Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: Gamelon’s Wand are among the most popular, infamous, and memorable video games of the 1990s. Originally released to positive reviews, it has since become a cult classic among gamers for its iconic soundtrack, voice acting, animated sequences, and gameplay. . It was released on October 10, 1993 on the CD-I Phillips under a licensing agreement where Phillips would design the CD-ROM add-on to the Super NES. I had the privilege of speaking with Bonnie Jean Wilbur, who has the distinction of being the first actress to play Zelda. She lives in Newfields, New Hampshire, where she is active in regional theater.
Q: How did you get involved in the production of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: Gamelon’s Wand?
A: My husband and I were in an acting troupe in Newburyport. Jeffrey [Rath] was in our group, and he told us that non-union actors were needed for a video game that was being produced in Cambridge. We auditioned and got hired. I think almost everyone in the cast was from Newburyport. We have a dedicated and talented theater community here.
Q: What was your role on the show?
A: I played Zelda. My husband [Paul Wann] was cast as Gwonam and also played other characters. I had no knowledge of the franchise, so they kind of gave us some insight into the history of it.
Q: What experience did you have in acting before that?
A: I’ve been an actor since I was a kid. It’s an important part of my life. I performed in several stage productions, did a few voiceovers for commercials, and briefly taught drama at the K-12 level.
Q: What would be a typical check-in day?
A: The first session was done in a studio in Boston, Massachusetts. We did the second session in a basement of one of the developers. We were given sketches of what the characters looked like and the producers described what they wanted the characters to look like. It was basically improvisation. Everyone was dedicated though.
Q: Who was your favorite co-star?
A: My husband and I were close to Jeffrey Rath. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but he was so passionate, disciplined and talented during these recordings. I interacted with him the most because so much of our dialogue was directed at each other.
Q: Were you satisfied with the result of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: Gamelon’s Wand? Do you follow the franchise?
A: I have never seen the finished product. I am not a gamer and have never owned a Nintendo console. I sometimes get emails asking for autographs, which gives me an idea of whether people like video games. I never followed the franchise, but my niece did. She actually has a Nintendo Switch. I watched her play a recent Zelda game, and it was just stunning. The advancements in technology are simply amazing. I was impressed with the detail and color of the graphics, and it sparked my interest.
Q: If Nintendo asked you to reprise your role as Zelda, would you?
A: I would. I love doing theatre, but dubbing is more lucrative. We were contacted by someone who does a tribute to the CD-I series, and he asked if we wanted to reprise our roles. It is not affiliated with Nintendo. We accepted it, so it should be interesting.
Q: What are you doing these days?
A: We run a company called Theater in the Open in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I do a lot of acting and directing. In fact, I direct The game of love and chance, which will open on July 31. Other stage productions we have directed include A Christmas Carol and As you like it. There’s a real sense of community in the theater that you don’t see in the movies, and it’s also a lot harder.