When she first started acting, Plano-raised Courtney Hope couldn't have guessed that her career in TV and movies would lead her to star in a video game. Games were starting to include voice work and a few made use of full-motion video, but the technology wasn’t nearly as sophisticated then as it is now.
Today, big name stars like Kevin Spacey are lending both their voices and their likenesses to games. Some titles, like the recently-released Uncharted 4, are produced in a full motion capture environment, not unlike some Hollywood movies.
Quantum Break, released earlier this year by Microsoft and Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment, attempts to bridge a gap between computer generated cutscenes and traditional live-action storytelling. The sci-fi, time traveling story boasts a lot of Hollywood and TV actors, including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings) and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones). Hope plays Beth Wilder, an employee of the shadowy corporation Monarch Solutions.
Hope spoke with me over the phone shortly after the game's release about her experience making it, her other projects (including the award-winning Amazon show Transparent) and her favorite food to get when she's back home in Texas. After the interview she came to town for the USA Film Festival, where she was representing her film Displacement.
When did you start acting? If you were still in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at the time, what were you doing then and how are things different for you lately?
I moved there when I was about eight months old, so it’s pretty much all I remember. I lived there until I was 14, when I came out to LA, and I kind of went back and forth for two years and then moved out to LA when I was 16.
Did you start acting here?
Yes, I did. I was on a dance team, so I traveled with that, and I knew when I was about three years old that I wanted to act. So I took classes and did some commercials there [in the D-FW area]. When I was about 11 I begged my mom to get me an agent. Then I started doing stuff like Walker Texas Ranger and some commercials, and then finally I told my mom I wanted to leave high school and go to a performing arts school and then come out here and act. So that’s what I did.
She was very supportive. My family knew -- I was kind of a showman as soon as I popped out of the womb. Unfortunately for them! “I’m here!”
So it wasn’t a surprise. They knew that’s what I wanted to do and they’re very supportive of me, and I’m fortunate that they were able to commute back and forth until my whole family moved out here to be with me when I was 16.
Do you come back to Texas very often?
I do come back to Texas a couple times a year, actually. My uncle lives in Austin, so I go to see him a couple times a year, and then I have friends in Dallas, so I was in Dallas last September for my best friend’s wedding.
Tell me about Quantum Break. The majority of your character's appearance is digital, rather than live-action. Was that a weird and new experience for you?
Yeah, it was new, and it was a lot of fun. I really didn’t know what to expect when I got involved in it, I was just excited to be a part of the project. Once we started to dive into the nitty gritty of it, it was a blast. It was a lot of fun. We did a lot of shooting here and then in Finland. We did the mo-cap, and then we would do the facial capture, so everything was kind of done multiple times, with different scenes, to make sure we had all the elements to put the character together.
So that was different in itself, and then there was the length of how long it took. I was a part of the project for two years, so that was new. But it was a blast, it was so much fun. I would love to do many more games.
When you first got into acting, did you ever see video games as a possible career path?
No, I really didn’t. When I was younger I used to play Mario Kart and Smash Bros. and all that stuff, so it was never really something that crossed my mind. But my brother and then a lot of my friends introduced me to the gaming world when I was in my teens. I remember being fascinated by it and seeing how involved they were in that world, knowing that it definitely was something big. So I never really saw myself as [a video game actress] in particular, but now that I’m in it, it’s incredible. I mean, I’ve played multiple games like Grand Theft Auto and those types of games … The whole world itself is cool. And it’s just cool seeing myself rendered as this character that looks like me. I’m very honored.
Do you think we'll see more game hybrids like Quantum Break in the future?
I hope so. I think it was a great approach, the way that they packaged the game together. Me coming from the film and TV world and having the game be the kind of new thing in my arena, it was kind of fun to blend the two together. I think there’s something that can be learned from live action that can enhance the gameplay part of it that’s new and fresh, especially in today’s day and age. Blending the two arenas is something that I’m glad Remedy and Microsoft decided to take a leap with, no pun intended. I think it’s great. I really do hope that more games take that route because there’s more that you can learn from the characters and you can invest in them to a deeper level, which I think has not been done yet.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a recurring role in season two of Transparent on Amazon, and I have a couple indie films, like the one that’s going to be at the USA Film Festival there in Dallas. And I have a couple indie films I’m working on: A western and a horror film.
Is there anything you have to do or eat when you're in Dallas?
Definitely barbecue. That’s like my heart and soul. We have a couple good places out here in California, but southern barbecue is definitely the place.
And Braum's. I know that’s funny, but we don’t have that out here [in California] and I love their crinkle cut fries. My brother and I actually took a road trip there a couple years ago, and that was the first place we stopped. I got their crinkle cut fries and their chocolate ice cream, and I dipped it in and I’m like, "OK, yeah." If you’ve never had Braum's’ crinkle cut fries and their chocolate ice cream, you’re missing out.
And then obviously seeing my friends. All my friends are there, my old dance studio … Just travelling around Plano, seeing my old school, Jasper High School, Spring Creek Academy … very nostalgic.