Meet Daniela Traverso, the young Peruvian actress living and working in France, as you delve into the fascinating story behind Illari, the powerful new voice of Overwatch 2.
By Sol Pozzi-Escot
Who is Illari and how did you come to this character?
Illari is the new character in Blizzard’s video game “Overwatch 2”. He is a support character who has turned out to have greater force than Overwatch players expected. I understand why she is becoming the new favourite of many. Her power in the game is the sun, and she uses all that solar energy to accomplish her goals. I came to this character thanks to a casting that was being carried out by the sound studio Keywords Studio in Paris. Fernando Vereau, also Peruvian, is a well-known sound engineer at Keywords Studio and he heard about the casting. He immediately wrote to me and said: “I will be making you a proposal to do the voice of the character, this role is for you! So I went to the casting, where I saw many potential “Illaris” in the waiting room. A few weeks after, they called me to tell me that I had been chosen and soon after, we were already filming.
What did it mean to you to be chosen for this role?
Being chosen for this role meant a lot to me. It’s a great opportunity to be able to work with a company as big and welcoming as Blizzard. It’s an honour to have had the chance to represent my country even though I’m far away and in another language. Since I live in France, this is the first time I’ve acted for a Peruvian character, who, even if he mainly speaks French in the dubbing, also speaks Spanish and Quechua on several occasions.
In the trailer for the character, you play in the video game, Illari’s determination to restore the greatness of his people after an accident decimates his loved ones is clear. What aspects of Illari do you identify with?
What happens to Illari and his people is undoubtedly a horrible tragedy. The attempt to harness his force for “good” ends up destroying everything in a completely unintentional way due to the magnitude of his power.
The characteristic of Illari that I most identify with would definitely be her empathic side and that great attachment to her loved ones. She gives everything for them, never thinking about what she is risking because she has a very clear objective.
To act and represent this character, you could only use your voice, as it is an animated character. How did you face this challenge?
It was a very pleasant surprise how much I enjoyed this new challenge in my acting career. Finally, it is no end different from everything I already knew. The first thing will always be to connect with your character, to understand why each intention, each impulse and to live it. I lived it as a mix between what I have to do when I act in front of a camera and when I act in a theatre. On the one hand there is the precision of film and the fact of having several second chances if something goes wrong, and on the other hand the intensity and voice projection of theatre.
What was the most complicated part of the challenge of voicing Illari? Can you share an anecdote?
There was nothing that was really complicated, everything flowed very well and I felt connected to the character quite quickly. Maybe I could say some of the war dialogues, where I have to give orders being super strict, hard and serious. I remember one of the phrases giving an order I had to say was something like ” Attack the opponent fast, don’t let him escape! “(all in French of course) and after the first attempt the artistic director said to me “it sounds nice, but the idea is that you give them an order, that you are a bit more aggressive, in your voice it sounds like you are requesting that if it’s not too much trouble please go and attack the opponent”. Then we all laughed our heads off, and when we re-listened to what had just been recorded, we realised that it did indeed sound a bit sweet. After that I managed to find a better technique for phrases in that style.
Illari’s story has Peruvian cultural and mythological elements, how did you immerse yourself in the national culture to give authenticity to your vocal performance?
I actually did not know at the beginning that there would be so many elements as everything was strictly confidential. Once I was informed in more detail about the character, I knew that it would be very much related to the sun so I started to read about the importance of the sun in the Inca culture. I knew that “Inti” is the sun god, which is the most significant deity in the Inca empire. He was worshipped and was believed to have the power to cure all illnesses. During the recordings I had that very much in mind, as Illari’s power comes from the sun and I tried to transmit that force that our ancestors saw in him, through Illari’s voice.
Living in France, being far from your country, how has this experience allowed you to enrich the feeling of identification that you feel in relation to Peru?
Doing Illari’s voice has been a very nice and enriching experience in many ways. It allowed me to feel at home being far away. Working in Paris for a Peruvian role in French was something I would never have imagined and I am very proud to do it. The character is very representative of our culture and our richness, it was great to know that they gave so much force and character to a Peruvian character.
In addition to voicing this character, you have participated in plays in France. What did you learn from your work in Overwatch that you can apply to your work on stage?
I would say the preparation I used for the recordings. Not being able to move when acting (only my hands) I had to have the energy of the character in each phrase even if they were not related to each other. In the studio I was standing still without moving, whereas when my character is in the middle of a battle. That allowed me to develop a new method of preparation that I will certainly be able to use later on in other projects.
You are a young actress with a lot of potential. What would you like to achieve in your career? Would you like to work in Peru?
I have always had the same response to that question since I was very young, and that is that I want to transmit emotions, I want people to feel and live what my character is going through. Both theatre and film have been key parts of my life, and I would like to continue working in both throughout my career.
Of course, I would like to work in Peru! If the opportunity arose, it would be an honour to work in my country.
What has French culture contributed to your formation as an actress from Peru?
Both my degree in performing arts in Montpellier and my studies at the Belmondo theatre and film school in Paris have been very important in my formation as an actress. I can never thank my teachers enough, especially Olivier Belmodo and Jean-Claude Cotillard, who gave me so many tools as an actress. It’s such a human and at the same time so personal work that finding people who give value to who you are, to your identity and make that a force is worth a lot.