Anna Rust is no stranger to the recording booth, having lent her voice to characters in Cyberpunk 2077, Battlefield V, Nioh, and Star Wars: Battlefront II. Recently, she voiced Gaia in Final Fantasy XIV, part of the Eden endgame raid that sees Gaia get quite close with another character, Ryne. The two become something special \u2014 what's alluded to be Square Enix\u2019s first official LGBTQIA+ romantic pairing ever. The key art for FFXIV\u2019s 5.4 patch even features an illustration of the two holding hands. Aside from video games, Rust, an English-born actor who identifies as LGBTQIA+ herself, often works in TV and film. In the past year, she played the role of Fleury in Carnival Row on Amazon Prime Video, and she wrote, directed, and acted in Satiety, a short film drama. We caught up with Rust to discuss her experiences portraying Gaia in Final Fantasy XIV, the Final Fantasy fandom in general, and to get her perspective as an LGBTQIA+ working actor in the TV, film, and video game industries. What was the process like, lending your voice to Gaia in Final Fantasy XIV\u2019s Eden storyline? How was it similar or different to your work in TV and film? Well, it\u2019s similar to other video game voice roles that I\u2019ve done in the way we produce it. But it is vastly different to film and TV. Obviously, the main difference being you\u2019re in a booth, and you\u2019re probably going to be on your own for the majority of it. But you really get the time to work on each line of dialogue, much more than you would, for example, on film or a TV show. With something like Final Fantasy, you really get the time to go over the lines in many different ways of your own choosing. The nice thing about that is there\u2019s not really as much fear of failing as an actor with video games, because as long as you trust the people you\u2019re working with, you\u2019re going to be able to try anything, and they\u2019ll steer you in the right direction. Anna Rust photo by Jennie Scott; Gaia image via Square Enix; remix by Gamepur Initially, there was a lot of mystery surrounding Gaia\u2019s character. But by the second part of the Eden story, she and Ryne grow close quite quickly. Toward the end, Gaia knows exactly what she wants. What was it like, fleshing her out as a person who endures so much hardship, then manages to come out stronger for it? It\u2019s interesting with her because she has so many different facets. You could call her a three-dimensional character, because she has, literally, three dimensions . But she\u2019s a really interesting one because of the different forms she takes on. I really enjoy that part. I remember the first audition I ever did with , they gave me like a bunch of slides, and I had no idea it was for Final Fantasy. But they gave me the freedom to do anything that felt right with the more high-intensity ones, because she really is a completely different Gaia for that. And I remember saying, \u201cAre you sure you want me to go to 100 for this?\u201d And they said, \u201cYeah, we\u2019ve got it. Go for it.\u201d I went for it and it ended up working. It was really, really cool. Usually, you have to be careful with the way you make your choices as a character. I think with Gaia, she\u2019s so free, you can basically do whatever you want. Did you know how Gaia's story would turn out by the end of Eden's Promise, or that she and Ryne would end up as a pairing? Not at all. I think the first session that I did \u2014 it was a while ago, but it didn\u2019t really have anything in that context. And then that slowly developed. It was really cool because the actor who plays Ryne, I think she\u2019s brilliant. Emma Ballantine. So, it\u2019s been amazing. I love this role . For many fans of Final Fantasy XIV, Gaia and Ryne's relationship was a wonderful surprise. How did you bring that connection to life through Gaia's character? It\u2019s all written there, you know what I mean? I know that it\u2019s only a gentle association. We\u2019re not really, properly \u2014 but it\u2019s there. I love being able to explore that, playing around with that dynamic. And I love the characters. I may not get to voice the character in-dialogue with the actress who plays Ryne, but I do get a sense of what\u2019s going on, and it\u2019s really lovely. How has the fan reaction been to your work with Gaia? There's a ton of fan art of her and Ryne, for example. This is the bananas thing. One day I decided to Google and look through the fan art, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. I had no idea there was that kind of reaction, or that anyone cared enough to put hours of work into this. Cosplay as well. It\u2019s incredible. It\u2019s really heartwarming, to be honest. Because I really \u2014 as a fan, as a non-actor \u2014 I really love the character. So it\u2019s really nice