An interview with royalty: Princess Zelda’s voice actress Patricia Summersett
by on September 12, 2017

Breath of the Wild launched earlier this year, and one of the most significant additions to the game was voice acting. Shortly after the game was released, we got revelation on who voiced whom. It was revealed that Patricia Summersett had been cast as Princess Zelda, portraying her  elegant and mature voice to the video game. Patricia is no stranger to video games having provided voices for such franchises as Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow SixFar CryDeus Ex, and more. You can also see her in the upcoming released movie Mother!

With great excitement, we had the pleasure to sit down with Summersett and interview her on what it was like to voice Zelda, how she likes voice acting in general, and what she thinks about the Zelda franchise in general.

Spoiler warning
Our interview with Patricia Summersett discusses story spoilers regarding Breath of the Wild.

Robert Sephazon, Zelda Universe: To begin, thank you so much for your time, as well as congratulations on just your fantastic portrayal of Princess Zelda in Breath of the Wild.

Patricia Summersett: Thank you very much.

Robert: So, we first would like to ask you, upfront, what is it like to know that you are now the voice of gaming’s most famous princess?

Patricia: [laughter] Is she the most famous princess? Yeah! I don’t know. I feel like I’m a part of a big thing that’s a lot larger than me, and so it feels a bit surreal at times but it also it’s fantastic. It’s an amazing that’s happened. It’s hard to put words to. I feel different about it every week, as things evolve.

Robert: We should really go back to the beginning and ask: How did this process of voicing Princess Zelda begin?

Patricia: So, the process of voicing her began with a simple audition where I didn’t know what I was auditioning for. Found out later that I had a callback several weeks later, and went back in for the callback where they tested, sort of, more things but it narrowed it down. Then, found out a few weeks later that I had landed this role, and it was a good one, but I still didn’t know what it was. And then, around the time that I began recording it, I was told that Princess Zelda, which, to hear that news, was really extraordinary. It basically made my stomach flip. It was just this weird like, “Wow, what just happened?” or, “What is going to happen?” That was about a year ago, and it’s been a really interesting journey since then. That was the beginning of it: a pretty straightforward audition process.

Robert: Diving more into the audition process, what information of the character were you given during the audition?

That was the basic description they were going for: a really strong demeanor. Somebody who is very self-possessed.

Patricia: I was given a basic description that she was like a royal princess or sorts. I’ve said this before in other interviews that I guess she had a lot of pressure on her. The weight of the world. She had a kind of timeless quality to her. She was young but had aged beyond her years. And that became pretty apparent the way that they were sort of working with me (and kind of directing it). And I was like, “Oh, interesting,” which now makes sense.

That was the sort of basic description that they were going for: a really strong demeanor. Somebody who is very self-possessed. I took those things into the audition, and that’s it. It was pretty straightforward from there like what I attempted to do from those notes that I was given.

Alex Trevino, Zelda Universe: Was Zelda’s English accent something you chose to audition with or was that part of the character?

Patricia: It was part of the description when I went in.  It was a U.K. accent, and, because it was royal, I went with something quite classic, which is the standard RP. Ultimately, from there, that’s what was approved and so the decision was made really before the recording started.

Robert: Breath of the Wild is Zelda’s most active and, in a way, her most tragic role in the entire franchise. As her voice actress, was there any time when recording this dialogue that you began to empathize with this character, regardless if you knew who she was or not?

Patricia: Once the recording started and I knew who she was, I empathized with her the whole time. It’s incredibly relatable. All the themes were very universal. I was certainly emotional during some of the scenes, and it was all there, for sure. Through the whole thing I empathized with her. She’s pretty easy to empathize with as a whole. So, I did feel pressure when finding out that I had the role, and then going through the year and doing it I could tell no one. It was so secret, and the stakes were very high to keep it secret. The fandom is very large, and there’s a lot of passionate voices within it. I really didn’t want to let anybody down, but I had to focus on doing my work. I found that it was an interesting mirror of Zelda – at the same time, going through my own quiet process. That was personal for me.

