Getting the insight I did on Akuma from an actor’s standpoint was refreshing. However, Akuma wasn’t the first character I wanted to know more about. While my readers know I’m a huge fan of G, there was a character who came first who I find to be an incredible character, and without a doubt my favorite in the entire game. Juri Han has become the de facto female face of Street Fighter for a new generation of gamers. From her first appearance in Super Street Fighter IV in 2010, Juri has demanded your attention, and you gave her exactly what she wanted.
In fact, Juri has acquired fans from all over the world, but while fans will say how much Juri means to them, there’s one fan in particular who knows more about Juri than anyone else: the actress who plays her. For the second part of my project, I reached out to Jessica Straus, Juri’s voice actress for both Street Fighter IV and V, and asked her a few questions about her character. As it turns out, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Queen of Mean.
(Aside from some minor editing for style and word choices, the interview is listed exactly as written.)
1. In your pinned Tweet, you state that Juri is “one of the most multidimensional female villains I’ve ever voiced.” I was wondering if you could clarify what this statement means to you in terms of both who the character is as an individual and the experience for you as an actress.
A: I find it’s always very interesting to play a female villain, who is not only a bit evil, but also attractive, humorous, likable, and fun to watch. Juri Han is a “bad-girl”, and yet, she is always smiling and chuckling to herself. In a way, I think she inspires courage and “speaking your mind”, as she doesn’t seem to have any fear whatsoever. And, like Batman’s Joker, she’s a bit of a wildcard and you never really know what she’s going to do next… but, you do know it’s going to be entertaining.
So, when I take on the role of Juri, it is definitely a multi-dimensional experience of female power, wit, supreme confidence and comedy. Juri truly has a quirky, bent way of looking at the world, which I enjoy exploring as an actress.
2. From me as a player and a lore theorist, I see Juri as someone who is both open and closed, someone who you can sort of both tell what she’s thinking and not tell what she’s thinking. She has a way of telling you what she wants without telling you what she wants. So my question is, in regards to her interactions with other characters and from your perspective as an actress, do you feel her mysteriousness plays a role in how others interact with her? Do you feel personally that she’s more overt or more of a mystery, and what is your mindset when you’re using your voice to portray her?
A: When I voice Juri, it’s always from a playful, alluring perspective as she loves the game of “cat and mouse” and lures other characters in with her laid-back charm. Yet, Juri is definitely nobody’s fool and is very powerful. It’s true, she smiles and acts sort of friendly while keeping other characters at a distance, and it’s not always completely clear what she will do next. I suppose that is mysterious. Additionally, she is mysterious because she is a survivor of a tragedy, and there is a possibility she was nicer when she was younger. Who knows? Certainly, she was transformed by her earlier tragedy in many ways. But I have yet to discover who she was when she was younger. Capcom simply hasn’t written that part of Juri’s emotional journey, at least, not to my knowledge.
For me when I play her, I think Juri is more overt than mysterious. I do have to say, being fearless in a fight is actually an empowering experience. I personally don’t like to fight, but I do find it freeing to voice her. The main trait we have in common is a Zen-like approach to life and other people. I find myself very relaxed when I play Juri, and I’m often laughing at the lines I get to say! She is so well written!
3. Street Fighter is a game that means a lot to fans who come from all walks of life, and in recent years, there have been more questions about inclusion and creating characters who are parts of certain subsets. Street Fighter has a few characters on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, like Eagle and Poison, and although it hasn’t been officially stated by Capcom, in the eyes of many in the fandom, Juri is on that spectrum. When you first started voicing Juri, was this something you took into consideration? Has anything changed in the way you portrayed her from when she was first released to how you play her now?
A: From the beginning, I had no clue as to her sexual preference. I actually assumed she liked men because of the way she was originally written. I think Juri’s basically very comfortable with her own sexuality and often uses it to distract her opponents, male or female. I did not play her any differently, if there is a hint of bisexual or LGBTQ in her more recent stories. It actually goes along with her wild personality and outlook on life that “anything goes”.
Side note: I personally am “straight” as they come, but have no issue with her possibly being gay or bisexual. Makes her more interesting to act, I suppose.
4. On that same note, Juri is also known for her “playful” sexuality. TV Tropes has a name for this: “Interplay of Sex and Violence”. Their entry on Juri states, “Juri… only seems to find enjoyment in fighting, complete with licking her lips when she’s about to do something particularly nasty to the other character.” Researching Juri, it seems she gets as much pleasure from playing mind games as she does actually fighting people. So in your opinion, do you think that Juri is more or less acting against her nature, as in the character you see is only pretending to enjoy the pain of others because she just likes freaking people out? In other words, would you consider her an exhibitionist?
A: When I voice Juri, I get into the mindset of enjoying fighting, winning, and sparring. I play her with a sense of abandon, like the world is one big party and she’s laughing her way through it and enjoying it all. I don’t think she’s pretending to enjoy the pain of others. I don’t think she really cares about the pain others feel. She simply enjoys fighting and winning, and taunting others as they lose.
5. I find Juri to be very influential to the character designers, because I noticed the mysterious side of her personality was borrowed to an extent by the character G (who was played by Chris Smith). However, Juri also seems to be as much of an influence on other characters as G is. I feel G will end up playing a major role in the future of the series, but I feel that because of the popularity of her character, Juri will too. So how do you see Juri’s influence on the characters she’s interacted with playing a role in future storylines in regards to feelings of trust or affection? Do you believe that, despite the persona she maintains, she’s a trustworthy character?
A: I think Juri has the capability of being trustworthy and maybe even ethical in the future. As an actress, it would be fun to explore another level of Juri, where she evolves into a “nicer” character.
There is a part of her that plays along with other characters, if it suits her needs. So, that’s kinda nice! Ha-ha! It would be interesting to see her become more of a “good girl”, but I don’t think she’ll ever lose her sexy, sarcastic and fearless personality. However, I have no idea how the Capcom writers will have her evolve. I’m sure no matter how she is written in future games, Juri will always be interesting to watch, play and enjoy for Street Fighter fans/gamers.
Thanks so much for the interview, Steven! If Juri and Street Fighter fans want to connect with me, they can visit my website where they will find links to all my social media at the bottom of each page. I’m on Twitter and Instagram the most these days. I always love to say “hello” to the fans when I can, in-between VO Auditions, jobs and teaching voice over online.
(Editor’s Note: Jessica’s website is http://www.jessicastraus.com)
I hope everyone stays healthy, safe and enjoys life as much as possible during these strange and challenging times.