Interview With Christina Kelly, Adam Gibbs, and Annie Wild
Location: Anime Boston 2023
Interview Date: 4/7/2023

Anime Herald: For each of you, what was your introduction to anime?

Christina Kelly: Go ahead, Adam. Ladies first.

Adam Gibbs: Honestly, it was my little brother. I wanted to be just like my big brother. He was into sports, so I was pursuing that. Later, my little brother came along, and it was Adult Swim. The shows on Cartoon Network. He was so into them, and he’d try to get me into them, but I was busy following my big brother. So, it wasn’t until later in my life that I found the love for it.

But, I’ll never forget, up late, mom and dad asleep, not even knowing. Fortunately, we had a TV in the room, so he was like “Dude, you’ve got to check it out.” So, that was it for me. While that wasn’t my real dive into it, it was very formative for me.

Screenshot from The Eminence In Shadow. Cid, a man dressed in a cloak, as he poses dramatically against a building. His right eye glows a brilliant read as he glares down against an unknown foe.

Christina Kelly: I want to say Toonami was on in 1997 or 98. This was whenever it was back in the afternoon. I was really little, but I remember it pretty vividly. Sailor Moon was on, Dragon Ball Z, and Outlaw Star. That was my introduction to anime. I fell in love with Outlaw Star because I loved sci-fi. I loved Star Wars and spaceships and stuff like that.

It was different than Western animation. That was what was so cool about it to me. Japanese anime had stories that were so different than a lot of Western animation. I think that’s what drew me to it. The characters were very dynamic. They looked different. They looked really cool. It had action. It had all kinds of stuff. That was my first introduction to anime. I want to say I was six or seven. When I was a little older, I got into InuYasha. I’ve been a fan of anime for a very long time.

I never thought I was going to do anime. I thought I was going to do professional theater, and maybe eventually film, and now I do this. It’s very cool, and it’s unique. I feel very lucky because I know a lot of people who are not working, and I’m working all the time, knock on wood.

(Editor’s note: Christina is correct. Toonami was launched in March of 1997. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z joined Toonami in 1998. Outlaw Star hit Toonami in January of 2001.)

Annie Wild: Similar to Adam, my brother was also involved with my introduction to anime. It was after school, we would come home and watch Dragon Ball Z. The rules were I could sit and watch if I didn’t pester him with questions. I had a lot of questions. I wanted to pester him. But I just watched it, piecemeal. And Sailor Moon, and other ones growing up.

In my twenties, I was able to watch it more, on my own. What’s been neat, going hand in hand with having the privilege of dubbing, I find I have the desire to consume it all the time. It’s been really neat.

Anime Herald: This might be a dumb question given what you just said, but I presume this was your older brother?

Annie Wild: Yes. Two years older, and two years wiser, at the time.

Screenshot from the Eminence In Shadow of Beta, a woman with shoulder-length silver hair, as well as a side braid that extends to her collarbone. She's wearing a black and gold suit, and blushing as she writes furiously into a diary.

Anime Herald: So that was your first introduction. How did you enter the industry? What was your first step?

Adam Gibbs: I’m based in the Houston market. I had been working regionally in the theater scene there. I’ve been doing theater since I was a very little kid. That’s where my trajectory was, and I still do quite a bit of theater. But with Sentai Filmworks being based in Houston, and Crunchyroll/Funimation being based in Dallas, it’s in a bit of my backyard. I had built up a reputation in the theater community of Houston, and then a show came along and they needed a whole bunch of guys. I had enough friends who had the crossover from theater to voice acting to dubbing. I kept hearing “Hey, they’re going to bring you in.” “They’re going to call you.” And… nobody called me.

Finally, after a year or two of hearing “They’re going to call you,” I finally got a call to come in. I think it was an audition for a video game… that I didn’t get. But, I ended up getting a little part, and that rolled into a larger part, and that rolled into a lead, and that rolled into where we are today.

Yeah, it helps that the studio is twelve minutes from my house. That’s a really big part of it. But yeah, I transitioned from theater to working in the studio in Houston.

