David Bateson and Jane Perry Interview: Hitman Anniversary

David Bateson and Jane Perry Interview: Hitman Anniversary

2022 marks the 10-year anniversary of Hitman: Absolution. This entry marked the franchise’s shift from a traditional stealth-shooter to the narrative-driven assassination sandbox of Hitman 1-3. It was also this entry that introduced Jane Perry to the franchise, who began her Hitman journey as a narrator in Absolution and eventually as Diana in the following trilogy.

Perry joined franchise staple David Bateson, who has voiced the franchise’s protagonist, Agent 47, since the first game. For 22 years, Bateson has been the driving force of Hitman and a huge part of what has made Agent 47 so memorable. Likewise, Perry made an immediate impression on fans and became just as integral to the franchise during her tenure.


Related: Hitman Trilogy Announced, Will Be Included With Xbox Game Pass

Recently, Screen Rant had the opportunity to virtually speak with the two stars. Perry talks a bit about Returnal, for which she won a BAFTA award for Performer in a Leading Role, and voice acting in general. Then, in celebration of Hitman’s legacy, both Bateson and Perry reflect on their time with not just their characters, but with each other and all the little moments that have brought them to where they are now.

jane perry with bafta award

First of all, I want to join the chorus of people congratulating you on the BAFTA. Has it fully sunk in? How has it been processing that?

Jane Perry: Oh, yes. Thank you so much. I think it’s starting to sink in; I feel like my feet finally touched the ground today, and I had a really good sleep last night. I haven’t slept through quite a few days, because I’ve been so wired through the whole experience. But it’s just a wonderful thing.

It feels very abstract, in some ways, to win an award for something that you’ve been doing for a really long time. But I’m so honored, and just so grateful. As I said at the ceremony, I really love the way these awards elevate our industry’s games. They are already, as you well know, in such competition for the film and TV market – and sports as well – and they just go from strength to strength. So, it’s a real pleasure to see them celebrate it to this degree, and it’s lovely to be a part of that.

When it comes to this medium, how different or similar is it to something like theatre?

Jane Perry: I was just thinking of a conversation I had recently with some game directors; performance directors in games. I said, “What do you like in your actors who are voicing games?” And they said, “We really like people who are able to dive in, commit, and work at the same level that you’d be working at if you were on stage.”

Because there’s a demand for a certain kind of energy that’s required, I think, to act in games and also animation. I think sometimes that’s a little bit surprising, because you have a microphone to amplify your voice. A lot of film and TV actors, they’re used to the camera coming to them, in a way; their mic is on their lapel, and they don’t have to speak that loud. It’s much closer to live performance on stage with a big audience. The level of projection and the kind of energy that you inhabit in your body is very similar to that. I think theatre performers and musical theatre performers really get it quite quickly. That’s my two cents. What do you think, David?

Related: Red Dead Online Character Creator Used To Make Hitman’s Agent 47

David Bateson: I think you put it very succinctly, and I totally agree. I had a producer once admit – in an almost embarrassed way – that he preferred working with theatre actors in the computer game business. I went, “Why are you almost embarrassed to admit that?” He went, “There’s such a mystique; it should be something more filmic.” As you say, when the camera comes to you, you can just mumble away. But I think theatre performers can up their game to that live intensity, which seems to suit the medium of computer games.

Jane Perry: It’s interesting, isn’t it? We see so many film stars and TV stars in games now, but I reckon a lot of them have a background and training in the theatre. Because we’ve seen extraordinary performances by these actors, but I think that they know it. They can just get into it, because they probably have that in their sort of hinterland as actors. Not to not knock film and TV actors. What would we do without them?

agent 47 walking through theatre in curtains down mission

In the same vein, when inhabiting so many roles and bodies and lives, have any of them ever snuck their way into any of your performances in other projects? In the context of Hitman, have there been any other past experiences that you find cropping up in Diana or Agent 47?

David Bateson: I’ll just say that my inspiration from the audition was a film thing. I thought it was very Blade Runner in look, which happens to be my favorite film of all time. So, I was going, “Ooh, I like this. It’s dark and shadowy, and there’s a lot of dark atmosphere.” It’s not a computer game made in daylight; there’s not many sunsets and sunrises. It’s all dark and shadowy, especially in the beginning.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, I had that lurking in the back of my head. That, and The 39 Steps. I can’t explain it, but it for me, Vienna in that post-war black and white look with Orson Welles running around the streets? Those two would sum up the flavor of what interested me in Hitman when I first looked at the cinematics. There’s always the comparison, just by the nature of Hitman, to things like 007. It’s interesting that the first thing you go to is dark sci-fi and cop more than a secret agent. Jane, how about you?

