Stephanie Sheh is one of the most prolific voices in the world of anime dubs. We recently got to chat with her about her career and some of her most recent work, including Netflix’s Cannon Busters. Stephanie voiced several prominent characters in anime, including Orihime Inoue (Bleach), Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon Crystal), and Hinata Hyuga (Naruto).
Rogues Portal: Can you tell us where you got your start in pursuing anime? Specifically voice overs for anime?
Stephanie Sheh: I had always wanted to pursue acting. I went to UCLA to study Mass Communications. I’m Chinese-American, so I had Asian parents who always talked about the “Back Up Plan.” So I never felt like I could fully delve into becoming an actor. It’s not something I went to school for.
I was still in UCLA groups. I got involved in sketch comedy. After I graduated, I felt that I had to give it a shot. Young actors usually pursue a bunch of different things, and voice-over acting was just something I started booking. I was already an anime fan; I didn’t watch dubs, though, because I didn’t think they were good. It’s probably what gave me such confidence, because I felt the bar was very low. I think being Asian helped as well, because there were certain cultural things I could pick up on and communicate.
RP: You stay pretty busy. How do you manage so much VO work?
SS: I think you just do; you just have to manage your life. When you’re an actor, you’re running your own business. And it’s not just me — all the voice actors have to keep their own schedule. It’s about communication and being organized.
RP: Do you enjoy doing voice overs for anime or video games more?
SS: I think it’s a difficult thing to answer since they’re so different. There’s so many sub-genres of anime. There’s action, high-school, comedy, romance. Same thing with video games. Sometimes, it’s a game in a different language or I’m recording by myself. Or, in the case of the Star Wars game, I have to do motion capture, and I’m interacting with other actors. So I wouldn’t say I like one more than the other. But I’m just grateful to work in that field.
RP: Can you explain for our readers the type of work you do for an “Additional Voices” credit?
SS: Additional Voices can refer to multiple things. What you’re referring to is “Walla” — it’s like being an extra on a set. You usually don’t hear those. It’s people shopping or gasping, and you record lines but you don’t really hear it. Additional Voices could also mean they’re a minor character or an interaction with a store clerk. They can’t credit every character, so Additional Voices is used. There’s Incidentals or Bit Parts. They have actual lines or on-camera things.
RP: You’re one of the leads in Your Name, and I’m bringing this up because of what you said earlier. I saw it in Japanese for the first time, and I watched it in English the second time. I cried my eyes out both times. You’re really good at pulling emotions out of characters as well as getting the lips to sync. Can you give us some of the background of this voice work?
SS: All anime before it’s recorded gets an ADR script. Is ADR writer is very important but often forgotten about. They don’t translate themselves; they’re provided with a translation. When they’re writing the script, they’re syncing it outloud to get the timing. Some actors change their speed of speaking or add or remove words. I have written ADR scripts before, so sometimes I’ll give suggestions. There are some different schools of thought with the acting. Some try to make the emotion happen with sound; I try to feel the emotion and just let it come out. Ideally, I’d like to get to the emotional space — like I’m crying for example. I’ll cry and say the words instead of trying to sound like I’m crying.
RP: Recently, you were in Netflix’s Cannon Busters. Did you feel any pressure working on a long-awaited show?
SS: Well, it started with LeSean Thomas’s Kickstarter for a test pilot. Then that got made. Because he was funding it himself, he just kinda reached out to whomever he knew. And he didn’t have a full audition. After the pilot was released, he let us know that Netflix wanted to do a full show. At that point, we had a full audition for everyone. For the pilot, Philly was voiced by a non-voice over talent. He did a good job, but I didn’t think he would even want to stay on for a full show. They went in a different direction with a few characters. Some pilot actors ended up in different roles for the show.
JP: For Cannon Busters, you play the roll of Casey Turnbuckle. What do you feel is Casey’s journey?
SS: Casey is learning a sense of identity. A lot of what Casey does is about helping others, because they don’t see themselves as useful otherwise.
JP: Has there been a timeline set for the second season* yet?
SS: I have not heard anything about a second season. I have no idea at this time.
We’d like to express our gratitude to Stephanie for taking the time to conduct this interview, and we hope those of you who aren’t familiar with her work will check out some of her works mentioned in this interview. And for fans of Stephanie, we hope you had fun experiencing what it’s like to be in her shoes.
*With anime currently experiencing a boom worldwide, we have high hopes that Netflix will renew Cannon Busters. Catch the first season of Cannon Busters now on Netflix.