July 12, 2020

14 Min Read

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Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain

Far Cry 6 is coming to spark the fires of revolution on February 18, 2021 as players fight to liberate their homeland, the tropical island of Yara. The people are suffering under the brutal rule of President Antón Castillo, portrayed by Emmy Award nominee Giancarlo Esposito (“Better Call Saul,” “The Boys,” “The Mandalorian”), who is grooming his son Diego (Anthony Gonzalez of “Coco”) to succeed him. To learn more about the newest Far Cry villain and the role you’ll play in taking him down, we spoke with Narrative Director Navid Khavari.

Let’s start by talking about Yara. How did you decide on this setting for Far Cry 6?

Navid Khavari: I think the first thing is that it was clear that a lot of our fans were excited to go back to a tropical setting. Also, when you start on a Far Cry – this is my fourth Far Cry now – you always want to look at somewhere players have never been before in the series. And finally, we wanted to tell a story about revolution, and when you tell a story about revolution, you’re talking about guerrilla warfare. When you’re talking about guerrilla warfare, you go to Cuba. We were very, very lucky to be able to fly down to Cuba. I spent about a month down there with the team, circumnavigating the island. We got to meet so many amazing people and experience the music and the culture, and we also met actual former guerrillas. And that really was the jumping-off point, because for our island of Yara, not only did we want to tell a story of a modern guerrilla revolution, but also we want to tell a story about an island that is almost frozen in time, like a living postcard from the ‘60s that players can experience and walk through.

Then we wanted to contrast that with a new sort of leader who’s been elected with this promise to rebuild paradise, you know, to take the island back to being rich, like it was 50 years ago. And with Antón, really what he’s saying is, “I’m going to build paradise, but paradise isn’t for everyone.” For him, it’s this idea that paradise comes at a cost, and he will enslave those who are against him to work as forced labor to get what he wants.

So the dynamic of having this beautiful, idyllic sort of “living postcard,” with the vintage cars, the picturesque landscapes, the mountains, the water, the capital city – contrast that with the overwhelming oppression that is Antón Castillo, and that feeling of oppression when you walk into the capital city.

Speaking of that capital city, this is the first time the Far Cry franchise has really included a large urban environment. What does that space bring to the game, and what opportunities does it create?

NK: It's been an amazing experience just to even be part of developing that. Our team has done such an amazing job; it's kind of an honor to be the first Far Cry that has a capital city! It starts with the idea of building a country, right? You can't have an island – this country – without having a capital city, and I think there’s a lot of love and care that they put into not only just building the city, but the demographics around that. This is the seat of Antón's power. This is where most of his supporters are, and on a narrative side, you want to feel like you're walking into the lion’s den. And on the gameplay side, the verticality is a complete game-changer. Being able to run across rooftops, use back alleys, fight against some of the toughest opponents in the game in this setting, I think is really unique and fresh. And it completely changes the way the game feels.

You mentioned Antón’s supporters, and I realized I was thinking about the people in Far Cry 6 as either the President and his military, or the player’s allies and revolutionaries. What is your approach to showing other facets of Yaran society?

NK: To tell a modern, complex story, our players aren’t looking for such a simple black-and-white world, right? When you're looking at something as complex as an island that's been essentially cut off from the rest of the world for 50 years, been in an economic downturn, electing this leader on the back of this idea of building a new paradise, the idea with Antón is he definitely lulled people into believing this was the only answer for them. That he was the one that was going to solve all their problems. And so for us, it became super-interesting on the character side to explore the idea of, you know, there definitely were some people that voted for him, that believed in him, that now are regretting that choice; and there are those that still support him. The intersection of those demographics and worldviews and opinions is something that plays out in the story as well, and it felt that, as a means to tell a mature story, a complex story, we sort of had to go there. So, I'm excited for players to see that as well.

[UN][News] Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain - esperanza 1920x1080

How does Antón go from being elected by the people to ruling with an iron fist?

