To celebrate the recent release of Final Fantasy VII Remake on PS4, we had the absolute privilege of chatting with Erica Lindbeck who portrays Avalanche member Jessie Rasberry in the masterful retelling of this incredible story. We talked with her about her character, the reaction of the fans and her incredible career in voice acting so far.
STARBURST: Congratulations on the launch of the game! It’s an absolute masterpiece and a big part of that is the voice casts performance including your own!
ERICA LINDBECK: Thank you so much! It’s so amazing to see the game get overwhelmingly positive reviews from every corner of the world. I’ve been on this project for over five years so to see the game not only finally come out but also receive such incredible reviews it feels like a dream.
Final Fantasy VII is arguably the biggest game in the history of gaming – with millions of fans the world over. How proud are you to be a part of the continued legacy of this beloved franchise by playing Jessie in Remake?
I remember the PlayStation experience in 2015 when the first trailer containing dialogue came out and I actually had the first line of English dialogue in the trailer which just blew my mind (Gideon Emery as Biggs and myself as Jessie were the first to be cast because of the trailer). I truly can’t even properly express how grateful I am to be involved with this amazing project. I could’ve never imagined as well how much people were going to love Jessie! [laughs] I mean, you’ve already got Tifa and Aerith as the two big female characters and then for Jessie to come along and steal the spotlight if you will is amazing to see. Back when I booked the role, I wasn’t super familiar with the original Final Fantasy VII. My experience with Final Fantasy is pretty weird as I’ve never played the games but I watched Final Fantasy VII Advent Children and was super confused with what was happening – and before too long I was on YouTube watching all of the Crisis Core cutscenes and that’s how I become obsessed with the lore and knew everything I needed to know about the main characters and their story.
When they first started to release screenshots for Remake and I first saw Jessie I had no idea who she was, but someone said to me that she had never had a voice. So when I booked the role I expected her to be a super small role but when I started working on it, it was so much more than that – and the fact she had the first voice lines in the trailer. In the original, she is a side character, but still well-loved, and in Remake with Avalanche’s story being expanded upon, I was still shocked to see how much of Jessie you actually get to experience.
You play Jessie Rasberry (which is the best surname ever in gaming). In the original game she was classed as a minor character but in Remake she has been incredibly well fleshed out (thanks to the writing and your performance) and now, in a lot of people’s eyes is seen as such an important part of the story. How does that make you feel?
It’s a dream to hear from people how much she is loved – so so positive. What’s also really cool is that I got the chance to originate her by being the first person to voice her – it’s also a relief as there’s no one for anyone to compare me to [laughs]. It’s one thing to be a part of a game that people love but it’s a whole other animal to be a character that people love within that game. Her story is so interesting and to be a part of that is just a total joy and honour. I still can’t believe it happened really! [laughs]
Before we properly get onto Remake, I wanted to talk a little about your career and your history. Where did your love of acting begin?
My goal was always to do film and/or theatre. I majored in Theatre at UCLA, it’s pretty much all I did throughout Middle School and High School. I grew up in North Carolina and it’s kind of the only thing I felt any sort of passion for. The voice-over gigs were always running parallel to theatre – that all stemmed from my love of video games and anime. I adore anime. Always will. I would come home from school every day and I’d put on Bleach or Hellsing or Naruto or whatever was on at the time and I just loved it because it understood me in a way that nothing else did. I remember my little brother actually had gaming consoles and I remember picking up Modern Warfare 2 and loved it – I started to play that online – and Assassin’s Creed. I loved all of those but I never thought that I wanted to do voices in games. Bioshock was the first game where the voice acting really stood out to me.
As I said, I’m a huge fan of Hellsing, so in my sophomore year at college I went to a class run by Crispin Freeman, who voices Alucard – if I must admit it, I went not because I wanted to learn voice acting but I just really wanted to meet Crispin! [laughs] So I went and read – he’s a fantastic teacher – and then took his other classes and got really interested in everything I was learning. At first, I wasn’t very good because I was trying to dub with these preconceived notions of these character tropes in Anime but then in my senior year of college UCLA brought in some alumni including Fred Tatasciore, who voices the Incredible Hulk and Soldier 76 for example, and he came in to talk to us and I was so fascinated with what he had to say and share. I ended up at the end of my senior year to make voice over demos as well as on-camera demos just because I had learned all these skills and it could open up so many more opportunities for me, which it did.