to see that other people have reacted well to it. https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CILu7hxHf6J\/ Did you play games in the Final Fantasy series before landing the role as Gaia? I played Final Fantasy, yes, and I played Final Fantasy XIV after I got the role. I hadn\u2019t actually gotten much into MMOs, but this game \u2014 and a little bit of interest in what the character and everything would end up looking like \u2014 has pushed me in that direction. I mean, it\u2019s a huge time sink, in a very good way, but I spend way too much time on it . It\u2019s been fantastic. I play it on \u2014 well, now, on my PS5. Square Enix has not had such obvious LGBTQIA+ pairings in its games before. There's a way to read into Fang and Vanille's friendship in Final Fantasy XIII, but that's about it. Speaking as a fan, would you like to see Square Enix introduce more stories like Gaia and Ryne? I would love to, and I think they already have so many great opportunities they could build off of. I don\u2019t think they even necessarily need to put a huge amount of effort into finding new characters or anything. And there is a huge fan base of people who would be really excited to see that. I would be very excited to see that. But I obviously can\u2019t speak on behalf. And I can\u2019t really say that as an actor, either. But as a fan, absolutely. Screencap by Gamepur You're outspoken about the role artists have in pushing public perception forward on a number of issues, from racism to homophobia to the lack of women in leading roles. Could you share your insight and how it's shaped you as an actor? It makes decisions about what I work on very different. I\u2019m way more cautious of the content and the impact on society. I don\u2019t want to associate myself with something that I wouldn\u2019t agree with. And I think it\u2019s very key to bring up the fact that there are ways to portray negative things in society. For example, racism, homophobia \u2014 there are ways to portray it. You have to be very careful to portray it as though it is not a good thing. There\u2019s a lot of misogyny in scripts that I am immediately like, \u201cNo.\u201d I think we\u2019re all kind of slowly going in that direction, just being very cautious with what we do. I really want to see more diverse people behind-the-scenes. Because it doesn\u2019t become a big push if it\u2019s your experience. If you\u2019re writing from your own life experience \u2014 whether that is as someone who isn\u2019t white, or isn\u2019t straight, or isn\u2019t able-bodied \u2014 it\u2019s much easier to write stories to reflect that. I\u2019m not saying you\u2019re only capable of writing or acting those experiences if you are that person. My point is that it becomes a really wonderful, authentic story if it comes from someone who is of that demographic. So I really want to see more women writers in general. More writers that aren\u2019t white. More LGBTQIA+ writers. Directors. Things like that. And that extends to LGBTQIA+ acting roles as well. If you have so many people \u2014 especially the trans community \u2014 who, as actors, their opportunities are so limited as-is, and you\u2019re gonna then give that to someone who\u2019s cishet? No. Photo by Laurens Grisel In terms of representation, how do you think game developers and writers can continue pushing the medium forward as an art form? I think just being mindful of at least proportional representation. Because if you think about it, at the end of the day \u2014 London\u2019s only 60% white, for example. New York is 45% white. If you give me every single show, film, or game that is set in New York, am I really going to see more than half of the characters not be white? I don\u2019t think so. At the very least, if we\u2019re just hitting that mark, that\u2019s great. But I think we have a long way to go in that respect. And I think I need to say it is getting better. We are seeing increased representation. But it\u2019s just still so far-off, and I really want to see that more, especially in terms of ethnicity. What you are working on for the future? Do you think we'll hear from you in another Square Enix or video game project anytime soon? There are a couple of projects I\u2019m working on \u2014 video game, film, and TV. But at the moment, the one thing I can talk about is that I recently wrote, directed, and acted in my short film Satiety. It\u2019s had a wonderful reception, which I\u2019m really proud of because I got to do it during lockdown, which was kind of a savior in terms of everything going on. It\u2019s nice to have something to focus on that\u2019s artistic. That\u2019s probably all I can say, really. Sorry . I\u2019m sure you know video games are very secretive. It\u2019s astonishing. They\u2019re so much more secretive than film and TV.