Interview with Patty Mattson - Voice of Sylvanas Windrunner

Today marks a milestone to check off our bucket lists, as we sit down to chat with none other than Patty Mattson—the prolific and talented voice actor of Sylvanas Windrunner.

Voice acting truly brings characters to life in animated work, and Sylvanas Windrunner is no exception. If voice acting is the recipe, then Mattson is the Michelin star chef of one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. Mattson’s delivery of Sylvanas is character work that falls nothing short of extraordinary.

This past Race to World First (RWF) of Sanctum of Domination was one of the most memorable races in the history of WoW to date. When we discovered that the final boss was Sylvanas Windrunner, we knew that it was time to do a deep dive into her lore, which we accomplished thanks to the fantastic work of guest writer, Senppai.

Today, we take the legacy of Sylvanas Windrunner a step further. We are humbled by the privilege to speak with Patty Mattson about her journey as Sylvanas, her favorite things about playing WoW, her musical background, her hopes for the future of the game, advice for aspiring voice actors, and much more!

Table of Contents

“Big hug guys! Stay positive out there. Things have been difficult, but sometimes it takes tough lessons to become the best we can be. Our journey is still unfolding and tomorrow…just may hold magic!”

Q-1: Let’s start from the beginning of your journey as Sylvanas Windrunner. You are widely reputed for your incredible range of voice acting yet, despite the variety, you make every character feel believable, real, and entirely their own unique “person”. When you first began the role of Sylvanas, how did you land on the tone and prosody in which “she” speaks? We’d love to know more about your inspiration and journey into the character.

Patty: Well, the first audition was at home and it came with an explanation of what was needed and a little history, (I think there may have been a clip or link to the previous voice as well). However, the call back was in person with Andrea Toyias. Andrea gave me direction and I aimed for what they had outlined for Sylvanas’s history and current state of mind.

Q-2: What is it like seeing the growth of your character you are voicing, having started with just a couple of lines to now being a major part of WoW’s story? Do you have a favorite character in the lore?

Patty: Watching and moreover, being a part of this has been such a gift. We don’t see what’s happening until shortly before it’s recorded, which is often not far from release, so it’s very exciting to walk into a session and be surprised by the content. Especially something huge like being handed the role of warchief from Vol'jin. And so many others. My fav is Sylvanas; I love voicing this character and being a part of this epic journey. I like Anduin too! I’m excited to see what the writers have in store for both of them. Suffice it to say, I love my work so…...

Patty Mattson with the Sylvanas Windrunner statue, BlizzCon 2019

Q-3: Of all the World of Warcraft cinematics you have been a part of, which was your favorite and why? Do you have any favorite lines from that cinematic?

Patty: My favorites are when Sylvanas is told by Vol'jin she must come out of the shadows and LEAD! I was flipping in that session. Also The Death of Saurfang was great and heartbreaking, Andrew Morgado was so good in that, and probably my favorite is when she breaks the helm at Icecrown! Such an amazing job by the design, graphics, programming and sound team. All of it was just so cool! I LOVED that she did that.

Q-4: We know that you have voiced other characters for Blizzard. Are there any other characters you’d love to voice in the Blizz-verse?

Patty: Oh yes, I want to play a super cute little character, like...a little baby dragon or something adorable that encourages the player and gives wholesome advice.

Q-5: Along that vein, we also know you do a lot of great impressions (sound-alike parodies) of actors, singers, and other public figures or characters. Do you ever do impressions of other characters in the Blizz-verse for fun, even just around the house?

Patty: No — Well, maybe Scrollsage Nola. Hahahahaha. I have not done a sound-alike parody of her, but I’ve imitated her while playing with friends or at home her sweet voice stuck in my head :O) I have done other little impressions in silly ways with friends on Discord too, such as Ve’nari, Bwonsamdi, the NPC's in Mech, Lament of course, and that little song on the wagon in Vol’dun:

“I wanted to go into the game to see what the players were experiencing — to better understand that aspect to inform my performance...but I was blown away! I could not believe how cool it was!

