A discussion with Ben Starr and Ralph Ineson, the voices of Clive and Cid in Final Fantasy XVI

In the lead-up to the Final Fantasy XVI Launch Event earlier this month, not only did Square Enix invite us to attend the festivities - but we were even granted the opportunity to interview and discuss the upcoming RPG with some of the main voice actors for the title - Ben Starr, voicing main character Clive Rosfield, and Ralph Ineson voicing Cidolfus Telamon. Over the course of the interview, we got to hear from the two the emotions that they put into the role, how the comraderie between Clive and Cid was captured in the recording booth, and more.

RPG Site: To start with, can you two introduce yourselves? You’re voicing the main characters of Final Fantasy XVI, Clive and Cid.

Ben Starr: My name is Ben Starr and I play Clive Rosfield in Final Fantasy XVI

Ralph Ineson: ...and my name is Ralph Ineson, and I play Cidolfus Telamon in Final Fantasy XVI

RPG Site: Right, so the first thing I wanted to ask about is, how’s it been being the… - well, whenever there’s voice actors for a Japanese RPG, it’s kind of interesting in the sense that there’s multiple voice actors. You have the Japanese voice actors, and the English voice actors, and usually, it’s the Japanese actors that are the original; the “first” to play that role. From what I understand with Final Fantasy XVI, it’s different this time around where the English voice actors - you two - you’re the original voices for these characters. How has that worked out?

Ben: Well, it’s worked out brilliantly! Like,  I think we’ve been able to shape the characters in the way that we want to shape them; and its given us this unbelievable freedom to play the characters how we want. It’s been amazing; like, our relationship - Clive and Cid’s relationship - has only benefited from that freedom, really.

Ralph: Yeah, we were very lucky to, to be able to work together as well, in sessions - which is unusual for voice acting for video games. You’re usually on your own at the studio. So, we got to work together, and so we had a few sessions where each of the characters are really getting to know each other - and bounce off each other - and that really, really helped to get us into a much more real place.

Ben: A lot of the like, quips and stuff you’ll hear, just kind of the rhythm of what they came out of us being well - literally physically next to each other, and playing off each other, and that’s stuff you can’t get in isolation.

RPG Site: This is a very, very slight spoiler - because I’ve been playing it - I’m guessing one of those quips is the line from Cid after the Garuda fight, where it’s like-

Ralph: Is that the one, the one where you’re naked? [Pointing to Ben, chuckles]

RPG Site: Yes.

Ben: We love that line!

Ralph: Yeah. What is it, it’s…

Ben: “Get dressed?”

Ralph: Right… “Get dressed. Pretty as you are; you’re not my type.”

Ben: They were really - they were fun things to do.

RPG Site: Were there any specific aspects of the character that stood out to you two as memorable that you’d like to share?

Ben: I mean, for Clive it’s how vulnerable he is, I think, a lot of the time. I think this game is really great because you get to show why he’s as vulnerable as he is. It’s not just like backstory that we hear about; we get to play it, we get to see it, we get to experience it-

RPG Site: Right from the get-go, really!

Ben: Right from the beginning! So we experience that trauma ourselves, so it’s a lot more understandable - hopefully it’s relatable. I think it’s quite nice that we see a character openly cry, openly weep, openly kind of like despair and become vulnerable enough; and not just have to be this swashbuckling hero who’s got it all figured out.

RPG Site: It’s like - you’ve got that anger, you’ve got that passion, but passion comes in all forms. Clive is really just… “passion” is the one word I feel like that really showcases that character.

Ben: I also think that’s the “Rosarian way”, right? Everyone from Rosaria has this deep-rooted reality and stuff, and they really deeply care, and I can believe that comes from his Rosarian roots.

RPG Site: In a lot of ways, Cid is similar, too.

Ralph: Yeah, in a kind of way he’s a bit more bull-headed - and I think the relationship works like a “big brother” kind of relationship. Where Cid’s trying to have his back, he’s trying to protect clive, to drive him on, and get him to be the best Clive he can be; and sometimes he can be a little bit, you know, a little bit butch with him - take the piss out of him, and tell him to get his head out of his ass. To get him moving. But it’s all done with love, and yeah I think the relationship we’ve managed to get together with these characters just helped that journey on.

Ben: Yeah I would say Ralph’s performance made it so much easier for me to access the things that I could; because you know, you meet Clive in a really depressed, sad,  despairing state. The fact that I get to do scenes with you - the comedy all came out of the fact that I’d say something pretty deeply depressed and you’d just come out and say this funny quip that would create that wonderful bit of levity that was needed for the scene.

RPG Site: It really does lighten the mood, even if the contents of the scene are so dark - you really manage to insert the right lines to just - it’s not like a Marvel quip, but something dry and punctual; very British.

Ralph: It helps that we’ve got some really, really good quality writing; but I think that’s what the Brits, and especially kinda Military people anyway, is they have that gallows humor. Any kind of veteran; if you’ve grown up in those situations and have been through it you know that sometimes you just have to get through it.

RPG Site: Are you a military man?

Ralph: No I wasn’t, my father was. That’s the way I saw Cid; he’d get that sort of humor you’d have if you were in the trenches.

RPG Site: I have a lot of friends who joined the Armed Forces, and you really see it in the way they make jokes after they come out of it; when they come out of it with a “good” chip on their shoulder rather than a bad one.

Ralph: A lot of military veterans go through PTSD, and lot of the way of coping with it is that humor.

RPG Site: You kind of see some of that in XVI in some of the characters; even with, in some of your story, with the characters that Cid interacts with.

Ralph: Yeah, absolutely. You can’t have these things happen to you in your life and come out unscarred; all these characters are damaged by the magic they use, that they have to use, they’re damaged by the relationships they’ve had - it make them more interesting characters.

Ben: More specifically with Cid, what’s really great… even when you’re not with Cid; Clive turns up to these various places all over the world, and you just see how much Cid has affected the people around him. I think because of Ralph’s performance it’s just… it’s so colorful, you can totally understand the scenario in which he’d have met Vivian, or he’d have met these other people, and you can say “oh Cid’s been here” and you know exactly what he’s said in this scenario because of how vivid Ralph’s portrayal of Cid really is.

RPG Site: One last question I have for you [towards Ralph], is how familiar are you with the rest of the Final Fantasy series; did you know anything heading in?

Ralph: Visually, I’ve seen it; I’ve experienced it as watching my son play the games. But I knew very little about it, but that was the beauty of doing this job with Ben, because he has such a love and commitment to the games, that all the way through I sorta understood what he meant, as well as what I was doing.

RPG Site: It’s interesting because Cid - one of the things that Final Fantasy has been known for is that even though the games themselves are separate, there are a lot of recurring themes. The crystals, chocobos, moogles; one of the things that have been recurring from the very beginning is that every Final Fantasy has a Cid. Yet this is the first time in quite a while that a Cid has been such a major main character in the story. So, did you get any direction for how to play Cid this time around?

Ralph: No, I think I was - I got a lot of direction for who he was, in this particular story, but I was given a lot of freedom to create a rhythm and a personality that fitted that backstory.

RPG Site: Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy night to speak with us - and best of luck with the rest of the event!