Becoming Clive: Ben Starr talks FINAL FANTASY XVIThe actor who brings Clive Rosfield to life talks about his approach to finding the character, his love of the franchise and the quote that will follow him around forever.
By now you’re no doubt familiar with Clive Rosfield, the protagonist of FINAL FANTASY XVI. But what about the man behind the voice?
Clive is brought to life by actor Ben Starr, whose powerful and multi-faceted performance captures all the elements that make this hero such a memorable and distinctive lead.
We recently sat down with Ben to discuss the role, how he found the character and why being part of the FINAL FANTASY franchise means so much to him.
Hi, Ben. So you got the role of Clive Rosfield. How did that make you feel?
I had the most overwhelming emotions. I think I felt terrified, amazed, disbelief...
I didn’t even know they were making FINAL FANTASY XVI when they gave it to me, because everything was so secret and ‘NDA-ed.’ So when I found out, I remember screaming into a pillow (laughs).
I couldn’t tell anyone for such a long time, so I’ve had this real buzzing, fizzing excitement! For years I would tell people: “I’ve just got to record my game,” when actually it was the game of my dreams in the franchise that I grew up loving.
I imagine screaming into a pillow was good practice for some of the scenes in the game at least…
Yes, it’s the same noise as when I have to cry (laughs).
It’s been a real journey and it still doesn’t feel real. And I can’t wait until it’s out there and people can play it, so this experience kind of stops being mine and becomes theirs.
Personally, although I’ve obviously seen a lot of scenes, I can’t wait to go back to my house, play it on the PS5 with 3D headphones on and experience it properly for the first time.
Does the final game match what you imagined when you were making it?
No, nothing could have prepared me for how it ultimately looked!
You know, sometimes when we’re making it, I don’t get to see the scene at all, but the team was really good at explaining to me what’s going to be there. For example, some of my favorite stuff is just the banter between characters as they’re walking somewhere, and I’m saying: “Wow, look at that hill!”
I don’t know what that hill looks like, but you’re having to try to imagine the height and the scale of it and the team was really good at helping me do that.
And, as I went on with the recording process, I was able to see more and more, and get a sense of what Sanbreque looks like, what the Dhalmekian Republic looks like… all these different places.
How did you find Clive’s distinctive voice?
He’s basically me, but with 13 years of trauma. It was a really instinctual thing, but it was also something that was built over a long period of time, as we realised “oh my god, I’m doing this a lot with Clive” about certain elements.
So for example, we would talk about the interrogative inflection - for example, Clive doesn’t ask a question, he demands an answer. We didn’t realize we were doing that for a couple of years.
So the voice has developed over a period of time. Listening to when we first started recording to now, I imagine people won’t be able to tell the difference. But I can tell the difference.
But Clive is incredibly real and raw, and I love that because there’s a real dynamic vocal range. So even though a lot of Clive sits in one place vocally, there’s enough ground that means he has places to go. So in moments of incredible sadness or happiness, he’s able to move up and down the vocal range to show us how much he’s going through.
I also think one of the most interesting things is that he goes through three chapters of his life.
How did you capture that progression in your performance?
We always started from the position that we never needed anything to sound a certain way - we just needed it to sound real. Reality and honesty are the two things that we focused on and the fantasy stuff comes as standard.
So Clive in his 30s is the closest thing to me because I’m in my 30s. That’s where we spend a large portion of the game too, so we asked ourselves how to make this man seem more youthful, but still real, for the early chapters.
So when he’s younger, we thought: “Oh, we need to see this man break. We have to see him be utterly destroyed.” So there’s a cockiness to his voice when he’s younger - he’s very much put together. He’s more uptight too because he’s very constrained by the rules of Rosaria.
It’s not until he’s shattered apart that we hear that in his voice. So we start with him being young, and proper, and then tear him apart and bring that feeling out.
What was the most challenging thing about portraying him?
Honestly, it was realistically and truthfully representing this idea of loss and depression.
Although this is a story where there are Eikons and magicks and stuff like that, it’s really about what would happen if humanity was transposed into this world. Clive is a man who’s experienced a huge amount of loss in his life, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t sound overwrought or silly.
That’s why I had the good fortune to be able to go back and listen to stuff. I wanted what we felt when we first recorded to be transferred into the game. So the most challenging thing was allowing that vulnerability to sound organic.
Of course, it’s not just the dramatic scenes - you also have to do all the ‘efforts’ - all the little grunts and yells that Clive makes as he moves around. This character has some particularly effortful efforts, so how did you find that side of the process?
Oh, they are probably the most exhausting sessions you can do, even if it’s something like a light nudge.
A lot of voice actors have started filming themselves in the booth when they’re doing things like ax-wielding movements. I just throw my full body into it - I’d walk around the booth doing the actions because you just have to. Your body has to shape - you have to create your lungs that way and make sure your throat is in the right position to do it all.
And you’ve got to give a lot to it. There were times where the direction would be: “Clive does primal roar. Now he does louder primal roar,” and you have to keep going up and up and up (laughs). It was terrifying, but also kind of thrilling.
