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One of the unexpected delights of Gen Con is you never know who you'll meet. Although tabletop games fill the majority of the convention's programming, representatives from many walks make their presence know. After all, if the cosplayers are dressed as characters from Star Trek, Fire Emblem: Awakening, or My Neighbor Totoro, who are the con organizers to say boo? The video gaming areas of Gen Con were, by-and-large dedicated to MOBAs and non-RPGs. The anime hall, on the other hand, was home to A+ guest Amanda Celine Miller.

Amanda Miller is best known in the RPG world for her work as Sully and Cherche in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Junko and Toko in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, and Francesca in Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven. She's also a bona fide Sailor Scout: she's the voice of Sailor Jupiter in Viz Media's 2014 Sailor Moon rerelease. We sat down at Gen Con 2015 to discuss voice actress life and the importance of representation.

Be warned, this interview includes spoilers for Danganronpa and the voice acting industry.


Zach Welhouse: Hi! Thank you for speaking with me today. How did you get started as a voice actress?
Amanda Miller: I got started doing theatre back in middle school and high school. In college I was a theatre major. I wanted to go to New York and do Broadway, but then I took a class. Tony Oliver has these Adventures in Voice Acting classes that he does all over the country, and he came to Maryland where I was going to school. I took one of these workshops and thought, "Oh, this is actually really fun. I can use my theatre training, but in a different medium than I ever expected to."

That kind of planted the idea in my head. I took a second level class and then I went to LA to try it out and I loved it. The rest is history, I guess. I interned at Bang Zoom! Entertainment. They do video games and anime and a lot of stuff — JRPGs and whatnot. I grabbed coffee and stuff for three months and they were slowly like, "Intern, go in there and do some background noise!", "Intern, go in there and do this one-line character!". "Oh, you can handle that? Here's a two-line character." Eventually they let me audition for things and I started getting cast in stuff.

ZW: Did you have a background in anime and video games when you took those voice acting classes?
AM: At the time it was (laughs) a while ago. Dance Dance Revolution and Halo were my favorite games at the time. My favorite game of all time though is Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis. I still have my Sega Genesis and I still play Streets of Rage.

Anime, I'd watched since I was a kid, Sailor Moon especially. It's kind of funny to be in it now since I grew up watching it — the whole Toonami block. I was like, "Gundam Wing! Dragonball Z! This is awesome!" Cowboy Bebop. In college it was Code Geass and a few other ones that I was really into. So yeah, I was familiar.

ZW: After you started getting the longer-than-two-line roles and started auditioning for characters, how much familiarity with a character do you get before recording?
AM: Usually it errs on the side of little-to-no forewarning of what you're going to be doing in that session. So if you're recording for a video game, they'll say, "Hey, can you come in to record a video game this Thursday?" They don't tell you you're going to be playing a boy or you're going to be playing a dragon. They're just, "Come in and record," and you get into the booth and it's like, "OK, today you're ____________." Usually, you get very little indication. (Laughs.)

It's different if you audition for it. Sometimes I get booked for things I don't audition for just because they know me and they know I can do it. If I audition for it, then there's a chance that I'm familiar with it because I remember what the audition sides were. For anime, especially, I don't get the heads-up — but if they do let me know who I'm playing beforehand, I can Google it since it's already out in Japan I can research it. That's a fortunate thing. (Laughs.)

ZW: I'm not familiar with audition sides. Could you explain the term?
AM: When you get an audition there's a .pdf attached to the e-mail. It will maybe have a picture of the character and a description. The sides are just the lines that you're going to audition with. It's basically a sample of dialog that you read and record. Then you send the .mp3 back and that's how they evaluate whether you should get the job or not.

Z: That makes sense. When it comes to an anime that already exists or a Japanese video game, how much do you take the Japanese voices into account?
AM: I never mimic the voice, necessarily. I feel like when you do that it feels inauthentic and it feels like you're copying, but I will listen to their tone. There are certain characters that just have a more gruff, matter-of-fact tone versus the little cutesy girl characters. I'll take something like that. They're obviously saying something about the character with this. But sometimes I disregard the Japanese completely because I'm like, "That's... foolish." (Laughs.)

For example, a lot of times they'll have characters that look like fully grown women and they're very well endowed, but then they're like, "This character should sound like she's about seven." I'm like, "No. We're not doing that." (Laughs.) It depends.

ZW: That definitely makes sense. Going back to the earlier question about familiarity with your characters, does your research process change if it's a well-established character like in Marvel Heroes when you were Kate Bishop (AKA: Hawkeye)?
AM: Kind of. I went out and got some copies of Hawkeye because I wanted to be familiar with the character. That being said, Kate Bishop is still so — at the time, at least — not up-and-coming since she was in Hawkeye and Young Avengers, but whenever I told people I was Kate Bishop, they were, "I don't know who that is."

ZW: She's not a Thor or a Hulk.
AM: Yeah, exactly. I don't think she had anyone voice her before, so luckily I didn't have to replicate anyone else's performance. That being said, it was interesting because it was the first time someone had put a voice to her. People were like, "That's not what she should sound like!" Some people were like, "She should sound cuter!" I'm like, "Have you met Kate Bishop?" (Laughs.)

ZW: She's sassy.
AM: Yeah. She's sassy and kind of no-nonsense. She's like, "Yeah, OK." She's not going to be (chirpy, enthusiastic voice), "Hey guys! I'm Kate Bishop. Pew pew!"

ZW: For sure. Shifting gears, I'm playing Fire Emblem: Awakening right now. What's it like voicing multiple characters in the same game? Do you ever have concerns about similarities?
AM: Sometimes. I feel like Sully and Cherche are both different enough that there was no overlap with them. It wasn't like "That sounds too much like Sully!" because usually Cherche was a little more proper. Sully's more, "I'm gonna punch you in the nards."

