Published on May 25th, 2018 | by gareth4
Talking God Of War With Actress Danielle Bisutti
Recently I spoke with actress Danielle Bisutti about her career and playing Freya in God of War for the Playstation 4.
What can you tell us about your character in God of War and what type of research did you do for her?
I think I’m supposed to say: Spoiler Alert! before answering. I play the Norse Goddess Freya in God of War 4. The role came to me in an audition through my managers at the time (to whom I am forever grateful). The only intel given was that it was an “Interactive Motion Capture” project for Sony called “Internal 8”. Sounds interesting, right? I resonated with the material DEEPLY upon reading this emotionally complex and beautifully constructed monologue where Freya laments the sacrifices she made for her people, The Vanir Gods, by marrying Odin of the Aesir Gods to bring about peace amongst the realms, only to have her duplicitous husband ban her a prisoner of Midgard, take away her Valkyrie wings, convince their son Baldur to stay with him and finally being rejected by her people for what they perceived to be a betrayal of all they stood for. It felt much like Jon Snow going up against his Night’s Watch to convince them that befriending The Wildlings is the only way to ensure their safety against a greater danger. And we all know how that turned out.
In preparation for the audition I kept thinking “What would Khaleesi do?” And “ How would Daenerys Targaryen or Lady Stark deliver this speech to her people?” If I’m being honest I thought this is my Game of Thrones moment! So I grounded DEEP into the center of the earth, pulling up the strength of heart required to expose my vulnerability but firmly rooted in my conviction that I did what I believed to be the best thing for the good of all.
Then once I understood this wasn’t an audition for Game of Thrones, I submerged myself into the vast and complex world of Norse Mythology researching and cross-referencing many online sources including The Poetic Edda. The Mythology of the Norse Pantheon is as DENSE and non-linear as they come. Freya is also called Frigg in some stories and in others, they are two separate wives of Odin. Upon my research, I felt so honored to be chosen to portray Freya, The Goddess of Beauty, Love, Fertility, Sex, Gold, Seidr Magic, War and Death, former Queen of the Valkyries and Leader of the Vanir Gods. I be like “Damn, that Queen’s been busy!” Good Lord, I thought how can I possibly embody all of these qualities?! Then as I meditated on her, I realized that my entire 41 years on this planet has led me to this moment, to bring this role to life, and all I need do is trust that I possess all I need to bring truth to every moment inside her world. Always best to start with what you’ve got.
Alongside of having our brilliant fearless creative director Cory Barlog on set at all times, I was also very lucky to have our talented writers Matt Sophos and Richard Gaubert there to guide the way, adjusting the dialogue when needed to sound more natural and authentic to the way the characters were unfurling or simply letting me know how to pronounce the Norse words properly, and educating us on all things complicatedly Norse. Everyone was there for the good of the game and knew something innovative and groundbreaking was taking place in the God of War universe.
What was the experience like recording the lines and did you have to do Mocap as well? If so; What can you tell us about that?
We shot 90% of Freya’s scenes in full on Performance Capture – voice, body and soul on the Santa Monica Sony Studios sound stages. (alliteration much?!) The only dialogue we did in the sound booth was for ADR and some ancillary dialogue. With our creative director Cory Barlog’s ingenious vision of capturing all of the scenes in ONE-SHOT with a no-cut camera operated by our amazing D.P. Dori Arazi, it felt like performing theatre-in-the-round. The only real adjustment was wearing the Mo-Cap helmet with a camera fastened on the end of it. And of course, the actual outfits themselves are not the most comfortable- a tight-fitting black onesie pajama ninja suit with velcro markers stuck all over your body and fluorescent green dots on your face. We are talking super sexy stuff here boys. Once I got over the fact that this miniature camera was staring at me directly in my face, I was able to truly lose myself in the intimacy and embodiment of these well-crafted scenes. It’s my understanding that presently several video game scenes are being shot like a feature film using green screen – except the sound stages at Santa Monica Studios are completely white – like Mike TeeVee’s room in Willy Wonka. I kept waiting for the Oompa Loompas to come out. Those little F****** always terrified me.
How long were your recording sessions for God of War and how much did the character change if any from the start of recording to the final?
I worked on God of War sporadically over the course of 4 years, coming into Santa Monica Studios a couple of weeks or days at a time and then several months would go by where I wasn’t working on it at all. We’d have a full day or two of rehearsal and then come back to shoot the scenes in their entirety on the white room stage. I continued my research throughout that time period which enriched my performance for sure, but I think perhaps it was the real-life experiences I was undergoing during that time that seemed to synchronistically mirror Freya’s emotional state-of-being. I was able to pull from some pretty intense personal struggles and channel them into Freya’s experience. It became my therapy. (In addition to my therapy)
How would you compare voicing Freya to past roles and what were the biggest challenges and your greatest triumphs with it?
Well, since Freya was more than just “voicing a role” she doesn’t quite compare. I adore voice acting as well! There’s something so magically captivating about being in a dark sound booth with just your voice and imagination breathing life into the character. I do some very special top secret V.O. work for Disney Animation. I’ve been working with Disney for the past 5 years as well, about the same amount of time I’ve been with Sony for PS4 God of War.
But I will say that it took a minute to anchor into what Freya’s “voice” sounded like sonically and essence-wise. At first in the rehearsal process I was over doing it by my sheer intimidation of filling the ginormous shoes of the Norse Goddess of just about everything under the sun: Beauty, Love, Fertility, Sex, Gold, Seidr Magic, War and Death, former Queen of the Valkyries and Leader of the Vanir Gods. I be like “Damn, that Queen’s been busy!” Good Lord, I thought how can I possibly embody all of these qualities?! Then as I meditated on her, I realized that my entire 41 years on this planet has led me to this moment, to bring this role to life, and all I need do is trust that I possess all I need to bring truth to every moment inside her world. Always best to start with what you’ve got. I settled into the humanity of this Goddess, grounding my choices into the basic needs written in the scenes. The “Goddess” attributes and magic are just second nature to her.
