One of my favorite games to play when I see some new dubbed anime is to try and determine where the dub was recorded. I usually figure it out when I hear a certain voice-- when I hear the dulcet tones of Lia Sargent, I know that the dub was recorded in Los Angeles. When I hear Lisa Ortiz, I can safely surmise that the show was recorded in New York. And when I hear the voice of one Kelly Sheridan, I immediately think "Ah-- that's an Ocean dub!" Kelly's done plenty of work for Ocean Studios in Vancouver, but probably her most recognizeable role is that of Hitomi Kanzaki, the teenaged female lead of the Escaflowne movie and TV series.
Thanks to the current release of the Escaflowne movie (if your local arthouse theatre doesn't have it, ask them to try and get it!), I had the opportunity to talk to Ms. Sheridan about Escaflowne and about dubbing in general. Thing is, I was kind of nervous, because I was recording a telephone interview using a puzzling new Radio Shack adapter. Fortunately, it worked, and mere hours later, I found myself transcribing the interview for your pleasure-- and thinking, "Good lord, is that what I sound like on the phone?!" Anyway, enough of that-- here's the interview.
Kelly Sheridan is the voice of Hitomi Kanzaki in Escaflowne.
Anime Jump: First of all, how did you get involved in Escaflowne?
Kelly Sheridan: Well, it was actually very simple. I've done a lot of work at Ocean Studios before, which is where we recorded the show. Carl, the director of the English voiceover for Escaflowne, gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to audition for it, and I went in and read for it and got the part.
AJ: Did you audition specifically for the role of Hitomi?
KS: I did, yeah.
AJ: Is that how things are usually done at Ocean?
KS: Usually. For the most part, I audition for the shows. Once in a while, if there's a time constraint and they need someone in right away, they'll give me a call at home and ask if I can come in. For a series, they'll audition.
AJ: You've done your share of work dubbing anime-- you're Nikki in Cardcaptors, Lena in Zoids, and Ukyou in Ranma 1/2. How long have you been doing voiceover work?
KS: Well, let's see-- I'm 24 now, and I was 13 when I started, so a good 11 years.
AJ: Wow. How did you get involved?
KS: Well, it was kind of a fluke. I also do film and TV work, and I started when I was about twelve or thirteen. I had an agent, and went out for film and TV auditions, and one day my agent called me up and asked me if I wanted to audition for a voiceover. I didn't even know what a voiceover was! They gave me the script and I went in and read for it. I actually didn't end up getting the part that I went in to audition for, but the director for a completely different show happened to be walking down the hallway at the same time I was reading for this other show, heard my voice, and said, "Oh, we've been looking for a girl to do this cartoon and she sounds great, so let's bring her in!" So it was kind of a fluke.
AJ: Let's talk about Escaflowne. What was it like to play Hitomi?
KS: Oh, it was really fun! It was nice to see the character develop from beginning to end-- I always like doing series for that reason-- it gives me a chance to really follow through with the character.
AJ: Did you find the role especially difficult?
KS: Well, no... One of the things I found most difficult is that some of the language is very poetic-- you can't just spout off lines, you need to find a basis for it, a grounding for it. If you hear teenagers talk, especially teenagers who are in love or fighting with their identity, a lot of them talk in this sort of poetic way anyway, this romantic notion of being a teenager. I didn't find anything especially difficult-- she was a lot of fun to play.
AJ: Some voice actors have told me that they do such a large volume of work that it's hard for them to get into the specific roles they do. Did working on Escaflowne cause you to specifically take an interest in the show?
KS: Well yeah, sure! A lot of times with anime, where things go straight to video because they're not
deemed suitable for broadcast in North America, you don't get to see a lot of your work. But because Escaflowne aired on TV, I got to watch it. I went to Japan for the Korean premiere of the movie. So this is one the roles that I've had more of a chance to be involved in.
AJ: Do you seek out any of the work you've done on television, like Zoids or Cardcaptors?
