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'The Last of Us Part II': Ashley Johnson Navigates Grief and Guilt as Ellie – Hollywood Reporter

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In Part II, everything is much, much worse. Not only is the world itself emptier and more desolate than before — with more roaming enemies, traps and concerning letters penned by characters long dead — but Ellie’s journey is even more personal and urgent. Now 19, she has experienced loss, wrestled with confusing romantic feelings, bit her tongue when a bout of jealousy hit, and unleashed everything in her power — both her arsenal of weapons and the “power” of her ferocious determination — to save those she cares for deeply.

“We’re seeing Ellie in a much darker place,” Johnson explains, adding that she had some initial nerves about revisiting the role. Ultimately, she was excited to breathe life into the character again. Johnson got on the phone with THR ahead of the game’s release to talk about her chemistry with voice actor Shannon Woodward (Dina), how she connected during emotional scenes, and the “freedom” of video game acting. 

What was it like to return to the character of Ellie after several years and how has your perspective on her evolved over time?

I love this character so much, and I’ve been able to play her for 10 years now. I was so excited to jump into the second game knowing that we were going to explore more of Ellie and see other sides of her — her growth and her flaws. Obviously, we’re seeing Ellie in a much darker place. After Neil sat me down and told me the story of the second game, I was nervous but also very excited to go on this journey and tell this story, because I think it’s a very important story to tell.

Ellie is a brutal badass intent on vengeance. How do you go there emotionally to portray the character with both rage and empathy?

All we can do as actors is try to find a kernel of truth in there somewhere that we have experienced that we can relate to. And the rest of it — when you can put yourself in that space, you trust the dialogue, setting and director, and then it’s just kind of playtime from there. There was a lot of research that Neil and I did of things we had talked about — for me, as someone who deals with anxiety, but also playing a character that has PTSD, and researching that.

At the beginning of this game, Ellie’s already grappling with a lot. If anyone’s played the first game, we know that at the end of that whole journey that Ellie and Joel went on, she was trying to find meaning and purpose with her immunity. On top of that, she was lied to by someone she cares very deeply for. So when we see her, she’s older and dealing with survivor’s guilt, and also dealing with the person who she went on this journey with who was not truthful to her. [She is] still trying to find meaning in her life and goes off on a whole other journey, dealing with grief, hurt, anger and guilt. Those things can make you do some very bad things. I know it’s going to be hard for people to see Ellie in this really dark place, but I love that Neil wanted to do that with this character.

Can you recall a scene or sequence that wore you out emotionally and physically in a way that stretched you as an actor?

Definitely as a whole. We shot it over the course of five to six-ish years, and definitely throughout the course of shooting this game I was emotionally in some places that I’ve never had to go to as an actor. It was a rewarding experience even though it was exhausting. As an actor, sometimes you don’t know how far you can go with something until you do it, and it was a learning experience for me. I know for me, because of certain experiences I’ve had in my life, anger is an emotion that’s very easy to access. I don’t know what that says about me.

Of course, there are some beautiful moments of levity in this game, but a lot of it deals with very heavy subject matter. It’s pretty tough to be living in that for weeks at a time or while you’re shooting it. But I think we all were so excited to tell this story and be in this world again with these characters, and be together as a group again, because it’s such a creative and collaborative experience that we all have with each other. We were putting it all out there and being okay with maybe failing and trying again. It was a lot emotionally, but we all were pedal to the metal, ready to go there.

How much of yourself do you feel is within Ellie now that you’ve played her for so long? Are the lines blurred?

Absolutely. When I first auditioned for this part and saw her character description — and as we started shooting — I realized this character is not super different from me. Especially in this game, we see her quiet side and she’s a little introverted. Ellie and I are incredibly similar, and the closest character to me as a person of any character that I’ve ever played. Hopefully with the decisions Ellie makes, I would probably make some different decisions [laughs]. But who knows? I haven’t been in that extreme of a situation. I feel really proud and lucky that I got to play this character for as long as I have, because I think it’s pretty cool that they put a character like this as a lead in a Triple A game.   