It was so secret, and the stakes were very high to keep it secret. The fandom is very large, and there’s a lot of passionate voices within it. I really didn’t want to let anybody down.

Robert: Right, and part of the aspect of empathizing is that really I think people should remember that this is a Zelda who is really still a child going into her 17th birthday. This is a Zelda who has been thrust into these circumstances with no choice knowing that during her lifetime she’s going to have to deal with this. Did that play a role in how you portrayed her?

Patricia: Yeah, and 17 is a funny age because you are a child but you’ve got the weight of your entire adulthood, and you have the understanding of your mortality. She has those things at 17. The fact that she lost her mother at a very young age, I find that part of the story is the most stressful. Somebody who’s lost a parent at a young age who would be able to, and has a hard relationship with the other one, and is expected to almost be the female of the family. That’s some heavy stuff. At any age, much less 17. Just the fact that she has to, the only way that she can connect with her mother is through accessing herself is a really powerful theme and it’s heartbreaking.

Alex: Prior to Breath of the Wild, had you ever played any other Zelda games before, and what was your reaction to learning how you were cast as the role?

Patricia: Yeah, I had played Zelda. It wasn’t a franchise that I was fixated on by any stretch. My experiences with it were I grew up with a Nintendo system in my house, so, we definitely played a lot of the original, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess. I recently visited it to get a sense of one of the newer games, and then watching a lot of the cutscenes from the other games like Wind Waker. I was trying to sort of go back through each of them and see what the common strand is now. I sort of dug through the Hyrule Historia, and I did a lot of that sort of research, as well. But themes are all so universal, and the style had been decided already. I was given a lot of clear signals about where it was gonna go.

One of Summersett’s favorite scenes is the scene with Zelda and Link where she talks about nature and ecstatically shows a frog to Link.

Alex: Have you ever thought to yourself how you personally see Zelda sounding like? Were you ever into hearing the voices of the characters in your interpretation?

Patricia: Yeah, I mean, I feel I’ve done the best version of like a 17-year-old timeless princess, which is essentially what she is — a strong, royal, figure. That is my version of the voice. That’s what’s inside me. That’s what I gave, and if Nintendo feels that that’s the way Zelda should sound, then I trust them. I am not the best person to ask for that decision because I am a self-conscious actor. I will always, with whatever I do, look for other ways to do it, or try to perfect whatever I’m doing.

Robert: Having played previous Zelda games and being familiar with the series, how do you feel that this Princess Zelda is unique compared to these past iterations?

Patricia: I feel like a lot of people have discussed this with much eloquence. [Zelda is] fleshed out, in a way; she’s got an incredible arc in this game, and she’s very much instrumental. Watching her be a studied, developed character out in the open is just a breath of fresh air.
Robert: Fantastically put.

Everyone: [laughter]

Robert: After learning all that Princess Zelda goes through in this game, does she inspire you in any way?

Zelda is fleshed out, in a way; she’s got an incredible arc in this game, and she’s very instrumental. Watching her be a studied, developed character is just a breath of fresh air.

Patricia: Oh yeah! I mean she’s the ultimate. It’s impossible to play a character like Princess Zelda and not be inspired by all your childhood dreams. She represents so many things to not just me but so many people. She’s magical; she actually contains the ability to use magic, where we don’t. But she does it through means like the Triforce, and just these very palpable, realistic, human things. I find her very inspiring and obviously; yeah, watching her journey makes me wish that I could be magical.

Everyone: [laughter]

Alex: Don’t we all.

Patricia: I wish I could hold up my hand and shoot power out of it!

Everyone: [laughter]

Alex: What has your experience been so far with playing Breath of the Wild, if applicable?

