Laura Bailey Was Nominated In The Game Awards For Whitewashing


With the discussion of whitewashing in video game voices it got me wondering where the problem is coming.
I see it in two forms:

There a lack of people of color in voice acting
Is it because the job isn’t for them? Are there not programs that help them get into acting?


The people behind the games are pushing all of the people of color away.
Do they think the white actors were better than the black actor?

Also where does dubbing come into this

As a fan of voice acting, as it an art that many people dismiss, it disheartening for it to be hidden racism in it. So what can we do to improve it then just calling out actors and studios?


This is a really deep subject that’s has a lot of built in baggage to it like just about anything related to entertainment that’s been around for a long time.

Full disclosure, I’m an independent voice actor myself (and a cis white guy) so I’m sure I have biases I’m not fully aware of.

I think voice acting has a lot of grey areas when it comes to performing certain archetypes. I think there is a thin line between “doing a type of voice” and “being racist”, but it’s razor thin and depends on a lot of subjective factors.

The biggest instance I’m sure lots of folks have on their minds is Laura Bailey (a white woman) playing a black character in Uncharted 4. On the surface it seems like a major fuckup, but then we find out the decision to make the character black came after Laura had recorded and motion captured her performance. There’s also the fact that lots of listings for characters will not specifiy a characters’ full appearance on an audition slide and the actor might not know what they’re getting into. Of course that doesn’t absolve an actor from any ignorance, but I hope y’know what I mean.

In the US I think there are a lot of opportunities for people to get into acting, but I believe a lot of it is also about being privileged enough to have that be an option beyond church and school plays. If you want reoccurring work, you’ve got to have the means to live where the work is and that’s expensive as hell. I can’t do it myself that’s for sure. To top it off, like major movie roles, I’m sure there is whitewashing and tokenism in voice acting to from some casting directors. A black voice actor might be seen as really good at doing a “black voice” and not much else and might get passed over.

Dubbing anime and games I think is a little different in that it used to be so much smaller than it is now. Everybody who’s paid attention to it knows who Steve Blum or Nolan North is because they were cast in so much. People will stick with who they know will do a great job and are dependable and pleasant to work with so that’s why a lot of these casts tend to appear in multiple projects. I think it is encouraging that companies like funimation have greatly expanded their casts for anime recently. They already had quite a few Latinx actors who worked regularly and shows like Machiko and Hachin have a majority POC cast if I recall correctly.

Ugh, I hope I’ve made some lick of sense with that text wall.

I’m hopeful we have smaller creatives like MidBoss lead the way when it comes to this. When I read for characters in Read Only Memories they were very determined to cast actors who could speak truth into the cast full of diverse characters of race, gender and orientation and not just a “good voice” and I think it worked out pretty well for the game as a whole.


I guess I could tl;dr my whole reply with “yes, you’re right and it’s really complicated”


Putting pressure on studios is exactly what we should be doing? If you have a black character, cast a black voice actor. There’s no shortage of actors from a multitude of backgrounds, and the sort of excuse you mentioned about “this job just isn’t for them, there aren’t enough to cast” is nonsense. As for your last paragraph, employment discrimination is still very real, everywhere, all the time. Doesn’t even seem that hidden really when you just start casting white people to play a POC. Studios are fully aware of what they’re doing and it’s pretty brazen.


I don’t really want to fall into just straight dunking on Laura Bailey, but did anyone else play Lost Legacy and just find her performance…bad?

Seeing this really kind of drove home the feeling I had while playing the game that it always totally sounded like she was doing an awful impression.

I was fully aware of the shitty white washing situation while playing Uncharted 4, but didn’t really have any issue (critically not morally) with her performance overall. However - possibly due to the fact she’s obviously talking way more - when playing LL I found Nadine’s voice extremely grating.

In the midst of writing this post I finally took it upon myself to go back and re-watch a few Nadine cutscenes from Uncharted 4 and it seems clear to me something about her portrayal was tweaked which is…interesting considering the looming shittieness of her playing a POC character.

All of that’s not to mention the fact that Chloe is also a POC character voiced by a Claudia Black who is also white.

Also in trying to confirm Chloe is spelled with an “e” I stumbled upon this Kotaku article from 2011 when Uncharted 3 was coming out in which Amy Henning said she originally wanted Black to voice Elena who was supposed to be Spanish which is…confusing considering both Black and Elena’s actual voice actor Emily Rose are white.

So ultimately apparently Naughty Dog has a long history of doing this kind of thing which is to say the least…not great.


