A single of the weirdest ordeals you can at any time have is conducting an precise conversation with a character from a video game. That is—more or considerably less—the offer when you’re chatting with Shawn “Solo” Fonteno, aka Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V.
To coincide with the start of both equally GTA V on present-day gen and Shawn’s memoir, Sport Changer, I took some time to shoot the shit with the man himself. This was a full reversal of what I’ve performed for triple-digit hours because 2013: use him, in-match, to shoot shit.
What followed was a interesting discuss with an OG who was concurrently the nicest (nevertheless technically also scariest) San Andrean I have at any time experienced the pleasure of meeting…
Straight off the bat, I’m loving your memoir, Sport Changer. Gripping, inspirational things which is challenging to put down. How would you quantify it in your possess words and phrases?
Shawn Fonteno: So the guide is my tale, male. It took me about two-and-a-50 percent years to complete. My lifestyle wasn’t normally a really photo, so producing Match Changer was like bringing back again old recollections I did not want to permit out.
A whole lot of people all over the earth have been through some of the matters I have published about, if not much more. [It’s my hope] that they will get my perspective and know that you can make it through quite considerably nearly anything, if you get assistance.
I managed to get some, you know. I obtained a god-fearing family members—my spouse, my young ones—and that’s the first point. The upcoming: some of us have bought much too significantly satisfaction to reach out and talk to for aid, which was my difficulty. I was also addicted to suffering tablets, hoping to take absent a little something that was not a physical soreness. It was a agony of likely as a result of the instances described in my e book—the abuse I’d been by as a kid.
Acquiring beat a few, four periods a 7 days by my phase-father taught me to damn in the vicinity of despise, you know. Afterwards in everyday living, it even triggered me to contemplate suicide.
Fortunately, I poured out everything I was dealing with to my spouse who assisted me make some changes. To reset. And I guarantee you, man, not even 5 months soon after that, I obtained the get in touch with to do the job for Rockstar. They took me from the streets and gave me a second likelihood at everyday living.
Recreation Changer also has a ton of fascinating GTA data. For illustration, I had no idea your cousin played CJ in GTA San Andreas, and you experienced bit parts in there, also. How did your family’s first make contact with with Rockstar Online games arrive about?
SF: My relationship to it was as a result of a person named DJ Pooh, a advisor who’s worked with Rockstar for lots of, a lot of a long time. He named me since I’m an ex-gang member and GTA San Andreas was based mostly all over quite substantially what goes on in my city.
They also called a host of other men that have been notable ex-gang members and some that have been continue to gang customers to arrive lend our voices [to San Andreas]. As for my cousin Maylay, male, I didn’t even know he was CJ when we had been executing our things. We all were being below NDA. He didn’t explain to me practically nothing, even although we hung out, like, two or 3 occasions a week.
Then, when GTA V came about, Pooh gave me a contact and I truly didn’t want to do it at first. Rockstar is top secret with stuff, person—the identify he explained to me was not GTA. He didn’t say it was for Rockstar, either. The [gig was for something] termed ‘Paradise’. So I was like,”what the hell is that?”
So, in a nutshell you transitioned from a tough upbringing to starring in a 160-million-copies selling, cultural phenomenon which, now it’s out on PS5 and Xbox Collection X spans three gens of gaming. Did you have any sense of the enormity of this part when you approved it?
SF: I didn’t at very first, when I was operating with it. What I was on the lookout to do was reset my everyday living, so it was just very good for me to get out of LA and absent from specific people. And it was a career, you know.
The identify of it for at minimum a year in was not GTA V, but I uncovered it was as a result of Rockstar since we were being performing in their facilities. When we uncovered out, of program I knew how major it was likely to be. That mentioned, I was set back in my seat by how major it [actually] went and how extensive it went.
It is remarkable that you went in as a relatively inexperienced actor, to co-star in a generation with a 3500-page script. The typical aspect movie doesn’t go further than 114, so that is fairly the deep conclusion. How did you acclimate to a thing like that?
