Assassin’s Creed Mirage hits PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Amazon Luna, and PC this week (and it’s coming to iOS for certain devices next year, too). We’ve been covering it for a few weeks now as part of Game Informer’s exclusive cover story coverage during September – check out our Mirage hub here for exclusive features, interviews, previews, and more – but everyone can play the game this week.
Ahead of its release, we spoke to Basim voice actor Lee Majdoub about his entry into video game acting, what he brings to the character, and more. We also spoke to Mirage narrative director Sarah Beaulieu during the same interview to gain more insight into what fans of the series’ lore can expect and more. We also spoke to Roshan voice actor Shohreh Aghdashloo and you can check that out here.
Enjoy our interview with Lee Majdoub and Sarah Beaulieu below!
An Interview With Lee Majdoub And Sarah Beaulieu
Game Informer’s Wesley LeBlanc: What’s it been like playing a returning character in this series? I know you’re new to the role, but Basim was a big part of the previous Assassin’s Creed, and now he’s leading Mirage. So I’m curious: what’s that been like stepping into those shoes?
Lee Majdoub: I don’t want to say it was daunting, but it was definitely a thought about like, “Okay, what’s the challenge going to be?” But I think the freedom was that the Basim that you see in Valhalla is quite different and many years after the Basim that we meet in Mirage for different reasons that we won’t speak about. So when they told me about that, and the focus was on the earlier years of Basim, and joining the Hidden Ones and his journey to try and figure out who he is, and his quest for understanding where he belongs in the world, that really pulled me in. I got really stoked on that. I thought we did have the advantage for sure, a lot more freedom than you typically would if you were revisiting a character.
For you, Sarah, what’s it been like helping bring this character as the protagonist of Mirage and then working with Lee to bring that character to life with a new take?
Sarah Beaulieu: Well, as he just said, Basim from Valhalla is not Basim from Mirage. So the first step was just figuring out what we wanted to tell about this guy and, as I often say, the last scene came up first, the last scene from Mirage. And that was the focus point of his evolution. Mirage is very much more condensed than Valhalla is. And even though you can still wander the city and do a lot of stuff in it, you still have a very linear beginning and a very linear ending. And seeing the character evolving in that semi-open world, as we call it, was pretty challenging because we still needed as a player to feel Basim evolving and changing through the game until the end of it. It’s a very definitive ending, you don’t have any direct choices. You’re going in one direction.
First, we wanted to find what was positive about Basim as a character because people know him from Valhalla, and they know him as a bad character. Something that Lee brought very early was the light that we needed, and some of the things that – I didn’t say this to you ever [talking to Majdoub] – but one of the things that made me choose Lee as an actor for the role was the fact that you have very kind eyes, and that’s nothing to do with the voice, but I knew you were able to bring the light that we needed to see in the character right away from the beginning of the game and through the game. And so the character becomes quite likable for the players right away.
Assassin’s Creed fans love Assassin’s Creed, and the protagonists are a big part of that. People get these characters tattooed on them, they have art in their houses – players remember the protagonists. What’s it been like joining the ranks of people like Ezio and Edward Kenway and all of these other beloved characters?
Majdoub: It’s really cool. I was just telling the team today because they were showing me some stuff and some footage – I got to play a little bit. I think there’s still a little bit of, like, I don’t know what to call it, but disassociation. It still doesn’t feel quite real. I hear my voice, and I remember what we recorded and what we did, and the conversations we had. And then when I see it on the screen, I’m like, “I just really want to play that Assassin’s Creed game.” You know what I mean? Like, that guy’s cool. I really want to jump into the story. But it definitely is a dream come true.
I’m a big video game guy. I’ve been working really hard to kind of get my foot into the video game industry and then to get an opportunity like this on a franchise like Assassin’s Creed and to tell this story, and it’d be in Baghdad, and it’s just layer upon layer upon layer. And the whole team, everybody involved from top to bottom, is so invested. You could tell that everyone cares, and everyone has a personal connection to Mirage. It’s really cool. It’s really cool to see that much love go into it.
This is the first Assassin’s Creed game in a while that’s bringing us back to the Middle Eastern roots of Assassin’s Creed. You’re Lebanese, so I’m curious; what it’s been like getting to see this Middle Eastern culture come to life in such a massive franchise with you playing the star of it?
Majdoubb: It’s a lot. I was telling Sarah today because I thought we had talked about it, but we hadn’t: I had a very turbulent journey in my teens and 20s as far as identifying with being Middle Eastern and some of the prejudices and everything that came along in life. So a big part of my life was cutting myself off from that part of it. I was like, “No, I don’t want to speak the language anymore. I don’t want to do anything like that. I’m not associated with it.” I had a lot of shame with it. And so then in like the last five years, as part of my personal journey, I was like, “I need to find that love again because all I’m feeling is resentment and it’s unfounded.” So my journey was getting back and falling in love with being Lebanese.
