Veronica Taylor has been voicing characters in anime for over 20 years with her best-known role being Ash Ketchum in the original English dub of the Pokémon anime. We were thrilled to sit down and interview her at her autographing table at New York Comic-Con–of course, only after she had finished meeting hundreds of fans!
Otter Lee (AsianCrush): How is your convention going?
Veronica Taylor: It’s been great–so many sweet people. I’ve seen people at this show that I’ve seen over the years, for like, the past 20 years, and it’s been incredible.
When you were first cast as Ash in the original Pokémon anime, did you know what a big phenomenon it would be?
I don’t think anyone did actually. Can you remember what you were thinking when you saw the first episode? Did you think that in 20 years, you’d still be watching this? No! It was the same with us. We auditioned for it and then they said, “Oh, it’ll be on TV.” And we were like “Yeah, right.” But it did go on TV. First at 6 AM, then at 6:30, and then look where it is now.
I was in the first eight years of the show, and we had a great time working on it then.
From Kanto to Hoenn! You also voiced Ash’s mom, Delia Ketchum and May. As a voice actress, what was it like having so many conversations with yourself? How do you begin to attack that as a performer?
Does it sound bad if I say “Really awesome?” When you dub something, you only hear your lines for a single character at a time, so I was able to do all of Ash’s lines then go back and do all of May’s lines, so we could create an actual conversation. I do a lot of other shows. If it’s prelay, you record first and then it’s drawn. I also do a lot of audiobooks, and in those, I’m used to just talking to myself through the whole thing. With prelay, sometimes you get to work in a booth with other people. It’s pretty good!
What are your favorite Pokémon characters, both human and non-human?
I think Ash would say he likes himself a lot. He doesn’t really think about other people–not in a bad way. So Ash is definitely my favorite. He’s so positive and I learned a lot from playing him. I spent so much time with Pikachu that it’s really hard to choose another. There was 150 at first then 252, then….
We’re past the 800 mark now!
Exactly. It’s just too hard to pick another. I really loved when Ash, Misty, and Brock were traveling together. I thought they were a great group. They really resemble your closest friends, but you can also see yourself in any one of them.
It’s not that I would have wanted to play anyone else on the show. I was very happy with how I was cast.
I think a lot of people were also happy with your casting. Now, you recently recorded a video celebrating Ash’s latest victory in the Alola League. How did that happen?
It was very exciting. I found out on Twitter. Isn’t that a great use for Twitter? Finding out news of such as importance like Ash winning the Pokémon League. I saw it when I was reading the news on my phone; it was really early in the morning, and I thought “Maybe I should say something about it?” I just did a little silly recording.
I do a lot of videos with my little Ash figurine that I carry with me everywhere, just for fun. You know what really impressed me? How when I followed the Ash Ketchum hashtag, I saw so many people celebrate this win. How many people said “He finally did it” or “I’ve been waiting all my life” or even “If I Ash can do it, I can too!” This is the community that we all have built. It’s so positive and so supportive, and everybody came out. It was in newspapers. Someone said that ESPN did something about it. A friend of mine from Dubais said “You made the paper.”
All of us around the world celebrating this cartoon boy with who we can all identify. This spirit of going for your goals and being a successful person, yet also help your friends. That was amazing to me! I was happy to contribute to it in some way by doing a fun little video.
As a veteran performer, how would you say the voice acting industry has changed since you started working?
One thing is that you don’t have to be in one place to work on things anymore. It used to be that if you weren’t based in New York, you couldn’t keep your role in something like Pokémon that’s based here. I started VO and animation jobs in New York, but I have since moved to LA, and can still do NY-based projects. I can do auditions now, anywhere I am. There’s no casting director that you go to the office for anymore, so you’re much more independent, which is convenient, but also,it takes the community out of it, and it’s harder to get work. Overall though, things are a little easier in terms of what you have to do.
How has the move from NY to LA been for you?
It was like my career started over. When you move to any other area, you have to meet people. It doesn’t really matter what you’ve done, you just have to re-prove yourself. It’s been really hard honestly.
Kind of like Ash, every time he goes to a different region, catching a new team, and earning those gym badges again.
Exactly. You start over from scratch and figure out how to build yourself. Now, with social media, you have to constantly be posting and saying stuff about yourself, which is really not what I’m interested in. I like doing other people’s words and don’t like getting personal. For me, it’s like “Why?” I just like identifying with my different projects. Every now and then though, I do post a picture of my coffee!
