INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Nicki Rapp (Lili, Psychonauts 2)

By Marty Mulrooney

Nicki Rapp AMO Interview (Psychonauts 2)

Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed Double Fine’s highly anticipated follow-up Psychonauts 2, describing it as “a poignant, universally relatable story set in a world where the human brain can be explored like a funhouse” that “feels like a timely breath of fresh air.” AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with talented voice actor – and all-round lovely person – Nicki Rapp, the voice of fan favourite Lili Zanotto!

Hi Nicki, thank you for your time and welcome back to Alternative Magazine Online!

Thank you, Marty. It’s an honour to be asked back!

Congratulations on the recent release of Psychonauts 2! As I’m sure you could tell from my review I absolutely loved it; how do you feel now that players around the world are getting to experience this much-anticipated follow-up?

Your review made me so happy. I was anxiously awaiting it because I know you’re a fan of the original – and reading your unabashed happiness was making me smile so big. It has been a wonderful response all around. There’s a lotta love for the Psychonauts! ❤

The critical response has been fantastic – what has the fan response been like?

I’ve been getting so many sweet messages from people I’ve met through the years… everyone always had a sense of anticipation that a sequel would happen, even before it was announced. They all wanted it so badly; I wanted it so badly!!

Really it has been a dream come true for me. It was a very very tough secret to keep at cons – and when the news came out I imagined all my friends who loved Psychonauts completely losing their minds! Such a fantastic fanbase.

I love the beautiful energy and fanart that I see every day… so much joy. I love hearing how they relate to the characters and how they connect so much to their own life experiences. Beautiful and meaningful, just fantastic.

When we last spoke in 2019 you mentioned that you’d already done most of your recording sessions for Lili Zanotto – were you called back to do any additional recording sessions in the run-up to release?

Yes! I had a session in January of 2021… first time back in a recording studio during these crazy Covid times. It was the best studio with the best people – and the best character, my favourite Lili. It was bittersweet – my last line was “Bye Raz…” – and when I got home I fully realized – wow – that was it… I felt really sad it was over but oh my goodness, so incredibly grateful it happened.

Psychonauts 2 was 16 years in the making, but of course, only a few days have passed in-game since the events of the original Psychonauts. How difficult was it to slip back into character as Lili?

Lili is my dearest – and the character I’ve voiced who I relate to the most. A lot of it has to do with the fact that she was one of my first/has been in my head the longest. Very Psychonautish hah!

Also because I was travelling to many conventions and met so many fans of the game, she has always been very present. I have certain lines that get me into character: “OMG let’s make out!” and “Times have changed, Psychonauts aren’t what they used to be…”

All I can say is it felt so good being in her boots again, they still fit just right. I’m so proud of all of the cast – after 16 years! It really did sound like just a few days ago!!

Were you surprised when the sequel was announced? In our first interview in 2012, you mentioned how much you hoped a sequel would happen one day!

Dreams come true! I love that!! Tim Schafer sent a message to Richard Horvitz and I that it was actually happening and I know I cried. Read it over and over… tears!! All happy, joyful and secret tears… couldn’t tell anyone!

When Psychonauts 2 was formally announced at The Video Game Awards in 2015 – the roar of the crowd, the pure excitement of the audience was the most incredible moment. I thought of so many people and what it meant to them too. A really special time for a new anticipation!

For those new to the series, how would you describe Lili Zanotto?

Lili is a powerful and emotional force of nature who uses all her psychic skills and incredible tenacity to get what she wants – a little badass. She loves plants, animals and lighting stuff on fire. She also really fell for Raz, who is a good balance for her and her temper. Her father is the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, so she knows all and don’t you dare question her!

What is Lili’s state of mind during the events of Psychonauts 2?

Lili is going through some things. In Psychonauts 2 we don’t just experience the sassy side of her – her vulnerability comes through as she navigates stuff she can’t control. I really loved discovering the tender side of her personality, just so beautifully written.

How would you describe a typical recording session and what was it like working with Double Fine again? I know you also voiced characters in Broken Age and Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin.

Recording with Double Fine is always the best and feels so familiar with people I’ve known for so many years now. Khris Brown, Double Fine’s casting director, cast me in a Flash series over 20 years ago (Piki and Poko: Adventures In Starland)  and Psychonauts came shortly after that.

I feel like I’ve grown up with them. I’ve learned so much and feel so proud to be involved in these really special, heartfelt projects. It feels like a homecoming when I’m with them – I feel nurtured and loved and above all, supported for what I bring.

I was fortunate to attend the Psychonauts 2 release party and I got to meet so many who worked on the game – names I’ve just seen in the credits or on Twitter – and speaking with them made me even more proud to be a part of their world.

They really love what they create and I think we all feel that! I’m in awe of all they created and still can’t believe my voice comes out of such an incredible character, just… wow.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your work on the sequel at all?

I think for recording sessions, yea it did – but I know Double Fine was in high gear making the game from afar. They really knocked it out!

This is the second character you’ve returned to voice after a number of years (the first being Lilly in The Walking Dead: The Final Season). Unfortunately, you never got the opportunity to revisit the character of Morgan LeFlay in a Tales of Monkey Island follow-up. She’s the character that originally put you on my radar and I’ve always wondered what happened to her next! Would you like to reprise this role again one day if another Monkey Island game is ever made? In the words of the late Sean Connery’s wife, never say never again…

Ohh you know I love Morgan! She was my first “big girl role” even though she was only in her early 20s haha! The way TOMI ended in that first season really opened the door for so much more.

Morgan LeFlay is a fantastic character and I would love more adventures with her. You’re correct – I’ve been pretty lucky that several of my characters have come back to me when I thought we were finished… So I say the same: “never say never again!”

I’ve really been surprised and I never take it for granted. This business is tough so counting my blessings is crucial.

Even though the original Psychonauts came out in 2005, you actually booked the part of Lili in early 2000 – so this has been a 21-year journey for you! How has your career as a voice actor evolved during this time?

My career so far has been full of surprises – many ups and downs, yet full of incredible moments and connections with people in the booth and beyond. Travels all over the world!

I started out voicing young, cute-sounding characters – which is all I thought I’d do forever – but I’ve also learned I can do so much more. I’m grateful for the people who heard that in me!

In drama school, they told me I’d be limited as an actor – but I never gave up, even in my strongest moments of doubt.

Do you think Double Fine will ever make Psychonauts 3?

I will always have the hope for more Psychonauts! I also know the brilliance of Double Fine and how much more they have in their excellent brains. If they need me back for Lili or anything, I will be there without question.

What’s next for you Nicki?

I’m really excited for the release of Moonglow Bay, coming out really soon! It’s beautiful and relaxing but also really emotional. Always auditioning and hopeful that something will click!

Thank you for your time! It has been a pleasure interviewing you again and I greatly enjoyed your performance as Lili in Psychonauts 2 (as I knew I would). I’ve been a massive fan for a very long time and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

Aw Marty, the feeling is mutual. I remember how special I felt when you asked me for an interview – all those years ago!!  I always look forward to spending some time with you. Thank you again!!!

Enjoyed this interview? Don’t forget to follow Nicki Rapp on social media!

Twitter: @itsuhrapp
Instagram: nickirapp
Facebook: Nicki Rapp Voiceover Artist

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Filed under Alternative Musings, Games

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