John Eric Bentley talks Black History Month

The actor behind Barret Wallace explains what Black History Month means to him, the people he admires and his own advice for working in the games industry.
By Square Enix

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contribution that people of color make across all walks of life - and naturally that includes the games industry.

John Eric Bentley surely needs no introduction to Square Enix fans. As the English voice actor behind Barret Wallace in the FINAL FANTASY VII remake series, he imbues the Avalanche leader with unprecedented depth.

His love for the character comes through in every line, but he’s also spoken about it publicly. In a recent interview on the Square Enix Blog, he discussed the impact that the character had when he played the original FINAL FANTASY VII in 1997 - one of his earliest RPG experiences:

“I’m playing the game (the original FINAL FANTASY VII), and I’m like: “Oh, there’s a Black character! This is awesome - I’ve never seen a Black character in an RPG!”

And then I’m like: “Oh surely he’s about to die” - and he didn’t! And I’m like: “Oh, I’m hooked!”

The new game, FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, takes us deeper into Barret’s character than ever before. In FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, John’s sensitive performance reveals new facets to Barret. From raw grief to stoic leadership, to comedic bluster, his work creates an unforgettably multi-faceted character.

As he himself says:

“I wanted to make sure that when I portrayed Barret, he wasn't a caricature. I just didn’t want that to happen for the sake of my culture, my community, me as a Black man, my family… anything.

"So, I was very diligent in making sure that people could see the different levels and layers that Barret as a man had.”

With all that in mind, it’s perhaps no wonder that many critics have praised his work in the new game. As well as talking about Barret, he was also kind enough to share his thoughts on Black History Month, the people who inspire him and offer some advice for anyone looking to join this industry.

How do you celebrate Black History Month?

I usually celebrate the month by reading a few of my old books or watching adapted films/documentaries along with the novels, that I had growing up… Native Son, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Ali. I’m always happy to find more information on my heroes because of the internet these days.

My schools celebrated Black History Month growing up, so I always hit up my closest friends and have deep discussions about our culture and where we are today.

Who are some of the Black heroes that inspired you to be the person you are today?

My parents, aunts, and uncles (all were educators and involved in the Civil Rights Movement), Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Denzel, Samuel L Jackson, Viola Davis, Lena Horne, Prince, MLK, Malcolm X, Bass Reeves and so many more!

What would you like to see represented more in the gaming community?

In the gaming community I’d like to see more African Americans creating more Indie Games and content. Also, more folks involved with anime!

Do you have any advice for Black professionals or students on how they can get into the games industry?

My advice is Study, study, study!

If this is truly an industry that you want to get into, do the work. Listen to projects you know are solid, see what the professionals you admire are doing, take classes, know your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out which genres you want to go into. Practice, get solid equipment and sound advice.

Go for it with wisdom and preparedness, because if you put in the work, you can do it!

Many thanks to John for sharing this thoughts - and for his exceptional performance as Barret.

If you’d like to read more insights from John, check the full interview here:

Finally, if you’d like to join the industry and share your talents here at Square Enix, be sure to check out our careers site for current opportunities: