The English Voices of Naruto, Boruto, and Sailor Jupiter Offer Their Advice to Aspiring Voice Actors
VIZ Media also announced the acquisition of two new titles
VIZ Media held their World of Voice-Acting panel this past weekend with special guests from the English voice casts of Naruto, Boruto, and Sailor Moon. The guests were led in a guided Q&A by Urian Brown from VIZ, and fans were given the opportunity to ask questions as well. The panel began with a rundown from Brown of VIZ titles releasing next year, such as Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki, How Do We Relationship?, and Ping Pong. He also announced that VIZ would be releasing Splatoon: Squid Kids Comedy Show and Junji Ito’s Venus in the Blind Spot collection in summer and fall of 2020, respectively.
He then introduced the first two guests from Sailor Moon: Amanda Miller, who plays Sailor Jupiter, and Erika Harlacher, who plays Sailor Star Maker, and began the Q&A by asking how they became voice actors. Amanda said that she had always been a theater nerd, so she ended up taking some classes from Tony Oliver when he came to her college. She enjoyed dubbing over anime and video games in those classes and Oliver saw her talent and recommended she pursue voice acting. She ended up getting an internship at a studio in LA where she occasionally filled in for bit parts until they started letting her audition for better roles.
Erika said she’d gone into college leaning towards graphic or computer design because she wanted a job related to cartoons and games. She also ended up taking classes with Tony Oliver who suggested she pursue voice acting as a career, got a studio internship, and filled in for bit parts before eventually auditioning for bigger roles. It just so happened to be the same studio Amanda was interning at too. “Know Tony Oliver is the secret here,” Brown added.
He asked Amanda if playing a role like Jupiter is fun at all. “Jupiter was my favorite character as a kid,” Amanda answered. She’d grown up relating to her as a taller, more athletic kid, and Jupiter helped show her that you don’t have to be just a tough kid or just a soft kid. When asked about her first recording session for Sailor Jupiter, she admitted that the whole process had made her incredibly nervous given her history with the character and the fact that approvals for the dub voices had gone through the original creator Naoko Takeuchi herself. The director had to take her aside to call her down, and Stephanie Shea, the voice of Sailor Moon, had to call her and tell her to “suck it up.”
“Also, I accidentally punched her in the face at AX backstage,” she said. “I had just met her that day.”
Brown asked Erika if she was as cool and aloof as Sailor Star Maker in real life. “I am the opposite of both those things,” she said. “I’m not cool at all and very high strung.” She said she had to reach deep down into her “acting database” for the role.
When asked who their favorite weird monster they fought in the show was, Amanda said there was one monster they all called the Katy Perry monster because it was themed around sweets, which reminded everyone of Katy Perry’s “California Girls” video. “It’s true. All girls from California can shoot frosting,” Erika revealed.
Brown pointed out that the Starlights in Sailor Moon are only around for one season but are still fan favorites, and asked Erika what she thought their appeal was. In addition to their fashion sense being “on point,” Erika said that their arc felt bigger and more impactful than one single season. Amanda added that there’s a “forbidden fruit” factor to it, given the season they appear in wasn’t originally dubbed before, meaning the only way to watch it as a kid was to somehow get your hands on the Japanese version. Erika admitted she hadn’t even known they existed before.
When asked if there was any pressure coming into a role that already had so many fans, Amanda said there was “a lot of pressure” given how many fans relate to the character as she did, but that the fanbase has been extremely welcoming and supportive of her.
Both were asked what their most practical advice for anyone serious about pursuing voice acting was. Amanda suggested that you pursue acting on a screen or stage first since the restrictions of voice acting add even more challenge. Theater and singing lessons are good for helping you maneuver your voice, and improv would help as well. Erika seconded the improv suggestion since oftentimes as a voice actor you won’t get scripts ahead of time or be forced to entirely change direction with a character on the fly.
With the Sailor Moon questions out of the way, Erika went backstage and Brown introduced another guest: Maile Flanagan, the longtime voice of Naruto Uzumaki. Amanda Miller, as the voice of Boruto Uzumaki, remained for the Naruto portion. A clip of the two performing together in Boruto: Naruto the Movie was played, showcasing their voices.
Brown noted that Naruto is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and asked what that journey from the very beginning has been like for Maile. “A long one,” she joked. “I’ve aged considerably.” He then turned to Amanda and asked her what it’s been like suddenly jumping in with Boruto. She said that it’s been one thing with Sailor Moon where it ran and ended, whereas Naruto has been running for 20 straight. Fans have grown up with Naruto into adulthood, she said, so they’ll chastise her for being mad at him as Boruto. “It’s good, but it’s also funny.”
When asked about how she got into voice acting, Maile revealed she had never wanted to become an actor. She’d gone to college for math and polyscience, but ended up joining an improv group that did well and relocated to Minneapolis. She started working there before moving to LA and doing commercials. She eventually began taking voiceover classes and got her very first roles in the Men in Black and Jackie Chan cartoons within the same week.
Maile was asked what the first recording session for Naruto was like, she admitted that it had been really hard and that she wishes she could do them over again since she hadn’t gotten to know him as a character yet. She’d also found out how huge the series already was in Japan and it made her nervous.
Brown asked Amanda if she tried modeling Boruto’s voice after Naruto’s. “I couldn’t even try,” she said. “Maile has such a unique voice.” The voice she uses for Boruto is more like her natural voice, and she also realized it’s nearly identical to her “making fun of people” voice.
When asked if she sees Yuri Lowenthal as a rival at all considering he voiced Sasuke, Maile said she doesn’t consider anyone her voice acting rival, and added that men in voice acting get more work than women anyway, though the inequity is slowly getting better.
Amanda was asked if she thinks Boruto has grown at all since his story started, to which she said that it’s still too early to really tell, though she sees his frustration with Naruto as motivated by the fact that he still remembers a time when his dad was much more present before he became Hokage.
Maile said her advice for aspiring voice actors is to have confidence, because if you don’t they’ll never give you the job. Amanda added that changing your posture can help change your performance. Erika came back out on stage, and as the panel closed all were invited to give some final advice. Amanda said to be yourself instead of trying to be like someone else. Maile stressed practicing and putting in the work. Erika echoed Maile, adding that it’s both a lot of fun and a lot of hard work.
While the panel held a great deal of good advice for aspiring voice actors, it also served as a great example of how dubs can breathe new life into an old series. Sailor Moon may have ended long ago, but the recent dub delivered something entirely new to longtime fans everywhere. Meanwhile, Naruto lives on through Boruto, adding new members to its illustrious cast with every season. Who knows, maybe someday you could voice the same characters you look up to now. All you need is a little luck, a lot of hard work, and the personal tutelage of Tony Oliver.
Are you an aspiring voice actor? Do you know Tony Oliver? Let us know in the comments below!