Q-6: Thanks to a wonderful interview you participated in with CadiganTV this past June, we know that you’ve been a WoW player since around 2018! What are your favorite classes/specs to play and why?

Patty: Well I’ve been voicing Sylvanas since Warcraft III, but I only started playing WoW 2 years ago. I’ll be going into my 3rd year coming up in September. I’ve literally never played a video game in my life prior to this! I wanted to go into the game to see what the players were experiencing — to better understand that aspect to inform my performance...but I was blown away! I could not believe how cool it was! It’s turned out to be a real lifesaver during this pandemic too, as it’s a social outlet and an escape into something really fun amidst very difficult, scary times.

I have 3 toons. My first was a Fire Mage, second a BM Hunter, and third a Protection Pali. I’d say I play the Pali a lot because of the resilience she has; leveling up my Mage in Shadowlands was PAINFUL for a while, but now she’s doing pretty decent. I like them all honestly. My Hunter I’ve played the least, but only due to available time to play — I really like the pet aspect and need to finish leveling her up. I think she’s like Renowned 45, so she has a ways to go. Just finished Twisting Corridors Level 4 with a couple friends that are really good players. Holy crap!! Not sure I’ll make it up to beating 8. We shall see.

Q-7: What are your favorite ways to spend time in World of Warcraft?

Patty: Ok there is so much I dig, but…I am fairly casual. I have not done a ton of PVP, but do like it when I’ve done it. I love transmogging my gear and getting my gear score up as well as making sure my spec is the best I can for the class so the toon has some capability. I like storyline and questing. I like annihilating stuff, especially with a good group. I have a friend player who has a great guild he’s with and we did Torghast on speed mode. Holy crap, that was crazy and really fun. Couldn’t have done a perfect run without them. There’s so much I like...TimeWalkers and flying, and puzzles and old dungeons for gear, scenery/music, and experiencing them. I have not done many raids or dungeons without a friend taking me in. I like getting rare pets on my Hunter, unique mounts too. Treasures! I love Treasures. When I first started it was funny. I was so excited when I saw one. Hahahahaha. I’m like a baby in the game since this is the only game I’ve played, really. I’ve got tons to discover still.

Q-8: How do you like Shadowlands so far? What are the things you like most about this expansion?

Patty: I started at BFA on my Blood Elf Mage, so the adventure of going into a new realm/expansion was really cool for me. The Maw was tough until I got some power in the toon, but once I did, I liked doing it and I liked the juxtaposition of the other covenants’ quest lines. Such a different mood in each. Love that we can fly now in Shadowlands, but I do have to say that being forced to not fly in the early part was, in hindsight, good for the recognition of the landscape and up close experience. When I started playing WoW, I was able to fly when I reached max level, so I wasn’t forced to ride all the roads and take portals as much etc. I think it did help my experience in seeing all the game has to offer on the ground before you fly over it all, if that makes sense. I like a ton of stuff and again, I still have a good deal to discover. Ardenweald is so beautiful. Try getting some Inky Black Potions from the Darkmoon Faire — It turns the landscape to night and it’s so cool in all the areas!

Q-9: We know that you have begun to play a bit of Classic WoW TBC as well. How have you been liking it so far? What aspects of Classic WoW do you like vs. Retail and vice versa?

Patty: Well to be fair, I’ve got a toon on Classic, but I had so much to do for BFA stuff that I left him there - poor guy - hahahahaha. I did start a toon in TBC and have that one up to level 20 I think, but I keep going back to advance my toons in Shadowlands. TBC seems cool, but it’s definitely different. That gear is funny. Also, I’ve gotten spoiled with close graveyards and other things that didn’t exist back then. It’s such a different experience! The run back when you die in BC OMG. Also it's going to take a while to level that toon up if I don’t purchase the coin to get her out of the level up process. Hmmm we shall see.

Q-10: Do you like to follow the MDI, the RWF, the AWC or other Blizzard esports-related events? If so, do you have any favorite players, streamers, guilds/teams, or casters that you love to watch or follow?

Patty: When I was at BlizzCon 2019 I was blown away by the MDI championship players. Just insanely good to watch play. I have not however followed any streamers per se.