Christina Kelly: I thought I was going to be on Broadway. I was getting my bachelor’s from the University of Houston, I was getting a BFA. Leraldo Anzaldua, who’s been doing anime since forever, was an adjunct faculty member at the time. He sent me and a couple other people from my ensemble in my graduating class to Sentai Filmworks, [like] “Hey, Sentai Filmworks is having auditions. These are the dates. Send them an email and let them know you’re interested.”

I went, and I sounded terrible. My audition was awful. I wasn’t feeling very good that day. I actually didn’t hear anything for five months. I couldn’t believe I got a phone call at all. It was also funny, because all of the other members of my ensemble were getting gigs, small little bit parts. I was like, “Damn, I really screwed that up. I should have gone on a different day.”

I didn’t hear anything for five months. When I got the phone call, I was super excited. That is February 2015. A little over eight years ago. I’ve been doing it ever since. One gig led to another gig, and then I met directors at conventions. I met directors at Funimation…

Actually, you worked there right before me. You were working on Parasyte, the movie.

Adam Gibbs: Yeah. The live-action movie.

Christina Kelly: You had just started working there, and then literally right after, I started working there.

Annie Wild: I have, compared to Adam and Christina, a shorter time frame of working in the industry. I’m also a theater actor. I went to the Boston Conservatory for Musical Theater. I’ve been a working actor in TV and film for a while. A little over a year ago, I got my first audition for Sentai. I was really fortunate. I was brought in right away for walla on a Justice League episode.

(Editor’s note: Walla is an industry term for background noise.)

For Demon Girl Next Door, I got to do miscellaneous. Shannon Reed, one of our directors at Sentai, sat in my original audition and brought me in for The Executioner and Her Way of Life. From that, I auditioned and booked Menou, who is the lead in that. For me, it kind of went 0-to-60 pretty quickly. I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve had a really exciting little over a year.

Screenshot from the Eminence In Shadow of Alpha, a woman with long, blonde hair, who is wearing a white blouse and black tie. She's smirking as she talks to someone offscreen.

Anime Herald: All of you kind of told the same story. You were classically trained, you got your opportunity, then one thing led to another. You built upon it.

All three in unison: Yeah.

Anime Herald: What of your skills from classical training best translated to working as a voice actor in the anime industry?

Christina Kelly: Definitely, having a singing background and knowing my range. I think that’s been the most beneficial thing for me. When you’re a singer, you know how low you can go, you know how high you can go, without hurting yourself. Also, knowing how to protect your vocal cords and vocal health. I learned all about that in school. Dialects, accents, that’s also been super helpful.

There’s also a musicality in anime for a lot of these characters, too. So, for me, I think that’s been the most beneficial thing.

Annie Wild: Definitely I think having to think on your feet. To not be afraid to fail big. To not be afraid to make a fool of yourself. And also, when you do, to be able to laugh it off and do another take. Mistakes are just opportunities to keep trying. Usually, whenever I make a mistake, or flub a line, I loosen up in the booth. I’m like “okay!” So, I think theater training allows that. You have to fail big to succeed.

Adam Gibbs: Also, cold reading.

Christina Kelly: Oh yeah.

Adam Gibbs: You’re not given the script ahead of time. You’re given it right then, and you spit it out. You just have to be quick on your feet. See the line, absorb the line, see the context, and spit it out. You don’t have weeks and weeks like you would in theater, to memorize it and prepare it. You’re not afforded that time in voice-over work. Cold reading is one of the most important skills you can gain.

That’s the bread and butter of theater. So many auditions, or workshops in class, “Here’s the script, now do the scene.” That’s how voice acting is.

Anime Herald: Would you describe cold-reading as a skill you develop in improv, or is it from the classical training side?

Adam Gibbs: It’s definitely honed in improv. Typically in cold reading, you have hard pages in your hand that someone has written, while improv is just off the dome. You might be given a prompt, but you just roll with it, so they’re cousins.

Anime Herald: For The Eminence in Shadow, do you go into the studio together, or is it all one at a time?

Christina Kelly: One at a time.