KS: Sometimes I come across them. It's hard to keep track of all of them. Because I live in Canada, the airing times in Canada are different-- and sometimes we don't even get everything. I'm not even sure if Zoids is playing in Canada at the moment. I know that it's playing on the American Cartoon Network. Hopefully, I come across them. My mom always recognizes when I'm on TV. She's the only one in the world who can be flipping through the channels, can hear my voice, and go, "Oh! It's Kelly!" She's better at it than I am.
AJ: In Japan, common practice in voiceover work is to assemble the entire cast in the recording booth at once. Is anything like that ever done at Ocean, or is recording always a solo affair?
KS: Not for anime. Anime is always a solo affair, unless we're doing walla, which is when you do a crowd scene or something-- background noise. Anime is always done by yourself in the studio. Any kind of pre-lay work, which is an original series like The Simpsons or Disney or anything like that, that's when you record with the rest of the cast in the room. They're very different.
AJ: Have you ever met any of the other English cast members of Escaflowne?
KS: Yeah, a lot of them, actually! You see them coming and going at the studio, and I've had the chance to work with them in other capacities as well. I think Kirby Morrow and I are always being cast opposite each other. I don't know why, there must be something about our voices that make people want to stick them together. We did Barbie and the Nutcracker and he played the prince, and I played Barbie. I see Kirby a lot.
AJ: You just mentioned that you went to Japan for the Korean premiere of Escaflowne. What was that like?
KS: It was really fun! It was so exciting-- I'd never been to an anime convention before. I take it that North American ones are even crazier than they are overseas. But it was fun, I was treated really well-- the fans were so appreciative, and it was really nice.
AJ: Were the Japanese fans familiar with your work?
KS: They were. They were very respectful and polite, so I didn't get a lot of questions about my work. For the most part, they enjoyed the show, and a lot of them had seen the English version, so that was nice.
AJ: I notice that some of the other actors who've worked at Ocean have also appeared in films and TV shot in Vancouver. Have you done work like this, too?
KS: When I was in high school, I did. I've been in theatre school for the past five years, so I haven't done any film and TV work. But when I was in high school, I got little bit parts in TV shows and movies-- not that anyone would have seen them, I'm sure!
AJ: For a long time, until very recently, Japanese animation dubbed in English was viewed pretty skeptically among fans, who didn't take it very seriously. Nowadays, I notice that dubs are pretty well accepted, even preferred by a lot of fans. Has dubbing at Ocean changed since you've started on Ranma 1/2?
KS: It hasn't changed much at the studio, but the reception I've had from fans and contact I've had with fans has changed somewhat in that now people seem really appreciative of the work we're doing, and they understand that it's difficult to dub something. I think people understand more the fine line between honoring the original and making concessions to fit it into a completely different language. All of the contact and feedback I've had from people has been really supportive, which is great.
AJ: Do you hear from your fans often?
KS: Yeah, I used to more often. I did a spot in an anime newsletter maybe five or six years ago for Ranma 1/2, and it included a contact where they could send letters and stuff. I used to get letters all the time, but I guess it's been out of circulation. I don't get much any more-- now it's more about websites that I come across, and things like that.
AJ: Is there any preferred way for people to send you letters?
KS: They can send me anything they want to my agent.
AJ: Is there anything else you'd like to say to the fans, or anything about the Escaflowne movie you'd like to relate?
KS: Well, I'd just like to thank them for watching, and ask them to keep watching, and thank them for all their support!
Thanks, Kelly! Kelly Sheridan appears in dubs produced at Ocean Studious in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Her more notable recent roles include Hitomi in the Escaflowne movie and television series, Ukyou in Ranma 1/2, Lena Tauros in Zoids, Nikki in Cardcaptors, and Miharu in Gundam. You can send fan mail to Kelly courtesy of her agency, at the following address:
c/o Evangelista Talent Management
5870 Lincoln Street
Vancouver BC V5R4P7
Make sure you include correct postage if you're writing from the U.S. or anywhere that isn't Canada!
For more dirt about the Escaflowne movie, check this out:
Our review of the film
Finally: Did you like this feature? I don't normally interview voice talent, but I figured this one would probably be well received. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more interviews with English-speaking voice actors, drop me a line and say so!