With Final Fantasy VII Remake having been out for some time, now seems as good a time as any to look back on Square Enix’s achievement from earlier this year what with “game of the year” discussions happening at many outlets. One of the obvious standout aspects of the remake is the English voice cast, which includes John Eric Bentley as the voice of Barret Wallace, leader of AVALANCHE. ComicBook.com had the opportunity to chat with Bentley via email earlier this year about all things Final Fantasy VII Remake from doing the little victory fanfare to historic criticisms of Barret Wallace as a character. He is, of course, thrilled to have provided the voice to the character, as expected, but some of his answers might surprise you!
If Final Fantasy VII Remake happens to be your first experience with Bentley’s voice, you might find out that it actually isn’t. Bentley’s been doing this sort of work since 1996 and has a long list of credits to his name, voiceover and otherwise. For example, he voiced Varys Truss in Promare, Sonada in Baki, Tiger’s Claw in Sailor Moon, and has been featured in Digimon, Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty, and more.
Final Fantasy VII Remake, if you weren’t already aware, is available for PlayStation 4. It’s currently unclear exactly how many games the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be comprised of, as it’s known that it will be releasing in distinct chunks. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the title right here. And keep reading to check out our full interview with Bentley!
Warning: Beyond this point, there be spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake.
ON THE RECEPTION OF THE GAME
ComicBook.com: Congratulations on the success of the game! How have you felt about the reception thus far, and especially for your role in the game?
John Eric Bentley: The reception has been overwhelming and very humbling. I’m aware that most people are happy with my character for various reasons, while others have mixed views. Hopefully all who play the FF7 Remake get to see the character’s arcs and enjoy and appreciate the game and all of our hard work.
ON FAMILIARITY WITH THE FRANCHISE
How familiar are you with the source material? Did you go back and play the original game or watch the anime film or anything?
I’m pretty familiar with the history, game play, and storyline of FF7 the original, as well as that of the Remake. I played the original back in 1997 and that’s when I started enjoying RPG’s. I mean c’mon, a Black character in an RPG video game that’s a leader and doesn’t die!!! Yay to Square back then and hooray to Square Enix now!!
ON REACTION TO GETTING THE PART
How did you learn you got the part, and what was your reaction?
I found out through the Skylark casting director, who playfully broke the news to me by saying… “are you sitting down?” She knew I was nervous and thought I didn’t get it when I anxiously called to find out if casting decisions had been made. I so desperately wanted the role and know how blessed I was to get it!
ON PREVIOUS CRITICISMS OF BARRET
There have historically been concerns about Barret’s portrayal in the various iterations of the franchise and whether he represents a stereotype of sorts. Were you aware of this criticism, and, if so, did it change how you approached the character?
I was very much aware of the concerns many had about the character. As a Black man living in America I wanted to represent my people, race, culture, family and self with all the dignity, strength, compassion, leadership and pride that I could. I wanted to make sure that Barret wasn’t portrayed as a caricature or a stereotype. All of this is what I went for, while attempting to take the gamer along with the beginning, middle, and end of Barret’s journey, as well as the story’s arc.
ON THE MANY SIDES OF BARRET
It feels particularly poignant right now that Barret leads a group of eco-terrorists against an evil corporation. But he’s also a father. And a friend. How did you go about meshing all of these different aspects of the character together as a voice actor?
That’s just it, Barret is multi-faceted. He has so much more going on, with so many hats that he has to wear as a Black lead in an incredible game with an awesome story! I had to make sure to draw from my own experiences in life, study, research, and DO THE WORK AS AN ACTOR, to avoid having him be portrayed as an angry Black man with a gun for an arm. He’s truly more than what he appears to be.
ON ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GAME
Have you given Final Fantasy 7 Remake a go yet?
Yes, although between, work and being a husband and father (and my sons taking my PS4 to play) I haven’t gotten as far as I’d like to.
ON HEARING HIMSELF AS BARRET FOR THE FIRST TIME
How did it feel to hear yourself in this iconic role for the first time?
Humbling and emotional! When I played the 1st demo it was such a weird thing to hear my work constantly doing the first mission. I was at E3 and I gave the controller to my son, and just walked around and SERIOUSLY enjoyed watching other people play and have a good time! I love seeing people happy, and got such a thrill to know that I was a part of their joy!
ON SINGING THE VICTORY TUNE
Have to ask: how many times did you have to sing the little victory theme?
Oh… I can’t remember, but because I was familiar with Final Fantasy & a lot of its music, I got it down pretty well.
ON RECORDING DIFFICULT SCENES
What were some of the more difficult scenes for you to record in the game?
There weren’t many that I would say were difficult, I tried to make sure I was ready for each session. The emotional scenes I had to prep for because I wanted to get them right. The compassion and empathy that Barret needed on top of being a strong and boisterous leader was important. I’d say the toughest thing was coming in and being that energetic, that loud, that gruff, with that voice for 4-hour sessions was the challenge!
ON FAVORITE SCENES TO RECORD
What were some of your favorite scenes to record in the game?
Hmmm, Favorites… The fanfare, the stairs, All the scenes with or about Marlene, the improved songs and the bickering with Cloud.
ON POSSIBLY RETURNING FOR MORE
Nothing’s been announced as far as specifics go, but we know Square Enix is working on further entries for Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Are you excited to potentially return?
I’m always excited for the potential to work period! I love performing in the VO business!
ON CLOUD AND BARRET
Speaking of a return, one of the most popular Barret-related questions is whether he’ll be available as a Gold Saucer date for Cloud in future entries. What do you make of Cloud and Barret’s relationship in this game as a voice actor?
Cloud and Barret’s relationship is one that evolves, and is dynamic, just like all of the characters in this game.
ON CURRENT VIDEO GAMES
Obviously, with the pandemic on and all, folks are spending a lot of time inside. Are you playing any games right now? Anything you’re looking forward to?
During this time, I’m playing FF7 the Remake, Yakuza, and the last Tomb Raider that I never got to finish. I’m playing a few others as well. I’ve actually been trying to find ways to stay active though. My creativity is one that is stimulated when I hike, kayak, bike, play hoops etc. I like being outdoors!
ON WHAT HE’S WORKING ON CURRENTLY
What are you working on now?
Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to say right now for most jobs, but IMDB shows a list of whatever has been announced… but know this… I am still working, thank God!🙏🏾❤️