Of the three main protagonists in Grand Theft Auto V, Franklin has got to be the one that is the most sane out of the bunch, which while it doesn't say a lot, it is apparent and perfectly presented by the man who brought Franklin to life, Shawn Fonteno.
For Shawn Fonteno this was the third project he's worked on, with the last one coming in the form of the 2001 film The Wash. Since then, he hasn't been involved with any projects and that only makes his performance as Franklin all the more impressive.
Shawn spoke exclusively with Examiner about his work and experience as playing the character Franklin in Grand Theft Auto V.
He first talked with us about how he could relate to where Franklin was coming from and that jumping into any given scene was a simple task for him to do.
"Man, I could relate to that dude like night and day. It was like me and him, we go together, we are like twins. I could relate to him because I’ve been in those same shoes, I lived with my grandmother, I had those crazy friends, I’ve been in those situations to where I was doing crime and doing illegal stuff until at some point in time you just want to stop.
"You then want to start to clean yourself up, but then you bump into some even bigger and better stuff, and so that’s where I could really relate to Franklin. I’ve pretty much lived it inside and out.
"As far as Franklin, it was easy to jump into any scene when it was just him. When I had to do scenes with others guys, where I had to play the role of someone who was dealing with detectives and crazy characters, it was easier to jump into that with different moods.
"It felt like a puzzle man and it was easy, but at the beginning, I had a struggle with it because this was my first time doing something like this. It was pretty natural after I got into the swing of it," Fonteno said.
Working alongside the type of character Trevor was and with the performance that Steve Ogg gave, Shawn admitted it was an adjustment to get use to "the ways" of Trevor.
"At first it was really difficult to adjust to working with Trevor, especially because Trevor is like a guy from Mars. He’s a guy who you really don’t run into often, but you hear about him. It was difficult to feed off of him, so there were times where we were working and filming and [Steve Ogg] would fall into Trevor mode, when my line would come across, I was just stuck since I was so flabbergasted at what they just did," Fonteno said.
Sometimes if you ask someone if they could relive their life or do something in their past differently, they would take that chance. When we asked Shawn about whether or not Franklin would want to achieve success through the path we see him take in the game or through a non-criminal path, Shawn said the former for Franklin.
"I think Franklin would have it how it turns out to be in the game, it’s perfect. I don’t think Franklin was made for college and all that other good stuff, but for Franklin you have to look at his surroundings and how he was raised.
"He’s a guy growing up and living in the hood. That’s all he knows is this craziness and this gang life, so the life that he had, I think he was happy with that. He would’ve wanted success the way he got it in the game," Fonteno said.
The Grand Theft Auto V depiction and version of Los Angeles is one that reflects many truths about the city and for most who have lived or been there, you can see the parallels.
Shawn grew up in a neighborhood called Watts, which is in downtown LA, and we asked him how closely he thought Rockstar depicted Los Angeles.
"They hit the nail on the head. I’m not just blowing smoke because I worked with the guys, but it’s actually how it is. I worked with a guy that use to do repo work and the rest of the guys’ stories, I know guys that are crazy like Lamar. The guy that plays Lamar is really crazy, so I really knew guys that are actually in Los Angeles, that are being portrayed in Los Santos.
"Those guys did their homework, they did their research and they did good work. I give them an A+. I did a lot of work with trying to help them with certain things about Los Santos, how things are ran in Los Angeles and how things are ran in the hood, so they got an A from me," Fonteno said.
Grand Theft Auto is arguably one of the most popular brands in all of entertainment today, so we asked Shawn what type of pressure he felt and if having two co-stars helped take some of that pressure off of him.
"When I first came in, I had a lot of pressure on me to a certain point where I almost wanted to quit in the first stages. I just kind of wanted to give in and say, ‘maybe this is not made for me.’ But after I found out more of the story on the guy I was playing and the character Franklin, him and me twined up. Since I could relate to him, it became easier and there wasn’t as much pressure. It became fun and it eventually turned into normal living.
"Most definitely, it kind of took the weight off of my back because if it was just all about Franklin, there would’ve been a lot more pressure on me to complete a full game like that. I think after working with those guys, they relieved a lot of the pressure off of me.
"Those guys are great actors, they’re seasoned and I know they’ll be in some big movies soon and I hope I will be as well. They took a lot of pressure off of me; they made it really easy on me. If Rockstar wanted to do a GTA VI with it all being Franklin’s story, I could nail it all by myself," Fonteno said.
Finally, with a game like GTA V and being a major star in it, you'd figure any of the three main actors in the game will be able to garner additional roles in the future, and Shawn felt the same way.
"I’m quite sure it will. I’m real strong on it that [GTA V] will open new doors for me.
"Me and the other two guys, Ned and Steven, we did such a good job, how could you not come and find us and say, ‘hey would you like to do some more voice over work, motion capture or even be in some major films.’ We delivered and we came through. The world knows we did. So whatever it brings, I’ll be happy about it," Fonteno said.