And then you get to see it in action and you think: “Oh good, it didn’t sound silly (laughs)!
So really, you just have to let all inhibitions go - you can’t be timid. There were times I would say to the sound engineer: “turn the sound down, because I’m really going to go for it,” (laughs).
I understand you’re a pretty big FINAL FANTASY fan. Do you have a favorite?
FINAL FANTASY VIII. Ok, I’m going to qualify this - it doesn’t mean I hate all the other ones, or even that I think it’s the best - but it’s the one I have the strongest relationship with because it’s the first one I played. It’s the game that introduced me to this world, to this series.
For me, there was life before FINAL FANTASY, and life after FINAL FANTASY, and that happened to me with VIII.
But I could go to bat for pretty much any of them. I think there are aspects of all of them that are completely brilliant. I didn’t realise what a thrill it would be to go back into FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, for example!
FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered
What was it about FINAL FANTASY VIII that grabbed you?
Bearing in mind I hadn’t played a game like this before, for me it was the scope. I could travel the world, capture all these beasts. I remember naming all the Guardian Forces (GFs) after Pokémon, as I was playing Pokémon Red at the time.
My dad was always into fantasy books and fantasy novels, and I hadn't had the opportunity to read the massive tomes - the Robert Jordans of this world. This was my way into a rich, deep fantasy world, so I felt a connection with my dad as well.
So, if you could play any other character from the series other than Clive, who would it be?
Hmm… (thinks). I would love to play Balthier from FINAL FANTASY XII.
Balthier in FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE
I mean, I say this, but it’s already been perfected - Gideon Emery’s performance is iconic. I wouldn’t - I couldn’t - do it any better.
But I just think Balthier is such a wonderful character - joyful, swaggering, exciting. He’s just a swashbuckling hero and he thinks he is, so there’s so much to him.
Ah well, you’ll just have to settle for Clive.
Yes, the lead - what a shame (laughs).
Other than Clive, who would you say is your favorite character in FINAL FANTASY XVI?
Well my favorite character is probably a spoiler so…
Ok, I would have to call out Cid, obviously, but to be honest, my other favorite character in the game is Jill. Working with Susannah Fielding was a treat every single time. Her performance is so honest and brilliant.
I think some people have noticed this in trailers and such, but Clive speaks differently to Jill. A lot of the time, he has this particular persona, but he completely lets his guard down when he talks to Jill.
So doing scenes with Jill was always such a thrill because we were able to show that tenderness that you don’t really get when he’s fighting enemies or calling for Ifrit.
Did you get to do scenes together or record separately?
When we first started, I got to do it with people. So, I got to be in the booth with Ralph, and I got to be in the booth with Suzie.
And then COVID happened. It wasn’t possible to be together then, but we took the relationships we’d forged in those early sessions and took them into the subsequent years of recording - that’s been great.
And this cast is so stacked. We’ve really talked about the major leading characters, but even many of the NPCs you take quests from are voiced by people you would recognize - and they give so much depth to the world.
I remember that a couple of years in, I was doing this sidequest, and I had had to stop and stay to the guys: “who is this? This is a ridiculously fun character!”
So I get to act alongside all these different characters who bring out such different dynamics, and through that you find Clive’s humor and his tenderness… all the fun stuff.
This has been a part of your lifetime for years…
A long time, yeah. Four years maybe?
How do you feel now that’s it out?
It’s amazing because it's stopped being something that’s very private and personal to me. The audience gets to take it and make it their own. People will hopefully take Clive, Jill, Cid, Hugo, Benedikta and create lots of art, cosplay - make them their own.
I'm going to love that because based on my own relationship with FINAL FANTASY games, this doesn't end the day that it comes out. It will never end - the impact these stories have on me persist to this day.
So, I’m excited to see what the next 10 years are like, because I’ve been able to be a part of this pantheon of characters, put my own stamp on it and go: “This is who I thought Clive was. Now you take him - he’s yours now.”
Finally, what’s your most memorable quote from the game?
Hmm….I mean, right now people are loving “Come to me, Ifrit!” But actually, I think the line that comes before that line is more impactful.
Still, I think I will probably have to say, “Come to me, Ifrit” at conventions for the rest of my life. There will probably be T-shirts made.
But I will happily shout that for anyone (laughs).
Many thanks to Ben for his time. You can hear his performance for yourselves in FINAL FANTASY XVI - out now for PS5.
Three editions are available:
FINAL FANTASY XVI Standard Edition (physical and digital)
This edition, as you’d expect, contains:
- The full game
It's available now:
FINAL FANTASY XVI Deluxe Edition (physical only)
This version of the game includes:
- The full game
- A Special Clive Rosfield SteelBook Case
- A cloth map of Valisthea - where the story unfolds
It’s available now on the Square Enix Store:
FINAL FANTASY XVI Digital Deluxe Edition (digital only)
This edition includes:
- The full game
- A digital mini artbook that features some of the stunning illustrations from the game
- A digital mini soundtrack showcasing a selection of incredible tracks from composer Masayoshi Soken
It’s available now from the PlayStation Store:
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