Elizabeth Grullón is loving the ride.
The actress, poet, and voiceover artist, like most of the other people involved, was wowed by the massive success of Star Wars, Jedi: Fallen Order, the Star Wars franchise video game from EA and Respawn Entertainment.
Grullón, who voices tortured villain The Second Sister in the game, hasn’t let the surprise catch her off guard — she’s been enjoying the chance to interact with new fans, become a part of a franchise she’s always loved, and even achieve every pop culture fan’s dream: getting an action figure of herself. Speaking over the phone from her home in Los Angeles, Grullón chatted with the Pop Insider about the process of making the game, the game’s reception, and what it meant to her as a lifelong Star Wars fan.
Pop Insider: How did your journey with Jedi: Fallen Order begin? Did you know what you were auditioning for?
Elizabeth Grullón: I started out in this world by just doing voiceover in general, and that’s kind of how it works. As an actor you’re just auditioning for voiceover stuff — it could be an animated series, movie, commercial, video game. You get what you get, and that’s how it works. I had no idea what I was auditioning for — I didn’t even know it was a game. I was just at a voiceover audition. And the rest was history.
PI: What was the actual process of creating the game like?
EG: It was full motion capture for a full year. Well, October 2018 to May 2019 was mo-cap. We wrapped principal photography and moved into recording sessions at Warner Brothers all the way through September-ish. I was there every day on a big sound stage — a huge room covered in computers and cameras in every corner of the room, picking up the motion sensors we were wearing on our bodies from every conceivable angle. And it’s being recorded on state of the art cameras to be processed and whatnot. It was very in-depth and full-cap. We were doing stunt training, fight training, and lightsaber training. We were doing full rehearsals together. It was incredible — such a dreamy part of my life.
PI: I didn’t realize it was full motion capture. Did it make a difference to physically be there, playing off the other actors?
EG: It was so different. It changed it completely. That’s what you hope, right? Hopefully, if another human being is standing across from you doing a bunch of things, it’s affecting you in some way. Otherwise, you may not be as present as required by the job. Having other actors standing across from you, really skillful intelligent actors like Cameron Monahan (Cal Kestis), it’s powerful and it’s a lot of energy, so it had a big impact on me. It’s so different than if I was alone creating it in my imagination. There’s a ton of imagination work involved. You bring what you imagined and you kind of plop it in the middle of the sandbox. “Okay what are you going to do? Oh interesting.” It becomes a game of tennis, back and forth, dialogue.
In addition to that, our director Tom Keegan on this game, he was like the actor’s director. He’s just the best. He’s the kindest; he loves actors. He would really get in there with us. He would have us think about things and make it really personal and make it specific. It was a lot like doing a film or play, and that’s not the experience you typically get doing voiceover. It had a massive impact — it was so collaborative and creative.
PI: Your character, The Second Sister, is such a complex and difficult character. How much of that was the work done by the creative team, and how much of it was the work you did in preparing to play her?
EG: It’s hard to say. It’s hard to give percentages. I think that’s part of what’s great about collaboration: It’s hard to tell where one person’s input starts and the other one’s stops. I can say the character breakdown that they gave me for The Second Sister was incredibly thorough and super-specific. The history of what she’s been through is very rich and dynamic. They gave me a lot of Play-Doh, or really fertile soil. And the director was so hands on and available. He just really delights in the process, and if somebody’s enjoying it and they love it you go deeper, because it’s just fun. He was a wonderful gardener, cultivating. And of course there’s me and my inner world, and my emotional life was probably the biggest thing I brought — in addition to my body and my voice and my face. It was definitely a true collaboration.
PI: Your character, also known as Trilla, is a complicated villain — the best kind. What was it like playing her? Did you love her or hate her?
EG: It was such a journey. I think the challenge for me with playing a villain — underscore, underscore, underline, underline villain — is that no one thinks they’re the bad guy. Everyone thinks they’re the good guy in their own story, for the most part. So I just really had to dig into, what are the thought processes like in this person’s psyche? What’s the wound like? Then, when I started digging into that, it became a story about holding on to something that happened — a hurt that happened, a betrayal. And she’s just carrying it on her back to the point where it consumes her life. And how many people do we know like that in real life? It’s such a human thing to not let go of certain traumas. And in order to let go of those experiences, it takes a huge amount of courage and it’s a huge emotional thing to set that down — to take a fresh face and step forward. It’s really hard for humans. I could kind of tap into that. I was like, I get that. What it would cost to forgive was too high a price, and I deeply get that as a human being. And as the journey continues towards the end of the game, it becomes a story of forgiveness: Can you let this go, can you move on and change? It actually became kind of a love song to all of us human beings who are struggling with this type of thing. I got to go into my own inner world and find things that are hard to let go of, and relive those moments and express. And that’s the joy of being an actor. You get to play with, really, all of your humanity. But even as I’m saying it, there’s a voice in my head saying, “Wow, this is all a video game. You’re really taking this seriously?” But we really treated this as our big movie. We treated it with care and respect.
