It's no secret that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games of 2017, securing the most perfect scores for any video game ever on Metacritic. Indeed, critics and fans alike appear to be thoroughly enjoying the revamped world of Hyrule, and a large part of this stems from the voice acting that's present in the latest Zelda game. The presence of an actual cast propels the narrative forward and entices players to better explore their environment, hence why we at Game Rant were so eager to speak with none other than the voice of Zelda herself.
Patricia Summersett, the actress responsible for giving Zelda a voice in Breath of the Wild, was kind enough to speak with me recently. For those that have yet to complete the latest Zelda, SPOILERS FOLLOW, but anyone curious about Summersett's role can find the entirety of the interview below:
So, what is your favourite Zelda game?
“Oh wow, what’s my favorite Zelda game? Well, because I haven’t played enough of Breath of the Wild — and I have a feeling this could change later — I think to-date I would say what I have experienced of Ocarina of Time is one of my favorites.”
Where did you draw your inspiration from when auditioning for the role of Zelda?
“Well, when I auditioned for the role I didn’t know what I was auditioning for, so I was more going with the themes of the kind of cadence that they were looking for. When I first came in with my initial ideas, I had a feeling it was a princess: she was younger but had the weight of the world on her shoulders, and had a kind of timeless/ageless quality where her age was not necessarily equivalent to the age on paper. And, yeah, that she had a sort of regal sense to her. That’s kind of what I picked up from the breakdown of it so that’s what I initially went with. Once I found out that I got the part, which was quite further down in the process, we started recording. I think a lot of the decisions had been made about what the direction would be anyway, so it was a negotiation between, I guess, my sensibilities and that of Nintendo’s vision.”
How long ago did you first receive word that you’d be voicing the iconic Princess?
“I guess it was a year ago. Yeah, about a year ago."
How much time did it take to record all of the dialogue?
“I think we started in late spring and went within late fall. Yeah, it kind of trickled off in late fall. There were large gaps in time when there was no work being done. You know, voice work."
Were there any lines of dialogue that didn’t make the cut into the base game or maybe something funny that happened behind the scenes?
“Oh, interesting question. Gosh. As far as things that didn’t make the cut, I am pretty sure that most things remained in. I think they were very, I want to say organized, in the sense that they knew what they were doing by that point. And I’m probably assuming, I can’t really say for sure because the Japanese version was being developed at the same time, as it was getting to us that stuff had been approved and then would be approved through us.”“As far as funny moments of actual recording… I think more it was a touching, magical experience, but I did go in one day and I had had this really funny coincidence happen. The day before I had gone out on a photoshoot in Malibu Park with my friends; we had done this kind of ridiculous photoshoot, and I’d gone into a pond with a white dress on and taken these pictures. We were just experimenting. And then the next day I read and recorded a particular scene that looked very similar to that, and I was like “Woah! That was weird.” [laughs] Funny coincidence anyway.”
The character Zelda has been given a bit of a visual overhaul this time around, so what do you think of the changes and do they showcase the character a little bit better?
“Gosh, I mean, it’s so funny. I’m really interested in her evolution. They’re all interesting and different. I really love how they present her now. I loved […] her pants, I love her personality and that she is very assertive and out there. I really like the way that they portrayed her now. I think she’s a beautiful portrayal of Zelda.”
Building off of that, Nintendo has gone around and made her a much stronger character this time around and, prior to release, there was actually a lot of chatter in the industry about the desire to see a main and playable female protagonist in Breath of the Wild. Do you think Zelda would be up to the challenge of saving Hyrule?
“Yeah, I mean obviously, I feel like one of the great joys in my life is playing female warriors in video games. I feel like that’s something that comes about a few times for me and I’ve really enjoyed it every time. There was a very clear direction that they took to make her a strong woman presence, autonomous, you know. She can really take care of herself and she comes to the place where she has to reach down inside and activate her powers. Yeah, it was pretty incredible to be a part of that.”
After you found out you would be portraying Zelda, were you given kind of a background on the mythos of surrounding everything that had happened up until that point in the universe?
“I mean, not really. I think that they just assumed, like, it’s all there. Like, you know, go and get it. I think it was pretty clear that, yeah, I did a lot of that work myself. Just because that’s what I do. Maybe I gave off the impression that that’s the kind of actor I am — I don’t know — but it was all there to find. It’s all out there, all the games, all the fantasy. I have my Hyrule Historia; I’ve got all of that stuff.”