ZW: (Laughs.) I've met Sully.
AM: You've met her! But there are certain times — are you familiar with the Danganronpa franchise?

ZW: Yes.
AM: In there, I voice Junko and Toko. Sometimes, during certain moments, the director will be like, "Mmmm. They're just sounding too similar right now." They're both teenage girls and they tend to have a certain attitude within they both live. Sometimes one of them gets more heightened. If one of them has an out-of-character moment, suddenly it sounds like the other character and you have to find a way to balance it out.

ZW: Got it. So an excited version of one character sounds like the normal version of a second character.
AM: Right. Exactly. Or, for example, in Danganronpa Toko has a stutter. That helps differentiate her from everyone else, but in the most recent game we recorded, Danganronpa: Another Episode, she's a survivor, got a little more confidence, and has lost most of her stutter. Suddenly I'm, "Oh no! Without the stutter she sounds a lot more like Junko!"

But you make it work. That's why you have directors there, to guide you and be the outside ear. It's like, "Eeeeh. Pitch it up," or "Pitch it down. Let's figure this out."

ZW: It sounds like what a writer's editor does.
AM: Exactly. Someone so you're not just winging it by yourself.

ZW: We've talked about a couple of your characters so far. Who has been your favorite character?
AM: In anime, I'd definitely say Sailor Jupiter because I grew up watching Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter was my favorite. It's so bizarre to be, "Hi. I played her in my backyard, and now I play her for a living."

I would say it depends. Sully was my first big video game character, and it was fun because she was basically me. Coming from the world of anime, there are a lot of shows where they want you to sound cutesy and little girlish and that was never my thing. I didn't get cast so much in anime, but in video games it's like, "Oh, this is where I belong!" In video games, they want their girls to be badass and tomboyish.

I would have to say my favorite overall experience was recording for Danganronpa and recording Junko. She's got all these personalities, and a theatre actor's dream is to be like, (cutesy voice) "Oh, one minute I'm all cutesy" and the next minute, (royal queen voice) "Oh, I'm a royal queen!" She's frickin' insane and I love that.

I really enjoyed that and that they keep bringing her back. You grow a little each time and start to recognize, "this is a Junko thing." When you first start with a character you're still trying to find it, but when the character comes back you can be, "Oh, I've got this!"

ZW: Did you do all the voices for Junko?
AM: No. It was definitely weird. Me and Erin Fitzgerald both got cast as Junko and Toko. Toko has two personalities: I voice normal Toko and she voices Genocide Jill/Genocider Sho in Japanese. As Junko there's eight or seven personalities. I think it's eight. Anyway, I'm Junko's normal speaking voice and the rocker chick one, the emo one with mushrooms on her head, the royal queen one, and the little cutesy moe one. I believe Erin's the teacher voice, she's the bored model voice, and the one holding the Monokuma.

We always ask, "Just curious, why didn't you have one of us be Junko, one of us be Toko?" The people who made the casting decision weren't working there anymore, so we'll never know! (Laughs.)

I think it could have been when we both turned in our auditions, they liked what we did enough that they said, "Well, let's just use both!" Erin's been super-cool and whenever anyone says, "You're the voice of this," we say, "Yes, but also this person was." We give each other credit.

ZW: During the recording process is there any kind of collaboration? How does your rocker chick Junko mesh with Erin's teacher Junko?
AM: No, and I think that may be why they did it that way. Maybe they wanted the voices to sound so different and that's why they had two people doing it. When I auditioned for Genocide Sho, my tough rocker voice for Junko sounded just like that. I think they did it like this because they wanted it to sound completely all over the place.

There were a couple of times when they played a reference of another actor, but it usually wasn't Erin. It was more if my character was mimicking someone else. For example, they played samples for Erin of Brian Beacock's Monokuma voice so she could be (Monokuma voice), "Uwwaou!"

Unfortunately for voiceovers, especially in video games and anime, you're in the booth by yourself. A lot of times you never meet people you're with and you don't find out the cast until they announce the cast list. There's been so many times when me and my friend Keiji Tang are in a game and our characters are a couple. We won't know until later: "Oh, you're my baby daddy." (Laughs.) "Nice to meet you!"

ZW: Going back to Sailor Moon, there's a popular post on your tumblr from 2014 about how important Sailor Jupiter has been to you.
AM: Oh, yeah! That article is about how Sailor Jupiter mattered to me growing up and how I think she still matters to a lot of people. It was really cool to see that kind of response: people reblogging it and then the Mary Sue picked it up, and I love reading the Mary Sue so I'm like, "Whaaat! They want to put my stuff on there?"

It's cool because it shows how Sailor Moon has so many universal themes. That's just one of the characters, you know? Each of the girls has different traits that different people identify with, whether they're female or male. It's just that Jupiter, for me, represented my struggle growing up because she's very tough, very tomboyish, very strong. She's taller than a lot of the boys, and I was 5'4" in 4th grade. Now I'm around 5'8"; most of my friends are around 5' tall. I can lift my male friends!

At the same time, she wanted to be seen as one of the girls too. It wasn't a matter of (tough biker voice) "I'm tough and I just want to be seen as this-and-that." She's more, "I'm tough, but I also want to bake. I want to ice skate, and I want boys to think I'm cute." I loved the duality, so the article I wrote was an homage to her and saying why. It's not just a cartoon or just an anime, you know? When you have representation of all different types of people that can really affect a kid growing up.


Once again, thank you to Amanda Celine Miller for taking the time to chat!



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