SF: At Rockstar, the director was serious very good. The crew, too—they make you really feel welcome. It was a culture shock to me, person, with all these web pages of script. But I also had Ned [Luke] and Steven [Ogg] aiding me, furthermore the other cast, as well. And absolutely everyone that was coming on the established, I was asking things—like, how do you keep in mind your lines, gentleman?
I was the only just one there that was not an actor. The several points I experienced done, they had been roles wherever I was just me staying me. Being a thug. Staying a knucklehead.
Rockstar’s director was authentic tight on his shit, much too, gentleman. If we experienced three webpage lines to run, you could not mess up. If you forgot the previous line, it’d be like: “cut, let us go again to the prime!” Operating with Rockstar definitely taught me to be a fluent actor and to be much more at ease undertaking it.
There are parallels involving by yourself and Franklin. Naturally the broader stuff, like a young person elevated on the streets with hopes of extra, but also a lot more personal strokes, like your shared love of bikes. Are these coincidences?
SF: All those [similarities] ended up surprising. I was sitting down back again, like, gentleman did they do investigation on me or one thing? And heading again the other way, there have been matters there that I helped them with on setlike—showing the [mocap] set builders which side you’d place a kickstand for a motorbike on.
But yeah, they obtained really close to my life-style. The writers, they was on that, and I’m glad. It felt like I could largely just be me in a video clip sport. Not perform also much out of my factor.
In the activity, an nearly father-son bond develops involving Franklin and Michael, played by Ned Luke. Your book opens with an anecdote exactly where Ned seems to be anything similar—a professional mentor. Is that a good interpretation?
SF: Pretty good. Me and him created the connection authentic swift. He commenced currently being overprotective of me, since me and him made use of to sit off to the aspect to run lines.
He seriously aided. But then he could be a agony sometimes, far too. Since he assume he know much too much *laughs*. I still had to do Franklin my way, while. I couldn’t be “Franklin de Santa”, you know?
And then you bought to reprise your function in The Agreement, an expansion to GTA V’s ongoing Online component. What was it like stepping back again into the shoes of Franklin following this sort of a lengthy, 8 yr hiatus?
SF: I was, like, shocked joyful. But I knew I still experienced my rough points, due to the fact in that eight several years I didn’t do any acting. I almost certainly must have been going out to castings and doing smaller aspect movies to sharpen my equipment, but I didn’t. It unquestionably took a working day or two to get into the groove all over again.
Is it correct that you only observed out you had been heading to function with Dre when you rolled up on the established, first day? That have to have blown your mind.
SF: Oh, gentleman, I could not feel it. Who could? Specifically when I uncovered out I was gonna be enjoying a manager in [the storyline of the DLC]. I was, like, I don’t even know how to be a boss, mainly because I’m dealing with all these bosses. The director saved me on my toes, however.
Functioning with Dre, DJ Neat, Jimmy – I signify, it was a desire come accurate.
Talking of brushes with fame, have you ever believed about undertaking a little bit of that oneself? At any time log into GTA On the net, bust out a bit of Franklin and make some gamer’s year?
SF: *Laughs* I’ve attempted it, person. But most of the time I just get sniped from considerably away. Other moments, a whole lot of individuals just don’t believe it’s you—even however my voice is rather nicely-identified. I even now perform GTA On the internet some.
Certainly, I can’t have a dialogue with you and not chat about the phenomenon that is World wide web memes. It will have to be a bizarre expertise to see your functionality go viral. To mutate countless numbers of moments in progressively weirder methods?
SF: Oh, person. I woke up just one working day, and it was just insane. Whoever started off all that, I thank you. I owe you, person, mainly because it just place me back again in the limelight. And when you go viral, you know you both did a little something messed up or you did fantastic. So yeah, it was like getting evidence that me and Slink [Johnson, aka Lamar] did anything very good. I was pretty satisfied.
Solo, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for your time.
Grand Theft Vehicle V is out now on PS5/Xbox Sequence X. The most economical actual physical duplicate is at this time $53 on Amazon.