Anime fans have their share of leading ladies who aren’t afraid to fight for what’s right. So, what is it like to be a voice actor behind these badass heroines? Cherami Leigh has an expansive career in anime, and has lent her voice to multiple popular series such as Boruto and Soul Eater. Thanks to Virtual Crunchyroll Expo, But Why Tho? got to ask Leigh a few questions about three dynamite franchises she has voiced leading ladies for: Lucy Heartfilia in Fairy Tail, Minako/Sailor Venus in both Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon: Crystal, and Asuna in Sword Art Online.
BUT WHY THO: You voiced Lucy Heartfilia in Fairy Tail, a show that ran for ten years and over 200 episodes, throughout which we see Lucy become one of the strongest celestial wizards. What was it like playing her character for such a long time?
CHERAMI LEIGH: This, for me, was a turning point in my career. If someone told me that I was going to play a character for 10 years I would have said no way. I remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling when I auditioned for the role. I actually did not go in to audition for Lucy. I actually argued with the director and said don’t make me do this, I really want to be a part of the show and there’s no way you’re going to cast me as Lucy so don’t put me in this position where I get excited knowing I’m not going to get the job. And then I got the job and I couldn’t believe it!
I remember we got to go to Anime NYC and I got to meet the creator of Fairy Tail, and he gave us all a little key chain. It was so amazing to walk into a room to sit next to the creator of this iconic franchise. And to have him sit right next to us and watch our dub episode and look over and give us thumbs up. He said I’m so proud, and that was amazing and then you have 4000 fans watching it for the first time as well. I had no idea at that time, I just thought the creator gave us a thumbs up, the fans seem to like it and if this is where it ends, this is so cool.
I never thought it would go on for 10 years. I never thought I’d get to play this character! I listened back to what I did in the first few episodes. My voice has changed and it’s matured as Lucy has matured and changed. Because it was 10 years of my life, so you kind of get to watch the growth and listen to the growth of me as a person while listening and watching her growth. The things that she went through over 10 years absolutely impacted me. People will say, did you impact her or did she impact you? I don’t think that there’s any way it can’t be both. I was impacted because Lucy is the reason that I chose to move to Los Angeles. There is a scene in the show where she says I want to be in fairy tail, and I don’t care what you think and I call it the emancipation scene, where she tells her dad I don’t want your money, I don’t want what’s safe anymore, I want to go out and do what I have to do to give this a shot and I had been auditioning and working on things and I told my dad I’m playing a character that will do anything for her dream, and I feel like i’m a hypocrite if I’m telling people to follow their dreams and go after what they believe in and I am so afraid to try. And my parents were like, then you have to go, you have to try so she’s absolutely impacted me and I’m so grateful that Tyler (the director) told me that I was wrong and that I should read the audition because, if not for the director and him not seeing and hearing Lucy in me, I certainly didn’t see it in myself so it’s all due to him.
BWT: Did you make any changes to your portrayal of Minako going from the original Sailor Moon anime to the more recent Sailor Moon: Crystal adaptation; or is she pretty consistent in her character throughout?
CHERAMI LEIGH: We made changes collectively, as a cast. We decided to call the classic the original. It’s a little goofy or it’s a little more over the top so there’s a little bit more fun that can be had. Crystal is more like the manga. There’s not a lot of filler so when things are dire, we don’t get to take a break to let’s go to a fun side arc or let’s go hang out and go get drinks with each other. (When I say drinks, we all know it’s milkshakes). So that means that we decided it’s going to be a little bit more grounded, it’s going to be a little bit more cinematic. It’s going to be less cartoony, less over the top, less fun. It’s going to be a lot more real because the stakes are a lot higher. That was a shift that we decided collectively, so the voice for Crystal ends up being a little bit deeper sometimes because they’re more grounded and they’ve got to get things done, in a much shorter time span.
I’ve loved getting to do both. It’s been so cool because you get a fuller picture in creating this character so it’s nice to have the fun over the top moments, and the really serious cinematic moments. Anytime anybody says, “Do you want more Sailor Moon?” the more the merrier for sure.
BWT: If Asuna, Sailor Venus and Lucy all got to team up in a battle, what do you think their team dynamic would be like?
CHERAMI LEIGH: Well, everybody else better watch out! (I know I’m biased in saying that.) I think Asuna would definitely be the mom. She would definitely be bringing everybody breakfast because she’s such a great cook so they’d be well fed. They’d be taken care of and she would make sure everybody had water.
Lucy would make sure everybody was having fun and they were friends with the other team, and when we win (because it’s inevitable), we would still make sure that everybody knew that we’re happy to go out to lunch and we’re happy to go to a movie because we are still friends.
And of course Minako would know all the gossip, all the news, and she’d keep everybody’s spirits up and crack a lot of jokes and absolutely say all the wrong quotations, so I think they’re a very well rounded crew.
We can’t thank Cherami Leigh enough for taking the time to talk with us about these awesome characters. Her work doesn’t stop there, she continues to voice amazing ladies in anime such as Sarada in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. You can also catch her as Michiru in Brand New Animal (BNA) on Netflix!