By Alex Perry
If you watch basketball, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has been everywhere on your TV during the last few weeks — just not in the Hulu commercial that he “stars in.”
Protocol spoke to Hulu about the production of its new “Hulu Has Live Sports Again” commercial and Lillard’s remote participation in it, given his involvement in the restarted NBA season. To get around his lack of physical availability, Hulu used AI to place Lillard’s face on a stunt double’s body for the commercial, which features the point guard baking sourdough before triumphantly declaring that sports are back.
It’s the kind of thing that you’d think was off even if no one told you that wasn’t actually Damian Lillard. Hulu filmed Lillard over Zoom and had him do vocal exercises in order to create what is essentially a deepfake for an advertisement. This was necessary, of course, because Lillard has been busy lighting up defenses in the NBA bubble for the past several weeks, even scoring a surprising win to start Portland’s playoff run against the top-seeded L.A. Lakers.
No one involved is trying to keep this a secret, as Lillard even poked fun at his deepfaked body double on Instagram this week. It’s just a little strange and something we’ll all have to get used to.
Remember when Disney made a fake digital puppet of young Jeff Bridges for Tron: Legacy? Well, welcome to a world where TV commercials look that weird.