NK: I think that was super-fascinating for us. In terms of Antón, this is someone who, as a teenager, watched his own father – who was in power – be executed over 50 years ago, and that really shaped his worldview and his belief that this island was stolen from him, stolen from his family. The idea with Antón that was powerful and interesting to me was, how do you take someone who is charismatic, intelligent, who would otherwise be doing amazing good things, and put them in a situation where their worldview gets distorted? Fast-forward 50 years later, and they're able to justify doing horrific things with a weird, pervasive, twisted logic. And so, when he's elected, he believes he's doing the right thing. He believes that not only do the Castillos deserve to be in power, but they're the only ones that are going to be able to see Yara through to becoming a paradise once again, to use his words.

In addition to his sense of paternal dominion over the people of Yara, Antón is also a father himself. How does his relationship with his son, Diego, help create the character of Antón Castillo?

NK: You know, when you start on a Far Cry, you're talking about a pedigree and a history that has been built on amazing villains, dynamic villains. So that's a whole layer pressure as well! laughs. But really, the turning point for us, when we felt we were on to something, was when we thought of this idea of Antón as a dictator. He’s in charge of the country; he believes he's doing the right thing by enslaving his population. But you take someone like that, and then you couple that with having a teenage son – Diego is 13 years old – and I think, for us, that's something that Far Cry has never really had. It allows for a complex dynamic.

What we did with the trailer that was super-fun was that it's kind of a prequel of what's going to come in the game. It's separate from the game. It sort of tees up the story in the game, so there's going to be a lot more moments where he's passing down lessons to Diego of how he thinks Diego will have to someday rule.

[UN][News] Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain - anton and diego 1920x1080

And on top of that, I think that's something that Giancarlo Esposito really keyed in on when we met and talked about the character. He wanted to get into what makes Antón tick, what makes a dictator become who they are, and he really keyed in on this idea of, “Wait, this is a father. This is someone who genuinely loves his son.” Communicating that was almost like a way in for him to understand and relate to Antón.

And then on Diego’s side, the way I like to see it is, he's a 13-year-old teenager; I remember being 13, everyone remembers being 13. You don't know what you're doing! You don't know what to believe, you're trying to figure out who you are. Do I hate my parents? Do I love my parents? You take this 13-year-old teenager, and what Anthony Gonzalez did that was brilliant was that he communicates that conflict. He wants to forge his own path and be his own person, but he feels this obligation – because he loves his father – to be pulled to this darker territory by following his father's footsteps.

The trailer is more than a little harrowing because it shows Diego, this young teenager, in such an intense situation. How did you find the right line to walk there?

NK: We worked with a company called Unit who had the initial concept, and when I was writing the script for it, I thought back to how my own dad spoke to me growing up. And then you try to think of, well, if you are a dictator who believes his country is falling apart at the seams, what is the fastest way I can communicate to my son the lengths to which he's going to have to go? What was really exciting as well, was that it was the first script I actually finished for Antón, and it was the first thing we shot with Giancarlo. So what was present right from the beginning was that there was something uncomfortable and nervous and anxiety-ridden about seeing this 13-year-old teen growing up before your eyes, right?

Because that's what Antón is telling him: “Okay, you've been listening to your bands, your music, your iPod” – oh my god, iPod, how old am I? – “your iPhone or whatever. Here's how I'm going to snap you out of it.” I think the crucial line in that trailer is when Antón tells Diego, “Prove it,” at the very end. That’s sort of the beginning of Diego's journey in the game. “Not only am I just telling you this stuff, but you're going to have to prove that you're worthy to really run this country how I would.” There’s going to be a lot more to come on that front.

[UN][News] Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain - horse 1920x1080

When you cast Giancarlo Esposito, you had already created the character of Antón Castillo, but how did working with Esposito influence the further development of Castillo?

