Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s Harry McEntire Interview

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 released for the Nintendo Switch in the summer of 2022, garnering much critical acclaim including a glowing review from RPGamer. One area to gain plenty of praise was its voice acting, such as main character Noah, a kind-hearted Off-Seer played by Harry McEntire, who has previously played Æthelwold in the TV series The Last Kingdom. Elmon Dean Todd had the opportunity to sit down with McEntire, and discuss his role as Noah, along with the actor’s previous roles and favourite games.

Elmon Dean Todd: What got you into acting initially?

Harry McEntire: Originally, I used to be in musicals when I was a kid. I loved singing. I was a proper little West End kid, and then there was the musical Les Misérables that we videoed off the TV during a special concert when I was about five. I watched it over and over again, and I loved it.

I started working as an actor when I was about 17, and initially I did musicals. One of the first things I did was a musical in London. I loved the flexibility acting gives you, and I love the creativity of it — the ability to lose yourself in things, and the ability to go to other places. Whether you’re working on a game, in theatre, or on screen, you get to immerse yourself into something completely different. It’s escapism. It’s storytelling.

EDT: You mentioned musicals… Can I guess your range?

HM: Go on — you can try!

EDT: Tenor?

HM: [Laughs] No, everyone thinks I’m a tenor. And this is why: I speak at a tenor level, but I’m a baritone. I’ve actually got a lower range. And that’s the problem. I can’t sing how I look.

And there are many reasons I’m not working in musical theatre: One, because I can’t dance; two, because my voice isn’t strong enough; three, I wouldn’t want to, because those guys work so unbelievably hard, and I can’t do the same thing eight times a week.

EDT: So, are you summing up that acting is easier?

HM: Yeah. The headline is “Acting is easy”! [Laughter]

EDT: Have you done anything with singing since then?

HM: Well, there was sort of a strange situation — which I can’t fully describe — where I think I had a vague interest from a record company when I was 18. My friend was doing songwriting at a place near where I grew up called The Academy of Contemporary Music. His name is Daniel Bryer, and he’s a really successful songwriter now. He asked me to come down and sing some songs he had written, and it went really well.

There was someone from Warner Bros. there, and he said, “Here’s my card if you want to talk about records and such.” I talked to my agent, who said they’ll look into it, and I never heard anything. Maybe there was a different world and a different life. That was fourteen years ago. Now I shout songs towards the end of weddings on dance floors, and I go to the football. That’s about as much singing as I do in a regular week now.

EDT: What was the deciding factor that got you into acting as a career?

HM: I think in terms of me realising it was viable as a career was this musical I did, which was called Spring Awakening and was based on a Frank Wedekind play. It was on Broadway and it had Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, and some really wonderful actors who had gone on to do some brilliant things. I had a local agent, who had done brilliant work for me and had got me a couple of jobs during my last year of high school. I had done TV, radio, and some stuff. I got the audition for this play when I was 17 and got the job when I was 18 and had been out of school for about four months.

I wanted to be an actor really desperately, and I assumed I was going to go to drama school. I was told, “You look very young. Don’t worry about applying for drama school until you’re a bit older.” Then every year that went past, I thought, “Shall I apply for drama school?” But then I just kept working, and I actually didn’t stop working for about six years, which is kind of insane. Everyone was saying to me, “You are going to be out of work at some point.” Sure enough, it did slow down, but by that point, I had got the role for The Last Kingdom, so I had a bit of a charmed life at the beginning. You can say I still have one, because I love what I do.

However, it was that one musical that gave this energy to my career — like a wave — and I just rode it to shore as long as it lasted, and it lasted a really long time.

Noah in Xenoblade Chronicles 3

EDT: Before you were Noah in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you were Prince Æthelwold in The Last Kingdom. Would you tell us about that character? 

HM: For anyone who’s seen the The Last Kingdom, calling him “Prince Æthelwold” is absolutely delightful, because I don’t think he’s been given that kind of status, as he’s constantly disrespected by everyone around him.

I got that role when I was 24, and I didn’t finish it until I was nearly 28. That was a really big chunk of my life, and I’m incredibly proud and grateful to be part of it. A lot of the career I have now, I owe to that show. And more than that, a lot of the best friends I made were from that show.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s an Alfred the Great-era, Viking, horsey-swordy, the creation of England as a single state-type of show, but it doesn’t just cast Saxons as good and Vikings as bad or vice-versa. A lot of the show is about the grey in people, politics, religion, and in love.

The source materials are books by Bernard Cornwell, who’s an amazing writer over here in England. There’s also an incredible TV show called Sharpe that I grew up watching. However, I realised the books weren’t going to be a great reference for me in terms of the literal descriptions. When you’re first introduced to Æthelwold in the books, the description is something like, “He was strong and tall, with hair that fell to his shoulders and eyes that caught the attention of serving girls.”

