INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Rolf Saxon (George Stobbart, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse)

Rolf Saxon Interview - Broken Sword 5

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is a point-and-click adventure game created by British game developer Revolution Software. In 2013, the studio raised $771,560 (over $823,000 including PayPal donations) via Kickstarter to create the latest instalment in the classic Broken Sword series, which was eventually released as two episodes. Alternative Magazine Online’s review of the first episode described The Serpent’s Curse as “not only an excellent new instalment in the series, but an excellent adventure game full stop.” Broken Sword 5 was released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in September 2015, making the game available to a whole new audience. It seemed like the perfect time to catch up with the charming man behind the voice of the series’ much-loved protagonist George Stobbart. AMO is therefore delighted to present an exclusive online interview with American actor Rolf Saxon.

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Hi Rolf, thank you for your time and welcome back to Alternative Magazine Online!

It’s a genuine pleasure Marty, thanks again for asking – again. I know we like doing this but your readers…?

Congratulations on the release of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse! How do you feel now that the full game has finally been released, most recently on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?

Thanks very much. Well, as you know, it’s been a long time coming. Charles takes aprox. 2 years for each game, sometimes longer (which is why they’re so good) and then there’s production time, post production, marketing, etc. I come in towards the very end after Charles and Revolution have done all of the graft. I have a pretty easy job of it all.

Broken Sword 5

You hinted at the possibility of another instalment of Broken Sword in our 2011 interview – when did you first find out that Broken Sword 5 was going to become a reality?

To be honest, I don’t actually remember. It was certainly a year or two before the release. I was in Chichester and we’d talked about the Kickstarter idea and what I could do to help out. When Charles says Broken Sword is moving forward, I’ve learned to be a little patient but it will be happening.

The previous game in the series was released in 2006 – was it a challenge to return to the role of George Stobbart seven years later? Did you prepare for your return to the role in any way?

Was it really released that long ago!? Holy …sh – cow! I didn’t remember it being so long. Charles and I had been speaking about it for a while on and off and he always sends me various sound tracks from previous games. But as for it being a challenge, I genuinely like George and I find it very easy to reacquaint with him very quickly. He’s funny, smart and brave – all the things I wish I could be. And is Nicole hot or what!?

Revolution Software Logo

What was it like working with Revolution Software once again? Charles Cecil seems like a truly lovely man – and a massive history buff!

Charles is exactly as you describe and more so and the crew at Revolution are absolutely top-notch! What is it like working with the best? Pretty sweet! Always makes my job so much more fun.

You obviously have a lot of fun voicing George – what do you think it is that attracts you back to the role time and time again, and what characteristics would you say define him as a person?

I do have a lot of fun with him and Charles and Revolution. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also some hard work but it’s good work and whenever I have that, I’m a pretty happy guy. As I’ve said above and have said often before, George possesses many of the qualities most of us wish we had on tap but don’t. So that also makes him a lot of fun to play with. Grace under pressure. Usually. And when he doesn’t have it, Nicole does.

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The game was successfully funded via Kickstarter in 2013 – what do you think of this approach as opposed to going the traditional publisher route?

To me personally it makes very little difference in that the work experience is very similar. However, it gives Charles et al much more choice as to what and how they wish to proceed. For them it is also a tremendous amount of work – much more so than with an external producer/distributor. So while they had much more control, their headaches seemed to be exponentially bigger and the pressure was enormous. The only major difference for me was the far more direct contact with fans; which conveniently segues into your very next question.

You seemed to fully embrace interacting with the fans during the campaign – is this something you enjoy?

To be honest, I was a little hesitant about that at first. Very much by choice, I don’t normally do a lot of that kind of thing. Charles and I spoke about it and I agreed to dip my toe in and see how I felt about it and whatever decision I ultimately made, Charles would back me up.

This can be a funny business in that people see you on TV or in a film and they think they know you. While I very much appreciate actors would not work without people appreciating what we do, sometimes there is some confusion as to what we do for work and who we actually are. This can lead to… difficulties when meeting the public. I thought the same might be true with folks hearing me in a game.

But very happily, I misjudged the Broken Sword fans. Almost immediately, we started having genuine fun together – your good self very much included. They were engaged and engaging without being in any way intrusive. In fact, there are a couple that I’m still in contact with on a relatively regular basis. I was invited to Skype a very recent meeting of the Goats which was brilliant!

