Days Gone Actor Says Natives Aren’t Hired For Roles Because It’s "Cost Prohibitive"

Yesterday, the actor who plays Deacon St. John in Days Gone, Sam Witwer, hosted a Reddit AMA pertaining to his work on Sony Bend’s zombie apocalypse game, as well as the time he spent voicing Darth Maul in various animated Star Wars series. While most of the questions are about the latter, and the majority of Days Gone enquiries simply refer to people having enjoyed the game, one particular Redditor asked for Witwer’s thoughts on hiring indigenous actors for specific roles.

“Why won’t studios hire natives when they want voices for characters to speak with an accent?” the commenter asked. In a world where Troy Baker plays Delsin Rowe in Infamous Second Son, it’s a valid and important question that more studios should be providing a solution for, especially when you consider that Noah Watts – an actual Native American – played Connor in Assassin’s Creed 3 back in 2012.

“Because casting out of various cities and then flying that talent to LA is cost prohibitive,” Witwer responds. “Also, most people with the most acting experience in the States are either in New York or Los Angeles. If native speakers can be found, they find it. If not, you get what you get… So there ya go.”

It’s worth acknowledging the fact that Witwer mentions California specifically. According to the official California Courts website, there were around 720,000 Native Americans living in California as of 2010. As of the 2020 Census, that number is still over 632,000.

“California has the highest Native American population in the country,” the 2010 report reads. “According to the 2010 US Census, California represents 12 percent of the total Native American population (approximately 720,000) identified themselves as Native American. Over one-half of the state’s Native American population is composed of individuals (and now their descendants) who were relocated to large urban areas as part of the federal government’s termination policy.”

Meanwhile, the 2019 Census for New York notes that there are currently over 194,000 American Indian and Alaska Natives in New York state.

Witwer’s assertion that people with acting experience need to be flown out to California and New York is not only misleading, but actively dangerous. Both states still have large Native American populations, and using this reasoning to justify whitewashing in the acting industry further perpetuates the issue as opposed to offering a solution for it. “If native speakers can be found, they find it” is a lazy answer that dismisses the problem as one of cost, despite the fact that these games have multi-million dollar development budgets. If you can afford an actor, you can afford to cast correctly.

This comes in the wake of Days Gone creative director John Garvin blaming the game’s underperformance on Sony’s desire to cater to “social justice warriors.” In the AMA, Witwer regularly praises Garvin and his vision for Days Gone, and at one point goes to bat against critical reception by stating that journalists who didn’t give it a good score didn’t finish the game.

“These journalists rush in,” Witwer writes. “They do NOT take their time, they do NOT play the game on the terms the game presents, because it is their job to put out an article on a deadline.”

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