I’m 5’5″ in big shoes, and the haircut they gave me, it actually took the hair designer two hours to give me a terrible haircut, because every trained bone in her body is trying to give me a good haircut. I realised they were going a different way from the description of the “handsome, charming male”. There was one review that I really liked that said I looked like a “drowned hamster”.

EDT: Following up on the haircut, how was it getting off the set and going back to the real world?

HM: I didn’t used to be a hat person, and that was my Everest — the haircut. The worst part was the back, which fortunately I didn’t get to see that much. I started wearing snapbacks and beanies. Even today, it’s quite unusual for me to do my hair. All I normally do is put a hat on, and it all stems from The Last Kingdom.

I called my wife after my first makeup test, and they had put boils, scars, and these kind of pustules on me — and this terrible haircut. Then they would cut chunks out of my beard, get a wig, stick a load of glue into the gap, and they’d chop bits of this wig. It looked horrendous, and I said to my wife, “Oh my God, this is amazing. This is going to be a show populated by really authentically ugly people.”

Then, I met everyone at the read-through. I called her and said, “It is literally just me. I am the ugly one.” They put me in these clothes to make me feel like a child amongst warriors and politicians. I’m always worried about how often I get noticed. If people recognise me and say, “You’re Æthelwold from The Last Kingdom“, and I always think: “I’m wearing my best clothes. I really tried. I really wish people didn’t know it was me.”

EDT: Before you worked on Xenoblade Chronicles 3, have you played any of the previous entries?

HM: No. In fact, I had never played a JRPG. When I was younger, I was into Sonic and Goldeneye. I remember the Dreamcast coming out and thinking it was going to be the coolest thing ever. I think Soul Caliber was on the Dreamcast.

I didn’t have much disposable income growing up, so gaming wasn’t something I could afford to do. The first thing I ever bought with my own money that I saved up for was a Game Boy Color and Pokemon Red. The guy in the shop said, “You do realise it’s a black and white game, and you’re playing it on a Game Boy Color.” I think I was about nine or ten, and I got the see-through one where you could see all the wires. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

About nine years ago when I was doing a series of plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company, I didn’t have very much to do during one of the plays. So, I went on Amazon or eBay and bought an old Game Boy and Pokemon Red again, and I used to play it between scenes backstage.

I had a PS2, and I’m a football fan — an English football fan — so I play a lot of FIFA and that sort of stuff. Then, I started watching Let’s Plays on YouTube of things like the Third Age Total War and a game called This War of Mine. There was this game called Sunless Sea. I’ve always really loved stories of games. I’ve never really played online games — I think I’ve maybe played Fortnite twice, but I don’t like playing online games. I don’t like that feeling of having to interact with the [real] world. I like being able to explore something completely by myself. So, although I’m terrible at these games, my gaming instinct heads towards things like The Witcher and Assassin’s Creed. I bought Syndicate, although shamefully I didn’t buy another one until I was in one. Not because I didn’t like them, it’s because I’m not very good at games.

This is shameful. I have never got into the East Asian, Japanese, and Korean games. Even things like Studio Ghibli, I’ve never seen Spirited Away, so the whole Japanese animation and gaming culture was just something I didn’t know that much about.

EDT: How was acting for Xenoblade Chronicles 3, your first JRPG, compared to other roles you’ve done?

HM: With all games that you’re working under, they’re all under working titles, so you don’t know what you’re working on. When I realised what I was working on, I watched some playthroughs of Xenoblade Chronicles… But by that point, it’s far too late. That’s when you trust the director and you trust the writer.

What I just couldn’t believe was the depth of storytelling. It just blows me away. If you’re working on a western game, you’re just getting the lines of dialogue when recording a normal conversation in something like Assassin’s Creed during a battle. It will be three lines long and something like: “Listen, we need to move quickly.” “Okay, we’ll move quickly.” “Get to moving!” There’s nothing wrong with that, but that was what I was used to.

In a JRPG, there will be a 20-minute cutscene on the nature of love, life, and loss… And it’s in the middle of a battle! And that’s just — as an actor — so exciting to get to play something like that. The hours that you put into working on a game like this is like being in 25 films. The amount of material you’re dealing with. The opportunities for the characters to grow, to change, and surprise you just blew me away. And having come to this completely cold, I’m now so excited by the world of it, and I’m so ridiculously proud and thrilled to be part of an iconic series. It’s been amazing learning about it.

I don’t think you can call me a fan of the genre, because I haven’t earned that, yet, but I have bought myself a Switch and Xenoblade Chronicles 3.