Funny enough, eight or nine months before Mirage came, I reached out to my mom, and I was like, “Mom, I want to learn the language again. Can you help me with that?” So my mom and I spent like two, three times a week on the phone as I learned Arabic again. I learned to read and write at a grade three level, a grade four level [Majdoub says with laughter], but you know, I speak it way better. Then Mirage came along – there are these moments in your life that happen where it’s like, “Okay, how isn’t there something larger than me that’s at work here in some way, shape, or form, you know what I mean?”
And to get that opportunity to show a Middle Eastern culture in that light, in a positive light that we haven’t really seen in a very long time, to play a character that’s so multi-layered – it’s just really cool. It’s hard to describe in words. It just feels like it’s more than just telling a story. It feels like there’s a definite personal connection to it, especially with a guy like Basim that is struggling with his identity. He is trying to figure out who he is. There are so many parallels in that sense of “I want to do better in life.” Basim is trying to do better in life. He’s trying to make his life better and make other’s lives better, with the thieves and the kids and everything. He just wants a better life for them all. It was quite cool. You don’t get to see that often.
And Sarah, for you, I was actually at Ubisoft Bordeaux recently for our cover story –
Beaulieu: I know, it was awesome!
Majdoub: I followed along with your cover story and watched your videos – I’m a fan!
I spoke to artistic director Jean-Luc Sala about creating this Ninth-Century Baghdad, and we don’t really have a real reference because the city was destroyed by the Mongol invasion in the 1200s. But something he spoke a lot about was shedding a new light on Baghdad, which, because of American wars in the area and more, has been given a negative light. People have these assumptions and cliches and tropes regarding Baghdad. But in Mirage, it’s being properly presented as the technological and cultural epicenter of that world. What’s it been like bringing that to life?
Beaulieu: I didn’t know anything about Baghdad in the Ninth Century. I didn’t know anything about it. And I had cliches like everybody. In every Assassin’s Creed production that I know of, historians are brought into the process, and they can bring you some material, you can read stuff, you can try to learn a little bit about the period and everything. And in Mirage’s case, what was striking is, as you just said, was the level of knowledge that was already in this city – the cultural hub that it was. The importance that the city has in terms of history, and the fact that we don’t learn it at school, is a shame, really. So we really took responsibility, I would say, to dive into it as much as we could, and just make people understand what that was, what the city was, and making it beautiful in that game, make it so that people could connect with it in a very personal way.
So, with Jean-Luc, for example, we worked a lot on the personal connections we had with the place. I did the same thing with the characters and bringing some historical characters in there. The first one was Ali ibn Muhammad, the leader of the Zanj Rebellion, and I just read a few, I think, just two or three lines in a random book about Baghdad, and the character was already so compelling that I had to dig into it a bit more, and I just love the character. And then the actor, Aladeen Tawfeek, did a tremendous job on this one. Finding connections with characters that lived a long time ago, and bringing a new light on them and positive one, and, yeah, it actually feels good.
I mean, I’m not from the Middle East, but I relate to the need to be represented in a good way and making sure that people understand who you are and where you come from. So yeah, I hope we did a good job on this one. I think, as a team, we’re very proud of this and the authenticity. What we wanted to do with the actors – just bringing people who could have a legitimate background for the character, not fake accents. And the city is also full of exotic languages you can hear. What I mean by exotic, it’s things that we don’t translate. So when you play, whatever the language you play in, you’re going to be able to hear people talking Arabic in the streets, without any translation. And that adds to the immersion and the feeling of being there.
Majdoub: Definitely, that came through. I think as long as you write – which I think you [Beaulieu] did – from a place of empathy, love and understanding, it’s quite hard to do wrong. But like you said, even me having a Middle Eastern background, I didn’t know that much about the history around that time. And realizing how much of a hub Baghdad was back then and how multicultural it was and how multi-religious it was. It was everybody together. It’s quite sad to realize there’s so much of history in this world that we don’t know.
You mentioned your family. Do you remember telling your mom that you booked this role and what this role was going to be?
Majdoub: Oh, yeah. 100%. Funny enough, too, my mom was involved in the process throughout recording. There was a lot of Arabic dialogue, and the funny thing with the Arabic language is context – I mean, with any language, context is everything – but there’d be times where I was like, “Oh, hold on, what’s the context?” I’d talk to Sarah about the context, then hit up my mom like, “This is the context. What’s the word mean? I know what the word is, but I don’t know what it means here.” My mom would say, “Okay, so you know what the Arabic is? Record yourself and send it to me, and I’ll make sure that you’re being authentic.”