You worked on Sailor Moon as Sailor Pluto….
I’m still doing it now. I’m on the new, not the old one.
Right. The Viz Media version and Crystal. Can you describe voicing Sailor Pluto? She’s certainly one of the more distant, cold characters in both series.
Very. We actually had to rerecord some things because it was too warm. She doesn’t really know how to connect with people because she’s literally so far out there compared to everyone else. It’s been challenging and definitely not a normal role that I would play. To be able to figure out how to tap into her…. She cares so deeply about, but just doesn’t show it very well. That’s a nice thing to play.
How did you become involved with Dragon Ball Super?
I got an audition because I know Chris and Sean. I’ve known them for so long, and that was it. Then, I went to work on a video game and then they asked me if I wanted to audition for something else and on it goes. Not very exciting, but lucky.
You’ve gotten to do three of the biggest anime of the 90’s: Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball [Super]. Tell us about voicing the larger-than-life Ribrianne.
Well, I’m in the Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball of today haha. Oh, [Ribrianne] she is literally larger than life. She’s amazing, so bouncy and full of love and extraordinary and extreme. She’s just wonderful and she too really cares. And to see someone on that show fight with love was just amazing to me.
I don’t know if you know this, but when the character first debuted in Japan, she didn’t get a great response from the audience.
People HATED her. I read all about it, and I was thrilled to play her! It was just so fun *laughs* You have to be a force larger than life to prove that “Love Wins.”
Do you think she has a good heart deep down?
Oh definitely! I loved when she was fighting Goku–I’m against fighting in general, but I must admit that i loved when she blasted Goku, and there was just a giant heart-shaped crater there. That was just so hilarious and wonderful!
She did quite well in the tournament actually. I was hoping she would beat Goku…. maybe there can be a spin-off series.
All about Universe 2 and love!
What was it like playing Manuela in Fire Emblem: Three Houses? Yet another larger than life character!
She’s really crazy and out there and needy and wonderful with her whole opera career. She’s so smart and yet she needs people and adoration so much. I think we can all learn from that. She definitely expresses herself in odd ways. She was tremendously fun to play.
Similar to Manuela, you have a background on the stage, right?
I actually started acting when I was 5, and then I went to college and grad school for it. I did a lot of theatre and toured the U.S. with several acting companies. I guess my career just kind of veered away from doing plays because my daughter was born and I didn’t have time to commit to going to rehearsal or being at the theatre all night. It was lucky for me that VO work took over because I could move the schedule around to pick her up from school or go on field trips. I do really miss the theatre and the stage though.
Did you have a favorite stage role?
One of my favorites that I played for a long time was Hermia in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gosh, I also did some great Caryl Churchill and Noel Coward plays. I just love bringing people’s words to life. I do a lot of audiobooks and with those I get to work the whole story. I love storytelling, so a good cartoon or a play, something like that where you can really tell a story over time and there’s maybe a lesson or we all leave impacted by the end. That’s what’s important to me.
Did you know that Manuela has paired endings with several characters?
I didn’t know that. We voiced the snippets of scenes and conversations, but I didn’t realize that she can actually be paired with different people.
She marries Hanneman and they go back to just arguing in the school. With Dorothea, they both return to the Opera Company, become stars onstage again, and heal the country after the war. With Edelgard, she becomes her personal physician and advisor. ***Sorry Seteth, Byleth, and Ferdinand fans!
Really? I didn’t know any of that. I guess I’d better play the game. Out of those, I think the Dorothea one sounds great because she misses being onstage. Even though she’s so smart and she has so much to teach, I think performing is part of who she is, which is why she’s so big. I like the idea that she goes back and that she’s accomplished.
As a mother, how did your kid feel about your work growing up? Did it come with street cred?
Rena (Veronica’s daughter): We do get to travel to all these conventions.
Veronica Taylor: I think she would prefer if we got a table at a restaurant rather than for autographing.
Lastly, how do you match all those lip flaps when you’re dubbing anime and video games?
Super fun but super challenging! It really comes down to the angle of your paper or now, your iPad. I like to put it up, so I can just look to the screen and constantly look down then up, so I’m just kind of working it in the moment. You have to zen it honestly, but it’s really exciting.
Thank you so much for taking busy time out of your extremely busy NYCC schedule, Veronica!