Interview: Stephen Oyoung Wants to Fight Racists & Star in Ghost of Tsushima 2

(Photo by Raen Badua)

Stunt performers don’t always work their way into starring roles like Stephen Oyoung. Some might know him as Tectonic from Netflix’s ill-fated Jupiter’s Legacy series, while others may recognize his face and voice from 2018’s well-regarded Spider-Man game (pictured above) for his portrayal as Martin Li or, his villainous alias, Mr. Negative. His comic book train is even continuing into 2022 as he’s playing Red Hood in Warner Bros. Montreal’s Gotham Knights.

Senior Gaming Editor Michael Leri recently sat down with Oyoung to speak about his recent turn into video games, how he worked himself up to lead roles, the importance of diversity (especially in times like these), and his desire to get into the Ghost of Tsushima franchise. The full video interview is at the bottom of the article.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Michael Leri: Looking at your career, you were mostly a TV and film actor. Then in 2018, you seemed to start starring in video games. Why did you start wanting to do video games and how did you actually start?

Stephen Oyoung: The video game thing was totally unexpected. I got into it because in the stunt business, there’s word of mouth. I had a great action designer who I am really good friends with, Phil Silvera. He was doing all this Batman Arkham stuff with Blur Studio and one of the first projects he brought me on was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I believe. It was one of the cinematics.

I had never done motion capture at that point in my career. I was just coming off of doing some stunt work on some movies. It was all new to me.

You ask what made me want to do it… I had no idea what I was getting into. Little did I realize that video games are the highest-grossing industry in entertainment in the world now so I feel very fortunate to be part of it.

Interview: Stephen Oyoung Wants to Fight Racists & Star in Ghost of Tsushima 2

So how did you get into about Spider-Man specifically because that was such a huge role since it had your face and voice?

I had done a lot of mocap up to that point. It was always the action or the body, never really the face, never really the voice. And then this audition shows up one day through my agent. They were searching for an Asian guy. They don’t tell us what the project is. They just said it was at Sony and was a video game. It was very secret and a cool bad guy.

They had a scene that they had written out that was not in the game. It was just to test your acting range. I was the first guy in and I was super nervous because I was looking at this list of all the guys that I know. It was really tough because you want the job and you don’t know what it’s for. They said, “Be cool and be scary, but also be really charming” and all this stuff. So you walk in and you’re like “What do I do?”

Luckily, I just got really into the role which later obviously turned out to be Mr. Negative. It was a really cool scene where we were on a rooftop — I don’t even know if I can talk about it — where I think there was an escape where a helicopter comes down and we had just finished robbing some bank or something. I had some hostages and we had this cool, evil monologue.

It was destiny. I, like, blacked out and had no idea what was happening. I was possessed by the character. This is a story that [Creative Director] Bryan Intihar has told before but I was so into that audition that I literally got lost. I’ve never done something so unprofessional in my life. At the end of the audition, I had a prop knife and I literally threw the knife on the ground and I yelled at everybody, the casting that was there, and I said, “I defy you to find somebody better than me!”

And all of a sudden I woke up and I was like, “Oh right, I am in front of real people.” They were kind enough to hire me.

Are you looking into video games more now?

Yeah, absolutely! I am trying to kill this industry. I want to be the Samuel L. Jackson of video games. I try to audition for everything they’ve got. One of the heartbreaks was that I never got into Ghost of Tsushima! I was like, “What?”

I am always trying to get into video games, especially because I grew up as a comic book lover. I loved Spider-Man. I loved Batman, as everybody does so to be a part of that universe is incredible. I am just really grateful that I am in Gotham Knights. So that’s something for me, especially since we work on these things for a while, I am just super grateful to part of it.

What happened with Ghost of Tsushima? Did you try out for it?

I think every Asian guy in town auditioned for it. [laughs] I auditioned for the lead, Jin, and one of the Mongols. That’s just sometimes how the cards go in this business.

Well there is that Iki Island expansion, which might lead to another sequel down the line…

Hey, Sucker Punch! If you’re listening, come on! Please! I am your guy.

