[Interview @ AWA 2010 Day 2 (Saturday)]
Erica: Tell us a little about your voice acting experience and what you’ve done.
Laura: What I do?
Laura: Well as you just said I’m a voice actor. I started…wow, about ten years ago. I started doing voices on Dragonball Z playing Kid Trunks. [I then] went on to do a bunch of other shows including Fruits Basket. I played Tohru Honda. In Fullmetal Alchemist I played Lust. On TV now is Kekkaishi. I play Tokine in that. Shin Chan. I play Shin. Yo! [in Shin’s voice]
Laura: A bunch of video games as well if you guys are gamers. I do a lot of that.
Erica: I saw a lot of videogames [in your bio]. I was like ‘wow!’
Laura: Anime is popular, but there’s a lot less being recorded right now just because the way the industry is changing and everything so a lot of us anime voice actors are transitioning into original animation and videogames as well. Spreading out.
Erica: Have you ever thought about live action? I know you were on Walker Texas Ranger once.
Laura: [Laughs] I did do an episode of Walker.
Erica: Was that something I shouldn’t have said?
Laura: [Laughs] Oh no no no. That was right at the beginning of my career. It was the very first on-camera job I ever did, and I was so excited when I got cast! But yeah I did Mr. Brooks with Demi Moore and I did a film that went to Sundance called Four Sheets to the Wind. So I have done on-camera work as well but really these past few years I’ve focused on voice acting. I love it. I love voice acting.
Erica: What do you think the moment would be that you decided this was something you wanted to do? Was it something in particular that you saw or heard?
Laura: Do you mean voice acting specifically?
Erica: Well voice acting or acting…actually both.
Laura: I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a voice actor specifically. I was studying theatre in high school and I was very very shy and I kept auditioning for plays but I wasn’t getting cast because I couldn’t project. I was just so nervous when I would audition and…finally I started to get my courage up and I started to do more plays. I remember my, either Senior year of High School or Junior year…this is so lame and I’m sorry to admit it…I never watched the show Dawson’s Creek. I didn’t watch the show but I for some reason had a…Making of: Dawson’s Creek was playing on TV and it was on in the background and I looked up as Katie Holmes was being interviewed and she seemed so normal and she was so young and all of a sudden it made it real like it was an actual career you could choose. Instantly I started crying: ‘I want to be an actor. I don’t know how to do it. I want to be an actor’, and I called my mom at work ‘I need to get an agent I think? I don’t know what to do but I want to do this for my career.’ She was like ‘well talk to your theatre director’, so I did that and my theatre director really encouraged me to not get an agent until after I’d graduated from high school. Just because it can be very time consuming. And so I did that. I graduated from high school and I started going to college and soon after my very first year of college I got an agent and started doing on-camera work and at the same time I got an audition for FUNimation so I was doing anime at the same time I was doing on-camera work and it all just sort of meshed together. I completely out of the blue got the audition from FUNimation, and it just blossomed into this voice over career that now is my main focus. I’ve realized how much fun it is to do many different sorts of characters than to just be stuck with what you look like.
Zippy: I don’t know how many of your friends are in the industry or out of the industry, but what do you tell the friends out of the industry what you do? How do you explain it?
Laura: [I] tell them I make cartoons for a living. You have to pick the things you’re going to tell friends that have no idea what anime is because some people are like ‘What is that? That animation looks funny’ [in valley girl accent]. So Dragonball Z was a lot of fun to tell people because a lot of people watched Dragonball Z back in the day. A really fun one was Street Fighter IV that just came out because everyone grew up with Street Fighter and it was really cool that I got to be Chun-Li. That’s one that, friends [who] don’t have any clue what’s going on, you can go ‘I play chun-Li. They’re like ‘WHAT?!? That’s awesome!’
Zippy: A number of your shows have been on TV, so do you feel like you’ve gotten a little more high profile because of that? I always wondered if you do a ton of shows you get big that way, or more well known, or just doing a couple that happen to be on TV.
Laura: I think it can go both ways. Obviously the shows that are on television are going to get more viewers and more popularity just because it has more exposure. So yeah you do get a fan base from that. And I think having shows on TV like that are great for bringing more people into the anime world. They see something like Fullmetal Alchemist and they don’t know what it is but they like it so they’ll start watching it. Or Shin-chan got a lot of people that maybe didn’t know what anime was but they just watched this weird show like ‘what is going on?’ and then they’ll keep watching and then other anime comes on after it. But then you get fans all sorts of different ways. Coming to these conventions is a wonderful way to meet people, and maybe people who don’t know your body of work will come to your panel and they’ll be interested in watching that.