Patricia: It’s been so flipping slow, because every time I try to pick up my Switch, I’m either trying to suddenly manage my social media, go to an audition, or travel from one country to another. It’s been a really hard thing to actually sit down and play the game, and sink into the game, and the pressure of time is getting to me a little bit. However, the times that I have been able to play, I’ve sat down with friends and just pick it up, and so a lot of my friend play has been happening and that’s been super fun. That’s for me, anyway, it’s slow.

Robert: I have to imagine, while you’re sitting there with friends playing Breath of the Wild and maybe they somehow haven’t figured out that you were the voice of Zelda, while playing through the game you just start speaking as her just to get their reaction.

Patricia: It’s a little weird. I do chime in every once and awhile, and we have a good laugh.

I do love that Zelda deals with everything. I like that she deals with a bit of scorn and bitterness. I think that’s a really interesting aspect to her.

Alex: I have an off the road question: Is there a different character in Zelda or any other series – of Nintendo – that you would like to voice for? Of any pre-existing characters in Nintendo.

Patricia: Ha, I mean if it were up to me, I would go for Princess Peach.

Alex: Do it!

Robert: I would love to see this.

Patricia: Give me all the princesses! It’s funny ‘cause, I mean, sure I would love to do all the voices, but right now it almost feels like answering that I’m being greedy. I’m so lucky, so why would I do anything other than use this and ride it and try to keep developing it? Because it’s a journey that’s really just begun, in a way.

Alex: Well great, that’s all I have on my end. Robert?

Robert: We’ve seen Zelda in basically every light, in my opinion. We’ve seen her happy; we see her overcome these obstacles. Is there anything that you personally would like to see this iteration of Zelda deal with, or maybe overcome in some future game or some future expansion?

Patricia: You’re asking me questions where I’m thinking, “Oooh, never heard that one before!” But like I mean obviously a lot of people are asking why Zelda can’t be the one fighting and maybe ever following her journey. Again it’s something I feel like it’s not for me to really ask or comment about or worry about. I’m really just on this ride with a kind of a backseat look, like wide-eyed like a child in the back. But I do love that she deals with everything. I like that she deals with a bit of scorn and bitterness. I think that’s a really interesting aspect to her. So she does that already. We know she can fight, and I guess I could see more of that. I’d like to see her sort of pick it up and pick up the sword and pick up a bow and arrow and do some more now. Haha.

Robert: I understand where you’re coming from. As the voice behind this character, it does make sense that your thoughts and opinions on this character may be very different than say a fan, such as myself or the developers. I guess, you are more tied in directly with this character.

Patricia: Yeah, I already feel her arc, and I feel she’s a whole person, so I’m thinking what do I want to see or do sounds like an intellectual exercise for me that I haven’t really thought through, and I don’t because she is already so fleshed out compared to what she was. I’m just like, “Wow that’s so cool!” So like, I wish, I don’t have any of those right now. I don’t have any of like, “Yeah! But….” I’m just like, “Wow, so cool, great step, amazing game.”

Alex: Totally fair.

Robert: Well I just personally want to say, once again, fantastic portrayal of Princess Zelda in Breath of the Wild, and I hope to personally hope to see more of you and this Zelda moving forward in both the franchise and gaming in general, so congratulations once again there. Alex, do you have anything you’d like to add?

Alex: Not much other than I really appreciate you taking the time to hang out with us today, to chat and talk about Zelda. I really appreciate it. I hope to see more in the future with you, if it’s not at Nintendo, at least somewhere else from the voice acting realm.

Patricia: Thank you very much.

If you’d like to see what Patricia Summersett has been up to, you can follow her over on her Twitter account @summersett_. She shares a lot of Zelda related content and makes announcements on her next con appearances. Go check her out!

Alexander Trevino
Alexander Trevino is a UNT graduate, majoring in Theatre. He has been working at ZU since Fall of 2013 as a former media director and ongoing content creator in both media and marketing. He's the lead director and video editor for the English Dub adaptions of various Zelda games excluding for ZU as off 2015.