NK: When we initially cast Giancarlo, we were lucky enough to fly down to New York to sit with him, meet with him, and we ended up talking about Antón for about four hours straight. He came in dressed to the nines; he had the fedora, the suit, the perfect Italian boots, and I'm like, “Ah, I shouldn't have worn a hoodie.” But he came in and he'd already done extensive notes on the character. He took material, he’d gone through the script, and he had all sorts of questions to ask about why Antón was doing the things he was doing. What he really pushed and challenged us on was, “How do we bring empathy to Antón?” There has to be a reason in Antón's eyes to justify doing what he's doing. So from that conversation, I scurried back to Toronto and started whipping up new scenes. And that's the beauty of the collaboration you get with someone like Giancarlo. It's a conversation back and forth; even on set we were constantly – down to the word – discussing how we can get Antón just right.

Did you have to do any coaching to get him into that Far Cry villain mindset?

NK: He got that right away. He understood Far Cry and what it means to have a powerful Far Cry antagonist immediately. Even when we were meeting in New York, when he started reading the lines and giving the speech that you see in the trailer, he just looked at me with this Antón Castillo look and I was like, “Oh my God, you are Antón and I am scared for my life right now.” Then he slipped right out of it and was the super-friendly, charming Giancarlo, and it was really just watching a master of his craft. On top of that, I think it's also a role that's going to be very different from what we've seen Giancarlo do before. He's made a really fresh and interesting character, and a take on someone who's not only ruling a country, but being a father.

[UN][News] Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain - chorizo 1920x1080

Switching gears to another character that you’ve introduced in Far Cry 6 that is sure to make an impression, please tell me about Chorizo, the wiener dog sidekick.

NK: You know, I’ll tell you about Chorizo. When the concept for Chorizo was sent around, literally the next day, everyone's wallpaper was Chorizo. I was walking down the hallway, and we have an open-floor concept in the office, and it was Chorizo, Chorizo, Chorizo, Chorizo, Chorizo. Honestly, I can't wait for people to get to play with Chorizo. The tease for him is that he literally kills with kindness, that's all I'm gonna say. I think he really kind of embodies Far Cry, you know, the fun and the joy and the little bit of terror that you get in a Far Cry game.

We’ve also gotten a glimpse of who we’ll be playing as in Far Cry 6: a freedom fighter named Dani Rojas. What was your approach to creating that character?

NK: We knew that if we're going to tell the revolution story, if we’re going to tell a story about someone in a guerrilla movement, you need to have that personal connection with them. You need someone who's rooted in the world, who has a background. So we wanted proper performance capture, we wanted to have a voice. You can play as either a man or woman, so we got Sean Rey as the male and Nisa Gunduz as the female, to help us create this character that is your gateway into the revolution.

[UN][News] Far Cry 6 Narrative Director on Tropical Setting and Creating a New Villain - closeup 1920x1080

How does it feel to have finally announced your game to the world?

NK: It's surreal. It's absolutely surreal and I'm going to try not to get emotional. It’s been about four and a half years from when I started on the project. I was working on Far Cry 5 at the same time, and we started as this group of 10 people in a closet somewhere in Ubisoft Toronto. From there, watching it grow to 900 people around the world in Berlin, Shanghai, Montreal, and learning from Montreal’s experience on previous Far Cry games… It's surreal, and I think what's been really beautiful is watching everyone come together. It’s easy for me to say that I'm the narrative director and I have a vision of the story, but what's been amazing to watch is the team embrace that, and also make it their own as well. I'm a really big believer in creation of art as an iterative process, and I think what's exciting for me is knowing that everyone has sort of had their stamp on this game. So I think what I'm most proud of is being able to finally unveil Far Cry 6. I can't be more excited for the team, who I know can't wait for people to see what's coming. There's so much more to come, so it's just going to get even better.

Far Cry 6 is slated for release on February 18, 2021 for PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC (through the Epic Games Store, Uplay, and UPLAY+). To keep up with the latest info, bookmark our Far Cry 6 news hub.

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