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Interview with Stefanie Joosten
By Adam Bolton
A Quietly Rising Star
With the recent release of the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain now well established as the last—and best—in a long line of successes, Tokyo Insight got a chance to sit down amid the bustle of Tokyo Game Show 2015 with Stefanie Joosten, the voice and motion capture actor who also provides the likeness of one of the game’s most intriguing, and now-iconic, characters.
So, tell us a little bit more about yourself, a brief introduction if you will.
Stefanie Joosten: Well, my name is Stefanie Joosten. I grew up in a relatively small town in The Netherlands called Roemond, in Limburg. Ever since I was a teenager I started getting interested in Japanese culture, mostly through games and anime—especially games actually. I basically ended up in Japan on an exchange program in Kyoto for a year, then returned to Holland and got my bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies. Four years ago, I came back to Japan after falling in love with the country that I felt I had a connection in.
So when did you start getting into the acting side of things?
SJ: Well I started out doing modeling but I didn’t really think about things too much. I didn’t really know which way I wanted to go with that, but through modeling jobs, I gradually got some experience with acting in small roles, commercials and such, which I really started to enjoy. I felt more and more comfortable with acting, as though I was growing into it. Then one day I was really lucky to be asked to audition for Metal Gear Solid 5.
So when you first auditioned for the game, did you know beforehand what you were getting yourself into?
SJ: I didn’t have any idea of how big it was going to be. I had no idea of the scale of the role. Even when I started doing the motion capture, they didn’t really specify about what character I’d be playing. They were really mysterious about it because it was a game with so many years in development, so absolutely nothing was allowed to leak before it was officially announced. It was actually much later that I started to realize that it was a really big thing.
What was your initial reaction to getting the part?
SJ: It felt almost dream-like. It was very surreal for me. Because I was a gamer myself, it was something I could never have dreamed of—actually being a character in a game! I didn’t really know about all of these relatively new technologies of facial and motion capture, so I was just super excited and it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
A life changing moment for you?
SJ: Yes, yes definitely!
Speaking of motion capture, what do you think was the most difficult aspect of the mo-cap side of things?
SJ: It was a challenge because there were a lot of things that were really new for me. I had to do military training to get into the role [laughs] and it’s something that I had no experience with. It was really challenging, but it helped and I was the most excited I’d ever been in any job I’d ever done! So in the end, I was happy to do anything for the role and everyone in the team was so supportive at Konami. It really was a joy to work with them every day!
Okay! So do you think you can see yourself doing similar things in the future?
SJ: Yes, I definitely would really like to do more games, but I’d also like to get more into acting with film, because I think games and movies are getting more and more similar. You’re acting out a story, you’re given the role of a certain character. But of course games have an added aspect over movies because they’re interactive and people feel far more drawn into games compared to movies.
The character you play in Metal Gear 5, Quiet, has in a short time become synonymous with the new game. How does it feel to have a recreation of your likeness in the game and also know that people are already effectively cosplaying you as Quiet?
SJ: [Laughs] It’s very strange! Somehow I can distance myself […] “Its Quiet, it’s not me.” But then people tell me, “It is you!” It’s still hard for me to grasp. I can’t really describe how I feel, but I do feel really honored. It’s just a really strange and surreal feeling to get my head around.
Well then lets move onto video games. Which ones do you think have been the most enjoyable for you?
SJ: Well… Final Fantasy 10 is the most memorable, though I got into it pretty late and not really in chronological order. That game really had an impact on me. I was a teenager when I first started and it was fascinating while having such a touching story. Of course, the first Metal Gear game was one […] that I enjoyed also. The visuals can’t really compare to today’s standards, it was really blocky, but it was still so very cinematic. Even if you play it now, you can still get sucked into the story.
As well as acting and modeling, I understand you’ve recently published a photo book here in Japan. Can you maybe tell us a little more about that and why you started it?
SJ: I recently started to get to know someone by the name of Kiyopi-san, who is really into subcultures. With my agency, we sometimes talk about “what other things would you like to do?” and we started thinking about doing a photo book together. We decided to combine the idea with trying to portray Tokyo and Japan as something cool and unique without it being a standard tourist guide.
So we looked for the deeper spots of Tokyo, the ones you don’t get to see in the guides, and to just create something unique and give people a different look into the city. I think, in the end, it worked out really well. It was just a limited run for now, but we’re planning on releasing a special edition of the photo book called Searching for Another Yamato this October. We sold out the first edition and people only found out about it too late, so we’re providing a second chance to pick up the book. So please keep an eye out for that!
Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain is currently available to play on PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.