Perhaps one of the most helpful notes from Cory’s early on in the rehearsal discovery process was when he suggested that I put some “Han Solo” into the essence of Freya. This suggestion prompted a fantastic dream with Han later that night of which the details need not be shared, but the aftermath of this note affected everything you experience of Freya in the game.
My biggest triumph was my final scene with Baldur, Kratos and Atreus…some intangible magic occurred on set that day because every single one of us, actors, creatives and crew alike were holding the sacred space and channeling the emotional wrath and unfettered rawness that Freya experienced when losing her son. The stars aligned perfectly and magnificently.
How did you get into acting and what was your big break?
I don’t recall any part of my process into becoming a working actor a “break” but I did get my 3 SAG vouchers from doing extra work on my uncle’s show- he was a camera man on Step by Step and Friends, and my dad’s show – he was the lead man on Cybil. By the time I got into the union, I had already graduated from California State University at Fullerton at 21 years old with a Bachelors Degree in Acting and Musical Theatre. From there I pounded the proverbial pavement and took on-camera audition classes, casting director workshops, treated it like a business and worked/ hustled my a** off. My first co-star role was on Dharma and Greg at 23 years old – I had ONE LINE and it didn’t make the cut much to my complete and utter dismay. I’d say my first “breakthrough” was when I was “discovered” doing funny skits on the Jamie Kennedy experiment by Christi Soper at Dreamworks Television. She called me into DreamWorks Television to meet with Michael Borkow and that led to my first pilot season where I tested in first and second position for ABC’s According to Jim and Man in the Kitchen with Jeffry Tambor. Neither went my way but at 24 years old being the new kid on the block with these heavy hitters was a very exciting and pivotal moment in my career.
Do you prefer TV or film and why?
I cannot answer this question because my love and adoration for both are for completely different reasons. A film is a complete organism like a perfectly positioned snapshot that remains fixed transcending the test of time and a TV show is a living breathing entity that unfurls, matures and transforms over time allowing the audience to adhere themselves to the journey of the characters such that the character’s life becomes a bit of their own. I prefer either and both whenever I book the job.
When you consider a script or a potential TV or film project, what elements do you look for in the story and character? What types of projects would you like to do in the future?
I resonate with material that is honest, innovative and fresh whether it be drama, comedy or genre. I need to care about the character’s journey, the “why” of the story and there needs to be some responsibility in the narrative. If anything reads as gratuitous, I will pass.
I’d love to venture into the world of Sci-Fi, and of course, if Marvel or D.C. is looking for another bad-ass female character, I am happy to help in the matter. I always love me a smart comedy and/or a juicy drama. The idea of long-term sounds really good to me, so I am hoping (praying) that Sony will collaborate with Cory Barlog and turn God of War into a TV series, in which I will continue embodying the role of Freya and we can start from an origins standpoint for all of the characters in GOW universe. I mean it just feels like the perfectly appropriate next step, doesn’t it?
When you’re not filming, what do you like to do?
Oh, so many things. I am a bit of a Rennassaince woman so I do a bit of everything (except math). I’m a singer-songwriter, play piano, guitar and ukulele solo or with my band Midnight Velvet. I write and produce with a couple partners – currently pitching a TV comedy and a character-driven period piece drama feature film. I love hiking, dancing, spinning, yoga, ballet and pilates – must keep my body moving. I also love sleep and prefer 8 hours a night. On Sunday’s I love going to my church Bel Air Presbyterian of which I am a member. One of my greatest joys is feeding people, I blame my Italian heritage, so throwing big or small dinner parties is my happy place. I enjoy painting when I have the time, and traveling to lands near and far is always on my mind. Anything having to do with the ocean or being barefoot in nature calls to me like a sea siren enchantment. Getting lost in a novel or a self-help book or a book of poems or a crossword puzzle… I suppose I should learn how to play God of War at some point so I guess I should add that to my list of things to do. I am also a business owner, a mobile company called Be Mobile Massage so I run and operate that with my business partner. And I partner with the incredible director-dancer-choreographer Kelleia Sheerin in a boutique company called Amuse Bouche that produces Themed Parties and events with unique entertainment. We capture and collaborate with your fantasy vision from concept to content for any special occasion and provides everything you need to create that dream into a living, breathing reality.
And when I’m not filling my plate with nonsense, I meditate.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m delighted to share that I’m recurring on a new Fantasy Adventure Comedy called Dwight in Shining Armor written exclusively for BUYtv by husband and wife duo, Leanne H. Adams and Brian J. Adams and will premiere in January 2019 (online streaming platform to be announced soon.) When I watched the pilot episode I found myself cracking up at the ridiculous hijinks of two worlds colliding when a 21st-century teenager “Dwight” haphazardly awakens a realm that’s been asleep since 10th Century Medieval times. The circumstances are super ridiculous but played totally grounded and serious which is my favorite kind of humor. It’s a Monty Python meets Game of Thrones meets Freaks and Geeks meets Once Upon a Time kind of thing. The show stars the insanely talented: Sloane Siegle as “Dwight”, Caitlin Carmichael as “Gretta” a warrior Princess and Joel McCrary as “Baldric” the Court Magician. I am not allowed to mention anything about my character just yet as they are announcing me closer to the premiere date, but rest assured she will add some serious spice and magic into the fold. I believe that the God of War audience will adore this new show and have a fun time watching the opposing worlds clash like the Titans.