Adam Gibbs: Yeah. When you get a batch of a couple of episodes, let’s say they’re recording this Monday through this Friday, if you go in this Monday, you’re not going to hear any of your English counterparts. You’ll hear the Japanese and you’ll record with that. If you come in on Friday, chances are everyone has recorded. When you come in, you’ll hear your English counterparts and play off of them.

Christina Kelly: We don’t get the luxury of having people in the studio with us. Generally, only the big studios, like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, they do that. Disney will do that. For dubbing, it’s not like that. We just go in solely with the sound engineer and the director. Sometimes, the translator, or the producer, will be there. Only for walla, and not even for that anymore.

Screenshot from the Eminence In Shadow of Alpha, a woman with long, blonde hair, who is wearing a black, white, and gold uniform as she's bathed in a blue light.

Anime Herald: Were you working from home during the pandemic?

Adam Gibbs: Yes.

Christina Kelly: No. I was renting a studio. Well, I guess. It wasn’t my home, but it was a home, so yes.

Adam Gibbs: I was afforded the opportunity to work from home. That was one of the upsides to the awful scourge that is Covid. It forced us home. Crunchyroll, Funimation, they sent out some kits to people that didn’t have home studios set up. Fortunately, I was one of those people, so I was given a leg up to continue on the show I was working on.

Christina Kelly: A show we were in! We were in that!

Adam Gibbs: Yeah.

Christina Kelly: I love that show!

(Editor’s note: I believe they were referring to My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU.)

Adam Gibbs: Now, I’ve been able to upgrade and have more of a proper studio at home. I did Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan from home, that entire series from home. Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, I did that entire show from home. Most of my, except for this last season or two, most of my work on My Hero (Academia) was from home. With other studios, it’s kind of regular that way.

Christina Kelly: Sentai made it easy for us. They just had us come in one at a time, so it was very safe. For Crunchyroll, they were building their brand new studio at the time. They didn’t have a place for us to go. Funimation had kind of opened up their studio a little bit. After they ran out of the kits, if you didn’t have a place to record, they’d let you go in. But, there would be nobody there. The director and sound engineer would be recording from their homes. You would be in there by yourself. They’d just have someone come in and set up the microphone. It was really weird.

Annie Wild: I was doing Zoom theater. I was part of the whole group of out of work actors. Theaters figured out a way to make it happen. I did a Pride & Prejudice spin-off with a professional theater in Houston, fully live on Zoom. People around the country could tune in. But, I wasn’t doing industry work at home during the pandemic.

Anime Herald: Streaming has exploded. Spy x Family was the #1 best selling book in the country. Not the best selling manga or graphic novel. The #1 book in the country. Has that affected your lives at all?

Adam Gibbs: For me personally, not so much. I think it’s more of a macro effect. It’s great to see the industry growing and becoming more mainstream. That’s one of the joys of voice acting. Unless you’re at a con, and they see your poster, or they’ve come to remember your face… you’re not Brad Pitt. People don’t see you and go “It’s Adam Gibbs!”

Christina Kelly: I do! I say that.

Adam Gibbs: Well, ok. (Laughs) That’s great news. I hadn’t heard that yet.

Christina Kelly: It’s only happened to me twice. Both times at HEB. They were like “Are you a voice actor?” I said “Yes?” “I’ve seen you before, at a convention.” But that’s where they recognized me, from a con, so I don’t think that counts. But, it was out in public, so I guess they remembered.

Annie Wild: More with high school-aged students. Sometimes, I’ll go into high schools to work with the students. When I list off the things I’ve worked on, there’s a bunch of questions, and excitement. Adam, you said there’s a macro-sense, there’s a level of recognition that it’s a really cool world to be a part of, and that they have their own connection to it. That’s really exciting.

Anime Herald: We’re pretty much out of time. Anything else you’d like to add?

Adam Gibbs: Thank you for your questions.

Anime Herald: Thank you very kindly, this was great.

Christina Kelly: Your questions were great.

Adam Gibbs: Just so it’s on the record, we love your jacket.

Annie Wild: Yes! It’s a cool jacket.

The Eminence In Shadow is currently streaming on HIDIVE.