Jane Perry: I think, in terms of influences, I did think a lot of Judi Dench in the Bond films. Hard not to. She’s got that wonderful sort of wryness, which I think Diana has. She’s really down-to-earth, what you see is what you get, and practical; super practical. She was a wonderful inspiration for Diana.

Obviously, Dave has been at this a number of years longer than I have, but I’ve been at it for almost a decade now. And I think sometimes Diana shows up in my personal life when I need to get things done. I invocate Diana to just dig my heels in a bit more and get what I want.

She helps me, because otherwise I’m quite well… I was going to say I’m quite kind and soft. Not to say Diana isn’t kind, but I wouldn’t say she’s soft. She’s in my back pocket sometimes.

Having had the really rare opportunity of getting to stick with a character for so long, how has your relationship with these characters evolved over time?

David Bateson: This is actually a complex question. It’s reflected – was it Thursday evening? – when the two of us are on the red carpet. We’re on our way into the hall, and I wanted to change my bowtie from a black bow tie to a red bow tie. We had this surreal moment where Diana Burnwood is changing Agent 47’s bow tie as we prepare to go on a mission, or go into this hall. And I really smiled to myself, because it felt extremely intimate and real. I just got it, like a crossover.

And I even said to Jane, “If someone takes a photograph of this, this is the photograph.” It’s not the red carpet, it’d just be this bizarre moment. I had my barcode on the back of my head, and I was halfway there. Ten years is a long time to be involved with a character, and twenty years plus is a ridiculous time. I can only describe it as Agent 47 being like a friend, which is really troubling.

Related: Hitman 3 Year 2 Roadmap Includes Ray Tracing & PC VR Support

I just want to grab a beer with him and shoot pool and not ask him how his day was or what he’s been up to. It’s a feeling where the artist crossed over into real life sometimes. I’m not going around talking like this to my kids. [Imitates Agent 47] “Do your homework.” It hasn’t got that far, but it feels that I’ve gone on a long journey with the character, which has become somehow an integral part of my life, which is too weird for words.

You’ve basically lived an entire second life with these characters.

David Bateson: Yeah. And as Jane and I have got to know each other, that’s made that synergy even more apparent in my life.

Jane Perry: Thank you, I would agree with you. It’s really interesting, because I knew when I took on this role of Diana all those years ago that I was coming into something pre-existing and very well established. David and I don’t live in the same city, so our paths never crossed. I kind of experienced David as this mysterious presence elsewhere; somebody I didn’t really know. That worked so well, in some ways, for their relationship. Their relationship exists on an extremely professional level, and that’s it. But as the game progresses, you can see that the relationship becomes deeper and more profound and more connected. And, in some ways, that’s what happened in real life.

David and I only got to know each other during lockdown, because we were asked by another podcaster to do a podcast with four of the cast members of Hitman. That’s the first time that I saw David face to face. When was it that we actually went for lunch and finally met in person? October? Yeah, not even a year ago. So, actually meeting David has been a very new thing.

And it has been a real wonderful thing to play Diana for such a long period of time, because it’s nice to get to know a character so deeply. It really gives you the opportunity to flesh it out and offer more and think about things more. I really carry her with me, and when it became clear that this was ending now, I was quite sad. I was really genuinely sad and upset. It’s lovely to see that these two characters really are special to other people too, because then they have an afterlife in the hearts and minds of the players who continue to play Hitman. And that’s just so nice to witness.

I think Hitman is a series that could very easily fall into the trap of being more focused on the action and the gameplay than the characters themselves. But especially with the more recent reimagining, coming off of Absolution, there was the shift towards the characters a lot more. How was it planting those seeds? Was that more of a surprise, or did you play a part in making those decisions?

David Bateson: I’m glad you noticed that.

Jane Perry: No, I did not. Maybe you did, David, but I did not play a part in those decisions. It was only revealed to me shortly before the recording session. Because of the way game recording works over here in UK, you don’t get your script in advance. You don’t really know what’s going to happen the night before you go into record.

It’s a very in-the-moment process. I received my script in 24 hours, and I’d have a look and be like, “Oh, okay! Right.” By the time we got to Hitman 3, it was terrifically exciting, because there’s some pretty fabulous things that happen – and slightly shocking things too. It’s a complete delight and a surprise. It didn’t ever catch me off guard, but it really captured my imagination, and my excitement as an actress was really activated by that. I just thought, “These are some great things to play.” That’s kind of the process that I experienced with it.

