Joel’s Daughter Speaks Up: An Interview with The Last of Us’ Hana Hayes

by on June 29, 2013

Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Hana Hayes, who played Sarah, Joel’s daughter, in the recent hit game The Last of Us (see our review here). These questions tell of her experiences with Naughty Dog, her co-actors, and experiences with acting. There are spoilers dealing with the beginning of the game, so if you’ve yet to play it, wait until you’ve put about an hour in before reading.

Pixelvolt: How similar are you in real life to Sarah?

Hana: I guess [I am similar] in some ways. She is very strong, confident, and a tad tomboyish. I am definitely a girly girl but I am not afraid to squish bugs and stuff like that. I don’t think that in a situation like the one she had to go through, I would be able to stop screaming, but I guess both of us would/did not make it that long, sadly.

Pixelvolt: What was your favorite part of voice acting Sarah? Least favorite?

Hana: I absolutely loved the entire experience with the game, and everyone who I worked with. The voice acting was great, but my favorite part was the motion capture. I wouldn’t say my ‘least favorite’ but the hardest part was probably acting in the voice-over booth. When you are doing mo-cap you are really in the scene acting it out, so the lines feel much more natural, but in the booth, you really have to go on solely imagination.

Pixelvolt: What did you think of the final product when you started playing it?

Hana: I think that this game is so incredible. I don’t play a lot of video games, but my brother does, so I have seen what the average graphics look like. The detail in this game was like nothing that I had seen before; it was truly perfect. I had the privilege of getting to see some of the animators work, and I remember looking at all their screens and being completely blown away; they were creating scenes and characters and adding little things like moles and wrinkles. I am not allowed to play the whole game, sadly, but everything that I have seen has been extraordinary.

Pixelvolt: How do you feel about the connection between Sarah and Joel?

Hana: Joel and Sarah are more like best friends than father and daughter. They joke and play, and it was really fun because Troy [Baker] is hilarious. Between takes and in the booth he would always have some ways to make us laugh. It was nice, because even when the content was scary and sad, he lightened the mood a lot.

Pixelvolt: Other than that, what was it like working with Troy Baker?

Hana: Troy is super funny, and great to work with. I think ever since the audition, Troy and I worked well together. I don’t know why, but I was always very comfortable doing scenes with him. I think after you do a scene that is so intense, such as when I died, it really sticks with both people. Troy really invested his entire self in that scene, and we were both crying the whole time. I will always remember that scene, it felt so real. Troy really is one heck of an actor.

Pixelvolt: How do you feel about being part of such a grueling, dark game?

Hana: It was dark material, but everyone who was working on it was so nice and made lots of jokes. It didn’t feel dark during motion capture because we were having fun. When Troy shot our neighbor and when I die we were in the moment, which was dismal, but after we were done everyone went back to being happy and ready for the next scene.

Pixelvolt: How did you get involved with Naughty Dog?

Hana: Well, I auditioned for the game, and ended up booking it. I remember that the audition was one of the most intimidating ones ever. Not because of the people–they were great–but because it was on the giant sound stage and I was not sure what we were going to do. A mo-cap stage is extremely huge and white and silent. Needless to say it was a lot different that the normal audition where you are in a 12 x12 room. I had never done mo-cap, and I was told to use a Southern Texas accent. I love accents so that was fun. I feel so grateful to have met and worked with the people that I did at Naughty dog.

Pixelvolt: How did you enjoy your experience with Naughty Dog?

Hana: I loved it, all around. It was amazing. I did not meet one person at Naughty Dog that wasn’t nice and extremely talented.

Pixelvolt: Do you hope to work for Naughty Dog again in the future?

Hana: I hope so, very much. They are a great company with incredible talent… they created a masterpiece and I’m sure anything they do in the future will be amazing.

Pixelvolt: How long have you been acting?

Hana: About three years now in LA. I did musical theater for 2 years before we moved. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my parents’ support.

Pixelvolt: Do you have any projects in the works now that you’ve gotten some exposure in the industry?

Hana: Well, I am in a new Stephen King adaptation called “Mercy”, which I was filming it around the same time as The Last of Us. I had a blast filming that also, and it will be out sometime in early 2014.

Pixelvolt: Do you have any tips for anyone trying to get into the industry?

Hana: I would say to go into LA casting and submit yourself for things, until you get an agent or a manager. I would not be doing this without my wonderful manager and agent who work very hard. This is a really difficult business, and rejection happens every day, but when you get just one “Yes” it can change everything. You really can’t get discouraged because all of the rejection won’t matter when you do get something. You can’t give up.