I get asked this question a lot. “How did you get into voice acting?”
I grew up wanting to be a famous singer and actor. When I got to Japan at the young and vulnerable age of 31, I was able to navigate my way quickly into a career because;
It was 1996. There was hardly any competition.
I had spent my entire life talking in other accents and funny voices.
Before I arrived in Tokyo, I worked as a high school teacher for 8 years, which prepared me for my career as a voice actor.
Teaching is a great job for someone who loves the sound of their own voice and needs a regular audience that requires no marketing, ticketing or event planning.
I just had to do a teensy bit of content creation (lesson plans) and a yearly session with the kids producers (parents), who by the time their kid was in the last two years of school, are too jaded, disappointed and lazy, “Hell, I’m paying school fees for you to deal with my kid!,” to bother turning up to Parent Teacher meetings.
Some days, I would teach the class in an annoying, nasally voice. Or a British accent, or American, or French.
Just because I could.
My audience had to sit there for the entire performance (class).
Because my voices were usually annoying, I’d have to stop after a few minutes, but not before I had made the point, “Just be glad I don’t actually have a voice like that!”
Being a school teacher was a great job for wannabe actor.
I had to act interested in boring kids.
I had to act uninterested in hilarious, naughty goings on or mean gossip.
I had to act as if kids snickering about my chicken legs and flat chest and zits didn’t hurt. Or that I was deaf.
Priceless, brilliant training for an actress.
Some days I knew I had given an Academy Award winning performance as “Donna, the good teacher”.
It was deeply satisfying.
I would be mentally slow clapping myself as I strapped myself into my 1982 white Corolla, waving off kids who’s parents had gifted them with a new car for their 17th birthday, reliving my “performance” that day as I crafted my acceptance speech for Best Actress in a movie.
As I drove off my self talk was positive. “Yes! I was so lucky! I was really talented!
So, by the time I had to lie on the grey carpeted floor of Konami, way back when it was located in Kachidoki, for the Silent Hill Three audition, pretending to eat a vomited baby Messiah in front of some sheepish Japanese writers, I had been training like a Jedi master to school my mind and deliver a truly convincing performance.
Digging deep to the core of my being, to find the gaping wound in my soul that had been inflicted by that suburban, Australian teenager’s muttered “Miss Burke’s a nut job.”
I. Went. There!
Oh yes, I remember it well. The director shouting, “CUT!”
Me, slowly wiping the imaginary remains of aborted, baby messiah blood from the sides of my mouth while simultaneously picking some stray office lint off my brown corduroy jeans.
So the message here folks is this.
If you love talking in voices not your own, if people have told you your whole life to stop being annoying and just use your own goddamn voice please and if you give yourself the giggles by having conversations by yourself as a wacky character, you have a big future!