The voice of the latest hero to arrive in massive, popular video game “Overwatch” almost walked away from the job before he knew what it was. But Benz Antoine said he’s happy he didn’t because the role has already changed his life.
“I’ve spent 25 years working as an actor and no one in my family thought I was cool until I got this,” Antoine told Variety in a recent interview. “During my call back (game developer Blizzard) told me, ‘If you get this, your life will never be the same.’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But bro, I got to tell you, my character isn’t even in the game yet but my life is already more changed that I could imagine.”
Antoine has a robust acting career. He is a recurring guest star in the upcoming “V-Wars” Netflix show starring Ian Somerhalder, a recurring guest star in “In the Dark” slated for April for the CW, and is currently doing a cameo for upcoming movie “Dreamland,” starring Gary Oldman and Evangeline Lilly, .and directed by Nicholas Jarecki. He’s best known for his work in “Romeo Must Die,” “Death Race,” and “Four Brothers.” But none of that prepared him for his role as Baptiste in Blizzard’s game.
“Overwatch” isn’t just another game, last year the game topped 40 million players and had raked in more than a billion dollars in revenue. Because the game is an on-going, ever-expanding title, its popularity has only grown since its launch in 2016. The game is also proving the model for professional esports with its Overwatch League.
Landing a role for the voice of one of the game’s more than 30 heroes doesn’t just net an ongoing job with the need for regular voice updates, but also instantly makes up part of a massive fan community.
But Antoine didn’t know any of that when he got his first nibble as a voice actor, something he’d never considered doing before.
“I had no idea,” Antoine said. “I was auditioning for something else and my manager said there is a little video game thing here. Do you want to do this voice, it’s a French accent.”
Antoine, who is Haitian, decided to give it a try.
“It was secretive so we didn’t know what it was for,” he said.
They sent off a tape and heard they made the top 100, then the top 30 and finally the top three. But he still didn’t know what it was for. Tired of the secrecy and callbacks, Antoine said his agent finally had enough.
“He was asking, ‘What is this about? Is this a good-paying job.’ and then I just said ‘Take my name off the list, I’m not available, I’m very busy,” Antoine said.
That’s when Blizzard called and let his manager in on what the job was for: “Overwatch,”
“I had no idea what it was, I had never heard of it,” Antoine said. “For me it didn’t change anything, but everyone around me was like, ‘You need to go in.’”
He said he did one final session, this time live over Skype.
Then they called back to say he had the job.
The real name for “Overwatch’s” Baptiste is Jean-Baptiste Augustin. According to the game’s fiction, the Haitian was one of the 30 million children orphaned by the Omnic Crisis. He enlisted in the Caribbean Coalition, a pan-island force formed in response to the Crisis, at a young age. Baptiste decided to become a combat medic in order to help people. After completing his service with the Coalition, Baptiste joined the Talon mercenary group and started putting money aside to set up a clinic in his hometown. But as Talon became increasingly brutal and started taking on assassinations, Baptiste left the group.
His role in the game is that of a well-armed combat medic who can dish out damage as well as he heals it.
More importantly, though, for Antoine and Blizzard was the fact that Baptiste is a Haitian and needed to be voiced by someone who could speak Creole and came from that cultural background.
“They brought me to do about 100 lines in Creole, which I’m fluent in,” Antoine said. “I thought I’d need to rewrite lines because it wouldn’t make sense, but they had someone on staff who was Haitian and they were fine. Speaking Creole was fun, being able to go back and check out the authenticity with my grandmother and hearing Creole in the game for all of the Haitians, that’s going to be exciting.”
Antoine said that despite spending much of his life trying to get away from his natural French accent, he was excited to lean into it for this role. His favorite line among those that made the cut for Baptiste was saying essentially “Light em up” in Creole, he said.
Although Baptiste was already revealed with a short video, he’s not quite widely available to play as in the game. Instead, players would need to opt into a test server to access him. His full roll-out hasn’t been dated yet.
But that hasn’t stopped Antoine from already enjoying life as an “Overwatch” celebrity.
“We have Comic-Cons lined up from now to the end of the year, something I’ve never done before,” he said. “The amount of heat this has generated, the attention is crazy.”
He said that the community of voice actors already well known for their work in the game has been very welcoming to him, though he hasn’t met any in person yet.
“They’ve been very gracious on social media,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting them whenever I start doing these Comic-Cons in person.
“It seems like a very, very big loving family. Not only the cast but the fans. The fans are like literally, “Welcome to our world.” It’s always been there and I knew it existed, but I never felt like I could be a part of it.”
While Antoine doesn’t play games, he said his brother does, so he’s been hanging out with him watching him play “Overwatch.”
The new gig has also opened his mind to trying to land more voice acting jobs.
“When I go into these tapings it’s a whole other universe,” he said. “It’s just like you’re acting, but there’s no camera. So you start thinking, ‘Can I become as effective as I’ve been on camera, but just with a microphone?’ I can’t just rely on being 6-foot-4 and brooding. You have to reinvent and use all of your skills. Some of those skills have been dormant for 20 years. I had to relearn how to breath, how to project.“
Particularly difficult was what Antoine calls “exertions,” the sounds he has to make which will be used when Baptise is being injured, thrown around, or killed. And then there’s the one-sided acting and direction.
“Voice work, it’s a one-sided conversation,” he said. “So you’re flying in these boots and you come down and save someone, OK: action!
“I had no choice but to get to know Baptiste real quick. In the end, they were counting on me to bring out some personality not only the accent but the energy and vibe.”
Antoine is managed by TBT Management in Montreal and repped by Buchwald in New York.