Laura: Do you have any questions Nick? [Laughing]
Nick: Oh of course I do. First speaking of Shin Chan, it’s a lot of fun. What was it like getting that role and learning exactly what it was you were going to be doing and saying?
Laura: Oh my gosh. That show… Oh gosh. When the auditions for it came up I didn’t know what the show was. They just said ‘ok so this show has been around in Japan for a very long time. Very very popular. It’s kind of like the Simpsons in Japan so they really really want a voice match for Shin because they wanted it to sound like the original Shin’ which totally makes sense. As an American if I went over to Japan and watched the Simpsons and Bart sounded completely wrong that’d be weird. Bart has to sound like Bart. So I had no idea what she was saying, all we had was this sound clip of Shin and it sounds very weird and ‘It’s like you know it’s like he’s got a potato in the back of his throat’ [in Shin’s voice] and I was hearing it and I’m like ‘I can’t tell if that’s a boy or a girl. How old is this person? I don’t know what’s going on!’, and I thought I did a horrible job voice matching it because it was so awkward. But it turns out that it sounded pretty similar so I got cast. After I got cast Zach our director showed me a lot of it and I actually became the line producer for the first season of Shin, so yeah it was kind of all enveloping. That show is crazy, and it’s a lot of fun.
Nick: Since I’m the resident gamer I guess I’ll ask about games.
Laura: Oh yay! Gamers unite!
Nick: One of my favorite of yours is Rise from Persona 4.
Laura: Oh thank you.
Nick: So what was it like…because Persona 3 hit really big over here and then you got the role for Persona 4. Had you played any of the Persona games? Did you know much about it?
Laura: I didn’t. I knew it was popular because I’d heard of it, and that always…I would say something is big when you see people dressed up at a con [as the characters]; I would assume it is a relatively popular property. So when I got cast on Persona they were like ‘You might want to look up Persona 3 because it’s huge! You have no idea!’ I’m like ‘ok’, so I looked it up and it was totally awesome and they gave me this wonderful fan with my character on it. Yeah it’s pretty cool. They’re very very sweet the makers.
Nick: So what’s different on the production side of anime and video gaming, because I know anime you’ve got to match mouth flaps. Games not necessarily. Is it a little easier doing video games?
Laura: Right….It’s different. There [are] definitely traps you can fall into with each. Video games…especially that kind that it’s a localization of a Japanese game, not matching flaps, a lot of times you might not have pictures so you might see one picture of your character and that’s all you have, and then you’re relying on your director to go ‘Ok in this scene she’s in a bikini and she’s going kind of crazy’ so you just have to rely on them. Depending on what studio you’re working in sometimes your script won’t have anybody else’s lines around you, so all it has is just a list of all of your lines. So you’ll just go down the page and say your lines and hope that it sounds right. And your director obviously will tell you ‘Ok so this person just said this so this is what you’re responding to’ but it’s a lot harder because you don’t have the reference.
Erica: I have kind of a random question because you mentioned they gave you a fan. Do you get any other kinds of souvenirs from the voice acting and other video game stuff that you’ve ever done?
Laura: Ummm… I mean there is some cool stuff. I always like to have little action figures of my characters, so that’s really cool. I know there’s a Serah doll coming out for FFXIII and I really want that. Troy Baker who played Snow got the necklace that Snow wears in the game and he wears it all the time, and I got a wonderful ring because I did Dissidia Cloud of Darkness, and so I got a ring. It’s just beautiful and all it has is the Roman numerals one through thirteen on it. It’s just a really cool little piece of swag. What else? Oh! I do this web series called Monster High, which is a line of dolls for Mattel. It’s totally adorable! You should look it up – MonsterHigh.com. And I play Lagoona Blue and she’s this little Australian chick and she’s got blonde hair, but that was really cool when the doll came out because she’s like…You know she’s like a Barbie doll, and that’s really cool to have a Lagoona doll.
Erica: Actually I came across that online the other day randomly. I had no idea that you were involved with that though. That’s so cool! The character designs are adorable.
Laura: Aren’t they? They’re so cute.
