‘Zelda’ Voice Actress Patricia Summersett Is in Awe of the ‘Mindboggling’ Player Creativity in ‘Tears of the Kingdom’
Nearly 20 years after the release of the first The Legend of Zelda game, Nintendo hired an actress to voice Princess Zelda in 2017’s Breath of the Wild. Her name is Patricia Summersett, and she’s also voiced characters for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, among other games, in addition to doing film and TV work.
“When I moved to LA, [Zelda] was one of the first things I auditioned for in that area and I was hoping to make a great impression. Then I landed the role and discovered what it was,” Summersett tells The Mary Sue. “It was a really interesting thing to suddenly jump into. It was elating and it was very exciting, but I did feel pressure not knowing just how big the game would be. I had a feeling it would be a pretty big, high-profile role.”
Because Summersett is the first—and so far, the only—English-language actor to voice Zelda, many players solely associate her with the role. It’s been seven years since we first heard her speak in the 2016 Breath of the Wild trailer at E3, in which she said simply, “Open your eyes. Wake up, Link.” Since then, Summersett has also voiced the character in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and Tears of the Kingdom.
“You have a certain amount of pressure with any big game, but [Breath of the Wild] was obviously the most mysterious and therefore the most intense,” Summersett says. “There were a lot of ‘first times’ with that game, and then getting invited back for Hyrule Warriors was just a complete joy. It was in the middle of the pandemic when that game was released, so it was a really nice thing to celebrate.
“For [Tears of the Kingdom], to get called back again was a relief and a celebration. It was going back into the skin of something I already was familiar with, so there was just a whole lot of joy and pleasure in that.”
In that time, Summersett has not only grown more comfortable playing Zelda, but Zelda has “come into her skin a bit more.” Summersett says, “There’s a certain groundedness and experience over the span of three games. I feel that in voicing her, it’s more—I don’t want to say ‘seasoned,’ but there’s a foundation built on top of what she’s experiencing in the story and where it gets to go. It’s the finding of her voice, accessing her strengths both intellectually and physically. There’s a little more assurance and a bit more confidence.
“I love the evolution,” she continues. “Each iteration [of Zelda] is different, but it’s all stemming from the same Breath of the Wild character. So much has happened in the last six years, so certainly I bring that experience to it as a voice actor. After going through the storyline, perhaps there is a strong parallel in terms of experiences the character and actor are portraying.”
In other ways, Summersett says she feels a kinship with Link, whose emotions are expressed non-verbally. “I feel like I’ve spent some time with him over the last many years,” she explains. “There’s a comfort level of familiarity and heart, and feeling intimacy naturally because you’ve built a relationship there even if it’s fictional.”
Summersett hasn’t yet had the chance to play Tears of the Kingdom, which had been out for just over a week when we spoke, but she’s been a fan of the franchise since well before she became a part of it. She says it can be disorienting to play through a game and hear her own voice in cut scenes, and she also tries not to pay too much attention to direct feedback from players about her performance. That said, she’s seen some of the player content for Tears of the Kingdom online, including various Korok war crimes.
“Somebody sent me a link and I laughed my butt off,” she says. “It was a Korok being launched into space. I was like, ‘This is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen, and I really, really like it.’ But it’s horrible. Horrible. And very funny.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the gameplay she’s seen, Summersett says, is just how creative people are getting with the new abilities in Tears of the Kingdom. One allows you to fuse your weapons and shields to other objects to increase their effectiveness, and another allows you to glue objects together in order to make vehicles and more—even a Trojan horse.
“I knew it was going to become a wild thing to witness what people post from around the world,” Summersett tells us. “Watching someone cook on a flying contraption at sunset or seeing people find all sorts of livable moments in the game—they’re all surprising. There’s stuff I would never come up with. People are way better at playing the game than I am.
“It’s really hard to grapple with the possibility of infinite possibilities in a game, and I thought that already existed in Breath of the Wild. I’ve seen such incredible things like people taking advantage of glitches with horses. With building machines and fusing weapons, it’s just become so broad and vast. You can play and play and it’s mindboggling,” she continues.
Equally mindboggling, at least at first, was the vastness of The Legend of Zelda fandom, which Summersett began interacting with on the convention circuit between 2017 and 2020. She took a two-year break because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now doing in-person events again.
“There was an adjustment period because prior to doing the role of Zelda, I had done other pretty big video game roles but I had never been on the convention circuit,” Summersett explains. “It’s a whole other level of commitment with a 36-year-old franchise like that. It was overwhelming at first but once I got used to the fact that it’s not really about me, but the game, it became much easier to celebrate with everybody else.
“It’s also a fascinating thing to be part of. I’ve been able to travel around the world, which also meant I had to navigate that new part of my life [so I didn’t get burnt out]. Traveling too much takes a toll on your brain and your creative output but it’s incredible to meet people all around the world and see the way they all celebrate the series.”
“Everybody comes to the Zelda franchise for different reasons. I hope people take away from [Tears of the Kingdom] whatever they want to get from it,” Summersett says. “I’m an actor and I hope my performance moves people, but really, all it comes down to is: Is it fun? Are you enjoying yourself playing the game? I wouldn’t put anything more precious on it.”
As for the future, Summersett says if Nintendo calls again, she’ll jump at another chance to voice Princess Zelda. You can hear her play the character in Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and Tears of the Kingdom, which are all available for the Nintendo Switch.
(featured image: Nintendo)
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