The English voice actor behind FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH’s furriest hero reveals how he found a unique voice for Red XIII.
By Duncan Heaney

Red XIII made quite the impression when he joined Cloud and the team as a guest character near the finale of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE. Now he’s stepping up as a fully playable member of party!

In FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, the Cosmo Canyon native plays an important part in the story, and the new game takes both you and him on quite the journey. This richer portrayal is aided by an incredible English voice performance by actor Max Mittelman, who helps brings the four-legged hero to life like never before.

We recently had a chance to speak to Max about the role and what to expect from Red XIII in the new RPG.


In your own words, who is Red XIII?

Red XIII is… hmm… I was about to say what species he is, but I realize I don’t know (laughs)! He’s not a dog (laughs).

Red XIII is a “lab rat dog”. He’s defensive and guarded when we first meet him, and we find out a little later why that is. He’s also very protective, including of his crew who he gets to know and falls in love with. Even if he might not show it at times.

He’s got a lot of complexity about him, and the more you find out in FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, the more you realize just how complex he is.

How familiar were you with FINAL FANTASY VII before taking the role of Red XIII?

I never played FINAL FANTASY VII, but my favorite game of all time was FINAL FANTASY VIII!

I played it on PC and fell in love the music and the cutscenes. There were no voices, but it didn’t matter at the time. It was a type of storytelling I’d never experienced before in a videogame and for me at the time - maybe 8 or 9 years old - I was so immersed.

It was incredible.

I didn’t have a PlayStation growing up, no matter how much I begged my parents, so I didn’t play FINAL FANTASY VII. If I did, I’d have fallen in love just as much, I’m sure.

But I love the whole world of FINAL FANTASY. I played on Nintendo consoles too - it’s my favorite franchise of all time!

What did you think of the reaction of the character in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE?

When REMAKE came out and people heard my voice, I was very nervous because everyone has a different version of what that voice should sound like in their head. You can’t please everyone, but that said, when the game came out…

I try to avoid online comments, but when the game came out, I couldn’t help myself and looked at a few of your comments online. Overwhelmingly fans loved the voice, which couldn’t have made me happier. To know I was doing the character justice.

I was thrilled when I heard the fan reaction, people coming up to me in conventions and saying how it was perfect, exactly what they had in their minds. So, I was really happy about it.

How did you find Red XIII’ distinctive voice?

When I was auditioning for Red XIII, I actually gave two takes for the character. The first was like you hear in the game, and the second was a little more… dynamic shall we say.

I kept wanting to do that more dynamic version of the voice and push it in a direction that the team didn’t want it to go. I wanted him to be a little spunkier, and have a little more energy, but we save that. I won’t say why we hold it back, but you get to find why he is as reserved he is.

Oh, and obviously, we also tried the Christopher Walken take, and the Joe Pesci take, but they didn’t like those. So, I went back to my original takes (laughs).

How has your performance changed in FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH?

Well, REBIRTH gives you a lot more time with Red XIII, and it has affected how I play the character in a couple of different ways.

The first is that the more I know about the character, and the more he interacts with others in the game, the more three dimensional I can make him. Consciously or sub-consciously my own understanding of who Red XIII is deepens, and that adds layers to the performance.

The other way is when he is in Cosmo Canyon and talks as Nanaki for the first time… that that was a big day for me. When I originally did the audition, I was two voices - the original Red XIII voice and the Nanaki voice. So, for me, there was a lot riding on that scene.

I’m glad it ended up the way it did because I’m really proud of it. The team was happy, and hopefully the fans will be happy too!

On the subject of fans, Red XIII is a very popular character, so do you feel the weight of that expectation

Yes, I always want to live up to fans expectations.

It’s very difficult when you’re in the booth recording, as you don’t want to think about that. You want to stay present to the scene you’re currently working on. But that’s always in my mind a little bit.

That might be why I’m one of the most annoying people in the booth to work with. I’m always going, “Can I get another take? Just one more?”

And by take six or seven, the Director’s like, “I got it!” And I’m like, “You sure though?” (laughs).

So yes, I always feel the fans’ expectations, I always want to live up to it. But at the same time, to give a full performance, I have to be very present with the character.

Red XIII has some quite intense and emotional scenes in FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH. What was it like performing these moments?

Red has some big moments, especially with his family. I’m typically a big joker in the booth. Between me and the Director, Kirk, we’ll throw impressions around and joke with each other - we like to play around, we like to have to fun.

But when it gets serious and emotional, I hold back from that because I want to put my heart into it. Which also means that if Kirk makes a joke, I just don’t respond! Sorry Kirk!

It’s for the good of the game, so he understands (laughs).

What has been the most challenging thing about playing Red XIII?

It’s probably keeping so reserved. I think Red XIII is, at his core, very child-like. So, it can be tough for me to stay in Red XIII and not let Nanaki slip out. Not let that inner child come out to play.

It’s also tough to ride a line between being defensive and protective and hiding the love he has for his team. There are all these things that I want to incorporate into the performance, and I have to selectively choose the bits I want for each recording.。

I rely very heavily on the director and producer to guide me through the process, and they have done a masterful job of guiding me along.

Which party member do you think Red XIII has your favorite interactions with?

Hmm… Suzie (Yeung - Yuffie voice actor) is standing over there raising her hand! Well, I do feel like I have a very special relationship with Yuffie in the game (laughs).

It’s true though! Yuffie and I have a cool thing going on. I think Aerith and Red XIII have a special connection as well.

So, who’s your personal favorite character in the game?

My favorite character is Cait Sith for one specific reason: I am a sucker for dialects.

I love dialects and I fell in love with Cait Sith’s. I asked for it to be played in the recording booth - Paul Tinto does a bang-up job as that character!

What did you think when you saw Red XIII on a chocobo for the first time?

Actually, I was off social media at the time you revealed that, so I didn’t watch the trailer until my friend Emma sent me a screenshot of Red XIII on the chocobo. And I said, “I’m sorry, what’s this?” and she sent me the full video.

I think it’s fantastic - probably the best decision a FINAL FANTASY game has ever made throughout all FINAL FANTASY games of all time. I couldn’t be prouder (laughs).

Actually, two people sent that trailer to me! I think Suzie did too…?

PR: She has the actual text here!

Max: Oh no! Sorry Suzie! (laughs).

What’s your favorite experience of working on FINAL FANTASY VII remake series?

I think my favorite memory was when I finally got to meet some of the cast at the FINAL FANTASY VII 25th Symphony Orchestra event.

There were two reasons: I got to meet the cast, and nothing makes me happier than connecting with the people I’m involved in a project with.

The other reason that was that I had never in my adult life seen a live orchestra. It brought me back to my favorite type of music when I was a kid, which was classical music, (getting increasingly animated) and since then I’ve seen a bunch of cool symphony orchestras, so that was a really cool moment for me!

Everyone’s laughing at me - but it was a really cool moment (laughs)!

Also, at New York Comic-Con, I got to meet the last two members of the core cast, Cody (Cloud) and John (Barret). So that was pretty special for me.

Finally, is there anything you want to say to fans?

I just hope you love the game.

We pulled our hearts and souls into the game, and I know the developers did too. Thank you for playing, thank you for your comments and your love. You guys are amazing!

Many thanks to Max for his time - and his exceptional performance as everyone’s favorite Cosmo Canyon native.

You can experience Red XIII’s journey with Cloud and his allies in FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, available now for PS5:

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