Over the weekend of Anime Boston 2009, [Anime Dream EIC Matt Brown] and I were given the opportunity to speak with Ms. Laura Bailey. The name may not be immediately recognized by a lot of people, but her resume speaks volumes. Some of Ms. Bailey’s hats include the lovable Tohru Honda, the energetic Sana, and the lusty, er… Lust. When dealing with that much talent, it’s easy to be a bit intimidated.
However, when 9:30 arrived, and we finally met with Ms. Bailey, neither Matt nor myself could have known exactly what we were getting into. The setting was a bit offbeat, with a line for the rave running along the edge of the room. The floor thumped with the beats Bespa Kumamero were spinning below us. And we finally saw exactly what kind of person Laura was: friendly, a bit geeky, and very funny. Or in lay terms, “simply awesome.” She answered every question we threw at her with a smile, and really seemed to have fun with everything we asked. She even took time to pose for a couple pictures!
Before I go on, I’d like to thank Anime Boston (specifically their press liaison, Jamison) for setting this up, and Ms. Bailey for the opportunity to chat with her. I wish both of them the absolute best in the future.
Note: Interview was edited for clarity. Original date of the interview was May 31, 2009. The interview was conducted at Anime Boston in the Sheraton Boston Hotel’s Second Floor Lounge
Anime Dream: I’d like to start by saying congratulations for your nomination in the SPJA Awards.
Laura Bailey: Oh, thank you! Second year in a row!
Anime Dream: Yep!
Laura Bailey: Thanks, I’m pretty excited about that!
Anime Dream: So I thought, I really want to say congratulations today, it’s a big honor, and I really hope you win. (laughs)
Laura Bailey: Me too! (laughs) I’m going up against Michelle, and she’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Michelle in two categories!
Anime Dream: I guess we can start with the obvious: why anime? Why did you go into anime voice acting?
Laura Bailey: It’s something I kind of happened into. I was studying theatre in college and studying, you know, acting and all that kind of stuff. And, I was doing a play in Dallas, and one of the guys that was at the show was Ken Williams, who played Dr. Gero in Dragon Ball Z. And he asked if I would come into auditions for FUNimation ’cause they had premieres coming up that had auditions and everything. I said “Of course!” ’cause it sounded really cool, and my friend’s little brother loved Dragonball Z, so I went in and auditioned for it, and got cast.
Because of that, I sort of kept doing voice acting, and kept doing it, and kept doing it, and it’s become kind of my passion in life.
Anime Dream: Very cool to hear! Um, what would you say your favorite role is?
Laura Bailey: (laughs) Depends on my mood!
Anime Dream: Matt: How about right now?
Laura Bailey: Um… I don’t know… I’ll go with Shin, from Shin-chan!
Anime Dream: Alright, and why is that?
Laura Bailey: Because… (laughs) he gets to say things that I do not. You know what I mean?
Anime Dream: Yeah… (laugh) I’ve, I’ve seen the show. I can understand completely.
Laura Bailey: (laughs) Exactly!
Anime Dream: And what would you say your least favorite role is?
Laura Bailey: Um… oh, gosh! It’s hard to mention a least-favorite role. I would say…maybe as far as difficulty in recording, and maybe that I wanted the character to do other things from what she was doing was Oboro in Basilisk, just because I knew how how it was going to end. I knew it was going to be a very tragic story, and if I had any control over it, I’d have wanted her to do something different from what she was doing, you know?
Anime Dream: Yeah…
Laura Bailey: And she did was run around and cry, and you know, I just wanted to be like, “toughen up!”
Anime Dream: Matt: Very Shakespearian
Laura Bailey: Exactly! Romeo and Juliet, definitely!
Anime Dream: All right, was there a role that you weren’t exactly proud of, you know… looking back you’d say “ehhhhhh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that”?
Laura Bailey: Um, not really! I’m happy with everything I’ve been cast in. You definitely take it into yourself and you’re proud of your work, and all of your characters become, close to you.
