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Video game performances can vary widely. Some actors may only be using their voice, while others who suit up for motion capture don’t typically resemble the characters they’re playing. But Manon Gage and Charlotta Mohlin’s transition from the world of film and theatre to video games couldn’t have been more seamless than their starring roles in Immortality, a full motion video (FMV) game consisting entirely of pre-recorded live-action footage rather than animated computer graphics.

I meet the two of them the week of the BAFTAs where they’ve been nominated for their performances in leading and supporting roles respectively, even though those who have played this ambitious mystery made up of three lost movies will argue that both are leading roles regardless of screen time. Both equally radiate star power in person as on the screen.

Such an honor is a momentous achievement for Gage, who not only plays missing actress Marissa Marcel but is also in character for three different film roles spanning different time periods and genres. Quite the opportunity for her first professional acting gig after graduating from the prestigious Julliard performing arts conservatory in New York.


“It was this incredible case of art imitating life because it was my first role, and Marissa's this ingenue plucked out of nowhere,” says Gage, who is also French-American like her fictional counterpart. “The Frenchness of her, even just the various roles that she plays throughout all three movies are all worlds that I explored in school, in theatre, so it just felt like I'm getting to do everything I love all at once, and it's almost uncanny how perfect this is.”

As deserving as Gage’s BAFTA nod is, particularly as someone who is in virtually every single scene in the game, she shares as much joy in her co-star Mohlin’s nomination, whose role was kept so secret, and vital to answering the central mystery of what happened to Marissa Marcel, that it would have been easy to overlook.

“It was strange, because you put so much heart and soul into it, and then people start talking about [the game] and they're like, ‘Oh, there's this element that I can't talk about, but everybody else is great!’, and you’re like, augh!” Mohlin laughs with some exasperation.


While having worked on stage and screen, including TV roles in True Blood and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., both she and Gage were complete newcomers to the world of video games, so had no grasp of how the game would be received. In practice, however, the filming of Immortality was essentially no different from a regular film shoot. Albeit shooting three different movies back-to-back in the summer only just over a year after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was also a very rapid shoot. Instead of having to set up different angles for a single scene, the footage players find in Immortality consists of just one raw take, the process which Gage likens to almost being in live theatre but on a film set.

“We were shooting like 15-20 pages a day, so you have to bring your A-game, there’s no time to warm up into it,” she says. “But it made sense with the one take, as you're not cutting to anything else, you don't need to get coverage of everything.”

There was still time for rehearsal and preparation, much like the table reads and rehearsals seen in the game, adding to that cinephile behind-the-scenes access of the filmmaking process. Gage also recalls the hours of phone calls she had with director Sam Barlow about the character of Marissa and the story, as well as being sent all 400 pages of the script, as well as a syllabus of films to watch, even before she had officially booked the role.

The scenes given important attention were those that involved sex and nudity, emulating the eroticism of British film directors from the ‘60s and ‘70s like Ken Russell and Nicolas Roeg, but also critiquing it.

“Of course, it's with a lot of those movies that there are all these behind-the-scenes stories such as how this actress was underage or coerced into doing this, or this went further on set than it should have,” Gage continues. “I think it helped meeting and talking to Sam, getting to know him, and not feeling like he wanted to do this for gratuitous purposes, but that there was a commentary there.”


Most important was the presence of intimacy coordinator Jean Franzblau on set to ensure actors felt safe and comfortable with the scenes they were asked to perform. Immortality’s films may feature auteur types, including a sleazy analog to Alfred Hitchcock, but there was a genuine sense of collaboration and lack of hierarchy on set, while the developer Half Mermaid also includes many women leading key creative and development roles. Franzblau’s input, meanwhile, helped reduce the onscreen nudity to considerably less than in the original script.

Such developments have been very welcome for Mohlin, who recounts an experience when she was 17 and shooting a swimming pool scene where there was supposed to be nudity, even though she had been told it was fine to wear undergarments. “I get to the set and the director just yells at me to just take it all off, and it was horrifying,” she says. “You felt so vulnerable and violated, and my agency didn’t help at all.”

It’s also why she found her role in Immortality so cathartic, with frequent moments where her character serves as a counterpoint to subvert the misogyny faced by the women on film. “I've experienced a lot of things, good and bad, that made sense for the character – all the things that kind of come with this industry and with being a girl or a woman, so for me, it was not difficult to connect with it,” Mohlin adds.


Although both Gage and Mohlin’s performances would be overlooked on a night when God of War Ragnarok swept most of its nominated categories, they’ve still been overwhelmed by the response Immortality has had from players, even if that success hasn’t quite led to Hollywood knocking in the way that an Oscar nomination might. “I think it's hard for interdisciplinary art, which this kinda is,” Gage admits. “It's hard to actually attract a mainstream audience because people want to know what something is.”

She’s nonetheless finding her feet in the industry, including a part in comedy show Dave. She’s also starring, writing, and producing a TV pilot called Real Live Girl, a personal pandemic project of hers that’s currently touring festivals in hopes of getting picked up as a series. It focuses on an Only Fans cam girl who meets the wife of one of her most twisted viewers – an eerily similar synopsis to a Sam Barlow game, which makes her casting in Immortality even more serendipitous.

Perhaps the biggest impact the game has had on someone who had never picked up a game controller before is that it’s converted Gage to take up gaming for herself. After finally playing through Immortality to a Twitch audience, she’s continued using the streaming platform to take suggestions from followers while sharing playthroughs of narrative-focused games such as What Remains of Edith Finch (which she persevered despite initially getting motion sickness), while her favorites so far include Pentiment and The Quarry.

“I liken it to when you discover music for the first time when you're like 12, so I’ve been like, ‘Oh my god games, why is no one talking about this?’ And of course, everyone is,” she says. “I feel like there's just this whole world here that I just had no idea about, and I'd love to have the opportunity to experience all this art!”