What are some of your favourite games that you’ve played?
When I was much younger, I would play Sims and Zoo Tycoon and Sid Meier’s Pirates – I love Naval Warfare games [laughs]. After COD and Assassin’s Creed, I moved onto Bioshock, those were really the games that shaped my taste as far as games go. A lot more recently I’ve gotten super into indie games.
Can you tell us about some of the other fantastic roles and projects you have been a part of?
When I started off with my agency I actually booked some anime by myself and then after a while, I booked incidentals in The Division, I was so incredibly stoked to play, you know, Vendor 1 and Civilian 3. And then the month after that, I booked the voice of Barbie – and because they were overhauling the brand, I got put on every single Barbie project. And because of that, I was able to pay my rent and most importantly I was able to adopt a cat [laughs]. The vast majority of my work is games, I still do anime from time to time, but games are the focus. I’m the voice of Futaba Sakura in Person 5, Miriam in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Cassie Cage in Mortal Kombat 11 and Black Cat in Marvel’s Spider-Man – it’s crazy because I still feel like such a student yet so many people have said to me “You’ve done so much”. I also recognise how lucky I’ve been too.
I also want to mention the YouTube animated series I’m involved with called Helluva Boss where I voice Loona – we shot the pilot and it instantly became insanely popular so now we are working on more episodes which is very exciting.
Back onto Final Fantasy VII Remake, what drew you personally to the character of Jessie?
Nothing really stood out to me at the very beginning – a lot of the time we audition for parts and take what we can get. Nothing quote-unquote drew me to the character when I booked the role, but I remember when we did the trailer way back when and by then I knew exactly what Jessie’s journey in the game entails and just seeing everything come together made me very emotional as by then I had fallen in love with the character.
Cloud and Jessie’s relationship growth throughout Remake is simply wonderful – how did you approach bringing this to life during your performance?
Cody did an amazing job as Cloud – capturing the awkwardness about his character and his reactions to the people around him, especially when he’s with Jessie. I was reading a lot of hot takes on his character on how he doesn’t know how to handle a lot of stuff [laughs], I love it. He doesn’t know to handle Jessie and that’s something that I truly relate to as I think that a lot of people don’t know how to handle me [laughs]. That’s what I brought to it and that’s something that helped me connect to Jessie even more [laughs]. Their relationship is just such a blast for me as a performer to see evolve and for the players as well.
What were some of your favourite moments as Jessie when voicing her?
For me, anytime I got to yell “Cloud”, I just freaked out. Those moments just made me think “how did I even get here?” [laughs]. It’s like when I booked Futaba in Persona 5 and I got to yell “Joker” and “Persona” – just the idea of that was so crazy. I love the banter with Cloud throughout the game – she’s just so light-hearted and warm, I love her so much.
Have you become friends with the rest of the cast?
I’ve met Cody, John, Gideon, Matt, Briana, Britt – all of these people are just incredible and wonderful and the loveliest people ever. There’s not a diva amongst them [laughs], they are just so, so lovely and I’m so glad to be a part of this Final Fantasy family. We were all planning on hanging out around launch but with the lockdown, we haven’t been able to do that yet, but we will as soon as we can.
We’ve seen people posting online that they want a spin-off game or movie featuring Jessie, Biggs and Wedge. Would you be up for that?
Absolutely, that would be super, super fun! [laughs]
Can you tell us about any of your other upcoming projects?
I just did a game called XCOM: Chimera Squad where I voice a character called Torque – the funny thing was that I didn’t know she was a freaking snake until the game came out! [laughs] I’m also involved with DONTNOD’s latest game called “Tell Me Why” that comes out later this year and the cool thing is that the main character is transgender and that’s so great to see in gaming. As previously mentioned, I’m also working on more of that YouTube animated Helluva Boss which is incredibly fun.