PI: It’s funny that you mention a big movie because this game came out right around the same time as the big Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker. That movie caused a lot of uproar with fans, while Fallen Order was met widely with positivity. Was there ever any concern about what fans would think?
EG: I think, honestly, the amount of care that people behind these stories put into it was truly unprecedented. You’d be hard pressed to find any storytellers, filmmakers, and producers anywhere who care as much as they do about Star Wars. Because we all grew up with it. I’m kind of speculating, but I think I can say what I’ve seen in them is a huge sense of relief that people love it. Because they care so much. All they want is to make the fans happy. There was a big exhale when the response from the community was so positive. Big sense of relief, huge celebration.
PI: And what about for you? Has it been rewarding to interact with fans of the game and the franchise?
EG: Totally. I feel like I’m in a part of this celebratory dance with the fans and the whole Star Wars community. Thousands and thousands of people have sought me out online, found me on instagram, DM’d me — it’s just delightful. It’s just wonderful. I really enjoy it. I consider it to be an added benefit and added joy of this process, and one I certainly didn’t expect or count on. It’s just a really nice surprise. You have to get to a point as an actor where you’re just putting yourself into your role with no expectations. It can’t be about the approval, because then you’re sunk. But when it does get a positive approval, it’s like, “Cool! You guys liked it? Awesome!” I also practice meditation and teach meditation, and it’s something I talk about on my Instagram stories, and that’s something the fans have responded to. I keep things pretty simple and I don’t want to overstep or anything like that, but it’s really delightful to have a dialogue and create a positive community online … I have an action figure, I get to sign people’s action figures. I have my Funko Pop!
PI: Are you a fan of Star Wars?
EG: I love Star Wars! I love Star Wars so much! [laughs] I love Star Wars. I loved and was so touched and impacted by the original movie when I was a kid. And I watched it with my dad; it was our thing to watch movies together — it still is. But the whole world responded when we all saw that movie. It was like “Oh my god, what is this?” This is a whole new thing, nobody’s ever conceived of such a thing. It was revolutionary. I cherished that. I would say throughout my life I was like a moderate fan, I loved it but I wasn’t an aficionado. Now that I’m canonical — I learned that word the other week — it’s definitely deepened and expanded my love and appreciation for the franchise, what it means, and how much work goes behind it. For me, now I’ve seen firsthand how much the people who are behind these stories pour their lives into these stories. Every detail of the costumes, the characters, the way they imagine things, and the aesthetic. It’s unbelievable to me, and that’s another thing that brings me a huge amount of pride. Not only because it’s Star Wars but, regardless, to be part of something people care this much about. My love and appreciation for it has grown but I definitely loved the franchise.
What do you think is the advantage of telling a Star Wars story–of telling any story–through the medium of video games, as opposed to other forms of media?
EG: With video games it’s so immersive, even more so than any other medium because the character is the player and the player is the character. While with a movie, it’s incredibly immersive and so much fun, but on some level you’re still watching it — just one step removed. In the video game format, that removal has dissolved. You’re really in it. You get to walk with them and pick up something and look with them and figure it out and fight. It’s that much more immersive, and the distance between the character and the audience is that much more reduced. We can really take it as an opportunity to kind of surprise people. Like, “oh my goodness, I really feel something,” because they’re in it; they’re playing it, they’re trying to figure it out. And boom — they hit them with this scene, this feeling, and there’s really fertile soil there to touch people’s hearts in a really unexpected way.
PI: Do you play video games? Have you played Fallen Order?
EG: I’ve played a little bit. Actually, the day the game came out, that night one of the producers of the game had a little gameplay party and all of us were there. The cast was there, and we just kind of, like, passed the controller around. I’m not a gamer exactly — tt would take me hours to do what it would take a gamer five minutes to do. It was actually hilarious, me and the actor who plays Marin were just the worst! [laughs] We’re better at making these then playing them!
You can catch more of Grullón’s recent work in the Freeform series Party of Five, in which she plays the character Sully. Jedi: Fallen Order is available to play on the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, or a PC. Click here to read our full review of the game.