Ellie’s interactions with Dina and the relationship there are key to the emotional thread of this game. Do chemistry reads exist in video games? How did you work with Shannon Woodward to portray that relationship with authenticity? 

I’m such a massive fan of Shannon Woodward. We did have a chemistry read, actually. There was an audition process that they had and by the time they narrowed it down to, I want to say four different actors for Dina, I read with all of them. All were so incredible, and it’s so fun at that point to see different actors take on a role.

When Shannon came in, there was a different level of chemistry that we had with each other, and instantly there was a camaraderie there, it was like we’d known each other for so long. Throughout the shooting of this game, we became such good friends. We text each other all the time. Shooting the scenes with her and working with an actor like her who is very spontaneous and very unpredictable, is so fun because it forces you to listen. Neil gave us the space to play, and we had such a good time. Both of us were so excited to play characters in this relationship where they both cared so much about each other.   

What drew you to the gaming space as an actor and how does it differ from film/TV?

The reason I went up for the game was I am a gamer myself. I had talked to my agent about maybe getting into video games if that was even a possibility, because I loved them so much and was curious about it. Working in motion capture, your possibilities are endless. You can shoot so much more in a day, it’s like theater. All of the information is taken in one take of the scene. It’s not like you do different setups [or] change your camera angles. With that, there is a lot more freedom.

For me, my favorite form of entertainment is video games because it’s immersive. Of course I love television and movies, but for me video games is the ultimate because you feel like you’re a part of the story. Being able to shoot with the headcam and with the motion capture suit on is a really weird adjustment, but it really forces you to access that imagination that you had as a kid. It feels like you’re accessing so much more.

So you’re a longtime gamer, then?

Pretty much, yeah. I have older siblings and they both were into video games. I think it was just kind of passed down to me. I love them. I feel like in the past few years I’ve been lagging behind, but because of this pandemic we’re in, I’ve been able to pick up some of the games that I wasn’t able to play the past few years. That has been my solace.  

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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Ubisoft Forward Stream: Watch Today's Ubisoft Event Live – GameSpot

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The Ubisoft Forward livestream went live on July 12. There was be a pre-show one hour before the main event, tons of reveals for titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion, free giveaways during the presentation, and more. Despite the ongoing abuse allegations–read more about that below–the publisher did not address them during today’s pre-recorded show. Here’s what was shown during the presentation.

Ubisoft Forward: How To Watch

Ubisoft Forward starts today, July 12 at 12 PM PT / 3 PM ET, with a pre-show happening an hour before. Check the image below to see the exact start time in your respective region. You can watch the event live here in this post, complete with a post-show offering thoughts on what’s shown.

You can watch Ubisoft Forward right here or on Ubisoft’s official Mixer, Twitch, and YouTube channels. The broadcast is incredibly accessible this year; Ubisoft Forward has subtitles for a variety of languages and is available with American Sign Language on the official Ubisoft Forward website.

Ubisoft Game Announcements And News

Just Dance 2020

Just Dance 2020 was the first game shown during the pre-show presentation, and it mentioned that six new songs were coming to the game and that a tournament mode was on the way. This Virtual Paradise content is out July 23.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet

Ubisoft gave a brief look at a playable sandbox that was used for the Apple TV+ show Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. The team at Ubisoft Red Storm initially made a fake game for the show, but ended up making the content actually functional.

The Crew 2

Ubisoft Ivory Tower gave an update on The Crew 2 during the pre-show. The Summer in Hollywood update recently went live, and it will include special additions like The Beach and Neon Battle over the next few weeks. There are also special modded events arriving in August.

The Division 2

An Easter egg of sorts is available in The Division 2, as revealed during the pre-show. The game’s rubber ducks were acknoweldged, as they were initially put in the game to remind a designer to finish something while the game was in development. It adds some hope into a world that is on the brink of collapse.