Especially because the Arabic that I speak is more of a Lebanese dialect, and the Arabic that we speak in Mirage is more of that Shakespearean, universal, older Arabic. There were words that I had never heard, even after learning the language, and I’d be like, “Mom, what does this mean?” And she’s like, “Oh, this is what that means, or this is how you pronounce it.” And she was like, “I only know it because I went to school.” Wouldn’t that be so awesome? But yeah, she’s a proud mom. Thank you to Mama Majdoub.
She’s so excited. She was so happy to be a part of it. She was like, “Why didn’t you call me recently and ask for new words?”
You mentioned earlier how you’ve been trying to break into video games. This is your first big role in a game, right? Obviously, the Sonic the Hedgehog movies are games adjacent, but they’re movies. What it’s like to finally have a voice in video games? And you kind of jumped really high up on the ladder being a protagonist for Assassin’s Creed – this is a huge franchise.
Majdoub: I mean, there’s been a lot of hustle. There’s a lot of stuff that you don’t see behind the scenes, or uncredited stuff, or motion capture work or performance capture. It’s a lot of learning behind the scenes in video games. But yeah, I’m so, so grateful.
Beaulieu: I had never seen someone so excited as you for the first recording session. You were in it and very, very committed from the jump.
Majdoub: Maybe this will give you an idea: So day one, where I was recording, was about a 30, 35-minute walk. I chose to walk instead of drive, and on my playlist was all Assassin’s Creed soundtracks. Basically, I was just listening to Ezio’s Family and the different renditions of that or the opening to Origins. And I’m doing my vocal warmups [Majdoub then shows how he hummed and sang Ezio’s Family to warm his voice up], I was just in it. I was dedicated, I was in it, and just our first meeting on Zoom with the team, I think we had an hour slated and we went to two hours because I was asking Sarah more information, and they were showing me more art and then I had more questions. I was like, “Okay, well, with this Assassin’s Creed, this is the way you went. What way are we doing with this?” And I was just reminding everybody, “Guys, we are doing Assassin’s Creed.”
Beaulieu: You kept saying that, many, many times [while laughing].
Majdoub: I wanted to remind everybody how cool this was. We’re all working on something that was also going back to the roots, and yeah, I just like showing my excitement. For a long time in the industry, whether film or TV or whatnot, you’re kind of told to suppress it, or you’ll come off as an eager beaver or whatever. And in the last few years, starting with Sonic the Hedgehog, where everybody was a fan, I was like, “No, I’m gonna show my excitement, and if someone wants to judge me because I’m excited, genuinely, then they can judge it.” Why not enjoy every moment?
Beaulieu: We needed, as a team, when you’re in the middle of recordings with many actors – and you come in as the lead role – we needed that excitement to push the writing further and make it better, and that was refreshing.
Majdoub: And you guys were all open to it. It was very collaborative, which was so cool. No better feeling than working in a collaborative environment for sure.
When players roll credits on Mirage, what do you hope they take from Basim as a character?
Beaulieu: That’s a good question. It’s a tough one. I have one answer, which is a bit of a simple one. It would be, you know, as a woman from the 21st century: how do I relate to Basim, who is a man of Ninth Century Baghdad? Well, in many ways for me; so I hope people will connect because he was built from a place of pain. It’s a character that has suffered a lot. He has things to say that are not really easy to say. He’s torn between different characters, like Roshan and Ali. And he has to prove some stuff, but he also has to understand his place in the world, as you said earlier. I hope that people will relate to that, because I do and I know you do, too, [speaking to Majdoub] and I hope that the character will speak to people. When they end the game, maybe they’re going to reflect on all of it and where they are in their life. That’s very ambitious, but I would love people to say, “I related to that and I identify with the character in many ways.”
Majdoub: For me, I think, ultimately, as an actor, you hope that there’s some emotional connection to the performance, whether the audience ends up hating him or loving him.
Beaulieu: They won’t hate him, that’s for sure.
Majdoub: I think I just want them to walk away with an emotional response, whether it be an understanding of like, “Okay, I get it, I get why he made the decisions he made. I might not agree with it, but I get it and I feel for him,” or an appreciation of Ninth-Century Baghdad and the Middle East.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage hits PlayStation, Xbox, Amazon Luna, and PC on October 5. It’s due out sometime next year on iOS as well.
For more about the game, be sure to check out Game Informer’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage exclusive coverage hub for previews, features, in-depth interviews, videos, and more.
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