But, going back and watching my early work, maybe as Trunks from Dragonball Z I’d definitely watch and go “Oh! I could’ve done a better job!” You know, I still love Trunks, but, I’d be like, since I was so new at it, and FUNimation was such a new company that, maybe… I mean obviously, for Dragonball Z, you know we could’ve done a better job on that dub than what we did and, and so….
Yeah that’s the only thing, I think. Oh, maybe the flap matching could’ve been better and my acting has definitely grown, so….
Anime Dream: Matt: From the panel yesterday, it sounds like you’re kind of glad that you don’t have to redo Trunks’ dub.
Laura Bailey: Oh my gosh, well the thing is we still do the video games for Dragon Ball Z, so, I still do have to revisit Trunks sometimes, and every time I do, I’m like, “Oh God!” Because it’s so painful! It hurts so much! (laughs)
Anime Dream: Alright, and they do say a good actor takes a little something from every role they do. What would you say you’ve taken from some of your better influences? Someone like, say, Sana or Tohru?
Laura Bailey: With Tohru I definitely became more positive. I saw the good in people while I was recording her, you know? I was so inspired by her character by her, joy, and outlook on life that, you know, you wanna emulate that.
Anime Dream: Yep.
Laura Bailey: Anyway! Uh, you know, Sana… (laughs) Sana kind of helped me to not take myself too seriously. Sana’s always going crazy, and I had a really good time recording her; every single line.
Anime Dream: And on the flip side, what did you take from your more negative roles? Something like, say, like Shin, Schrödinger… something like that?
Laura Bailey: Uh, (laughs) well, Schrödinger, you know, that was a really fast recording process, so I don’t think I took any of his negative aspects. I wish I could bring myself back to life. That’d be awesome! Um, but Shin, I became a little grosser through recording him. I mean, ask anybody that knows me, I burp very loudly now. (laughs) There’s no shame! Shame has left the building!
Anime Dream: Matt: It’s hard to stop, once you start.
Laura Bailey: I know, it really is! I mean you don’t realize you’re burping very loudly in public because you’re so used to doing it that it’s like “Oh, (burp)”!
Anime Dream: Is there anything you’d do to prepare for a role; any special routines or exercises that you go through?
Laura Bailey: I do some warm-ups, in the car. Some scales on the way if I’m doing a high character. And if I’m doing a lower character, then I generally try to do a lower range. You know, get your voice lowered so it’s more in that spot when you get into the booth.
And it’s always good to drink a ton of water. Mike Siniterklass told me it’s very good, because I’m working on Kurokami and stuff like that’s very… action packed, action-based. So it’s very painful to record because there’s a lot of screaming from my character in that show. And he told me it’s good to swallow. Just swallow between every single take, and it keeps your throat coated enough that it doesn’t rip it up every time you a take. It definitely does help.
Anime Dream: Matt: Do you generally stay away from drier foods like chips, or crackers?
Laura Bailey: Actually, chips in a session are very good because they’re greasy, and the grease coats the throat, and it helps create a smoother sound.
But, things like chocolate, or any kinds of dairy product, or anything like that are really gross, because it’s… it’s got kind of a mucousy thing, and it makes you really smacky. It makes a lot of noise when you’re recording – not pleasant. But green apples are a natural way to get rid of those gross mouth noises, so most studios keep a basket of green apples on hand.
Anime Dream: I notice from looking through your profile that you did a lot of games and such.
Laura Bailey: Yeah!
Anime Dream: Including one of the staff’s favorites, Luca Trulyworth from Ar Tonelico II.
Laura Bailey: Oh, you guys played that?!
Anime Dream: Oh, yes. It became an instant favorite of the staff.
Laura Bailey: Oh, cool!
Anime Dream: Would you say that the game dubbing process is different from anime?