Trials Rising

Ubisoft revealed a surprise for Trials Rising. An endurance challenge has arrived in the game: the Gigatrack. A fan-favorite, the enormous track is the biggest ever put in any of the series’ games and is sure to test your skills and anger your friends in multiplayer sessions. It’s free on July 16.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ubisoft detailed upcoming additions and changes to Ghost Recon Breakpoint. These changes come in the wake of poor reviews for the game last year as well as disappointing sales figures. AI teammates are finally coming to the game on July 15. They are fully customizable, including physical features, gear, weapons, and costumes. They will follow your lead if you go stealthily, and there are four orders you can give.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Ubisoft Toronto’s extremely ambitious Watch Dogs: Legion, which features the ability to play as any character in the game, was showcased during the presentation. It showed how the different characters’ unique abilities will change gameplay, and how they can fit seamlessly into the very political story’s cutscenes. The game, initially due for release in March, will now launch on October 29, 2020 for Xbox One, PS4, Stadia, and PC, as well as Uplay+. When Xbox Series X and PS5 launch, it will be on those systems, too, and will be a free upgrade.

Brawlhalla

The fighting game Brawlhalla is coming to iOS and Android devices in just a few weeks. These versions will feature customizable controls, as well as cross-play with all other platforms. They launch August 6 and feature more than 50 fighters. Players can pre-register now and unlock a free skin at launch.

Mobile Showcase

Ubisoft dedicated a segment to its mobile games during the show, including Might & Magic: Era of Chaos, which features exclusive rewards. Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad was also featured in a trailer, and it gave us a brief glimpse of Sam Fisher alongside other Clancy heroes.

Hyper Scape

Hyper Scape was only just announced this month and immediately launched into closed testing on PC. However, it is now in open beta and though a final release date is not available, the game is scheduled to arrive this summer to PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

Assassins’ Creed Valhalla

Ubisoft fully unveiled Assassin’s Creed Valhalla during the presentation, showing off gameplay and confirmed a November 17 release date that had leaked earlier. The game is planned for launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, PC, and Stadia, though only current-gen platforms have confirmed release dates as the next-gen consoles’ own release dates have yet to be revealed. The game’s narrative director Darby McDevitt shared plenty of insights with us in a recent interview.

Far Cry 6

Ubisoft confirmed Far Cry 6 and actor Giancarlo Esposito’s involvement a few days prior to its presentation because of leaks, and it presented a full trailer for the game during Ubisoft Forward. The game features the return of a fully voiced protagonist who can be either a man or woman. It’s set to release on February 21 2020 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, and PC. Here’s everything we know about the game so far.

Among the games that will be discussed during Ubisoft Forward, the studio confirmed that some very specific news will be revealed. The long-awaited AI Squadmates update for Ghost Recon: Breakpoint will finally be talked about, as well as a deep-dive into The Division 2 easter eggs, additional Just Dance 2020 news, and more. Currently, it’s unclear if previously-announced titles–Gods & Monsters, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Roller Champions, and others–will appear. However, Ubisoft did say “a few other surprises” will be unveiled.

Get Watch Dogs 2 On PC For Free

Ubisoft has also confirmed that you can get a free copy of Watch Dogs 2 during Ubisoft Forward. All you have to do is login to your Uplay account after the Trackmania playthrough and before the show ends to claim Watch Dogs 2 on PC, but Ubisoft has added it will still be free if you failed to log in. There will also be additional rewards you can earn during the livestream by participating in trivia questions. Answering them correctly will net you various in-game items across some of Ubisoft’s games, though the studio didn’t specify which games exactly.

Embroiled In Controversy

Despite Ubisoft Forward–which was announced in response to the cancellation of E3 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic–continuing as planned, the studio has been hit with an assortment of allegations in recent weeks. AC Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail stepped down following infidelity allegations, company executive Maxime Beland resigned after being accused of abuse and assault, and other reported employees have been suspended in the wake of rising allegations. It’s unclear if product and brand marketing manager Andrien Gbinigie, who was accused of sexual assault, still works at Ubisoft Toronto, the studio currently finishing up Watch Dogs: Legion.

As a result of the recent allegations against a number of Ubisoft employees at all levels of the company, studio founder and CEO Yves Guillemot confirmed a “structural shift” is coming. Guillemot outlined a series of steps Ubisoft intends to implement in the wake of the company’s #MeToo moment, from appointing a “Head of Workplace Culture” to establishing a diversity board that will review and improve the company’s policies and procedures. One day before the presentation, several high-level Ubisoft employees left their positions or the company altogether, including chief creative officer Serge Hascoet, head of Canadian studios Yannis Mallat, and global head of HR Cecile Cornet. However, it has since confirmed that Cornet has not left Ubisoft entirely.