You’ve got the Historia, eh?
“I do, yeah!”
That’s pretty awesome. So do you know where it might fit within the timeline then, this adventure?
“Oh my gosh! That’s just so confusing! It’s a confusing question. I feel like people have been trying to work that out and it seems like some people have set it where other people are like “No, there’s no way.” I actually have no idea. I haven’t looked back into that recently now that there have been new theories about it coming up. I’ve seen new theories coming out all the time. Yeah, I don’t know."
You’ve actually voiced several video game characters. Another one being Ash in Rainbow Six Siege. How did taking on the role of Zelda differentiate itself from other roles you’ve done, such as Ash?
“Wow. It couldn’t be more different in the process. I mean, I guess the things that are similar in how they come about are that the teams you’re working [with] are really fun. It was interesting doing Ash and auditioning for Ash — again I didn’t know what I was auditioning for — but it requires a very different style of voice work. With Ash, you have to have a stamina for shouting and it’s very immediate and aggressive in the way that was executed. And then Zelda is very fine tuned; it was very, very detailed dubbing work. Like, down to the little millimetre of what you’re doing. Really, really sort of fine work. So, yeah, I mean they differ entirely, but, gosh, that’s one of the things I love about my job. And they’re also both strong, strong women. I enjoy them both today. I enjoy interacting with the very different fan bases.”
I know you have mentioned that you’ve received a copy of Breath of the Wild, so I’m kind of wondering how it was to first see and hear your voice coming from such an iconic character?
“Well, my first experience of it was E3 last year, where I was like “What’s going to be happen?” and then E3 happened. Just the initial lines where nobody knew if it was in fact her… it was all very mysterious. That was quite fascinating to watch play out at E3. I was definitely feeling the hype around it, the game and the controversies... and the questions coming up; it was a little overwhelming. You know, I was like “Oh my gosh, I certainly want to do my best at this,” obviously, and a very mysterious process and holding off to see how all that was going to play out and when it was going to play out. I usually don’t have the information of when things will be happening.”
Now, you mentioned the scene where you were in a dress and in the water, so what was your favorite scene to shoot in the new game?
“Oh boy, spoiler alert. Every time I was in the studio it was a special thing, just because each scene was a new, exciting, wonderful discovery of what was going to happen, what was going to be done with it... watching the animation play out in front of me as it was developing a little bit was kind of extraordinary. I really love when she nerds out with the frog and I like it when she shows a sense of humor. That stuff was super enjoyable. And I think the other thing I like was a very sort of emotional moment in the studio when she accesses her power. All very spoily, but those were probably the highlights.”
So, actually, you mention the frog scene, and the relationship between Link and Zelda has always been left kind of ambiguous. In your own opinion, do you think they’re a couple or are they just REALLY good friends?
“Boy, oh boy. That’s a hard one to ask me. [laughs] I don’t even know if I should answer that. I actually don’t know how to answer that question, because to me I think it could go either way. I think that definitely, whatever it is, is a deep relationship. But relationships can be ambiguous, so I don’t mind that it is ambiguous. I think there’s something really nice about it.”
It certainly keeps it a little more PG, anyway.
“Well, I mean, there are plenty of… I don’t know. There is something about them not having to be a couple that’s kind of great, too. When I think about it, you know. Obviously, I probably long for the day that they get to have some sort of lovely kiss or something like that.” [laughs]
Well maybe you’ll be portraying her when she does it!
So, given that Zelda is so prominent in not only, obviously Zelda where the series is named after her, but in other games like Super Smash Bros., would you be up to playing Zelda in a reoccurring role?
“Oh my gosh, I would play Zelda any day any how. Yeah! [laughs] Of course, I mean, I can never predict what is going to happen in the future, so I’m just taking it one day at a time and enjoying that I’m Zelda and I’m part of this much larger world that is so much bigger than me and has such a large franchise behind it and in front of it, hopefully. But, yeah, any time that I was ever given the opportunity I would 100% continue on.”
Well, you might have your chance with the upcoming DLC for the game.
“Perhaps! Yeah! [laughs]"
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently available on Nintendo Switch and Wii U.