Dishonored 2 – Corvo Attano Actor Interview

Posted By Gary Steinman on Bethesda

Once a silent protagonist, Corvo Attano returns in Dishonored 2 – but there’s a big difference. Not only is he 15 years older. Not only is he now both Royal Protector and Spymaster. Not only is he continuing to defend his daughter – the Empress Emily Kaldwin – from all kinds of threats. But in Dishonored 2, Corvo Attano now has a voice.

“In the first game, Corvo was silent. Raphael Colantonio and I always knew that if Corvo ever spoke, we needed exactly the right actor,” says Creative Director Harvey Smith. “We dreamed of getting Stephen Russell, who played Garrett in the original Thief games. We absolutely love Stephen’s acting, his gravity. For his work in Dishonored 2, he somehow embodies this badass action hero, a man who’s seen too much, while overlaying it with nuance, portraying a protagonist who is very thoughtful. Soulful and crafty. That’s our Corvo.”

A veteran actor, writer and director who has voiced many memorable gaming characters – including Codsworth and Nick Valentine in Fallout 4 – Russell was delighted to take on a role that had such depth and, well, character. We caught up with Russell to find out what it takes to give voice to a supernatural assassin, and what inspires him the most about Corvo Attano.

What draws you to a character like Corvo?

I think the complexity, the ambiguity. With a character like this I always wonder what he does when he isn’t at work. I suspect his work is never far from his mind. But when the day finally arrives that he’s able to put down his sword for good, I think he’ll only be too glad to do so. Because I think he has a very rich inner life and he’s more than just the job.

What’s it like to craft a performance for a character who already exists but didn’t have a voice in the first game?

The fact that he didn’t have a voice before was an interesting sidebar to the job, but otherwise it was something I put out of my mind for the most part. But the wealth of information and the backstory really helped inform choices that we made prior to recording in the studio. In the end it’s the writing that ultimately determines so much about performance. Voicing a character who was already so thoroughly thought out and rich made all the choices that much clearer.

Corvo is an aging hero who must embark on another quest to save his daughter and his kingdom. How did you capture that sense of world-weariness and even fatigue – while retaining elements of being a badass assassin?

It’s a fine line to walk. And I’m really grateful that we had Wes Gleason directing the recording sessions. Wes understands the character so well, and he has such great ears, and I really came to rely on his judgment to keep me on that line.

Being of a certain age myself, I guess the aging, world-weariness is not too hard to access, so maybe it was the badass assassin that was a little bit more the thing that we had to kind of keep in mind.

But you’ve played one of the ultimate badasses – Garrett in Thief – and that was one of the roles that helped to draw Harvey and the team at Arkane to you. So you must have it in you…

[laughs] It certainly isn’t who I am! I have no real-life experience in such a role. But Corvo is kind of an archetype. I think there’s a little bit of Corvo – a little bit of Garrett – in all of us. That person who kind of makes his own rules while at the same time having a very clear sense of honor, a clear sense of justice, a clear sense of his own mission and place in the world.

And yet Corvo and Garrett are different as well. How so?

Corvo is someone who has for many, many years – for virtually his entire working life – moved among people of position, of power, of high rank. Even though he doesn’t come from that world himself, he’s very comfortable there. Garrett is somebody who comes from the streets and has remained an outsider for the most of his time, whereas Corvo has moved into these worlds of power, worlds of influence, and become part of that world. That’s a different aspect to his character.


And yet Corvo is also an outsider. He’s not from Dunwall, he’s not always accepted in Dunwall – and he’s returning home to Karnaca for the first time in a long time. Was this something you captured in your performance?

Yes. That was a really interesting part of this particular project because as actors we spend a lot of time away from home. And as someone who grew up in a part of the country that I now no longer visit – or visit very rarely – I’m very familiar with all the mixed emotions of going back to a place that you call home. Of going back to a people who know you for what you were when you were a child, and maybe haven’t reckoned with what you’ve become as a man, mixed bag that that is. So it was not a difficult place to latch on to, to draw inspiration from.

Depending on how you play, Corvo’s dialogue will change. What was it like to bring multiple performances to the same character?

It was almost like having two distinctly separate jobs. And it was really a fun challenge in that respect. This was another aspect of the sessions where Wes’ direction was so valuable. Because sometimes the differences are surprisingly subtle in the read between the High Chaos and the Low Chaos versions.

Having inhabited this role, what would you say are some of the pillars of Corvo’s character and personality? What drives him?

His sense of honor, his dedication to seeing justice done – and above all, his incredible love for Emily. She is so much the focus of this game that even if you’re just playing as Corvo, she’s never too far from the surface. And that’s a key part of what’s going on here.

He’s a complex character though. Part of what makes him intriguing are these undercurrents that exist in his personality that you sense in the writing – hopefully you sense in the performance as well – that reveal him to be a very complex person.

Let’s talk more about Corvo’s relationship with Emily. What’s your take on that dynamic?

It’s a father/daughter relationship, which is one of the strongest bonds there is. She is so much at the center of what he’s trying to achieve in this game – both for his love of her and for what he’s trying to give her in terms of the objectives of the game. That was where it all came back to.

I’m a parent myself, so I’m very familiar with some of these emotions. And there’s nothing fiercer than a parent when their child is in danger.

What else do you admire about Corvo?

I really like that he moves among the rich and powerful but never forgets where he came from. He is a man of the people, a man of the streets, and he’s never far from that part of his character. I like that about him. I don’t think he’s someone who actually enjoys eating from gold-plated dinnerware.


Harvey Smith told us he got to hang out with you recently in New York at a Dishonored party, where fans got to play the Clockwork Mansion level. And he described it as deeply moving to see players coming up to you with such awe and enthusiasm, wanting to chat about Corvo.

First of all, it was really great having Harvey in the studio with us for so many of the sessions because he knows the character far better than anyone. And whenever questions would arise – and there were few because the script was pretty clear in intention – but if anything was slightly in doubt, Wes and I could turn to Harvey and get it all cleared up.

Some of the people who’ve had a chance to play the game – like the folks who were invited to the party where they got to play through the Clockwork Mansion level – are kind of confirming what we were all feeling about this. Once they’ve had a chance to experience this character with a voice, they’re going to be very pleased and find out that they’re right back in the same world that made the first game so popular. And it’s even deeper, more challenging, more involving, more engaging.

And now that the project has wrapped, what was it like working with the team at Arkane?

It’s always such a pleasure to work on a project where the vision is so clear. I have such respect for the work that they do at Arkane, and there’s always a comfort level in going into a job with people who you know – and you know produce great work. I knew the writing was going to be good. I knew the attention to detail was going to be exceptional. And their commitment to producing the best game possible – absolutely unwavering. Plus they’re all just really nice people!

Explore more Dishonored 2 features and videos on

Dishonored 2 – Corvo Attano Spotlight
Dishonored 2 – Emily Kaldwin Actor Interview
Dishonored 2 – Creating Karnaca
Dishonored 2 – Customization Guide


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