Zippy: Yeah if [Nick’s] our resident gamer, [Erica’s] our resident doll fanatic.
Erica: Oh yeah I love dolls and action figures like you were talking about. I have a few. I have L and most of the characters form Death Note.
Laura: Do you really?
Erica: I just recently got into anime, so I’m still really new to that compared to these guys.
Laura: Figures can be expensive. I usually hope somebody gives it to me. [Laughs] I don’t have to pay for it then.
Erica: I would assume that makes sense, you do work on so many different things like that like ‘Oh here’s a souvenir for doing the show’.
Laura: A lot of time it’s nice when they give you the game that you worked on. That way you don’t have to buy it. Because you always feel cheesy buying a game just because you’re in it anyway. It’s like…I probably won’t even make it to my character.
Laura: With Rayne back when I did BloodRayne I didn’t even make it to past the first boss, so I didn’t even hear everything I did in the game. Finally just recently it’s come up on YouTube, the cinematic sequences, so I can watch it.
Erica: I was actually going to ask if you ever went back and watched the shows that you’ve done or played the games that you’ve done just to see it all come together.
Laura: I watched a bunch of episodes of Soul Eater after it came out because that show’s so freaking awesome. It’s always a blessing if you actually have a chance to watch the show because you don’t know, you don’t know what everybody else sounds like and a lot of times in a show like Code Geass or something your characters are so sporadic and there’s so much story happening that when I was recording that show I had no idea what was going on in the show. All I knew was that I was this blonde chick that was a scientist. Then slowly it comes together and I start seeing it on TV and I’m like ‘oh that’s who I was talking about’.
Zippy: I know that show’s pretty confusing as is so don’t feel so bad.
Laura: Right. [Laughs] I had to admit at one panel…I shouldn’t even say it in the interview; I’m going to get even bigger curses, but I didn’t know what a Code Geass was. I had no idea it was even a something because my characters never talked about it and somebody asked ‘if you could have a Code Geass what would it be’ and I was like ‘What are you talking about? I don’t know what that is. What?!?’ So I’m stupid.
Zippy: No that’s alright.
Erica: Do you get asked a lot of questions like that?
Laura: One’s I don’t know the answers for?
Erica: I mean stuff that maybe just because of the character you were playing you may not of…Yeah they may not have included that information and if you don’t watch the show you don’t get a chance to know that.
Laura: I know right? Yeah I do get asked questions like that quite a bit or asked to say a line as a certain character that maybe I recorded eight hours on three years ago, so I don’t remember even what it sounded like let alone let alone the lines. I always feel bad if I don’t know what the voice was or something.
Zippy: Do you prefer to do more eccentric characters that give you a chance to really express…
Laura: Go crazy?
Laura: Well I think both types…doing something that’s very very serious and very down to earth and realistic is just as challenging as doing one of the crazy, zany Sana-esque characters where you’re just going off the wall. Certainly the amount of energy expelled when you’re doing one of the zanier characters…it takes a lot of work. I drink a lot of Red Bull. But I don’t know. I don’t know what I would say is more fun. It’s a blessing to do.
Erica: What has been one of the more difficult experiences you’ve had with trying to voice a character? Have you ever had one you just spent days on because it’s just hard?
Laura: When we first started doing Blue Gender, which was the very first show outside of the Dragonball world that FUNimation did, we really spent a long time doing it because it was so completely different than anything FUNimation had done before, and Marleen was such a serious character that we recorded the first two episodes three different times cause we really wanted to get it right. So we do spend time trying to make things good for you guys.
Erica: We appreciate it.
Zippy: Yes we do. I’ve got one last question. Is there anything that you’re working on and can tell us about?
Laura: Oh painful! Ok ok. I just found out recently…I’m working on like ten different video games right now that I’m not allowed to talk about, and I’m so very excited about them and I can’t mention them. They’re really cool. But one that was just announced and I found out I can say is The Sims: Medieval. Do you know The Sims games? I’m one of the Sims! So I’m going to be speaking gibberish for you guys, and I can’t wait to play it because I’m totally going to make myself and then I’m going to sound like myself. It’s going to be crazy.
Erica: Have your own character in game totally personalized.
Laura: Right? Totally crazy!
Zippy: Alright well thank you very much for speaking with us and enjoy the rest of the con. Take care.
Laura: You too. Thank you so much.