Valerie Lohman is best known by the gaming community for her voice as Edith in ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’, and now her stellar performance of Jess Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
Youngblood was totally different from the previous Wolfenstein games, but it gained quite the following all the same, including a community that embraced the two female protagonists and their relationship with the world around them.
Our deputy editor, Aimee Hart, was extremely lucky to get to talk to Valerie about her career, voicing Jess, and how queer love in video games is still so important.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood came out in July, and it’s September now. How has voicing Jess changed your perspective?
Well I’ve been working on [Youngblood] since May last year. So I’ve been working on it for like a year and a few months now. And it was my first time working out of the country. We filmed in Sweden for a couple weeks. So I feel like it has not only had me grow artistically, because working out of the country and being pushed to your limits like you are in a game like this, with the acting choices and the scene work, but — and this is going to sound a little dorky — but personally too.
I have made some very lifelong friends. I’m actually really close with Jasmine Savoy Brown and Shelby Young who play Abby and Soph, so it’s been both a big professional blessing and a very big personal one, as well.
You’ve said before that [Youngblood] was genre-altering in a way. Was it intimidating to take the reins on a series that has, well, an audience that is mostly made up of men?
You know, I was nervous! I mean, everyone is so used to BJ being at the helm [of Wolfenstein]. Of course we’re more of a spin-off game, but still trusting that the audience will still fall in love with these two girls in their own way because they are so unique, have distinct personalities and are very different from their father.
So it was exciting and nerve-wracking. And thankfully, I’ve had a lot of really kind people reach out and let me know how much they enjoyed it and loved that. it’s kind of a slightly different tone, but still at the heart of the Wolfenstein franchise.
Yeah, I actually enjoyed [the lighter tone] that a lot. I’ve played the first two games and I like the story, I like BJ but I always felt that there was something missing. So, I really enjoyed getting to play these two young women, and, well I’m only 22 but it felt nice to play someone my own age.
I’m so glad you say that. Because what I’ve noticed is that different people will connect with different characters. I know so many people that connect so deeply with BJ but then I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they really resonate with one sister or the other or with Abby. So I think it’s really fascinating to see who connects with who. That’s a very interesting thing to me.
You know it sounds harsh to say but I loved how ugly they were, in how they acted. Soph, Jess and Abby, they don’t give a shit. They swear, they ugly snort and I really loved that.
I feel like in video games where you have female protagonists, everything has to be perfect about them. They speak perfectly, they act perfectly. I enjoyed that Jess and Soph weren’t like that. They kill a Nazi, throw up immediately afterward and then start laughing. They’re very messy, and I love it.
Yeah we’re total dorks! I feel like me and Shelby are a lot like that in real life, actually.
But yeah, like I’ve mentioned in every interview that I’ve done, I grew up on Lara Croft. Lara Croft is a hot badass, and she can do no wrong.
You are so right.
I’ve had so many people compare [Jess and Soph] to Beavis and Butthead or things like that. We’re just in over our heads. But I think that’s what’s exciting. Because when you are 17, you have no idea what you’re doing, especially in a situation like this!
It’s like, taking stuff you learned as an adolescent and then turning it into real-world, adult experiences. I think that’s very interesting.
I agree, I feel like even if you didn’t like the combat or the story, you could leave the game enjoying Jess and Soph, and the impact they had, because of how different they are from BJ. We need more protagonists like them, especially female protagonists.
Thank you, I loved playing Jess. She’s messy and fun.
One of the things that I liked in Youngblood was the small, subtle nods to queer love. I believe when I was looking around at the beginning of the game, there was a terminal where one of the characters talks about always loving another woman, despite everything…
Really? Oh gosh, I didn’t notice that. I’ll have to find it. I don’t play video games very well, but my girlfriend is very good at it. Yes, I’ll have to find that!
I just love those subtle nods to queer love and sexuality in video games. I feel like it’s been improving over time, but I still geek out and feel happy whenever I see it.
Good, I mean, it’s not everywhere and it’s not in every game. It’s nice when you find nods towards it — it’s inclusive.
Don’t worry gaymers, this isn’t the end of our interview with Valerie Lohman. We have much more to share at a later date, so keeps your eyes glued to Gayming Magazine.