FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE: Sean Chiplock talks Nero
Yuffie’s mission to Midgar in FF7R EPISODE INTERmission is fraught with dangers, but none are more deadly than Nero.
As a member of Shinra’s super-secret Deepground military unit, he revels in his control over darkness, and every ounce of that power and malice is perfectly captured by voice actor Sean Chiplock.
We recently spoke to Sean about his portrayal of the character, finding the balance between threat and madness and more. Take a look:
So Nero’s a… complicated fellow. How would you introduce him?
If I could describe Nero in three adjectives, it would be devoted, committed and convicted. Convicted is kind of a double entendre because he almost acts like a convict of sorts, where he's embraced the darkness that he controls.
But I also mean that he has a strong conviction - what a lot of people would see as insanity is really just him being completely willing to give in to the power that he has and embrace the admiration that he has for his brother, Weiss.
That’s what made him both such an interesting and difficult character to play. Because he idolises his brother, and he has such a strong determination when it comes to his mission. But he's not insane, he's not straight up crazy. He has this measured response in his performance that suggests that he just craves power. He's looking to be respected and acknowledged.
It was very interesting - playing that balance of someone who is resolute enough to be terrifying, but without leaning so hard into the intimidation factor that it feels like you’re just trying to sell how crazy he is.
Did you have much of a history with FINAL FANTASY before this?
I was more familiar with the music than the games to be honest!
That’s because I grew up during the AOL era - I was listening to AOL Radio all the time. Of course, they had the video game section, which 85% of the time just ended up being FINAL FANTASY music (laughs).
So, I’d heard Cosmo Canyon and all of these other songs countless times, but my experience with the franchise was cursory at best. I had seen FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN, and I had friends who were crazy about FINAL FANTASY VII, but not had the chance to play the games myself.
The good news is that I did play through all of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE when it came out. So, by the time I went in to record, I had a good idea of the atmosphere of the game.
Plus, my friends had talked about what was in the original, and what was new in the remake, so although I wasn’t a die-hard fan, I knew the game and the characters well enough that I was able to get where Nero was coming from.
Nero’s appeared in the FINAL FANTASY VII series before of course…
Yeah, in Dirge of Cerberus! I don’t think he has been in any other games though, has he?
Did that previous depiction inform your performance in FF7R EPISODE INTERmission?
I did look up the original scene because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be asked to try and replicate the performance.
In the end, I did lean heavily into that original portrayal in many ways. I’m trying to think of the best way to describe it, but in Dirge of Cerberus Nero was very eloquent - you know, there was a certain smoothness in the transition between his phrase and individual words. He wasn’t staccato and shrill, it was more of a (briefly slips into Nero’s voice) ‘flowing river of linguistics’ if that makes sense.
But I did see there were areas where we could tone down on the campiness, and the insanity. That’s where we found that balance I mentioned before - where he’s gone off the deep end in terms of embracing his power, but he hasn’t given into it. He’s mastered control of it.
So, it wasn’t a direct continuation of Nero’s portrayal Dirge of Cerberus -FINAL FANTASY VII- then…
I did try to respect the original performance of Dirge of Cerberus, but the director also led to where they wanted to see things in a different way or interpret things differently. So, while I may have started with Dirge of Cerberus in mind, by the time we’d locked into the character, we were going in a different direction.
So, Dirge of Cerberus was more of a starting point than a baseline if that makes sense.
You talked about finding a balance in the character. Making him intimidating without being over the top. How difficult was it to walk that line?
It’s really about finding the attitude for the character.
So, with Nero, we have to ask the question: is the darkness controlling him, or is he controlling the darkness? If the darkness is controlling Nero, then we can lean more heavily into him being insane and not being himself - his body is more of a vessel for the darkness to use.
But I don’t think that’s that case. My understanding is that Nero in EPISODE INTERmission has mastered the darkness, rather than being afraid of it. He has accepted it as part of him, and that’s what has allowed him to gain so much control over it.
That’s where the intimidation factor comes from. He may be a little heavy on the worship of his brother, but that’s a choice he makes in his own right mind. That’s what makes him scary - there’s no breaking Nero out of this. There’s no trance state that you can break by beating him up - this is just who he is. And that makes him so unnerving.
Nero makes an appearance quite late into EPISODE INTERmission. Did that limited screen time make it harder to find the character?
It can make things a little difficult. Sometimes in recording sessions, you only have basic sketches or descriptions of a character, and other times you’ll be able to see the scene and some action. I’m a very visual learner, so if I’m able to see at least some form of the visuals taking place, that does a lot of the mileage in terms of me putting myself in the situation.
It makes it easier for me to envisage myself in the scene - what’s the atmosphere like? What are the characters doing? How far away from each other are we? I can put myself in their shoes and be like, “okay, if I was in this situation, and had that attitude, how would I respond?”
So, the limited screen time does make things a little harder to initially understand, but the longer I’m in this industry, the more often I do this kind of thing and the better I get at cluing in relatively quickly. Even if I don’t understand a scene fully, I can identify similarities with work I’ve done on other projects and use them as a reference on how to approach things. And, of course, the director will lead you to specific points as needed.
How did you feel about that performance when you saw the final scenes?
There have been times I haven’t been able to breathe easy about a performance until I've seen what the rest of the Internet thinks about it. You know, even if the director is happy, I still think: well, the audience are the ones playing the game, so I want to make sure that they’re being entertained.
But as I've continued to improve and as my career has grown, I have found that it's easier to be proud of what I’ve done.
For Nero, I’ll admit I was a little more unsure than usual because I didn’t have as firm an understanding of the overall franchise. I wanted to make sure that I respected the character and didn’t come across as some guy who doesn’t care about the project.
But I was able to listen back and think: that’s Nero. Yes, there were elements of my voice in the performance, but because I committed myself to the role, it was relatively easy to hear the character.
And oh man, so pretty!
I watched my scenes, and the boss battle, and wow. The glow-up they gave to the tendrils of darkness and just the colour usage that happened during the fight is just… woah.
I've had people say to me: “You know, I'm no good at this game but damn is it beautiful to watch you suffer” and I honestly couldn't agree more. It is such a strikingly pleasant visual to look at and that’s been consistent throughout all FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE and EPISODE INTERmission.
You streamed your playthrough of the original FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE - any plans to do the same for EPISODE INTERmission?
I don’t actually have a PS5 yet! I’ll happily accept friendly donations though (laughs).
Thanks to Sean for bringing Nero to life in such a memorable way. For more inside insight into FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE, make sure you check out our interviews with Suzie Yeung (Yuffie) and Aleks Le (Sonon).
You can experience all Nero’s sinister power in FF7R EPISODE INTERmission, included with all new copies of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE on PS5.
If you already own FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE for the PlayStation 4 (physical or digital version) and own a PlayStation 5, you can download the free FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE PlayStation 5 enhancement update (an internet connection is required to download it).
This update does not include FF7R EPISODE INTERmission. FF7R EPISODE INTERmission can be purchased separately as a digital download via the PlayStation Store.
Note: that the PS4 version of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE given to PlayStation Plus members is not eligible for the PS5 digital version upgrade.
In addition, if you have purchased FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE (physical edition) for PlayStation 4, and own the PlayStation 5 digital edition (the model without a disc drive) then you are not eligible to download the upgrade.
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