Patty Mattson watching the MDI Finals, BlizzCon 2019

“I’m blown away with the music score and sound details in these areas. I’m definitely someone motivated or NOT by sound esthetics. What they’ve done is mind blowing.”

Q-11: Knowing your history as a musician and singer prior to (and throughout) your career as a voice actor, we’d love to know what some of your favorite zones in the game are based on the regional music. Do you ever explore certain zones just to “vibe” out for different moods?

Patty: I’m blown away with the musical score and sound details in these areas. I’m definitely someone motivated or NOT by sound esthetics. What they’ve done is mind blowing. It all creates such different moods. I’m still discovering stuff and enjoying SFX and the voice actors …. and the funny stuff that some of the NPC’s do and say! LOVE IT.

Q-12: Have you ever thought about dabbling in other games to immerse yourself in new worlds and stories? If so, which games have you considered exploring someday?

Patty: I honestly have not had the time to discover another game as WoW has been so rich, but I do have some friends that play Final Fantasy XIV and like it. They like the graphics and housing aspect. Interior design and fixing up houses as well as landscaping are like 2nd loves for me, so I’m quite sure I’d dig that housing aspect. However, finding the time to play another game is the challenge! And a good one actually as I’m grateful for work!!

“I like to focus on the positive things I dig in the game and can enjoy. Moreover, I want to deliver what they bring forth to the absolute best of my ability!”

Q-13: What are your hopes and dreams for the future of World of Warcraft? Are there any directions you’d love to see the game (or the lore) take down the road?

Patty: I wish I could share what I think. I could see some options for sure, and we all have so many ideas about the universe we dig spending time in….but I don’t want it to lead anyone to assume I know anything. The writers and game devs are in charge of that aspect. I like to focus on the positive things I dig in the game and can enjoy. Moreover, I want to deliver what they bring forth to the absolute best of my ability!

Patty Mattson in the Voice Actors onstage performance panel, BlizzCon 2019

Q-14: If WoW was a musical and you could compose Sylvanas’s primary song (sort of like an “I Want” song popular in musical theater and Disney movies), what key would you write it in and why? What would it sound like, if you could describe it?

Patty: Hmmm — well I ’ve had some ideas for sure. A song with the power of “Rise Up” — it’s such a great anthem of survival (Andra Day KILLS that tune). Also, believe it or not, “Woman in the Moon” by Barbara Streisand comes to mind.

As far as a key, maybe the key of “Enough-Catherines Anthem” (E minor) or “The Road” perhaps. My friend Billy Pace, an amazing writer and producer, did a more rock version of that one with me here…but honestly those older originals are not right all around for her. If you want to check them out however, all of my originals can be heard in my player on my website (use the little scrollbar on the right in the player and scroll to the bottom first. That’s the first record, from the bottom up to the top).

Also, I did my own version of “Lament Of The Highborne” and adjusted it a drop to reflect where I thought she was during BFA, but still using that gorgeous original piece. My version can be heard here. It’s also on Spotify & Apple music now too.

This is an interesting question. It makes me think and review stuff. Fun to look back on it. There are a number of songs I wrote and put on my records that honestly, I had another artist in mind for when I wrote them, (especially the country leaning stuff as I’m not really a country singer). Funny how things go. People always used to tell me I sounded like Anne Wilson of Heart or Celine Dion. I wrote a song called “Going Home” at the request of my Grandma Corbin who is now 98! Billy Pace helped me refine the lyric and bridge and he created the intro and produced it. He sang the Bv’s with me on the demo too, so fun, (we pitched it to Celine, so I was aiming for her vibe in the demo). It’s on my YouTube Channel here.

“Going Home” touches on the journey to what’s beyond. With a message to us from the one who’s leaving. For all of you that have experienced the loss of loved ones and even pets, and especially during this pandemic, with many losing loved ones to Covid suddenly…. My deepest condolences. May they be, home.

Q-15: If your cats could be WoW characters, who would they be and why?