Interview: Stephen Oyoung Wants to Fight Racists & Star in Ghost of Tsushima 2

You’re Red Hood in Gotham Knights. He’s typically known as a brooding anti-hero. Can you describe your take on Jason Todd?

I got in trouble last time I talked about it. WB Montreal sent me an email saying everyone needs to be quiet from now on. I can say that I do know that the writing team really cares and everybody is trying to be as not cliché as possible. At the same time, everybody knows the source material so much.

Personally, I am a huge fan of Jensen Ackles in Under the Red Hood. But I also tell people that I am trying to not be a complete copy of the guy because no one wants to hear an imitation. But at the same time, I understand what people want and who the character is. It’s just been a lot of fun doing it.

I really hope that next year when the game comes out that everybody buys it because I am trying to get on that sequel train. I want to get that sequel money! [laughs]

Since the game is probably about a year or so out, what is your involvement with the game now? Do you do things periodically or what?

We started doing mocap in Canada. But right when we did that, COVID hit. Literally after one of the mocap sessions, in addition to providing the voice and the facial movement likeness, we had to literally drive and escape from Canada right as the borders were closing down. It was like something out of Escape From New York.

Escape From Canada, naturally.

Exactly. [laughs]

I wonder why Kurt Russell never made that sequel.

They’re too nice! Who would want to escape? They’re so friendly out there.

The AAPI community has gotten a lot of hate in the past year. A study from Stop AAPI Hate says there have been around 3,800 incidents in just the past year. What are your thoughts on the role TV, film, and games play in shaping society’s perception of marginalized people? And what do you think your role in this is?

I think that is a very lovely, astute question. It gets to the heart of why, as entertainers, we do this.

So number one: Why do I want to be an entertainer? Obviously, I want to be famous and get money. But number two, I absolutely do believe that being in any kind of entertainment, showing your face — showing this face, specifically — it does round out people’s perception, subconsciously, of people that look like me.

And if you can see all of these different kinds of characters and all of these different kinds of stories, it really rounds out and develops us as human beings in other people’s minds. And when you can see other people as human beings, it’s a lot harder to hate on people.

The third thing that I want to say is, I really wish these crimes would happen to me. They never pick on dudes like you or me, they always pick on little old ladies like my mom or grandma. It’s always people that are very vulnerable and it’s, like, come to me at the parking lot. You want to say some words? Let’s say some words. Let’s hash it out.

It must be tricky to navigate all of this sometimes and figure out your role in all of this.

It is very, very tricky. At the end of the day, we all just, especially actors, we just want to act. I don’t want to be an activist. I’ll be honest. But we have to be. We’re forced to be because there is something so awful happening in the world.

This is not just Asians. Obviously, there are trans rights and Black Lives Matter. There are a lot of things happening all over the country. It’s a burden we all have to take up and a fight we all have to do. I sympathize and feel for all of my fellow performers who are fighting for more visibility.

And, frankly, writers like you, too, and venues like Thank you for letting us talk because that is the whole reason why we’re here. We’re able to talk about this. And I get it, people can get sick of it because there are so many causes right now, but all I can say about that is buy my video game and we’ll be all right. Just play my video game, have a beer, it’s gonna be fine.

Thank you for your AAPI question. To any punks out there that want to roll, let’s go! Come to the parking lot on Ranch 99 in Cerritos. I will be there. Let’s do this! [laughs]

Interview: Stephen Oyoung Wants to Fight Racists & Star in Ghost of Tsushima 2

(Photo provided by Stephen Oyoung)

You were also in Jupiter’s Legacy, which recently got canceled. What are your thoughts on it?

Obviously, I am sad but I also understand that that’s show business. You never know what’s going to be a hit, what’s going to be long-lasting. Jupiter’s Legacy was number one [on Netflix] for many weeks all over the globe. People like it. People don’t like it.

I will just say I am very honored to be part of this show that is going to launch all of these spin-offs. For that, I am very grateful. And to be part of the big tone-setting fight sequence that Phil Silvera set up. All of these people are amazing people to work with. Our costume designer Lizz [Wolf] was fantastic. The takeaway from Jupiter’s Legacy is even if it’s canceled, I do think it’s a game changer for superhero suits. I wish I stole mine, especially since it’s canceled. They won’t use it!