A few weeks ago at Zenkaikon I got to chat with anime/video game voice actor Lauren Landa, who you probably know from her roles as Annie Leonhart from Attack on Titan, Kasumi from the Dead or Alive Franchise, or Squigly from Skullgirls. Lauren was nice enough to chat with me a bit about not only what got her into voice acting, but also what the process is like on a game as opposed to a show like Attack on Titan.
I would like to thank the folks at Zenkaikon for making this interview happen!
You were doing stage acting when you were 5, when did the voice acting bug get you?
Well, for voice acting my father worked for Disney. When I was a little kid he would take me with him into the studio whenever he would work. I would see how they would record promos for Disney afternoon or I would get to see him edit on cartoons on Disney afternoon, like Gargoyles, DuckTales, those types of shows that we all love. That was pretty cool for me.
So that is where the bug started to snake into my pillow at night.
Other than that for anime and video games, anime didn’t come into my life until middle school. I think the first anime I saw was Sailor Moon. When I was in college I ended up taking a voice and diction class with my friend who was also a voice actress, who recommended “hey you should take a workshop if you’re interested in this, because it’s what anyone should do is a lot of classes and theater training.”
So I took a workshop with Tony Oliver, who is known for the voice of Rick Hunter and Lupin the Third, the original and several other voices.
Tony put me on an auditioning list and I was cast in my first anime show three months later. So that is how I got my first show.
You do a lot of anime and video games, is there a big difference and which do you prefer?
Recording-wise, with anime you are watching the scene as you are recording it, because you are trying to match the lip flaps. Whereas with video games you have to do that with some cut scenes that might be in the game, I’ve had to do that several times. Other than that I actually prefer recording anime, however the pay is different for both.
But I prefer to do anime, because you are watching the scene, whereas with videogames everything is very out of context and you really have to solely rely on the director in that case. Videogames are a lot of fun and I enjoy recording them and I have had a lot of great experiences with a lot of great games I’ve been able to be a part of, but in my heart anime is what I prefer to record.
For videogames you do the big stuff, like Dead or Alive, but you also do the indie stuff like Skull Girls, how do you choose a project?
We don’t choose projects. We get auditions that are sent to us if the client is interested in casting us. They will send us an audition and if they like our audition we will get cast in the project. It’s not that we don’t have a choice in the matter, but I’ve never turned down a project and I don’t think I ever will unless it’s against all of my morals. I have very realistic morals so I don’t think I will ever find a project I would turn down.
Attack on Titan has such a strange premise what were you thoughts when you first read the script for it?
Well funny enough I didn’t read the premise for Attack on Titan. When they sent us the auditions, they just sent character descriptions for the characters we were auditioning for. I didn’t find out what the show was actually about until I was cast and Attack on Titan had been out for about a year prior to the English dub being cast.
So I didn’t know what it was about, I only knew it was a very big title and everybody was talking about it.
When I was cast as Annie, Mike McFarland the voice director calls me and says, “oh you were cast as Annie” and I was like “cool, awesome, I can’t wait to be a part of it.” Because of my reaction he asks me if I had seen the show, and I said I hadn’t and he says “well here is the thing about Annie, she starts off as a side character, but she gets bigger later.”(Laughs)
When I came back from Dallas recording the show, I marathoned the whole thing in a couple of days and when I find out what happens with Annie, I was very excited about it.
She definitely has one of the more interesting character arcs in the show…
Yeah I was shocked and surprised at the same time and so many people are like “I knew it was her all along.” My main reaction to that is well good for you!
She has also come to be one of the most iconic images of the show as well. You have the Colossal Titan and Annie’s character…
Yeah you also have the Armored Titan, but like you said it mainly the Colossal and the Annie. I am excited to see what season two will bring.
Has the success of the show surprised you at all? Its been a while since a show blew up that big that fast.
Not since Dragonball Z or Sailor Moon. Honestly, no I am really not surprised. Is it awesome? Yes, because I myself and all of the cast loves the show, because it’s fantastic, it’s Walking Dead, meets Game of Thrones with a little Battlestar Galactica, so you have all the best nerd shows combined into one.
I knew it was huge going into it, so there was a little bit of pressure, but again because I had no idea where the story was going with Annie at the time. I didn’t feel that crazy amount of pressure that anything was going to happen to her.
How do you prepare for a role and what do you draw on as an actress to give these characters life?
A lot of that has to do with the director.
As a voice actor and an actor in general, everything is going to be on a time crunch, so when you go into the studio you only have about five to ten minutes to talk about the character, their personality and where the director thinks they are going to go with it. After that you have to jump right into it and find the voice for it. Then you will experiment with a couple of voices and the director will say “that’s to high, that’s too low.”
Then you’ll find a common ground. It really depends on the relationship between the director and actor, if they work well together they will find it sooner rather than later.
What’s next and I hope you going to be in season 2 of Attack on Titan?
I would certainly hope so, but that wont be until 2016, unfortunately. I don’t know if I can talk about any of the roles coming up, but there are some good ones coming up.