The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been a smash hit for the Switch launch, and critics and fans alike just can't get enough of the open world adventure in Hyrule. In addition to boasting a massive world with incredible freedom, brittle weapons and countless recipes to make, the game also includes full voice acting for the first time.
Keen to learn more about the process of giving one of the world's most famous princesses a voice, we caught up with Patricia Summersett, the actress who brought Zelda to life in the English version.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and talk a little about your career to date?
I'm a Canadian-American actor for stage, screen and voice. I also do some music. I was raised in Upper Michigan (a Yooper) before ultimately landing in Canada. Now I divide my time between the two countries!
How did you come to get involved in video game voice acting, specifically?
I was the type of child that attempted to mimic anything that crossed my path: cartoons, nature sounds, TV jingles. An emphasis on voice-related things has always been a theme in my career, but it was really in university, in my acting program, taking a "voice over" class that I realized I could actually pursue it as a career. I began making rough animation and commercial demos and tried to audition for whatever I found posted. I just did it step by step, often traveling provincially around Quebec to record small projects. It led to my first radio work and then several indie games. This was my platform for larger games. It was a lot of trial and error. I've been working steadily for about 10 years in voice over alongside my other things.
How does your approach and preparation for voiceover work differ from on-camera acting? Do you have a preference for one over the other?
I do not have a preference at this point. I'd be sad if I had to choose, really. I love theatre, screen and mic work for different reasons. There is so much crossover within the forms though. If I'm doing intense video game barks, I call upon voice training from theatre. If I'm doing ADR work, I use my sensibilities from screen, and also from voice work and singing. But my base for all of my acting work comes from theatre training.
What was the casting process like for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? How did you first find out about it?
The casting process was pretty straightforward in that it happened in studio. I sent my demo package to several people in LA and received an invitation for the audition. Frankly I'd just hoped to make a very solid first impression. The audition led to a callback several weeks later, again in studio with further direction and testing range, etc. I didn't know what I was auditioning for until well after I actually landed the role and was about to record it.
Did you have much prior experience with games in the Legend of Zelda series?
I was fortunate enough to grow up with an NES in my home. My three sisters and I played The Legend of Zelda. I have Ocarina of Time on 3DS. Recently I played some Twilight Princess. After I beat Breath of the Wild, I'll probably prioritize The Wind Waker and A Link Between Worlds.
Can you talk a little about the brief you were given for performing the role of Princess Zelda?
I was given the description that she was a princess of sorts; refined and studied… young but with the weight of the world on her shoulders and aged beyond her years, which was a mysteriously flexible age, changing from one audition to the other. It's understandable in retrospect.
As a North American, what work did you do to develop Zelda's British accent in the game?
Prior to this game I studied in London for a Masters of Classical Acting. I've used RP (received pronunciation) onstage in performances such as Equus and various Pinter Plays while in London, and snippets in games, etc. Ironically, my British friend who I studied with in the UK was living in LA and helped me prepare for my Breath of the Wild audition. What I auditioned with was approved before the recording began.
Were there any particular feelings or emotions around being the first English voice actor for the character of Zelda in the series' history? Did you feel any pressure finding the best voice for her?
It was a pretty incredible surprise to discover what the game was. I had a feeling it was a really cool game, but couldn't have fathomed it was Zelda. In that quiet year of recording I did draw from the idea of the "silent princess" and Zelda's inner turmoils. Though the fate of the world didn't rest on my shoulders, it was a great inspiration from which to pull. I mean, it's just very relatable.
Zelda comes across as a complex character in the game, facing daunting challenges. Can you talk about your feelings on the character's personality and traits, and how she's portrayed in the game's various cutscenes?
As I've just mentioned, I think Zelda's plight is so darn relatable. Obviously I love the beautiful arc Nintendo has given her in this game. I'm so fortunate to spend time in her character. Her relationship to her environment, her love of nature, her struggle with her father. I get emotional thinking of it, but mostly so, because Zelda accessing her inner power is her biggest contribution to Hyrule... but it is also the only way she can truly feel that she is connected with her mother... and that is heartbreaking and beautiful.
We can imagine landing a role like this comes with a hefty NDA that you had to sign. Did you find it tough keeping the secret that you were voicing such an iconic character?
I take my NDAs very seriously. They are so important for games. I didn't find it difficult not to tell people, but I was totally paranoid it would get leaked somehow.
Now that the game is finally out, what has it been like seeing the response to the your work from fans?
It's been fascinating. It has required growing a thicker skin and a more open heart all at the same time, to accommodate so many wonderful new friends and experiences. I love it. I am approached everyday with supportive words, amazing fan art and a new community.
Have you had a chance to play much of Zelda: BotW yourself yet?
I got my Switch late and marathon play time is not an option with my schedule. My friends are further along on MY Switch then I am! But my goal is to beat it by E3.
Do you plan to attend any conventions or expos this year, perhaps due to your role as Zelda's voice actress?
I'm doing this interview from Kuwait Com Fest. It's been amazing. I fly back tonight (tears)...
Other than games in which you've performed, are there any you can name that you play just for fun?
Recently: Horizon Zero Dawn, The Stanley Parable and Braid.
What's next for you, do you have any exciting projects on the way that you'd like to share?
I'm working on games and film projects. Also, writing some new music for my band, which I hope to share in the Fall. I'll be updating my social media with all of this and basically I just look forward to connecting with a lot of awesome people.