I will admit, I used to be in the camp of “Well, since it’s only voice, it’s not whitewashing! Anyone can do voices! People of color can voice white people, too!” A big problem with this argument is it assumes that people of color actually do get those opportunities, which… they don’t. There are exceptions, sure: Prey had a good amount of crossover, and Kimberly Brooks is a very popular actress, but these exceptions are so, so rare. Before we can even debate whether or not you should be able to voice people from different cultures (answer: you really, really probably shouldn’t), we need to be in a situation where there is actually a balance of job opportunities. :confused:


I remember someone saying that she didn’t know who she was even playing until she committed to a contract.


I think what’s even worse is that there are actresses and actors who are people of colour and played POC that delivered fantastic performances this year. Debroah Wilson as Grace Walker in Wolfenstein TNC was an absolutely astounding and rousing performance (Actually you could cheat and mention the entire TNC cast. Nina Franoszek as Frau Engel is one of the greatest antagonist performances in gaming). Rosario Dawson as Billie Lurk in Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider. Abubakar Salim as Bayek in Assassins Creed Origins. It almost feels like the committee didn’t actually care and just thought “Oh, they were in a Naughty Dog game, better just nominate them anyway cause screw research and all that”. There’s a lingering sense of laziness about it from the press, which is really what is so irritating about it because it feels worse than consciously doing it.


This is an important point - the ordering of choices matters here. If the official sequence of events is to be believed, they cast a white actor, then made the character black. They did not choose a white actor to play a black character or give them a job that ‘should’ have gone to a black actor. Now, arguably they should have got their design nailed down before casting and have avoided the whole situation, but they didn’t.

If that’s the case then, given the voice and mocap work already being done the two available alternatives are to make the character black, or to make them white to match the actor. Does anyone really benefit from the developers thinking “We can’t make them black, we’ll look racist?”


They seemed to have some authentic white afrikaner voices among her grunts funnily enough? weird how that works… As someone w/ a ton of family from/in SA, her accent was like, painfully bad for me lol.

I feel like a ton of games in the last few years have actually been better about casting authentic accents i.e. overwatch (for all it’s other cultural missteps), wolfenstien, hell even dragon age to some degree! It just makes this example stick out even more


On the topic of whitewashing animated characters, Hari Kondabolu has a documentary about Apu coming to TruTV in November. Here’s an AV Club interview:


Well I mean they knew. And if they didn’t know if she was supposed to be a black South African or a white Colonialist South African… then, that’s just EVEN WORSE. It’s like do you not know about apartheid?

Anyway for those interested I talked about this at GDC


Little unhappy with how many dislike the video has. As if it a bad thing to do better characters of color.


It totally reads like them sitting around a table and going: “you know what? why don’t we get some of that there diversity in our game? people seem to eat that shit up”


yeah i could absolutely see that character working as a white south african/afrikaans mercenary leader, but it reads like they suddenly realised the implications of that on the character & that they wanted her to actually be a bit more redeemable/compelling lol


Yeah this one is on Naughty Dog, not Laura Bailey. She didn’t know she was playing a black lady until it was already done. What’s she supposed to do, give her rent money back because ND decided to be idiots?

Hopefully the new SAG-AFTRA rules will give actors at least SOME idea of who they’re gonna be playing, which will help them avoid this kind of thing.


Laura Bailey has no trouble finding work or with visibility as an actress. She could have let this be a chance for someone else to take the spotlight. To add to the fact that she went along with it, she also created her own delusion that she was actually helping representation by continuing with the whitewashed casting. Not wanting to lose a job opportunity is one thing, but saying such a nonsensical thing kills any empathy I could have had with her.


Hey! I linked your talk as part of an argument in previous thread about this issue. Nice to see you here!

Sorry, offtopic :­)


Right, but at that point she has already done the job, done research on the accent, the amount of hours she’s spent. If she had heard of this before the job and still done it I would agree with you but… I don’t know, I don’t know Lauren Bailey’s full situation but I have a difficult time telling a person they should not accept compensation for a job they have already done. People need money to eat, you know what I mean?

The statements she made were boneheaded at best and insensitive and downright offensive at worst, but I also don’t feel like I know enough about the situation to crucify her based on that. We don’t know what ND had put in her contract with regards to PR in relation to the game and what she could and couldn’t say. There’s a chance that she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I guess I’m just not too comfortable laying the blame at Bailey’s feet, especially when Naughty Dog is such a bigger, more obvious target.


Let me quote myself:

She is also Chun-Li in “Street Fighter”. And maybe more, her IMDB list is huge.

But I don’t think that anyone suggest that it is only her fault. ND is way more guilty in this situation. But don’t take away the agency of voice actors either, they know what’s going on.