Bringing Zelda to Life: A Chat With Patricia Summersett
Open your eyes...
For many Nintendo fans, there’s no series more iconic than The Legend of Zelda. From the characters and landscapes to gameplay and lore, it’s one of Nintendo’s most unique and engaging franchises to date. It’s why fans get more excited with each passing installment, and the player base continues to grow literally decades after its NES debut.
While The Legend of Zelda franchise has undergone numerous changes over the years, there are certain games we can point to as watershed moments. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past set the tone for many Zelda games after it, and Ocarina of Time ushered Link and the gang into 3D. While those moments are no doubt monumental, the series’ biggest shift may be that of Breath of the Wild.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took the long-running series and turned it on its head. Numerous longtime staples were completely changed or done away with, gameplay was complete redesigned from the bottom up, and for the first time ever, multiple characters were fully voiced. Leading that pack of those who gave voices to the voiceless was Patricia Summersett, who took on the role of Zelda.
Since Breath of the Wild, Summersett has returned to portray Zelda in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and now The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Just days before the game’s release, we had the chance to chat with Summersett about returning to the epochal role one more time.
GN: How exciting is it to return to the role of Zelda one more time, and in what could be the most anticipated Zelda title ever?!
PS: So boring. Not hyped at all. Seriously, it’s the WORST. Definitely not one of the coolest roles I will ever do. ; )
GN: How did you feel voicing Zelda in Breath of the Wild versus Tears of the Kingdom?
PS: Every element of BotW started from a new place for me, so there was a language to be established. On a third game, Zelda feels like a familiar friend. It’s such a privilege to revisit a character through multiple games. The more you know a character the more you can lean into the nuances.
GN: What have you learned from your past experience with Zelda that you took into your work for Tears of the Kingdom?
PS: I take a lot from what is built upon in two previous games, of course. I know her quirks. But a lot has happened in six years — not just in new game-story elements, but in the real world. Inevitably, I draw from both realms I suppose.
GN: Would you say there was more pressure on your Zelda debut, or with your return to the role for Tears of the Kingdom?
PS: With each iteration there are new members to a team, a new script and new circumstances. Every role is a new role with a bit of pressure in that sense. I probably feel a little less pressure for this reprisal, because I understand more of what is required.
GN: Just how different is the approach in recording something like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity versus Tears of the Kingdom?
PS: They are different styles of gaming, with different tones and rhythms. But the character originates from the same BotW landscape, so it’s a chance to explore different aspects within the same character.
GN: Walk us through your preparation for the work you tackled for Tears of the Kingdom.
PS: Start with the script. Much work has gone into that script. Before a session, I imagine the character in their environment. I get really into it, forget my keys on the counter and lock myself out of the house at the worst possible time. I break back into my house through a bathroom window (a friend comes over with my spare keys). Somehow I get to the studio just in the nick of time (early) and I’ve already prepared a variety of choices to offer a director. Does the character break into a building? Eat amphibians? Talk to trees? I can do that.
And for a role like Zelda, I warm up for sessions, about 45 minutes — body and voice (very actor-y vocal and physical stuff) to feel I’m in the zone. The blood moon zone…
GN: What’s the most trying aspect of voicing Zelda?
PS: Probably people asking me for spoilers. Because I’d love to discuss them, but musn’t.
GN: Just how many lines/hours of work went into your Tears of the Kingdom performance?
PS: As many hours as there are tears, tears in the eyes of someone baring witness to the inspired performance of a gyrating korok.
GN: What’s your process for handling emotionally-taxing scenes?
PS: For theatre, live action, or dramatic vo parts: I try to focus less on the emotion itself and more on what a character needs to express. But that aside, it’s good to warm up before these scenes — when you have the luxury. It’s equally important to cool down— to shake it off and check in with yourself when the work is finished. You can build up a lot of physical tension.
GN: How do you think your performance here differs from your debut?
PS: Different year, new hair cut, but the same heart, baby!
GN: Do you feel you align with Zelda on a personal level in some ways?
PS: She is an easy character to relate to on many levels. Many people feel this way. She is earnest, heady and also a little goofy. It’s a great combo.
GN: What do you hope fans take away from your performance in Tears of the Kingdom?
PS: Of course I hope people are moved and delighted. The fans I’ve met in the last years have myriad reasons for connecting with the series. I hope my performance serves as many of those connections as possible.
A huge thanks to Patricia Summersett for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. It was truly an honor!
If you’d like to hear Patricia’s work for yourself, you can pick up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom today! If you’d like to become more familiar with Patricia’s entire body of work, you can visit her official website.
Great interview ^-^ It must be exciting to work on a game an character like Zelda. I wonder how if she got to play the game early while doing the recordings of Zelda.
This was a nice interview. I'm impressed you guys were able to line it up.
She didn't just voice Zelda, she voiced what I think is the most developed and fleshed-out Zelda the series has ever had. Having an actual voice really helped that out.
Nice interview, RMC.
Nice interview! I’ve always really enjoyed her performance as Zelda, and I think she also improved from BotW to Age of Calamity. From the little I’ve seen so far she’s done a very nice job with TotK as well. I’ve seen her interact with fans in a stream awhile back, and heard other interviews with her, and I love the way she connects with the fans! Despite the amount of completely over the top and undeserved hate she got after BotW released, she seems to still genuinely love to connect with the community, which is awesome to see!
I love her sense of humor in this interview too!