Danielle Bisutti walked into her first table read for God of War in 2014 knowing only that she had a part in a video game. She soon learned she’d be working on the series as Freya, and the game would heavily involve Norse mythology, which she was unfamiliar with. She also had no idea just how much she would learn about herself in the process making both God of War (2018) and Ragnarok or the many life lessons the games would offer players.
This interview contains spoilers for God of War (2018) and light spoilers for God of War Ragnarok.
Check out the full video interview with Danielle Bisutti above. We talk about her performance as Freya, God of War Ragnarok’s incredible writing, the technical side of performing for a video game, Norse mythology, what it’s like to work with Christopher Judge (Kratos), and more. You can listen to an audio only version here.
Ragnarok begins with Freya attempting to fulfill her promise of vengeance against Kratos for killing her son Baldur. This is of course a stark contrast to what we had all been used to in the first game, where Freya had been a kind, helpful ally with an easy-to-overlook past.
"It felt really responsible of the writers that they allowed Freya to basically wreak havoc from all the grief that she felt and the anger,” Bisutti said. "At that point in the story, she's really not ready to take responsibility for her actions, which I think is probably the most powerful message in the game.”
For Bisutti, not only being able to express your emotions but to face them is a great message and life lesson in Ragnarok. Freya’s journey begins in an angry, vengeful place, and she will spend the course of the game coming to grips with why she feels the way she does. That includes Freya examining her own contributions to those emotions.
Letting Freya examine her life and what has led her to this point in Ragnarok was very important to Bisutti. Not only does it allow for some great material for Bisutti to work with, but just as important, it adds a lot of depth to Freya’s character, making room for all sorts of multi-faceted examinations.
“I was like in tears to Matt [Sophos], Eric [Williams], and to Rich [Gaubert], and I was like you guys are writing almost like a pathway for responsible living,” Bisutti said.
Throughout the interview, Bisutti mentioned several times just how thankful she is for being part of the franchise, for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant is that attention to detail the characters, like Freya, receive in the game.
On the one hand, great character writing that’s full of emotion lets her selfishly indulge in the craft she loves. That sort of opportunity is something she’ll always be thankful for.
On the other, more important, hand, it simply means great characters. Bisutti described herself as “defensive” of Freya, and not in a sense of ownership over the character, but that she is invested in Freya’s journey and arc as an advocate. That advocacy makes it easier for her to give it her all and understand exactly what the writers are looking for in her performance.
When done well, that symbiotic relationship between writers and performers can create amazing scenes and moments that leave lasting impressions long after they’re done.
Over time, what those lasting impressions were has changed for the God of War franchise. When Bisutti familiarized herself with the games that came out prior to God of War (2018), she couldn’t help but note how amazing it was that conversations about emotional journeys are at the forefront of any discussion about the series now.
That stark change in tone and presentation has been discussed at length since the series took a big turn in 2018, but talking about who Kratos was in his past and what happened to him is hard to ignore in Ragnarok. We asked Bisutti if she had noticed the similarities in the journey Freya was starting down at the beginning of Ragnarok and that of Kratos.
“I felt like there was absolute symmetry and it made sense that there was this like love-hate between them, and it was really beautiful when they kind of became a united front in their journey. Both parents suffered great loss and that they would be able to tread this road together I thought was pretty powerful.”
Both Freya and Kratos, when met with unspeakable tragedy, began with a similar reaction: vengeance at all costs and nothing else mattered. Freya eventually has a realization that she should go down a different path, thanks in large part to her strength of character. When Freya was faced with the reality of who she was becoming, she had the courage to look inward and explore her vulnerabilities to try to make a better change. She also had the helpful example in Kratos of what can happen to someone that allows vengeance to consume them.
It’s another one of those life lessons about how people handle grief, and more broadly a lesson in how any emotion can negatively affect your life when unchecked. Where Kratos shows the negative side with indulgence of vengeance fueled by rage leading to many regrets in his life, Freya's character is an opportunity to see what happens when you take a moment to look inward.
At the end of our interview, we asked Bisutti what she hoped players would learn from Freya’s journey in God of War Ragnarok. “I hope they give them themselves permission to feel their feelings,” Bisutti said.
In the end, that is the key part of how Freya is able to overcome and learn to live with the grief she has let herself be consumed by. Freya does not deny the emotions she feels but takes the next step by examining herself. It’s a step towards healing through self-understanding and allows her to ask questions about her own motivations and whether what she wants in the moment, like killing Kratos, is really a path she wants to go down.
"What finally gives her the peace is taking responsibility. Forgiveness, dare I say, forgiveness, and choosing a new path.”
Coming to terms with how you yourself participated in the events of your life, whether that is by your own choices or reacting to something done to you, is one of the key lessons Bisutti sees in Freya’s journey.
Does that mean Freya blames herself? Not really, but it is a recognition that at least some of her actions negatively impacted the most defining moments and events of her life. The rage she feels towards those that wronged her has also been directed at herself. The only way to stop that emotional self-harm is to forgive herself.
That doesn’t mean doing what Freya did and making similar choices will give you yourself a similar outcome in your life. Though, it is a starting point. Engage with your emotions, examine what has led to why you feel a certain way, and question whether the motivations fueled by those emotions are valid or not. And maybe, like in Freya’s case, some personal responsibility is important too. After all, we're all ultimately responsible for where our life's journey takes us.