Laura Bailey on playing Black Widow in Marvel's Avengers game and the toxic backlash to The Last of Us Part II

The new Marvel's Avengers game features the iconic comic book characters being brought to life by a who's who of the voice acting world including Laura Bailey as Black Widow.

She's already played the character in several animated shows, as well as having major roles in franchises like The Last of Us, Halo, World of Warcraft, Gears of War, Infamous and Final Fantasy, as well as voicing Supergirl and Catwoman.

For pop culture fans, that is really quite a line-up.

"I would've never believed that I got to do this when I was a kid, y'know. It's a dream," Bailey told Newshub.

"I was watching a Disney movie recently and thinking, 'Man, that's so cool I hope I can do something like that some day!' And then I thought: 'Wait a minute - I do do that!' It's weird, I still haven't fully got it into my head that that's what I do." 

In modern times, there's arguably no bigger pop culture brand in the world than the Avengers

What is it about this group of superheroes that makes them just so popular?

"What's so good about Marvel is they really embrace the characters' flaws. Aside from Captain America who is completely good, everybody is flawed," Bailey said.

"The characters learn to not only work around their flaws but work with them, and that makes them stronger."

Marvel's Avengers screenshot.
Laura Bailey as Black Widow in Marvel's Avengers. Photo credit: Marvel

There have been loads of games based on the Avengers, but few - if any - have so far been as well done as most entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fans will be anxious to see if the new game is finally as great as the films are.

While the trailers and gameplay videos from the beta period have showcased a lot of the action, Bailey seemed more excited about the story.

"I can't talk about it too much now but there's a couple of scenes that I'm thrilled they wrote, that we were able to go to those places with these characters," she said.

"We've seen emotional scenes in the cinematic universe, but very rarely do we get to do them in the animation world as they're a lot of times skewed to younger audiences. So to play these characters in a more adult world felt really awesome."

Those dramatic scenes have been created using state-of-the-art motion-capture technology, which also helped Bailey become Abby in The Last of Us Part II.

"The first motion-capture project I ever did was about 10 years ago and the suits had giant balls on them, so you had to be very animated with all your movements," she said. 

"But the technology has grown so much that now the tiniest little movements are registered. Things you don't even think about like putting your thumb in your pant loop or running your hand through your hair - you have to think about what will that add to the workload of the animators.

"All those little things that before we never were able to do, like biting your lip, now they can accurately show all of that."

Laura Bailey as Abby in The Last of Us Part II.
Laura Bailey as Abby in The Last of Us Part II. Photo credit: Naughty Dog / PlayStation

The Last of Us Part II enjoyed universal critical acclaim and broke sales records as a PlayStation exclusive earlier this year. But it was also subjected to a fierce hate campaign, which started with the pre-release leaking of hacked in-game videos and continued with vicious online harassment.

Due to narrative elements in the game that involved Abby, Bailey in particular was targeted by online trolls and sent a concerning amount of death threats and other violent messages. 

She said the first game's passionate fanbase and the COVID-19 pandemic helped create a "perfect storm".

"This year as we've had so many people stuck in their homes, all their communication is via the internet and they don't have any other outlet. Plus there's so much rage with what we're experiencing that's beyond our control. 

"So it makes sense that people focus on something they feel should be in their control," said Bailey.

"Games are so incredibly personal - the immersion you experience is different to a film, it's different to a book. You're embodying a character and you are making their choices, so it makes sense that people take it so personally."

Although she's had time to process it - Bailey never wants to go through that again.

"I hope we are learning and growing, and getting better. I hope I won't experience that again, I would hate to."

After she spoke out publicly about the attacks, Bailey was flooded with messages of support.

"Often when we have a positive experience with something, we don't say anything, but if we feel negatively about it we want to do something about it. So they go and say something about it," she said.

"People becoming aware of that because of [the backlash to The Last of Us Part II] meant people who had a positive experience wanted to be actively vocal about it.

"The amount of people that then came to me with positive words have been innumerable. That was an amazing side effect that I hadn't expected. I was so incredibly grateful for it."

Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II is out now for PlayStation 4.

Marvel's Avengers, developed by Crystal Dynamics, will be released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Stadia on September 4, before being released on next-gen consoles later this year.