Tia Ballard has a voice we’ve all grown to know and love. Whether she is playing the sweet and earnest Nanami Momozono from Kamisama Kiss, the seductive Zero Two from Darling in the Franxx, or everyone’s favorite blue flying talking cat with a fish habit Happy, she puts her whole heart into the role. We had the chance to sit down with her in Miami where she was a guest at Otakufest and ask her all sorts of questions about her life as an actor and the characters she plays.
Interview with Tia Ballard
You were a big fan of animation growing up, so what about it that drew you to it?
I think that when you are a kid you need stories, you connect with stories that are very clear. I remember a moment in The Little Mermaid when Sabastian got sick to his stomach because he saw fish being cut up and I distinctly remember seeing that and thinking oh, that’s a feeling I would have. Or in Toy Story, Woody feels very jealous of Buzz because he feels like he’s being replaced and I watched that at a time when I was feeling the same way about my stepsister. I found myself making a connection and being like, yeah, I’m not the only person who has ever had that feeling.
Did you ever think that you’d be able to make a career out of using your acting talents?
I think that I’ve always been a person with very big feelings and that combined with my love of animation that they both just went hand in hand. When I was younger I didn’t know if I was going to be a story border or something else but I knew I was going to be there (in the animation industry) somewhere. I am a storyteller and I think that is the throughline so even if I’m sweeping streets I’m going to do it in a fun creative way that tells a story.
Have you had any characters whose arc or trials have resonated with you?
I kind of feel that way about almost all of my characters. I think one that really stands out right now is Zero Two from Darling in the Franxx. She feels like a monster and she feels unlovable. We all can think back to a time when we felt unlovable. So, to discover that she is not a monster and she is loveable or that maybe she is a monster and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing is beautiful to me and I was honored to tell that story.
You played several great characters in some stand-out shows, like Slime and Fruits Basket, was there a role or show you were like, “I want to be a part of that”?
Yes, I have. I also in that case acted a little inappropriately and told the director, hey I like this role a lot. It turned out that I did get the role but not because I asked but because I fit the role. I try not to do too much research about a role because if you fall in love with it and don’t get it you’ve broken your own heart. To me, the most fun happens when you discover and meet the character after the fact.
You played Ruti in Banished from the Hero’s Party So I Decided to Live the Quiet Life in the Country, what do you think of the interpretation of a burden of the hero?
Ruti is unlike any other character I’ve ever played. She is so quiet and so held back and withdrawn. I put a lot of heart into her when I play her but I can’t let that come across in her speaking voice. So, I think about the kids that I meet at these conventions, who haven’t figured out how to express themselves yet or are unable to. I think we need characters like that who are simply expressing themselves the best they can. Because somewhere out there a kid is going to watch that show and be like “that is me”.
What do you think is the most compelling part of the story?
I know it sounds hippie-dippie, but I think the heart behind it, that's why I think we should all be telling stories because only you can tell a story your way. I think it takes a little bit of heart and a little bit of self-indulgence in order to tell the story your way.
What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career from the person you are now?
As long as you lead with love you belong here.
What is a line that you’ve read that either has stuck with you or you really loved?
I wish it was something deep and meaningful but it was actually when Happy, the cat from Fairy Tail, met Carla. Happy is deeply in love with the white cat Carla and said, “I’ll give you all my fish if you tell that vision I haven’t been neutered yet.” I don’t know if that was the exact translation but that is what we said in the dub and I love it.
We want to thank Tia Ballard for sitting down with us for a few minutes to talk about her career and the many stories she’s been a part of. She was one of the kindest and most open-hearted people we’ve interviewed and wish her nothing but the best going forward and look forward to sitting down and talking with her again.