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I know from our previous chats together that you aren’t really a gamer – have you played any of the new game yet?

Really sorry to disappoint anybody (particularly Revolution) but… no I haven’t. I’m still the same non gamer I have always been. Except for Asteroids… Don’t tell anybody OK?

Who is your favourite supporting character in Broken Sword 5 (apart from Nico!) and why?

For me, it’s not so much the characters in the game that I have as favorites (aside from Nico of course) but the actors who voice them. There’s a couple who, when I know they’re coming in, I just smile because I know it’s going to be a very, very good day. Toby, Kerry and Hazel, you know who you are. Honestly, there has never been an actor I haven’t enjoyed working with on this but those guys just make me laugh.

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At one point in the game George has to disguise himself as someone else – are you a fan of fancy dress in real life?

There are a number of funny answers I could offer here regarding fishnet tights and frilly undergarments but the truth is, I spend so much of my life in costume and makeup of one kind or another that I really have very little interest in fancy dress in real life. Having said that, I do love shoes…

George sure does carry a lot of items in his pockets – what do you typically have in your pockets? 🙂

I carry the normal stuff, a wallet, some change, keys, usually some bits of paper find their way in as well, but the only really George-like item I think would be my pen knife. It’s a small Buck pocket knife with a single 1.5” blade.

George Nico cafe 1

How did the recording process work?

The process has always been more or less the same. The only real change has been in the technology available to us. We’ve always tried to get the actors to work together in the studio(s). Occasionally that hasn’t worked out due to schedule conflicts or timing issues but for the most part we’ve been successful with that goal. The time involved in the recordings has also changed.

For example and as I’ve mentioned before, the first game took 2 weeks, 6 days a week and 8/10 hours per day to do. That was by far the longest and hardest schedule we’ve ever done. In part it was because Revolution had broken new ground and it was the longest most densely written game written to date. The production house in Germany couldn’t believe it and had to push back the publishing because they simply weren’t expecting its size. Nowadays, it’s a much easier and quicker process to record it.

How would you compare working on Broken Sword 5 in 2013 to working on the original game in 1996?

Well, the technical aspect of it I pretty much answered above. Although, it was also very different from anything I’d ever done before. I had originally intended to use a different voice for George but when I realized the size of the script coupled with the fact that for the most part, I wasn’t able to read it, let alone prepare it before I saw it in the studio, I decided (with Charles) that the best thing would probably be for me to just use my voice without accent or dialect.

As for the rest, the first game was the first and it was exciting and hard and funny and LONG and we’d go out to the pub on the Saturday nights after the week was over and laugh a lot. There was a great feeling of camaraderie. That fortunately has never changed. I suppose, in a nutshell, the subsequent games have become much easier for us to record.

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Did you think back then that you’d still be making these games today?

Absolutely not! I had no idea at all as to how successfully this would be received. I don’t think any of us did. And it’s a good kind of game as well, not like some of the other hugely successful but very violent ones… which I won’t mention here.

What do you think have been the key ingredients in the continued popularity of the series?

I think it’s the creativity of the narrative coupled with the originality of the stories themselves. That’s what sets it above the others. Many of the concepts are worthy of feature films as is much of the dialogue and many of the characters.

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Apart from bringing George back to life, what else have you been up to since our last interview in 2011?

Wow, very fortunately, I’ve stayed pretty busy. Aside from Broken Sword 5, during those 4 years, I directed my first feature film, a number of plays, have acted in films and plays – even musicals (!), I’ve traveled a lot with that work and started directing at Central School (London) and teaching at Berkeley Rep Theatre (California). Started a very different business with a friend of mine last year in the Bay Area and have a number of projects in various stages of completion. Have to stay busy!

What’s next for you Rolf?

As you know, I’m doing the tour of Mack and Mabel, starring the legend that is Michael Ball, which we finish in December. I’ll then spend some time in London with my son and with a few friends and then head back to California where I’m looking forward to some time off before I start up again. Might be able to take a trip to the desert for a week or two – now that would be very nice!

Paris

Thank you for your time! As expected, you’ve done a fantastic job voicing George in Broken Sword 5. I’ve been a huge fan ever since the release of the original game, which I played with my father as a child – it’s a pleasure as always to speak with you and I shall eagerly look forward to your future projects!

Thank you very much Marty – and the pleasure is all mine! As always it’s great speaking with you and please give my regards to your Dad, too. Finally, my apologies this one took so long for me to finish!

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