EDT: As you were undertaking the task of recording for Xenoblade 3, did you feel this was going to be something special?

HM: I knew I loved it, but I was such a small part of it particularly with something like the voice acting. Because I was such a small part of it, I didn’t know what it was at the time. I knew I couldn’t wait for it to come out and talk about it, and to be able to buy it and play it. It wasn’t like I could look at 1 and 2 because I didn’t know what the series was.

Noah and friends taking a break from saving the world to admire the scenery.

EDT: Once you realised what you were working on, did you feel any pressure about taking the lead role for such a prominent series?

HM: Yes! So, I work with a brilliant agent named Daniel John, who is a nerd. After I found out what I was working on, I told him it was Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and there was this silence on the end of the phone. Then he said, “Oh… cool.” I asked if that was good, and he replied, “That’s REALLY good. I love those games so much!”

The pressure of carrying a game like this, and knowing this is a series that people love so much, and if it doesn’t work, you’re going to be front and centre. The amazing thing is we have this incredible cast of six characters, and we have Noah and Mio whom we’re drawn to. So if people think this is bad, it’s in no small part our fault, or in no small part my fault, because that was what I was worrying about. But the response we’ve had has been really wonderful. Extremely gratifying.

EDT: The character of Noah contrasts greatly to your previous role of Æthelwold in The Last Kingdom. How was to be the main character this time?

HM:  On screen and on stage, I’m very rarely going to play someone I don’t look like. Everything has to have this aesthetic concern. Whereas in voice — especially with game and animation — you can do anything if you can make your voice sound like it. You can be the hero, the villain, the love interest, and all of these incredible things.

As an actor, you do get type-cast a bit. When I look at the beginning of my career, I played a certain type of character. As I got a little bit older, I started to change a bit and play troubled, brilliant, peculiar, “angel children” who sort of saw the world in an unusual way. And then in the most recent part of my career, I played as potentially charming arseholes.

The flexibility I have as a voice actor is just beyond anything I’ve ever come across, such as the ability to reinvent myself — I’ve never been the hero! I mean, there are many heroes in this game, but I’m one of the heroes, and that is just so exciting. And being the leader — I think of these characters in Dungeons & Dragons terms all the time — Noah is lawful good, and that’s fun because it’s just so different to what I’m used to.

EDT: You’ve bought a Nintendo Switch just to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3. How is that going for you?

HM: Yes, on release day, as well. I’ve played a bit, but this is thing: I’ve joined Twitch and have a channel, so I’m going to start streaming the game — obviously from the beginning. I have played it a little bit to try and figure out the basics, because I’m so bad at games. Then, I got a little bit too into it, so I had to start skipping cutscenes because I couldn’t see them yet! So, I have put some hours into but not that many, and my confidence level is not that great.

Even just the opening of it, the world design, the aesthetic, the music — it just blew me away. So I am very excited to do more of it on my Twitch channel.

EDT: Do you have your Twitch channel ready yet?

HM: I do! It’s twitch.tv/harrymcentire

EDT: In closing, do you have any advice for any aspiring actors or voice actors?

HM: Practical advice is less useful than it can appear, because everyone’s journey into acting is so idiosyncratic. For example, when I was five, I went to a village near a town where I grew up where I was taught singing, dancing, and acting. The people who ran that company ended up buying an agency, and they signed me when I was seventeen. You can’t repeat that series of events.

So for just practical advice, just try to make work, even if it’s free and you’re collaborating with your friends. In terms of mental and emotional advice, there are two things to bear in mind:

One is that comparison is the thief of joy. Just because someone is doing something else is not a reflection on you. Just focus on your own lane, work hard, and enjoy it.

The other thing is to learn as early as you can that rejection of your work is not the rejection of your soul. Therefore, the rejections of the work you’re doing at that moment, the rejection of your specific version of a specific character is not a rejection of your humanity, your artistic creativity, or your ability to succeed. So be kind to yourself and fill your life with things you love that aren’t acting, and people who love you whether or not you’re acting. That way, when success comes, you’re in a very balanced and grounded place for it.

RPGamer and Elmon Dean would like to express our deepest thanks to Harry McEntire for lending us his time and thoughts. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is currently available for Nintendo Switch.

Follow Harry McEntire on Twitter @HarryMcentire and Instagram @HarryMcentire


Elmon Dean Todd

Elmon Dean joined RPGamer in 2019 as a reviewer. He has been playing RPGs ever since Dragon Warrior on the NES and even learnt Japanese to play imports. He is a former police officer and the author and creative director of the Godshard Chronicles book and video game series. He alternates living in the Florida Panhandle and the UK.

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