Location: Anime Boston 2017
Interview Date: 4/1/2017
Whether you’re a new fan or someone who’s been in the hobby for a decade, the name “Lisa Ortiz” should bear some familiarity. The New York native has been a been a key member of the voice acting community since her début in 1996. Her resume is packed with iconic roles, from The Slayers‘s Lina Inverse, to Harlock Saga‘s Maetel. She’s been the voice for Sonic the Hedgehog‘s Amy Rose, and she’s taken the director’s chair for the most recent Pokémon anime titles.
She’s an actress, a director, and since 2014, founder and president of production house Noise of O productions.
At Anime Boston 2017, we were fortunate enough to sit with Ms. Ortiz for a round robin interview. Though the room was set in a quiet part of the Hynes Convention Center, the electric buzz of thousands of fans could be heard as a soft murmur. Ortiz was a friendly person, who seemed to really enjoy the conversation at hand. The session was a light, enjoyable experience as we discussed the ins and outs of her career.
I would like to thank Ms. Ortiz for taking the time to speak with us. I’d also like to thank Angie and the rest of the Anime Boston Staff for helping to make this happen.
Interview edited for clarity
Anime Herald: I have to lead off, honestly, because the world needs to get this on record: Your bio states that you have an interesting origin story for getting into voice acting. So how the heck does grand theft auto lead into a voice acting career?
Lisa Ortiz: (laughs) Well, grand theft auto, not in the game sense, but in the brother sense. (laughs) I actually took some time off while I was still in school. I was in college, and I was home with mono. And I had a car, my car also had mono. It wouldn’t start in the morning, I went home, lived with my folks.
And my brother, who can sometimes be a pain in the tuchus, didn’t have a car! So he would want to “steal” mine. Like, borrow it. I told him not to, because it didn’t work properly.
He took it, and he bought it over to a friend’s house. I get a phone call, and I’m like “Jer, where’s my car?“ He’s like “he’s at George’s house.”
And I’m like “who’s George? What’s going on?” And he’s like “I’ve gotta go. Bye!” and hung up. So I went on a wild goose chase trying to find my car. That lasted for a while. Eventually, my friend Rob called, and asked “Hey, do you know where Jer is?” And I’m like “No! But do you know who George is? Can I get over to his house?!”
Went over there, turned out that my friend Rob was an intern over at Central Park Media at the time. We wound up talking about stuff, and he’s like “I’m looking for people to come in and audition. Do you know anybody?”
And I was like “ahhh… meeeeeee?” (laughs from the room)
And that’s how I actually wound up getting the first audition that I had. So, if my brother hadn’t stolen my car, I might not be here today.
So yeah. That’s the short, condensed version. There was much yelling and gnashing of teeth, as you can imagine. But it all worked out okay.
My other brother, on the other hand, became a police officer. So I guess the family balanced it out! (laughs) So, you know, it all worked out!
Anime Herald: Your profile states that you are the president of Noise-O Productions.
Lisa Ortiz: Yes.
Anime Herald: What led you to make that change, from actor to corporate president? And, really, how does that change the dynamic as a professional in the industry?
Lisa Ortiz: The biggest part of that is, I started off as an actor. I came on, probably, like, over ten or twelve years ago that I got brought on as a producer and a director at another company. So I worked with them. I’m still voicing, I still do all the other stuff that’s there, but it was more behind-the-scenes stuff.
Then I got hired over at a company called DuArt, where I was one of the senior producers over there. We got to do a lot more of the creative stuff. So it’s more about having control over the how the process gets done. I mean, I do casting, I do producing. I’ve done sort of, like, I wouldn’t say it’s showrunning, but I’ve helped develop the music and put together the sound effects, and sort of had the overall final say on a new animation that came in. We did that for a couple of shows.
So I was happy to sort of have the experience that I had behind the mic, and bring that forward.
As for starting my own company, I had been doing basically producing for just the voice-over portion of video game things, and also the animation. And when they switched up, sort of, the department, I figured I’ll still keep doing it, because I enjoy it.
I have a team of people that we work with. I freelance as a director for other companies as well, but I also have a bunch of projects that people come to me and, you know, we cast it. We put it together, we do the whole thing, and I enjoy it.
It’s weird, though, because you spend a lot of time on the production side behind that, working on that, and it’s its own thing. It’s really, really cool. I also started off writing as well. I don’t do that as much, but you get to have more of a hand over the entire story.
