Thursday, February 7, 2008

INTERVIEW: Meet ANDREA -- The Voice Behind Sakura!

Sakura & Syaoran in Chronicles of the Wings © CLAMP • KODANSHA/NHK • NEP

What prompted you to become a voice actress? Did you get formal training?

I was very lucky and fell into voice acting when I moved to Hong Kong from Canada in 1997. Unlike most of the team I worked with in the company, I had no formal acting training to start with, but by paying attention and working hard, I‘ve now had 11 years of ‘on the job’ training in voice acting (dubbing) and also directing. I made up for my lack of formal training by doing the best I can when I’m in the studio.

You are in the core group of voice talents since Animax decided to go English. Did you feel any pressure then, given the huge clamor from diehard anime fans for Animax to return to the subtitled format?

My attitude towards both dubbing and directing is to do the best that I can. I can’t say whether ‘subs’ or ‘dub’ is better, everyone has their preference and I can enjoy both [whether it is anime or film]. Hollywood films also make use of dubbing or in technical terms, ADR [audio dialogue replacement], when a scene requires it. What I can say is that both the actors and the company I work for try to be as true to the original version as we can, not just with Animax projects but with other projects we work on. That involves the character voice and acting performance, as well as the script. We’re lucky in this aspect as we have one of the best ‘dubbing’ scriptwriters around - Ranma 1/2 and recently Yakitate! Japan. We work in a team setting, rather than as individuals, so that the actors can play off one another. One of the best recent examples of this was my team members as the female and male leads of Ginban Kaleidoscope. I felt their performances were enhanced by the fact that they dubbed their dialogue together.

A lot of anime fans are awed by your vocal techniques, especially with the way you easily switch from a child's voice to a young lady's voice. When you play multiple characters, do you record them individually or all of them in one take? Please describe to us the vocal technique by which one could change from a low to a high pitch and vice versa.

If the dialogue of my characters doesn’t overlap, then I can switch back and forth without too much trouble and without changing vocal tracks (record separately). But sometimes when your characters speak back to back it’s kind of fun to see if you’re up to the challenge of doing it in one take! I’ve been associated with the same company now for 11 years, Omni Productions, and I’m currently working with one of the most talented incarnations of ‘the team’ that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, they can all voice back to back characters without having to stop and switch tracks.

As for ‘how one changes from a high to a low voice’, I can only speak for myself when I say that it has a lot to do with squeezing or relaxing the muscles in my throat as I’m talking. I’ve never asked my team members how they change their voices, perhaps they have different methods. Because of all this ‘squeezing’ I actually prefer to do little boys voices in the morning rather then female voices – it’s easier on my throat. J

You obviously take great care of your voice. What health tips could you give for the voice?

I don’t smoke and I very rarely drink so those factors have never been a concern for me. I like to drink lots of water or herbal tea and I rarely stay up late. I’m not much of a partier so you won’t find me out in Lan Kwai Fong but on occasion I can be found on Xbox live having a late night of shooting, crashing or being killed! That may not have anything to do with taking care of my voice, but it sure is a great way to unwind.

Among the characters you have voiced, who is a) your favorite, b) the most challenging, and c) the most memorable, and why?

I think the character I liked best was the female incarnation of ‘Ranma’ in Ranma1/2. I thought that was a great series and was very sad to see the end of it. I enjoyed voicing her because she had reactions which were boy-like, which makes sense if you know the series. I also think she was one of my more challenging characters because I had to try and portray her the same way her ‘male’ half was portrayed. At the beginning of the series I often found myself thinking how would he [the male voice actor] sound if he said that line or did that reaction? The fact that we dub as a team helped me understand and play off my male counterpart in his male Ranma role.

I also found ‘Major Motoko Kusanagi’ from Ghost in the Shell challenging because I have a really hard time playing ‘straight’ characters; I like to be the ditzy or weird one. J

The most memorable character for me was a girl named ‘Remy’ that I played a few years ago. The cartoon was titled Nobody’s Girl and was about an orphan. In one scene her adopted uncle was dying of a heart attack and trying to reassure her, meanwhile she was in tears begging him not to die. At the end of that scene the male actor and I shed a few tears because we were so moved by her story. That’s my most memorable moment.

Would you recommend voice acting as a career? For you, what are the qualities of a voice actor?

Sure, I don’t see why not. Voice acting’s been good to me, but I also think I’m lucky in that I’m able to do it. I think a lot of people think that voice acting is just pure fun and that there’s no hard work involved, or that dubbing is ‘easy’. That’s not always the truth.

For me a good voice actor/actress should have a decent range of voices. For actresses this means they should be able to do an old woman’s voice, their own voice, a teenage girl, a teenage boy, a little girl and a little boy, plus a number of variations of all of those. The same goes for men, although not too many men can do a convincing little girl’s voice...

Any advice you would like to give to those who aspire to become voice actors?

Be professional about your work, show up on time and be productive, not disruptive in the workplace. Dubbing and voice work may sound like fun, but there’s a time for work and a time for play. J

[Catch Andrea's voice work in Chronicles of the Wings and Slam Dunk, Mon to Fri, 5-6pm.]

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