Interview

Perfecting the Princess: A Pre-Fan Expo Interview with Zelda Voice Actress Patricia Summersett

The Person Behind the Princess

By Alex Handziuk
Published August 23, 2019
Perfecting the Princess: A Pre-Fan Expo Interview with Zelda Voice Actress Patricia Summersett
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Growing up, Patricia Summersett wanted to be an ice dancer.

She loved to perform and her passion for ice skating was a perfect outlet for it. Unfortunately, her career was cut short just as she was breaking onto the national scene, but from that setback Summersett’s acting career was born. Since getting into acting she has appeared in several live-action and voice acted roles, including Hope Jensen in Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Ash in Rainbow Six Siege, the Consoler in the 2017 film Mother!, and of course as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

CGMagazine’s Alex Handziuk had the pleasure of talking to Patricia in the lead up to Fan Expo Canada 2019, about her journey from being an ice dancer to landing the gig as Zelda, what it’s like working with Nintendo, and how she approaches voice-over work versus live-action projects.

CGMagazine: Growing up, you were a competitive ice dancer, was acting something that you were interested in as well?

Patricia Summersett: At the time, I don’t think I ever could have conceived that acting was something that you could even pursue as a career. But funnily enough, ice dancing is a pretty rare thing to try and pursue as well, although I didn’t pursue that on my own until I was 17. Growing up I was always doing performances, and some sort of art, which involved singing and dancing. It wasn’t until my first year of high school, that I discovered acting as a form. I was a junior in high school, and I tried out for Damn Yankees and Grease. 

CGMagazine: When did you flip the switch and go from ice dancing into acting?

Summersett: It wasn’t a smooth switch, to be honest. I was deciding whether or not I wanted to pursue acting or ice dancing by my senior year. But I knew so little about the acting world at that time and I knew that ice dancing had a limited shelf life, so I went with the ice dancing. That eventually led me to Quebec, Canada where I was training. I lived in Montreal for some time after that and then getting into acting was kind of a fluke. I was supposed to be heading to Nationals in Canada for ice dancing, my first time at the senior level, and I found out that I was disqualified from the competition because of paperwork issues. 

It was some crazy thing where neither I nor my coaches had realized that we had to apply for citizenship, get rejected and then send in the paperwork again. There was a whole process to skate for Canada as an American, at the national level, which hadn’t been addressed before. It was the heartbreak of my life and I didn’t feel like I was going to recover. Ultimately, it led me flailing around for a year thinking that I might be a nurse,, but ultimately, as soon as I took an acting class, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m done. There’s no way that I’m gonna be doing anything else.’ A short time later I got into Concordia for theatre and the rest is history. 

perfecting the princess a pre fan expo interview with zelda voice actress patricia summersett - Perfecting the Princess: A Pre-Fan Expo Interview with Zelda Voice Actress Patricia Summersett
Image Courtesy of Ubisoft.

CGMagazine: You did some voice acting for the Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy series’ before you got Zelda job, how did the processes compare? 

Summersett: They were different in that a lot of the Ubisoft stuff that I’ve done, and continue to do is based out of Montreal, Canada. Zelda happened for me when I made this big career move to live in LA. Weirdly enough, it was the first thing that I had to shoot for when I got down there, but I didn’t know what it was. I already had 10 years of voice acting experience, I was avoiding L.A. but finally realized that I had to do it anyway. So I made the leap and was rewarded with Zelda which is still crazy to wrap my head around. 

CGMagazine: Since you didn’t know that you were auditioning for Zelda, what was the audition for? 

Summersett: It was a clean, bleached script, like a significant portion of video games that you audition for. They always have non-disclosure agreements (NDA) but some of them are completely changed, all the names, the themes might still be the same. With Zelda, the way it was presented was kind of like a generic fantasy-based type video game, which you see all the time. So there was no way that I could guess, at all that it was what it was and I just wanted to make a good impression.

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Photo Courtesy of Nintendo.

CGMagazine: What was your reaction when you found out that you had gotten the job to be the first English voice actress for Zelda? 

Summersett: When you hear that kind of news, it’s hard to process, but it was an adrenaline rush, similar to jumping out of an airplane. You realize that there is the potential for everything to change for you, on some level in your career. Suddenly you have this really big thing that you must do very well and it’s going to be everything for a little while. All of these things come to you at once, but then you also don’t know if that’s truly going to happen to you, because none of these things is guaranteed through a whole process. You have to keep that in check, as well, and just try to do good work. It was a pretty intense year while I was recording after I found out what it was. Luckily, I landed the role before I found out what it was and I’d already done a callback, waited several weeks, found out that I got some kind of role, before discovering that it was in fact, Zelda. When you get that news so many questions go through your head about your interpretation and how you’re gonna approach it now. 

CGMagazine: What are the differences in the way you approach voice acting versus live-action?

Summersett: I feel like I answer that differently whenever I think about it, because, yes, in some ways, absolutely they’re vastly different but at the core of it is, is acting. With that said, some people have a propensity, to do live-action, and some people are all about voice work. I do both and I think I move between the two pretty smoothly. Then, of course, there’s the hybrid middle, which is the motion capture stuff, which kind of marries both forms. In the end, it is all acting and whenever people ask me how to get into voiceover, I tell them to start with acting training. Because that is the core of everything, it’s the theory, it’s the way to develop a script, it’s the way to interpret yourself in a character, it’s got to start with acting.

perfecting the princess a pre fan expo interview with zelda voice actress patricia summersett 2 1280x720 - Perfecting the Princess: A Pre-Fan Expo Interview with Zelda Voice Actress Patricia Summersett
Photo Courtesy of Nintendo.

CGMagazine: Fan Expo 2019 is going to be your latest convention, how has the overall con experience been so far? 

It’s been one of the most interesting changes in my life in the last couple of years and they’ve brought me all over the world. My first convention was in Kuwait and I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, as well as several times to Europe. In October, I’ll be going to New Zealand for the first time which I’m very excited about. I find it interesting when you get to meet fans all over the world and realize that there are so many similarities between not only people, but also Zelda fans all over the world. Everybody is awesome and everybody wants to hug and talk about how much they love Nintendo and the game series. One of my dreams has always been to travel and being able to see the world as Zelda has simply been magical.

CGMagazine: What has been your best moment so far?

Summersett: Recording it was magical. It was a relief once the game came out because everything was in place and then the game did exceptionally did well. I am so thrilled to be a part of something so much larger than myself, that doesn’t go away, that I get to keep in my life. But I would say interacting with the fans, and the travel has been truly an enhancing experience for me. I get to talk to people who have such immense stories about connections with the series, and they’re thrilled to talk to me about it. People talk to me about what their family members are going through or things that they’ve gone through in their own life, and the game series is so close to them. The fact that I get to be a part of that inspiration, to provide a little bit of hope for them or a celebratory moment is wild. It’s magical and feels like the game come to life. 

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You can meet Patricia Summersett and a whole slew of your pop-culture favourites this weekend at Fan Expo Canada.

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