I truly admire voice actors for what they do. It’s a hard job and it is often underappreciated in entertainment. To do it well requires a greater range well beyond good theatrical acting since one is limited only to the voice and with so many restrictions on it and many “normal” actors can get quickly overwhelmed by the process.
Voice actor panels at conventions are chances -more rare for some more than others – to have a frank conversation going between the actors and their fans. It is a cool opportunity to hear actors of all sorts speak about their experiences and personal thoughts but I find it even more intriguing when it involves actors that most fans know more by how they sound like than how they look like.
The voice actor panel at Comikaze was a great way to start that Sunday morning. It is not often that one can get Stephanie Sheh (Orihime Inoue), Wendee Lee (Faye Valentine), Spike Spencer (Shinj Ikari), Christopher Smith (Tenchi Masaki),and J. Patrick Lawlor (Bean Bandit) in the same room.
J. Patrick Lawlor actually crashed the panel. Yay. The input of five actors instead of four.
The actors shared their individual stories of how they broke into the industry (if you’re curious, they mentioned Intersound and ADV) and they stressed the fact that they owed a lot of their success in doing so to having personal ties and referrals as well as their natural talents. It’s an answer to a very common question for distinguished voice actors so take note of it.
Interestingly enough, they also touched on the development of the industry and on the rivalry between dubbers and distributors. Los Angeles is no longer the only powerful entertainment hub and has to compete with Texan and Canadian companies. It sounds fairly complicated!
There was also a bit of talk about voice double work (getting a voice actor to match an original actor’s voice. IE: matching Johnny Depp’s voice for the Kingdom Hearts videogame). It was very interesting to learn that Christopher Smith is a voice double for Hugh Jackman and is an alternate for Kermit the Frog. He shared the latter’s voice with us and the crowd burst into applause and small squeaks of joy.
The panel also went into other territories such as unusual procedures (for other jobs) in the recording studio such as removing articles of clothing before dubbing to reduce fabric rustling. Or perhaps to experience some freedom within a small box.
They also talked about the challenges of portraying their characters with only their voices and while being completely motionless. Stephanie Sheh said it was like someone asking one to do something but while having their hands and feet tied first. Wendee Lee chimed in saying that the greatest performance could be ruined by the slightest mouth pop or faint room noise and an actor would have to duplicate the recording again and again.
Having a little bit of experience with having to dub with sensitive equipment, I know just how much the mic can pick up on the smallest clicks and pops caused by one’s mouth movements or the rustling of air. So. many. ruined. takes!! It’s amazing how these people stay sane having to deal with these things day in and day out.
One really cool thing was that Stephanie Sheh noticed us in the front since we were wearing our Lady Geek shirts and we got to chat with her after the panel for a little bit! I got to thank her in person for the interview that I had with her earlier in the year and even got a hug.
All in all I really enjoyed this panel because everyone was just so fun and full of humor and were pretty good at keeping the panel going even without a moderator. Spike Spenser in particular made me laugh a lot. They had great dialogue going and it was a shame that the time was cut short in order to clear out for another panel. It was obvious that they had a lot more to share but it was fun to get a slice of it before tackling the rest of the convention.