Laura Bailey: Um, yeah. Because so much of it, especially well, that game wasn’t pictured, you know?
Anime Dream: Mmhmm.
Laura Bailey: In anime, you’re recording, you’re hearing the other person, you’re seeing what’s going on. You have the entire script, so you can look through and see where your character is going.
In a video game, especially with that game in particular – I mean, different studios work in different ways, but that one will have the entire script and sometimes it’ll just be your lines on the script, so you won’t see anybody else’s dialogue. And a lot of studios do that because it saves room on the files. So you have no idea on what anybody else is saying. And you’re just trusting your director to let you know what’s going on. Most of the time with those kind of video games, you do each line three times, and you move onto the next line. Say that line three times, and move onto the next line. And it’s kind of hard on your head – it makes your brain feel like it’s gonna explode ’cause you’re not sure what you’re saying anymore, you know, ’cause it’s going so fast.
Anime Dream: Alright, so, I know this one’s gonna be obvious, but which do you prefer more? The anime acting or games acting?
Laura Bailey: You know… I don’t know! ’cause I play video games, you know? And I’m like, a total nerd when it comes to that, so it’s kind of like a dream come true that whenever I record on a title that, like a Final Fantasy title, or a Street Fighter, something like that, I get totally geeked out about that!
Anime Dream: Matt: Do you have have a favorite genre?
Laura Bailey: RPGs are my favorite! I just started recording on World of Warcraft! You know, that’s pretty cool. I’ve gotta start playing that!
Anime’s cool too, because you get to know the character. You get more of a background and things like that. But then, video games are cool because most of the time, you’re not matching the pictures, so you get to do what you want with the lines, instead of matching the rhythm or matching flaps that don’t time up well, which gets kind of crazy. It can be difficult. I think anime is one of the hardest types of things you can do.
Anime Dream: What would your favorite game be, actually?
Laura Bailey: Ever?
Anime Dream: Yep!
Laura Bailey: Oh, I really, really, really, really loved playing Final Fantasy X! I loved Mass Effect! So cool! I loved Halo! As far as fighting games, I liked Tekken!
Anime Dream: (laughs) Fair warning, stay away from World of Warcraft! Um, one of our staffers disappeared for around four months with that!
Laura Bailey: Oh man, it sucks you in, doesn’t it? I’m worried! That’s why I haven’t started it, I’m like, I know I’m gonna disappear for a while.
Anime Dream: I learned the hard way from Everquest! (laughs)
Laura Bailey: Yeah, I played Everquest II, for a long time and I, I really got… I was immersed for quite a while.
Anime Dream: Matt: You said at the panel that you really liked Disney movies.
Laura Bailey: Yeah!
Anime Dream: Matt: You named The Little Mermaid in particular
Laura Bailey: Uh huh!
Anime Dream: Matt: I was just curious… now that you’re in the business, I was wondering if you ever had a chance to meet Jodi Benson, or any of those actors?
Laura Bailey: No, I haven’t had a chance. I actually, before this convention, got cast by Disney as an in-house voice for Tinkerbell, which is really awesome! But I’m not in any of the films.
I’m a voice-match for the girl who plays Tinkerbell, and I lay down the scratch track for the movie. I would record first and they animate loosely to me and she’ll come in later and finish up. But I also get to do Tinkerbell, in any of the video games or stuff that comes out. So that’s really cool. I was really excited.
Anime Dream: Matt: If you had a chance to meet Jodi Benson, what would you say to her?
Laura Bailey: Oh my god! (laughs) I don’t know! Is it, that’s the thing, ’cause, well, I talk to Travis Willingham and Troy Baker about the two other guests here, you know. And they both just recently started on new original animation series.
Travis is recording as The Hulk in a new Marvel series, which is so awesome. And Troy’s recording on a new Cartoon Network show. And so we’re meeting a lot of the people who are our idols, you know? Like, people that you listen to like, uh, Bender DiMaggio?
