Behind the royal voice.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild marks the first time in the series that voice acting has played a large role in the story. Many of the game’s pivotal moments are voice acted, giving them an emotional resonance that adds to the touching tale of Link and Zelda risking everything to save their beloved Hyrule.
Zelda herself is a standout character in the game, and she was brought to life by the talented Patricia Summersett. Patricia took some time to answer a few of our questions and give us a deeper look behind the making of Breath of the Wild, along with what went into creating the character and fully fleshing her out.
The role itself wasn’t revealed for about a month into the audition process but once she knew what it was, Patricia said accepting it was a no-brainer. But stepping into the shoes of one of the most influential characters in gaming is no easy task, especially one who has been mute all this time. For her, the first step was immersing herself in the lore of the series, using Hyrule Historia to learn not only about the land Zelda was fighting to reclaim, but the history of the character herself.
The character’s depiction in Breath of the Wild is the most grounded and strongest it has ever been. She is no longer a damsel in distress and that change is very important to Summersett.
“The way she would be portrayed now with how fleshed out and strong she is, stubborn and full-bodied, full minded. She has been that way before but you get to see it in its entirety this time. She’s a stronger more developed, fleshed out character than ever before. Even though the trope of the silent princess is still present as she looks on the flower and goes through her meditation, she is a much stronger character.”
This newfound strength helped Summersett connect with the character on another level, especially with the fact that Zelda has an affinity for nature. The actress is a great fan of the outdoors and being able to connect to these smaller, more unique aspects of Zelda helped her breathe more life into the performance.
When it came to finally reading the lines themselves, not a lot of improvisation was done. Summersett recalled working with the localization and recording teams to create a final product that hit all the right notes.
“I did a bit of improvisation in the translation because the initial text was Japanese and there were a lot of people working to make it the best it could be so I worked with them to do that.”
Now that Zelda finally has a voice, we asked Patricia what she thought of Link – the series’ consistently mute protagonist – gaining a voice as well. But she wasn’t too thrilled with the idea saying, “I don’t know how I feel about that. Eiji Aonuma said that he is a vessel for the player so I think it should stay that way. I’m just happy to be playing Zelda!” She also doesn’t want to see the budding romance between the two characters explored much further, saying that she’s on the fence about it.
“As a woman, I think there is so much in a complex relationship when you don’t know and it can still be very intimate and romantic when they don’t kiss.” Not only does it leave things less complicated, it allows Zelda to continue to grow as her own character.
Breath of the Wild isn’t the first big game she’s done voice work in. you can also hear her putting her skills to use in titles like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Rainbow Six Siege. When asked if there were any series in particular she wanted to work on, she said none immediately came to mind. “I think I just did my dream project. I love my job whatever does come my way. I’ve had a lot of things in mind in the past. I love Ashley Burch’s work on Horizon Zero Dawn so I think long takes with motion capture would be great. League of legends or Elder Scrolls also, I really enjoy playing female warriors.”
Summersett has been a fan of the series for the majority of her life, putting time into some of the series’ biggest entries like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. When it comes to where the series should go next, however, she wouldn’t mind seeing Zelda take center stage. “I know people have been talking about Zelda becoming a playable character in the series. It’s hard for me to answer because as an actor I’m trying to appreciate the vastness of the game and the big leap that it is.” With Breath of the Wild being the leap that it is, though, changing the dynamic the player character has with the world has the possibility to shake things up even further.
Breath of the Wild is the largest leap the Zelda series has taken since it moved to 3D. Adding voice acting gave the game a more cinematic feel and brought the story to life in new ways. Patricia Summersett’s performance also helped bring the titular Zelda to life and ensure that the relationship between her and Link remained intriguing and emotionally impactful. Hopefully, we’ll hear her soothing tones again in a future installment of the long-running franchise.