Cherami Leigh has a career in voice acting that just won’t quit. She has been a staple of the industry of more than 20 years and has lent her talents to memorable characters like Lucy in Fairy Tail, Road in D.Gray-man, Sailor Venus in Sailor Moon, and Asuna in Sword Art Online. Honey-chan was star struck at first then gathered herself and buckled down for a great interview.
Interview with Cherami Leigh (Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, Sword Art Online, & More!)
You’ve had a lot of great roles in your career, from sailor scouts to sword-wielding heroines. What kind of role comes more naturally to you?
I don’t know, there have been sometimes when I’ve looked at a role and think that I’d naturally gravitate towards this character and then book the character that I think is more out of side of the box and a bigger risk for me. I then realize how much we (character and I) have in common. I feel that I get to play the characters that are good for my growth and development as a human being. So, that’s changing as I’m changing. The characters that I fit with seems to change as I get older.
Do you have any examples?
I got cast as Asuna as she is dealing with her love story right after I got engaged. I started working on Fairy Tail as Lucy when she was striking out on her own at the same time when I decided to move to Los Angeles. It is interesting how these parallels come up. I guess when I become a mom, I’ll gravitate to being a character that’s a mom. Right now, I’ll have a character that has a mom that has a few lines and they’ll ask me to read those, so I guess I’m learning to self-mother myself.
What genre do you prefer to work in? You do a lot of action anime. Would you consider doing something that isn’t for the mainstream audience?
Yeah, sure, when I look for characters to play I look for the ones that have a lot of integrity or have something that people can relate to or has an interesting story to tell. I never thought I’d be doing action. I never thought I’d be playing a warrior. I took a lesson on how to wield a katana and almost cut my hand. All I did was unsheathe the sword. So, the fact I play so many characters with swords, just doesn’t make sense. I love doing drama. I love doing slice of life. I love doing historical fiction-based pieces. I think as long as the character is interesting, has a lot of integrity and is passionate about what she wants to do I’m on board.
What about acting grabs you? What made you want to be a voice actress?
I started acting at the age of six. My goal was to be on Barney. It was all I wanted. I figured I’d get on Barney and that would be my career and I’d be retired at 13. I didn’t know there would be work after Barney. But, at the age of 9, I was working on a project with the producer of Barney and everyone was like “he’s going to put you in the show you’re perfect for it”. That producer ended up saying “I think Barney would ruin your career.” So, dreams crushed at nine years old. I love telling stories. I’m fascinated by human beings. I’m fascinated by people’s perspectives. So, to get to view the world from a broader lens than just from what my life experience allows, is some of my favorite things to do as an actor.
You’ve made yourself a staple in the anime business. Is it hard to keep that enthusiasm up?
It can be tricky to keep the energy up because there are so many talented actors out there. You have to constantly be available especially now with things being digital. We can send in auditions on our phones. We have to be available 24/7. When I was a kid if they didn’t call by 5 or 530 you didn’t have to worry about doing the job the next day. Now I can get an email at eleven or twelve o’clock and they’re asking you to come in the morning at ten. You’re always on. You always have to be ready to go.
Right now, I’m co-directing a show and writing some live-action pilots and films and doing recording as well. It's tough. But when you love this business and there are so many different facets, you’re always pushing yourself to grow and progress.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on the simul-dub of Steins;Gate 0 where we just recorded episode 15. It is such a fun show to work on. I’m playing the character Suzuha, which I’ve played for a couple years now, and this season they also have me playing Yuki, Suzuha’s mom. I’m playing myself and my mom. Suzuha is a badass and Yuki is sweet and adorable, and they talk to each other all the time which has been a fun challenge.