Related: What Happens When Agent 47 Fails To Save Diana In Hitman 3

David Bateson: I’ll just add to that. Normally, you don’t get the whole script; you get your part. It almost felt a bit Shakespearean. “Here’s your part, we’ll see what happens.” But because I live in Copenhagen and know the guys and girls of IO Interactive, that three game story arc was revealed more to me. When I got to the final game of the trilogy, I actually got the whole script. And I’ve never, in 20-odd years, had that before. But it was fabulous. It’s ridiculously huge, with all the other characters.

Jane, I was intrigued like you, when you just get your lines. You’re sitting in the studio, someone’s directing you, and you’re just having the lines put in context. And all I want to know is what’s gone before. I don’t even want to know, actually, what’s going to happen next. I can just come in with the emotion for that scene without pre-empting what’s going to happen afterwards. But it’s exciting. I don’t know if it’s like doing a radio play, but you turn over the page and go, “Ooh, this happened. I didn’t know that. Oh! Better be quiet here.” I think that’s really appealing, actually.

agent 47 and diana dancing

Is this process almost like a cold read? I would have never guessed that.

Jane Perry: Yeah. People ask me about acting in games, and they say, “What can I do?” I usually say two things: train as an actor, because your acting skills are going to serve you very well. And take some improv classes so that you’re really comfortable being in the moment. You’re dealing with change in the moment, making choices, and being creative without much preparation. And then cold reading skills are super important.

Because David’s right. You get a spreadsheet, essentially, which has popped up on a monitor. There’s no way you can learn all those lines, and it’d be very difficult to do so anyway. You don’t always know what the other characters are saying, and there’s just too many of them to learn in 24 hours. You’re reading them, and then you have to bring that text off the page and bring it to life. You have make it sound as though it’s not coming from the page but coming from your mind. That’s a really important skill for acting in games.

David Bateson: I think that improv thing has never properly dawned on me until I had that experience last Saturday, watching some improv when I was in London. I thought, “Oh, what? I need to get a piece of this.” And I’ve become totally fascinated by that. If you’re a good cold reader, then this is cold read plus improv.

Jane, was your experience similar for Returnal?

Jane Perry: Yes, it was quite similar. In Hitman, I suppose because so much of what Diana does is mission briefings, it’s all kind of in the text and that makes sense. For the interactions that are going on, you could get all the information you need from the text. Nonetheless, I still had an excellent performance director.

But for Returnal, I really needed the help of Housemarque, who was the developer for Returnal. Gregory Louden worked with me, and then my performance director, Damien Goodwin, worked with quite closely on that. And what’s so interesting about Returnal is that, because Selene is all by herself, what she’s reacting to is her environment. So, they would really fill in the blanks of the environment.

Related: Returnal Deserves DLC To Further Explore Its Story & Universe

The text would be obviously important, but what would help bring it off the page was filtering the text through the environment that she finds herself in, and really seeing that around me. And if I pick something up, really seeing it. She discovers herself dead, so I was trying to buy in to that idea and create the given circumstances in my own imagination, and then reacting to that. I really needed my colleagues to fill in the blanks in a very detailed way, so I could paint that picture in my mind’s eye.

Dave Bateson: To your absolute credit, you were alone in that process. Everything’s going on in your head, without revealing anything, but you’re really just reacting. So, your performance director must have been an absolute genius.

Jane Perry: He really was. So helpful. When you’re acting, so much of what you end up doing is based on what you’re given from your scene partner. It creates this nice synergy between the two of you. You say something to me, and then I go, “Oh, that sounds good. I said, Okay, I’m gonna say something back,” and it creates this sort of loop. That is a process that I think most actors would say gives you a lot of energy, when you get in that dance with each other. But when you’re acting by yourself – I don’t know, I’m acting with me. It’s not as fun.

David can attest to this, because David works in the theater and also film and TV. There’s good acting skills, and that never changes, but then you have to shift your skills according to whatever medium you’re in. If you’re on stage, then it’s your stage craft. If you’re in front of a camera, then it’s your on-camera skills. And games are no exception. There’s a whole heap of skills that are associated with acting in this medium that the games actor has to learn and take on board and become quite adept at.

I think it’s really interesting to have those experiences and see what the difference is. But it’s a growing industry, so I think there’s gonna be many opportunities for all of us.

jane perry next to selene from returnal

In preparing for this [interview], I read about the casting situation that happened during Absolution. David, I’m really curious what it was like for you, seeing the Hitman community rally around and fight for you.

