have worked on so many projects together, both as friends and foes. Do you feel the need to purposefully switch up your dynamic with every new collaboration, or does that come naturally through the projects themselves?

Baker: When Codemasters came to me with the pitch, “You’re going to play a mentor,” I was like, “OK. So essentially I’m the protagonist of the story. If there’s a protagonist, it follows that there would be an antagonist. Who’s the other person?” They told me about Bruno, but that they didn’t know who was going to play him, so I was like, “Well, what if we made it, Nolan?

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We’ve spent so much time together, both professionally and personally. It’s like we can anticipate each other’s moves. It makes the dialogue feels like this is a real conversation happening between two people. And instead of it being Troy and Nolan, it’s AJ and Bruno.

Nolan: I think in as far as Troy and I are concerned, when you approach work, you just like to work with people you know are going to be good. And I always know he’s always going to be good. There’s a rapport. There’s a trust that you have with people.

So I think if anything, it takes any kind of pressure off of you because you don’t really try to do something different. The only way you would ever try to do something different is if the character and the story dictates something different. So, I don’t really look at a project any differently working with Troy than anyone else. I let the project dictate the performance.

Tom Caswell
Professional video producer and writer, gaming enthusiast, and streamer!
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