Growing up, Stephen Oyoung had dreams of being the next great action star.
“I thought I could be the next Jet Li or Bruce Lee,” Oyoung said. “I thought I could be Keanu Reeves in ‘The Matrix.’ ”
He’s partly living out his dream, though maybe not in the medium he first expected. Oyoung played Martin Li / Mr. Negative in “Marvel’s Spider-Man” game and plays Red Hood in the upcoming game “Gotham Knights.”
The major roles are a long way from his first acting job.
“My first job acting was this place called Pirates Dinner Adventure, which is like medieval times but with pirates,” Oyoung said.
The connections he made there, however, laid the groundwork for the rest of his career. It wasn’t long before he was finding small roles as an actor and as a stuntman and trainer, including working with Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Garner and Adam Driver. But the love to commit to acting was still there.
Playing Martin Li was his first major video game role and was one that he treasured not just for playing a part in the Spider-Man universe, but for helping Asian representation in major comic book projects.
“The directing and writing team gave me a lot of leeway,” Oyoung said. “The idea that he’s the bad guy, but he’s also the hero of his own story, every actor loves that. His goal is noble, but he only thought of his one objective at the expense of everyone else. He’s not what we’ve traditionally seen Asian villains portrayed as in the mainstream media.”
Oyoung is jumping ship from Marvel to DC for “Gotham Knights,” though he wasn’t sure whether his audition was a flop or home run.
“When I auditioned, I saw all the guys in the room and I was like, this is either really good for me or really bad for me because everyone was like jacked,” Oyoung said. “I’m talking like WWE kind of thing.”
Oyoung got the role, but playing Red Hood presents a much different challenge than Martin Li.
“With Mr. Negative, it was nice because there was less than a handful of portrayals, so I could really put my own spin on him,” Oyoung said. “Red Hood is a huge honor, but it’s also a field filled with landmines.”
In recent years, actors Jensen Ackles in “Batman: Under the Red Hood” and Troy Baker in “Arkham Knight” have turned in what some consider to be definitive performances as Red Hood.
“I’m a huge fan of ‘Under the Red Hood’ and of Jensen Ackles,” Oyoung said. “That performance is seared into my brain. What Troy Baker was able to do in ‘Arkham Knight,’ I really respect how he took the character and did his thing. I don’t think people want a carbon copy clone. For me, I try to find something in between.”
Instead of trying to copy what came before, Oyoung is excited to introduce some new wrinkles to Red Hood’s character.
“The creators are hyper aware that when you think of Red Hood, most people think that he’s angry,” Oyoung said. “Obviously, that’s going to be in the performance. But he’s also human, too.”
Unlike other portrayals, this isn’t Red Hood early on his career and that may lead to a side of Red Hood that gamers haven’t seen yet.
“It’s not like he came out of the Lazarus pit yesterday,” Oyoung said. “There’s been some time since he’s doing his thing. He’s had time to process. So, what does that guy look like? I don’t think we’ve seen something like that in this medium.”
While gamers await the release of “Gotham Knights” Oyoung said they should be ready for a great experience.
“They want to win awards with this,” Oyoung said. “That’s what you can expect.”