David Bateson: Yeah. Did they ever? It was very overwhelming. And I did not see it coming. When IO Interactive admitted to me, “We’ve changed our minds, we’ve decided to go in another direction,” I actually understood that decision. They’re entitled to do that. I was only a bit surprised because we’d talked about it some months before, and we were gearing up to pre-production. “In about six months’ time, see you in the studio,” was the last message I got. But the decision is fine, so I was okay with that. I’d had 11 years at that point, and that’s just a creative decision.

But the reaction totally blew me away. “It just grew and grew, and then they made this big effort saying, “We’re not going to buy the pre-orders.” And they didn’t, which was amazing. Because if you’re a real hardcore fan, you’ve waited six years for Absolution. That was a hell of a break. Then when it’s available from February of that year, you go, “Nope!” You go March, April, and end of May until the nervous phone call from IO Interactive. So, yes, I was deeply touched. I kind of swore then that I would do everything in my power to be there for the fans if I got an opportunity to meet and greet or to sign stuff.

Related: Hitman’s Agent 47 Voice Actor Was Nearly Replaced In Hitman Absolution

Have any really interesting opportunities like that come up, with meeting and interacting with the fanbase, that stick out to you?

David Bateson: Yeah, one example is EGX 2015. I went over to Birmingham in England with the Square Enix people, and I interacted with some level designers. They had set up a big space in the EGX with the cinema, and they were going to show sections of it and then talk about the level design. I was just filling in, really.

But at the end of the three or four days, they had arranged a half hour meet and greet from 4 to 4:30. Our stand was actually quite in the corner of this huge room, so we thought, “Okay, we’ll do this, and then we’ll go back to the hotel together.” And then we saw the crowd. Again, that was a fan thing, and I went, “Good grief! It’s ridiculous.” It was very big. It went on until just about quarter past eight. The security team were closing and just gave us the keys and said, “Guys, we’ve fenced off everywhere else in EGX. We won’t turn them away, there’ll be a riot.” There were so many; there were thousands.

That was an extremely humbling experience. But I would like to think that the executives who witnessed that – both Square Enix at that time and the IO Interactive people – would go, “Wow, we have created this. Look at those living people. 500 meters long, going all the way back, just not going away and standing in queue for all that time.” That was a quite a profound experience. Not just for me, but just the responsibility of being a part of such a game and witnessing it close up.

They all went back, and I staggered in later in the evening for dinner. They were like, “We’ve waited for you…” But it was fun. As an experience, it was seeing the response or reaction to a computer game that really humbled.

david bateson dressed as agent 47 and meeting fans

Was there any similar moment like that for you, Jane?

Jane Perry: I haven’t been to any of those game conferences, like Comic Con or anything like that. But I do have exposure to all our lovely fans on Twitter and Instagram.

Recently, there was this man who had a big tattoo of Selene on his arm in her space suit. It was quite cool, because instead of her face, it was a skull. It was so well done. I wrote to him, and I was like, “That is fantastic. I can’t believe you’ve done that.”

David, I know you’ve had this a lot, but that barcode that you had on the back of the head as Agent 47? I just saw that on Twitter today. A young woman had it tattooed on her body. I’m not suggesting everybody go out there and get a tattoo, but it’s great. If you do, tag us! It’s so interesting to see it. That’s real dedication to the characters and the games. I’m just always so blown away and amazed by that. Those interactions on social media are so cool.

Related: Hitman: The 10 Funniest Disguises In The Entire Series

David, have you given any more thought to the barcode tattoo?

David Bateson: I’m under a certain amount of pressure. I’m actually up for it, and I think my wife’s up for even more than I am. Although we’re trying to go to our children – I’ve got three daughters [aged] 20, 17, and 11 – and we’re going, “Don’t do tattoos! You’ve got them for the rest of your lives.” Meanwhile, they’re like, “Come on, Dad! Get a tattoo.”

It is a true story I put out there, that if I got nominated for the BAFTAs, I would get it done. So, I kind of dodged that bullet. But it still came up in the post-show. I’ve got a whole bunch of these stick-on tattoos to get through just to warm me up to the concept. I’m cool. I can’t even see it, so I’m fine. I’m going, “I don’t have any tattoos, except for the back of my head.”

Jane Perry: That would be painful, though. Wouldn’t it? I think it’s quite painful getting them close to bone. You’ll have to drink your whiskey before you go into the tattoo parlor.

David Bateson: Thank you, Jane. Who’s ever got a tattoo sober? That’s what I want to know.

david bateson with barcode tattoo

Are there any other achievements that have happened throughout your time with Hitman that you feel particularly proud of?

David Bateson: I don’t know why, but it dawned on me last week with all the build up to the BAFTAs. I’ve not said it out loud to anyone before, so I’m gonna say it now.

