“Open your eyes”… there are some words that a fan never forget, some tones of voices that make a game transcend the limits of a simple entertainment product into a true artistic masterpiece. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is without a doubt one of the most impactful video game that we’ve seen in the last years. It not only defined a whole new turn in the franchise, but also inspired generations of games to come throughout the whole industry. It’s impeccable artistic direction, a deep and enticing history that reflects on the whole series, and at the center of Nintendo’s masterpiece stands the voice of Zelda.
For the first time in the franchise, the Princess Zelda has a voice. A performance brilliantly given (in english) by voice actress Patricia Summersett, that surely wasn’t easy considering that so many fans have their own idea on what the incarnation of Wisdom should sound like. This is why we wanted to know more. We’ve had the privilege to interview Patricia Summersett on her career, her work on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, her personal favourites and her future projects. Here it is, enjoy!
How did you get into voice acting for video games?
I was first introduced to voice acting while studying for my BFA in theatre. It was then I learned that people could get paid to do voice work. I started pursuing it while still in school. It led to my first commercial work and indie games and after some years, to triple A games.
Can you walk us through the process of “building a voice”? Do you get your inspirations from somewhere?
I suppose I start with images, ultimately. But it would depend on what information I was given, and if I had to start from scratch. I consider it character work, like building any full bodied character. So I’d examine all parts of what makes up the animate thing… its rhythm, what it resembles, the age, the colors. And then I’d try stuff out with my voice, speaking as the character. If I’m convinced by it, I’m heading in the right direction.
What was your reaction when you learned that you were going to be the voice of Zelda?
Disbelief, into probably one of the largest adrenaline rushes of my life (the good kind).
For the first time in a 30 year old franchise, you give a voice to the iconic Princess. The Nintendo teams must have put a lot of pressure on that. Did they give you guidelines/advice on how to act or was all the voice building process was done with Voice Director Jamie Mortellaro?
I’m sure everyone from every department feels a bit of pressure when working on a game this size. But I was well supported, it was a beautiful room to be in, without exception. What I had auditioned with was pretty close to what it ended up sounding like. Obviously I grew into it as i was going, but the direction was clear. No drastic changes. Jamie is one of those directors you just want to have in any room, I think. I was very lucky to have him, he’s super supportive and concise.
There have been many incarnations of Zelda, each one with her really own character (ex. the fierce Tetra in Wind Waker, the kind reincarnation of Hylia in Skyward Sword). Was it something you looked into when building the voice of BotW’s Zelda?
When I discovered what the part was, I started researching into the various incarnations for sure, but ultimately it came down to the script and the story I had on hand. I feel like I can be informed by the past, but I cannot “act” the past, only the present.
Knowing that you are now the voice that generations of gamers will remember when they heard for the first time the Princess Zelda, how does it feel to be part of this pillar of modern culture?
In short, it’s very humbling. I have such respect for all of the artists who toiled away to make this game and this franchise what it is. To be a part of that, especially as a voice artist, is a dream.
Why did you learn TP Hylian?
I spent a year thinking about the “silent princess” trying to process it all and be available to the work. Learning TP Hylian was easier than the other kinds of Japanese-based Hylian for me and I figured it was both a good meditation and a way to connect with fans later.
Nintendo is renowned for the music in their games, including Zelda (i.e. Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses). Something you must be sensitive to since voice acting works in pair with sound production and you’re also writing music. What is your favourite song from any Nintendo game?
I could be lazy and say Zelda’s Lullaby. It’s such a hard question though! My three sisters and I could rattle off and harmonize on pretty much any early Mario song, but I’m not sure if that is “favorite” as much as just “earworm”. I’m attending the Symphony of the Goddesses in December and perhaps I’ll come out with a true favorite.
What/who are for you the most iconic voices/voice actors in video games? Are they something you rely on when you build your characters?
I draw from video games, film and life when I build video game characters, but I have huge respect for VAs such as Jennifer Hale, Laura Bailey, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren etc. Their range and tuning is incredible.
You seem to have a lot going on these days. Voice acting for a couple of games, music writing, film and TV… do you find time to enjoy the games you’ve worked on?
The reality is that I literally have to schedule it in because there are too many things competing for my creative energy. So it’s been tricky.
Some actors get their fun out of theatre acting, others from indie projects or TV shows. And you?
All of those things. I love them all. Another happy place is hanging out to the shore of Lake Superior with my family. I have three incredibly goofy sisters and we create stuff together. It’s a joy.
You’ve also had significant work in other game series (ex. Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow Six, Beowulf). So looking into future projects, if you could give your voice to any video game character, who would it be?
Obviously I would love to be a part of any big franchise. Like any actor, I do a lot of work to even get work — to get cast — so I celebrate what I get. But I bet building a character from scratch and dabbling in VR would be so amazing… I’ve been envisioning that a bit, so maybe it’s in the cards!
Photo Credits: Andrea Hausmann, Tristan Brand