When the first major trailer for Super Mario Odyssey dropped, viewers were dazzled by “Jump Up Superstar,” the game’s endlessly catchy jazz anthem. Debate over the mysterious singer behind Pauline was enthusiastic and intense, and when the game finally debuted, fans were overjoyed to learn that the mysterious songstress was someone they had known for a long time.
I had the delightful opportunity to interview veteran American voice actress Kate Higgins, who has lent her voice and talents to countless projects in anime dubbing, western animation, and video games since the late 90’s. Fans will know her for iconic performance as Sakura, the female lead of Naruto, a role she has played for over a decade. Other major roles include Tails in the Sonic franchise, C.C. in Code Geass, and more recently, Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury in Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal .
What was the process of auditioning for and recording “Jump Up Superstar?” Did you have any idea what a big part of Mario Odyssey the song would be, and how popular it would become?
I was asked by the production team at Cup of Tea productions if I would be interested in sending in a few vocal demo samples for a Nintendo project. I said sure. I think the client was already familiar with my vocal work. They were looking for someone who could sing in that jazz, swing style. And so the folks at Cup of Tea recommended me. And fortunately the client in Japan really liked my samples–I sent them, and next thing I knew I got the job. I didn’t know the song was going to be as huge as it is, but I also didn’t know it was super catchy and had great production when I first heard it!
What was it like recording Pauline’s secret song (the pop-rock one that plays near the end of the game)?
Yeah, that one was fun! It took a little bit longer to kind of find the vibe…. Then when we got it we knew we were going in the right direction. I had a lot of fun singing that song!
For the past 12 years, you’ve been the voice of Sakura Haruno. Did you know how popular Naruto would be when you got the role? How do you feel like both you and Sakura have grown since the beginning of the series?
I had no idea the show was going to be as popular as it is and was going to go on as long as it has, haha! But I’m very happy to be part of it. I feel very connected to Sakura. I feel like I’ve seen her grow up. She and I have both had issues with those troublesome men. And I’ve kind of been waiting to see what she does to inform my own decision making, haha!
You got to reprise your role as Lissa for Fire Emblem Heroes and Warriors. Did you find anything new? And what was it like getting to create a voice for Serra, the high maintenance cleric?
I think I found more subtleties and nuances and human depth to Lissa’s character.
For Serra, I loved getting to be so abrasive and in your face. It’s good practice for me in life.
Have acting and singing been things you have always enjoyed? When did you first start performing? How did you find your way to VO?
I’ve been singing and playing the piano since I was six years old. And I guess I’ve just always been a natural performer and actress. I always put on different accents from a very young age. So VoiceOver came very naturally to me even though I did not set out to do it as a career. I fell into it like most other voice actors I know have. I was at a studio recording music when I met someone in the lobby from the Disney Channel who liked my voice and couldn’t believe I was not doing voiceovers. And over time she kept hiring me to do things and that turned into a big gig at Disney Channel doing all their promos, and then as the story goes one thing led to another. and here I am now!
Have your kids ever watched a show or played a game that you have lent your talents for? Has being a mother affected your acting?