What Jane and I, and everyone at IO Interactive – from the level designers to the creatives and writers, of course – have done is create something out of many algorithms and computer language of lines and dots and zeros or whatever. It has made me feel that these characters are fully fleshed out, real, acceptable, and endearing – in the sense that the fans really acknowledge them. And that’s probably also come specifically from these last three games, and that story arc. The characters have really come to the fore, and it’s not just a single-person shooter.

Related: Hitman 3 Sold 300% Better Than Hitman 2, Developer Reveals

It just dawned on me. If a writer sits there in front of a blank screen and starts typing, that is fantastic. That creative process and what’s coming out of their mind and out of their fingertips onto a screen with words. But this is, for me, even more abstract. It’s just a computer language, and it’s hard to quantify that. It takes 200 people to get it all together. And then finally, with the writers’ talent, the voice actor comes in and fleshes it out – and does so for so many years that these characters are spookily real and three-dimensional.

You end up in a situation now where the fans know how Diana would behave, and they understand the personality of this enigma called Agent 47. It’s just a mind-blowing creative journey. I don’t know if I’m just slow or something, but it just dawned on me the other day how big that concept was of the creative process. Proud is not the right word, but I’m just really pleased with that realization of what we have been able to do; all of us who have made the process real.

Jane Perry: I really appreciate what David said in that regard. I’ve started teaching at some of the drama schools here in London; I teach voice over technique. I’m really proud of sharing the experiences that we have, as actors who’ve been in the industry for quite a long time, with people who are just entering the industry and providing a sense of inspiration for those students.

agent 47 and diana talking

In particular, I think games are going through a bit of a shift right now, and this idea of diversity is extremely important in games. We’re shaking it up a little bit, in terms of who are the voices we’re listening to. Can we have some more variety here? Can we have some actors from the global majority? Can we have a middle-aged woman as the protagonist? And, actually, yes, we can.

Let’s encourage these voices; let’s find a place for them in this industry. Not just in games, but across the board. I want to really instill in younger people and students that you belong here. Your voice belongs in this medium, and you have a really rich contribution to make. And I feel really pleased that’s being recognized. It’s been really nice to be part of that.

Related: Everything Project 007 Should Borrow From Hitman

I love how actors can diversify now. There was a time when the stage actor was just on stage, and the film actor only did film, and God, nobody wanted to do voice work. Now, I think everybody wants to do it, because it’s so much fun. It’s just a hugely creative field, so I’m really pleased about that too. I think that’s something to celebrate.

David Bateson: I know we can do all that with makeup in film. But it’s quite extraordinary that you could play a blob in a TV series or in a computer game or be an orc or an avatar. There is no limit, as you’ve got some good graphics to help you. It’s just a massive playpen.

Is there anything that is coming up for you guys that you’re excited about and able to discuss?

Jane Perry: I’m in a game called As Dusk Falls, which is a Microsoft game done by INTERIOR/NIGHT here in London. That’s coming out sometime this year, and it’s gonna be a really interesting game. It’s a drama about two families that are really interwoven with each other, and it has a 30-year timespan. And then I just started two games this week – which, of course, I can’t talk about. But I think they’re gonna be pretty fun. Lots of nice things, and maybe a bit of TV work upcoming. We’ll see.

David Bateson: How do I follow that? Nothing in terms of games at the moment. I did get some queries as to my availability later – after the summer – for a game. But I just don’t even comment on that, because I don’t know if it’s going to happen.

But I’m just slaving away at the cold face of voiceovers pretty much every day. But it’s a variety of stuff – it’s everything, in fact. And I’ve got a nice TV series coming out in the summer, which I have wrapped. It couldn’t be much further away from Agent 47. It’s a flamboyant conductor in an orchestra, and I’ll leave it at that.

Jane Perry: David is so famous as 47 that I think he runs the risk a little bit of always being looked at as 47, when in fact he’s got this huge range available to him. I suppose it just takes a bit of time, doesn’t it, to cycle back from that and remind people that David is a very fine actor. He could do to anything, really. He just has to sit in the shadows for a bit.

David Bateson: Just sit there and kill people to pass the time. [Laughs]

david bateson and jane perry together

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About The Author

Jacob Zeranko
(153 Articles Published)

Jacob is a writer, actor, and musician based in Baltimore, Maryland. He has had an original play, The Voyager, produced at Towson University, contributed articles to HaloScope Magazine, and is currently producing the “Bus Ride Talks” podcast for Greatest City Collective.

His hobbies include: gaming, making great coffee, and listening to prog-metal.

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