Anime Dream: John DiMaggio?
Laura Bailey: Yeah! John DiMaggio on Futurama! Troy’s in session all the time and he’s talking about him, and I’m like “Oh my God, that’s Bender!” (laughs) I was so freaked out!
So I hope I wouldn’t fan out too much upon meeting her, but I probably would. And I’d probably be really nervous and not know what to say, but try to still seem like a colleague to her, and not just a fan. (laughs)
Anime Dream: And, um… just a little lighter fare – pirates or ninjas?
Laura Bailey: (laughs) Uh, um… oh gosh, that’s hard! I like pirates’ clothes better! I think ninjas could whoop butt, but I like pirates more for that reason. (laughs)
Anime Dream: (laughs) And would you have any advice that you could give to someone that wanted to, say, get into voice acting?
Laura Bailey: Like I said at my panel earlier, study acting. Find out if it’s something that you really enjoy, because I have an email from a girl on Myspace – she sent me a message saying “Hey, I’m moving to Texas because I wanna be a voice actor. I just decided!” Like, she, “I just decided to be a voice actor, so I’m gonna move to Texas!”
And I (laughs) I had to email her back and go “Look, you should probably study acting a little bit more before you just decide that you want to be an actor or you want to be a voice actor.”
Because it’s hard! It’s not an easy thing to break into. And you get rejected a lot and it can be really easy to just give up. Um, and it’s a little, I don’t wanna say insulting, but I, you know. worked. I studied it and I worked hard, and most of the other voice actors have done the same thing, and have been in the industry for a while, and you really have to work up to getting a good job, as far as it goes.
It’s gonna be hard for somebody who just decides “I wanna be an actor, and I’m gonna move, and I”m gonna do it, and it’s gonna be amazing.” Because it’s not that easy.
Study singing. Learn to control your voice. And, if after all of that, after you’ve taken lessons, and you find you totally enjoy it then, be where the work is. You have to be in New York, you have to be in California, you have to be in Texas if it’s anime you’re going to get into. And get ready to just put all of your heart and soul into getting into it.
Anime Dream: Matt: My college theater professor would say, “If you don’t have to be an actor, don’t be an actor.”
Laura Bailey: Right, right! Because there’s a lot of people that, even people who come to these conventions as guests, that have other jobs! They’re not just actors, because even though they’re working and they’re on shows that you guys watch, that people watch, that doesn’t mean that that’s paying the bills, you know what I mean?
It’s really hard. I feel very very very lucky to be at a point now where I can just voice act and be able to live that way. But for a long time, that’s not how I was. For probably the first four years of working, I could say that I was, you know… doing the other thing.
Anime Dream: Matt: If, um, you don’t mind, I just have one more question.
Laura Bailey: Not at all! What’s up?
Anime Dream: Matt: Well, if you ever have free time, what do you like to do?
Laura Bailey: What do I like to do in my free time? I wanna travel! I wanna go, ’cause I just got back from Kawaii-con recently, and I got a few days there before the con started. Um, but, I didn’t get enough. I felt like I wanted more time there. I would’ve loved to go back!
I would love to go to Europe. I’d love to play World of Warcraft! (laughs)
If I have free time, I say I’d do all these things, but I’d probably just sit in front of my computer 24 hours a day, and do nothing…including bathing. I probably wouldn’t bathe. (laughs)
Anime Dream: Matt: And, imagine if you never fell into acting. What would you do?
Laura Bailey: Um, if anything else, I would probably, it would definitely be something something creative. Getting behind a desk…I’m not good at it. But, a stylist, maybe. I love dressing people, all my friends. It’s fun. So I’d probably look into something like that.
Anime Dream: Do you have anything that you’d like to say to your fans?
Laura Bailey: I love you! Thanks for watching my stuff! (laughs) Um, and I hope that you keep liking it and I don’t disappoint you! (laughs) I keep forgetting that you guys are recording!