When you’re an actor, you know your part. You know your piece, you’re able to focus on that. And when you’re producing it or… I mean, there’s other producers who are sort of doing the animation portion. So I don’t know if you know, they’ll work on the animation. They have the game, the have the design on that. I’m specifically focused on the voice-over production. Just making the characters come to life. Casting, directing, and doing all of that.
And, yeah! I love it. I feel like it’s an expansion of the storytelling, and you get a chance to really kind of bring the story and the dynamics of the people together. So it’s fun!
But, yeah, it’s a lot more work, I’ll tell you that! (laughs) But it’s a great [experience] Like right now, I just finished – I can’t talk about what the title is – but for instance, Pokémon, I work separately. I work for another company over there. I don’t work directly for Pokémon, but they bring me in. I direct the show over there. But for this other stuff, the games that I put together, I put together the team, the people who we work with. I cast a lot of the stuff out, and I bring it all together. And it’s really fun and rewarding. And it’s fun when you get to play the game and you know how the whole story comes together.
But, yeah! I feel like it was sort of a natural jump going into that.
Anime Herald: For many older fans, you’re one of those “voices of a generation”, with characters like [The Slayers’s] Lina Inverse, [Record of Lodoss War’s] Deedlit, and [Sonic the Hedgehog’s] Amy Rose. How do you go about building a character for a role like this, and is there a character you’ve voiced over the years that particularly resonates with you?
Lisa Ortiz: A lot of that stuff is, it’s funny with those, because you treat it the same way you would if you were treating a character in a play or doing something like that. We’re lucky in a sense that you also have the images, so you have a sense of there’s somewhat of the character that’s there. You have a bit of that, and it kind of speaks to you.
So Deedlit, I will always love, love, love, love, love, love her, first of all, because there’s no other time in my life that I’d ever be a blonde elf. And this is the funny thing. When you see somebody in person, and the things that they would be cast as, looking at them visually, are not always the things they’re going to get cast as in animation. So these are the were roles that I wouldn’t normally have played.
So Lina is, by far, I feel like in a bizarre combination of Lina, not blowing up anything because that would be odd. But of her and sort of the wacky sort of, like, she’s very vaudeville to me in the way that she goes, but she has this really serious side that comes out. So her, I would say her and, if you combined Lina with Deedlit, because there was a whole bunch of stuff going on in my life at the time that sort of mirrored the little Parn story that was happening at the time, so it was really beautiful. But, yeah. There’s a little bit of me in all of them. But if you put those together in a salt shaker and maybe toss a little bit of [The Irresponsible Captain Tylor’s] Azalyn in the mix in there, that would kind of be where I would sit.
But for the character development, it’s watching it and trying to figure out what the story is, and how you can kind of bring her to life in that way.
Anime Herald: As someone who’s been active in the industry for over twenty years at this point, what would you say has been the biggest, most substantial change from your perspective?
Lisa Ortiz: The fanbase that has grown. When we first started off, the cons weren’t huge like this. You didn’t have as much mainstream stuff that was going on. And I talked about this before with other people, you have more people interested in it. There’s more access to media. You used to have to get five-gen tapes for things that now you can find on Crunchyroll that’ll come over right away, or that Funimation will bring over. They’re doing more dubs.
People didn’t want to watch dubs in the beginning. They were very hardcore about this versus that. I remember being in the first dub that I did, which was Lodoss War. And my brother, who stole my car, had all his friends around me. Like, they were hanging out. And they were all hardcore fans. And (laughs) I remember one of the guys in the group turning over to me very seriously, as we were about to watch the first episode. And he’s like “I hope ya don’t suck!” (laughs)
And I was like “uh, okay!” And afterwards, he was like “alright, ya did good.” And I was like “Alright! I’m gonna be okay!” (laughs) But there’s more acceptance of that.
And this, I do want to answer, because sometimes you get issues from fans, like, from that 4Kids had done. Like, they had changed things and stuff like that in anime episodes. And a lot of that was network broadcasting rules that they had to do. But I really feel like, if animation like that, and Pokémon, and all these other things that first got on network weren’t there, there’s a lot of people who were exposed through those mediums. So I feel like you see a lot more anime on TV. You see a lot more things like that.
But, yeah! Conventions have changed, fans have change, and it’s also way more accessible and way cooler than in the beginning, where things were. The shows have gotten huge, and also there’s more resources being thrown out. In the beginning, they were grabbing fans or they were grabbing people in the office, and just throwing them in the show. ANd now you have people who are artists, producers, writers who are specifically [dedicated to anime], and they’ve pulled a better pool of talent in than they’ve ever had before.
So, yeah! I think there’s a lot that’s changed. So, that’s cool.