Patty: OMG that is funny ahhhhh, Tabitha is the demanding and adventurous one, always sticking her nose in things and Willow is her sister who is very gentle and quiet and scared of loud noises so — What do your readers/listeners think. Who are they? :O)

Tabitha (left) and Willow (right)

Q-16: If you have any children, do you ever go into “Sylvanas-mode” when disciplining them?

Patty: That’s funny no I don’t have any kids, well that have 2 legs and no fur. If I did, I wouldn’t want to scare them. Hahahahahahaha.

Patty’s furbabies

Q-17: How much of a role does improv play in voice acting? Were any of Sylvanas’s lines improvised by you?

Patty: Improv does play a role in almost everything in VO and Acting as your life's experience, imagination, interplay with actors and even directors, and creative visualization inform a performance — but for Sylvanas, it’s written. Little lead in’s maybe, but it’s all the writers with her.

“Perseverance, positive thinking, and taking care of your instrument (your voice, AND your body), are critical. IMHO having a workout routine is at the top of the list as without your healthy instrument, you can’t work at all. Having said all of that, go for it!”

Q-18: What advice do you have for aspiring voice actors in the video game industry and beyond?

Patty: I’d say first take some classes and explore your strengths and where you best fit in the picture on the whole. There are many different kinds of work: narration, audio book, documentary, looping, commercials, animation, trailers and more. Also be sure that the isolatory nature of this work, and quiet environment living is right for your personality overall. It requires a good deal of self direction, script reading, reading in general and performing auditions alone and you will spend a great amount of time investing in getting work and you have to just keep saying Neeexxxt and staying positive. There will be times you book a bunch, woo hoo…. and times it’s … crickets, and you are waving “Hey Pick Me”! You will need to be involved in acting classes too at some point. It will make a huge difference to have that in your toolkit.

Also the more things you can do, Sing, Dub, Rap, Accents, impersonations, different ages, comedy etc, the better your chances at booking continual work. Keep in mind, this can be a financially insecure field so you need to be able to manage those ebbs and flows and not get down. Perseverance, positive thinking, and taking care of your instrument (your voice, AND your body), are critical. IMHO having a workout routine is at the top of the list as without your healthy instrument, you can’t work at all. Having said all of that, go for it! See if it’s a fit and if so, YOU CAN FLY - I AM - I WILL - I CAN - I DO! As said by Christine from Peloton in last Sunday’s killer 45 minute power zones class.

Voice Actors group photo, BlizzCon 2019

Q-19: If we sent you a Raider.IO T-shirt, would you wear it? ;)

Patty: Sure, but I’m kind of picky about T-Shirts. It would get the most wear if it’s a nice soft cotton ladies size small or medium with a ¾ sleeve or cap sleeve and U or V neck. Teal color too would be awesome. :O) yeaaaa that’s specific I know. Hahahahaha.

Q-20: Do you have any closing thoughts to share?

Patty: Thank you all at Raider.IO for thinking of me for this. Also thank you ALL, Loyalists, players and gamers, hardcore and casual, lore lovers and the like, for all the love you’ve given me and Sylvanas. I am so grateful to be a part of this incredible world. Even those that have a passionate dislike for Sylvanas, are people with passion for the game, a world that without one another, wouldn’t exist for us to enjoy! Big hug guys! Stay positive out there. Things have been difficult, but sometimes it takes tough lessons to become the best we can be. Our journey is still unfolding and tomorrow…just may hold magic! :O) !!


About the Authors

VitaminP (VP) is the Lead Editor & Assistant Producer of Raider.IO, and is pursuing a Masters of Business Administration. Although VP is currently focused on IRL, she specializes in tanking classes and loves competitive Mythic+. She is a Discord Partner and partnered Twitch streamer, but mostly you can find her editing, doing homework, cooking, playing with her dogs, and catching Pokémon.

Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. She has recently shelved Retail to go back and re-experience TBC in all its glory, but will one day make her way back to the Shadowlands. In her hey-day, Hulahoops could be found raid-leading in Mythic Progression, or competing in the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for 7 years. Judgment isn't just a spell! Hulahoops decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for gaming and esports by joining the team at Raider.IO. In her capacity as Production Manager, Hulahoops oversees events, content, and more!