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FF7 Rebirth's Barret, John Eric Bentley, Speaks About Black History Month's Importance

Voice actor John Eric Bentley chats about Black History Month, Barret Wallace, and what he hopes for video games' future.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is out now, and with Black History Month wrapping up today, Barret Wallace voice actor John Eric Bentley has spoken about his FF7 character, Black History Month, and the hopes he has for the video game industry.

In an interview published by Square Enix, Bentley emphasized the real-life Black heroes he is inspired by, such as his parents and other family members who were educators with their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, and Malcolm X were among the names he cited as being personally important to him.

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Now Playing: The History Of Final Fantasy 7

Bentley detailed how astonishing and comforting it was to see a Black character in an RPG with Barret Wallace from the original entry of Final Fantasy 7, with Wallace not being a Black character that (abruptly) dies. “I wanted to make sure that when I portrayed Barret, he wasn't a caricature. I just didn’t want that to happen for the sake of my culture, my community, me as a Black man, my family… anything. So, I was very diligent in making sure that people could see the different levels and layers that Barret as a man had.” Bentley said. "So, I just wanted to make sure that there were layers that were being presented that allowed the audience to see that he just wasn't an angry Black man who, like the polygon figures, shook when he got mad, you know?"

Bentley highlighted that he took careful consideration in portraying the layers of nuance alongside Barret's relationship with other characters such as Marlene and his team, and even more depth with Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith.

When asked how Bentley celebrates Black History Month, he said by reading older books, watching films portraying Black Civil Rights members, and using the internet to find information that previously was not as easily accessible. He hopes to see more African Americans involved and represented with independent games alongside the anime community and industry at large.

In regards to advice to other Black professionals or students who want to get into the games industry, Bentley said to study, take classes, involve yourself with other professionals, learn your own strengths/weaknesses, and examine the genres you would like to pursue. "Go for it with wisdom and preparedness, because if you put in the work, you can do it!" he said.

Be sure to check out our Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth review.

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