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‘Zelda’ actress comes home to UP

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Patricia Summersett, whose credits include Princess Zelda in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” talks to fans at the third annual Geek U.P. at Michigan Technological University Saturday.

HOUGHTON — In everyday life, voice acting doesn’t lead to being recognized.

Patricia Summersett, who played Princess Zelda in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” doesn’t have the same airy, mid-Atlantic voice. And even for voices closer to her natural voice — such as Ash from “Rainbow Six: Siege” — people don’t attach it to a face.

“I can walk into a Zelda symphony, with thousands of people there to watch Zelda,” she said. “I walk right in, and they don’t even know it’s me. And that’s happened before.”

When the fans know it’s her, they’re excited.

Summersett, a native of L’Anse, gave autographs, posed for selfies with fans and answered their questions in an hour-long session Saturday at the third annual Geek U.P., which she co-founded.

Growing up in the U.P., she began figure skating in Baraga and L’Anse, then joined the Portage Lake Figure Skating Club while at Houghton High School. She also took up acting, getting roles in local productions of “Damn Yankees” and “Grease.”

She pursued a theater degree in college in Montreal, where she learned about voice acting.

“I realized you could actually make a living, or try to make a living, doing this thing,” she said. “I was riveted and just knew it was going to be a part of my career.”

Since then she’s done numerous roles in TV, video games and movies.

Years of vocal training have hidden what Summersett said was once a strong Yooper accent, though some people do ask her if she’s Canadian.

“I have to actually be conscious about that when I’m doing certain voice work in the States, because you have to elongate your vowels to make it more neutral, whatever that means these days,” she said.

At the start of the “Zelda” audition, the character’s identity was kept under wraps. She was given a vague direction: fantasy princess. British origin. Aged 19 to “transient.”

At future auditions, she got more direction. Weeks after that, she got a part in the game. A few non-disclosure agreements later, she finally learned what part it was.

Summersett spent months recording for Princess Zelda. The weight of playing the iconic character helped her empathize with the character.

“Once you do a few sessions, you start to feel a bit more at ease,” she said after her question-and-answer session. “And so you start to make different choices. And you’re also getting completely different scenes that are filling in more of the story each time that you haven’t seen before.”

Work and conventions have taken Summersett around the globe. Her most surprising visit was a convention in Saudi Arabia. She felt things are changing toward more gender equity there. When she mentioned she plays a lot of female warriors, the side of the room where the women sat erupted with pride.

“I didn’t know what to expect, and I felt like I really connected with a lot of cool people over there,” she said.

Summersett said she tries to come back to the Upper Peninsula once or twice a year — usually at Christmas and in the summer.

“Every once in a while, on impulse, I’ll find a way to get up here and visit my parents and kayak on Lake Superior,” she said.

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