Becoming Jill: Susannah Fielding talks FINAL FANTASY XVIThe actor discusses how she brought Jill Warrick to life in the new action RPG.
There are a lot of different aspects to FINAL FANTASY XVI’s Jill Warrick. She’s the Dominant of Shiva, a capable fighter and a steadfast ally in the mission to save Vasishta. She’s also got her fair share of demons to overcome, and that combination of strength and trauma is captured excellently by her actor, Susannah Fielding.
But how did the role come about and what exactly went into bringing Jill to life? We spoke to the actor to find out.
How familiar with the FINAL FANTASY series were you before taking on this role?
Well, it's one of the few games that I've heard about. I hadn't played it myself but I knew the FINAL FANTASY franchise is a massive, massive deal. So, even I knew about it (laughs).
But my first actual interaction with it would be my first line playing Jill.
So, in your own words, who is Jill Warrick?
She's a fascinating mixture of incredibly vulnerable and damaged, but deeply resilient, strong and clever.
She's just as smart, just as tough and just as much of a leader as Clive, which I think is really cool.
How did you find the character of Jill for your performance?
Well, fans may not realize this, but most games operate under a code name while you're recording them.
I do lots of different computer games and sometimes when I get a call saying: “can you go and do this one?” I’m like: “Which one is that?” Because it’s never the name of the actual game.
So, I didn't really know very much and in a way that's good because I think if you've got the whole script, it's quite overwhelming. You're really just working like scene-by-scene day by day and piecing it all together.
We started at the beginning of the story when you first meet Jill, and I kind of worked out who she was as we went.
The story takes place over a long period. How were you able to convey that passage of time in your performance?
It’s largely thanks to having help from brilliant producers and brilliant directors. We're often jumping back and forth in time so it's not always sequential, and they’re always really on it.
So, I'll be recording something from early Jill and then suddenly something at the end and then going back again. And what’s been so brilliant about this game is the time and precision that has been put into the performances.
Jill experiences a ton of trauma in this game. How did you capture that in your performance?
Hmm… well it’s my job (laughs).
You have to find those parts of yourself where you can connect with how someone might feel in that situation - any situation where you’ve been in that has a similar emotional landscape. Even if it’s not almost being killed or something like that, you have to find something you can connect with in your own life. That’s how I’d approach a part for film or TV or the stage, and it’s no different for games. It’s all the same process.
I think the thing that really separates a job like this from, say a TV or movie role, is just how ever-present it becomes. I think this has been about four years of my life at this point!
So, how does it feel for now that it’s over and the game to actually be out?
It's really weird. I can't believe it.
Actually, I don't believe it because there's been so many times where I've done my last session, we've all done a big goodbye, and then they've gone: “Actually, can you come back and re-record that because we want to change certain elements!”
So I’m still expecting to get a call next week to see if I’d like to come and do a few more hours (laughs).
I understand COVID disrupted things too…
Yes, massively. At the beginning, Ben Starr, who plays Clive, and I were recording together. That was really great, and it meant that those scenes where we connect at the beginning of the story were really real.
It was like two actors on a film set together, and then all of a sudden… boom! That’s not an option anymore.
So that ground things to a complete halt for a while, and from then on, we were only able to perform individually. I think I recorded some lines from my wardrobe, under a duvet! And then we were only allowed to perform individually in booths on our own. Which is fine but did make it harder.
It was always nice when Ben had already recorded his lines, so I had something to bounce off and vice versa.
What would you say is the most challenging thing about performing Jill?
She’s much more suppressed than I am. I'm a bit more out there with my feelings and a bit more vivacious, and Jill has been through so much in her life that she always has that level of trauma and repression.
That’s always something that I’ve had to remind myself of when I’m approaching a scene.
How difficult was it to visualize all the amazing things you’re seeing and doing in the game?
Well, you really never know how it's going to come together and what it's going look like. Morgan, who's amazing and directed most of it, was great at giving the details and backstory.
But I could never have imagined like quite the quality and the… the expanse of what’s on screen in the final game. Watching people's faces and the detail, it's beyond anything I could have really foreseen.
One thing that Ben talked to us about was ‘efforts’ - those little grunts and noises you have to make as part of the action. Jill’s often involved in the action, so that must have been a bit part of the job…
Yes, and we always leave them to the end of a session as you can quite easily lose your voice when you’re jumping up and shouting (grunts) ‘huh, huh, huh’ 30 times in a row. So we do them in sections.
We do small efforts, which might be like lifting something or landing softly, and then you do medium efforts which are something more like a shove. And then there are large efforts, which would be like a punch, and also extra-large ones where you’re being catapulted across the room (laughs).
So we do them in little sections and work our way up.
Do you do the movements in the booth too?
I guess so much of it is in your mind, but you have to be really careful because you’re strapped up to microphones and headphones. So, you can’t catapult across the room, and nor can you jump on the floor because you’ll hear it.
So it’s really about imagining what the movement does to your body, and then stopping yourself so you don’t knock everything over in the studio (laughs).
It’s quite a skill, and one that you only really learn over years of doing it. But they’re always tiring, so if I know I’ve got a lot to do I need to be prepared for it.
What’s the hardest thing you had to do for FINAL FANTASY XVI?
Without giving away spoilers, there’s one bit where they wanted me to turn into something else, but there wasn’t really a sound for it that existed. So it was hard to describe - they couldn’t say: “we want it exactly like this.”
So I tried for weeks - I think we did it maybe eight times. And sometimes they would send a recording, and someone would say: “No, I think we want it more like this,” and someone else would send a recording and be like: “No, I think we want it more like this, more like an animal”.
It was “make more magical”, “less magical”, “more like a hollow scream!” By the end, I was like: “I don’t know what it is you want guys!” (laughs). But somehow, we cracked it one day.
We’re running out of time, so finally, what are you most proud of about this game?
I think we've taken FINAL FANTASY to the next level in terms of the emotional truth and the realism of these two people connecting in a desolate place. The acting is really great, and I hope that comes across.
Because I think the game really has everything. I think players and people watching TV and film… we’re all expecting so much more these days. The standards are just so high. The game really hits at that point - the visuals are amazing, playing the game feels amazing, the characters are amazing, the script is really good, the acting is really good, the music is amazing…
It just ticks all the boxes.
Many thanks to Susannah for her time. You can hear her exceptional performance as Jill in FINAL FANTASY XVI, available now on 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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