GameSpot has officially kicked off Play For All–a celebration of all things gaming. Join us as we bring you the summer’s hottest news, previews, interviews, features, and videos, as well as raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts and Black Lives Matter with the help of our friends from around the gaming world. Check out the Play For All schedule for more.

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Far Cry 6 announced at Ubisoft Forward, launches next year – GamesIndustry.biz

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Ubisoft’s single newly announced title at its Ubisoft Forward presentation today was Far Cry 6, which was shown along with a cinematic trailer and a release date of February 18, 2021.

The game is planned for release across both current and next-generation systems, on Xbox and PlayStation as well as Google Stadia, and the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Store on PC. It will also be a part of the Uplay+ subscription service.

Other titles shown during the showcase included Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, which received release dates of October 29, 2020 and November 17, 2020, respectively.

Both games will feature smart delivery on Xbox systems — meaning users who purchase the game on either Xbox Series X or Xbox One will be able to play it on both systems without purchasing a second time.

Additionally, Brawlhalla received an iOS and Android release date of August 6, and Ubisoft’s free-to-play battle royale Hyper Scape is now out in a free PC open beta.

The presentation closed with the news that another Ubisoft Forward event would be coming later this year with more announcements.

Ubisoft Forward took place today as a stand-in for the publisher’s usual E3 presentation, coming on the heels of a wave of abuse allegations against a number of company employees all the way up to top executives.

The company has since announced a plan to restructure its editorial team in response to allegations, and has placed some executives on leave while others have stepped down.

Ubisoft acknowledged this morning that its presentation took place during a time of “big internal change,” stating in advance that it would not be addressing these issues during its pre-recorded Ubisoft Forward showcase.

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Senior staff leave gaming firm Ubisoft in harassment probe – Japan Today

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Gaming company Ubisoft’s second most powerful executive is among senior staff to have left the firm as it pursues an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations, it said Sunday.

Last month the French company, one of the world’s largest video game publishers whose portfolio includes Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, launched a probe after allegations of sexual misconduct were shared online.

Serge Hascoet, chief creative officer and the company’s second-in-command, has now resigned along with human resources director Cecile Cornet, Ubisoft said in a statement.

“Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees,” said CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot.

“This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised — and never will,” he said.

Guillemot will take over Hascoet’s role temporarily as he oversees a staffing overhaul, the statement said.

The managing director of the company’s Canadian branch, Yannis Mallat, also stepped down.

“The recent allegations that have come to light in Canada against multiple employees make it impossible for him (Mallat) to continue in this position,” the company said.

The announcement follows the departures of another two top executives earlier in July, after current and former employees used social media to denounce predatory behavior by managers.

Ubisoft, which counts 18,000 employees worldwide, is the latest video game company to face sexual harassment allegations.

The global game industry has been dogged by criticism over its treatment of women in both games and real life.

This was encapsulated in the so-called “gamergate” controversy in the United States in 2014, which saw critics of the way women were depicted in games receive death and rape threats, prompting calls to reform the industry’s culture.

The allegations made against Ubisoft on Twitter last month accused managers in the company’s Toronto and Montreal studios of sexual misconduct, and denounced an allegedly toxic work environment for women.

Accusations also targeted managers in Brazil, Bulgaria and the United States, with some of the alleged incidents going back years.

Some named the alleged perpetrators, and many accused the company of failing to respond to staff complaints and even promoting those accused of wrongdoing.

“I am a former employee and they swept every claim of sexual harassment under the rug,” read one tweet.

Alleged incidents include a creative director licking the face of a female co-worker during an office party, and a manager demanding oral sex from a colleague.

“Moving forward, as we collectively embark on a path leading to a better Ubisoft, it is my expectation that leaders across the company manage their teams with the utmost respect,” Guillemot said on Sunday.

© 2020 AFP

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