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Otakon2011: Toonzone Interviews Anime Voice Actress Lisa Ortiz

During Otakon, Toonzone had the opportunity to sit down for a one on one interview with Lisa Ortiz. Lisa Ortiz is known most notably for her role as Lina Inverse in Slayers. Other roles she is known for consist of LaLa Ru in Now and Then, Here and There, Amy Rose in Sonic the Hedgehog, Deedlit in Record of Lodoss War, and Alicia Whistle in Blue Gender.

TOONZONE NEWS: How was it to voice Lina Inverse again after nearly a decade?

LISA ORTIZ: It was fantastic (laughs). We were all really excited. She’s one of my favorite characters. When we first heard the rumor that it was going to happen, someone had approached me earlier, probably like a year, year and a half beforehand and said this is going to happen. I’m like “that sounds great, but I’ve heard this a million times.” And then it actually did. All of us in the cast, Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, all of us were like, “Oh my gosh, can you believe it, we are getting to do this again.” We were so excited and the fact that the four of us were still together and able to do that was awesome. We had so much fun and coming back into the studio, it was really kind of like putting on an old pair of jeans that fit really well. We came in and we just sort of got back into the groove, even though we had Mark Diraison. He was the new director but he had watched most of the stuff before and he was like “I know you guys know what you are doing with this, I’m gonna have my things that I’m going to give you.” I was just telling them, I just did a panel, and one of the first things we did in the translation. We had came to the first dragon slave and I look down and I’m like, “This is wrong; it’s not the right translation.” He’s like, “How do you know? What, do you have the dragon slave memorized?” I’m like, “Actually, yes I do, sadly.” Because I had done it for conventions, people had always said so, I actually wrote it down. Then the next day we got a call from Mike Sinterniklaas, he’s out in L.A. recording Crispin Freeman. He’s like “I’m talking to Crispin, he’s saying the dragon slave is not right, do you know this, we’ve gotta change it.” We’re like, “Oh don’t worry, we already have that covered.” But we slipped back into it really fast.

TOONZONE NEWS: So how long did it take you to accept the role once it was offered?

LISA ORTIZ: Uhm, I think before he finished the sentence (laughter). Like I said, when they said that we were going to be doing it and as soon as they told us the whole cast that was there, like all of us. I still work with Veronica all the time, and Eric had actually just moved to Nashville. He drove up to do it. He literally drove up and would do his things in large chunks to be able to do it because we all loved that show.

TOONZONE NEWS: It’s great that you guys are so tight knit and ready to do it.

LISA ORTIZ: Yeah, we were really jazzed.

TOONZONE NEWS: How did you first get the role of Lina in Slayers?

LISA ORTIZ: At the time, I was doing a lot of work with Central Park Media. It was really early on, I had just started. I had done my first role, which was Deedlit in Record of Lodoss War. Then I was doing the show Battle Arena Toshinden. A lot of the work I did at the time, I didn’t have a demo, I didn’t have anything like that. People would come into my studio sessions, hear my session with me recording and then say, “Hey do you want to do this?” So I think I was working on either Battle Arena Toshinden or Gall Force when one of the guys came and asked, “Hey, I’ve got this show that I think you should audition for, it’s called Slayers.” And I was like, “OK, you know, whatever.” I had no idea that it was going to be as popular as it is. I wound up doing that and booking it so it was awesome.

TOONZONE NEWS: That’s great. Now that you’ve voiced Lina Inverse after a decade, are there any other characters in others shows that you’ve voiced in the past that you wouldn’t mind revisiting if a series was to be revived or perhaps even get a second season?

LISA ORTIZ: Oh yeah. One of the ones that I really loved was Tsubasa in His or Her Circumstances, which was really great. I mean I would always go back and do Deedlit but we already did have a second, with Chronicles of Heroic Knight. But, one of my favorite characters in an anime that I’ve done was Shiori in Revolutionary Girl Utena. I would love to be able to do her again, she was great. She’s like the one, I would love to do her again because she’s kind of evil.

TOONZONE NEWS: Evil characters are always fun to play.

LISA ORTIZ: Yes they are. She was the first time I got to be evil. Everybody was like after Lina, “Oh, you’re quirky and funny.” I had a lot of range so they’re like well, you can do the brassy stuff, like the funny stuff, and some of the other people can’t do that so they were like, “You can be funny.” I’m like [dramatically] “but I want to be evil!” And then I was.

TOONZONE NEWS: A lot of voice actors seem to dip into ADRing or scripting, have you ever considered doing so yourself?

LISA ORTIZ: I actually have done both. I have written scripts for a number of shows. I did one awhile back and then I just did a series, but this was not anime because we had done something else. I’ve written a number of shows now. One of them was a show called Angel Friends that played on a small cable channel that I had written all the original scripts for. Then it got changed to someone because I had left the company. Since I’ve started voice acting, I’ve written scripts, I’ve directed now and I direct and produce at a company called DuArt, where Pokemon gets done. I work with Tom Wayland a lot.

TOONZONE NEWS: Is there a series you have voiced in that you feel is underrated, or doesn’t get as much attention as you feel it should?

LISA ORTIZ: Yeah, there’s a show I did called Space Pirate Mito which I feel like is a lot of fun. It’s this alien who has this robot suit that makes her look like a giant pirate, but when she comes out she is really tiny and small. It’s weird, I will admit that. It’s a weird, weird, weird show but that was the first show I had done, I think. It was directed by Sean Schemmel at the time and it was one of his earlier things. I think it’s a really good fun show. It’s kind of slapstick. It was fun to do because she has a different voice as the smaller thing. It’s a weird show, really weird.

TOONZONE NEWS: You embrace the weirdness.

LISA ORTIZ: Yeah, I thought we did a really great job with that. It’s a shame that more people haven’t seen that show but I really love that show.

TOONZONE NEWS: Has there ever been a moment in the booth where you have read a line and just thought to yourself “wait, what?”

LISA ORTIZ: Yeah (laughter), that happens occasionally. Sometimes you’re like, “Why am I saying that? What is this?” Or occasionally you’re like, “Is this English? What happened to this?” Really it depends on who you are working with. I’ve been doing this for a long time now and I’ve been working with a lot of the same people for years and years and years. So if you say, “Okay, this line is a little crazy,” usually we’ll re-write it and that’s pretty good. I’ve done it on both sides, we’ll re-write it if we are able to. A show like Pokemon, which I work on, has a very tight script approval process. They’ve gone through and you can’t really change things, unless it doesn’t fit the flap, cause it’s been back and forth. Other shows have been adapted but they kind of give you some leeway. So normally they do that. If they don’t, then there’s been a few times where you’re sitting there with a director and you’re like, “Uhm, this is crazy.”

TOONZONE NEWS: Especially because you come in and record most of your lines all at once without anyone else, so you don’t really know what’s going on.

LISA ORTIZ: Right, you don’t know what’s going on. That’s a good point, cause a lot of this is cold reading for us. That’s the way that it works and that’s the way it kind of has to work out there. Occasionally you might get a script beforehand but most of the time you’re walking in, you’re kind of glancing over. As a seasoned performer you’re reading ahead, and you’re trying to read all the lines in between as it’s going along but you really count on your director. So, occasionally there’s something that you’re like, “Alright, I give up, tell me what I’m supposed to do here, cause I have no idea” (laughter). Usually you work together or you’ll re-write or do something. You count a lot on your director.

TOONZONE NEWS: Earlier you said you have quite a bit of range, has there ever been a role that has pushed you to the limits of your range?

LISA ORTIZ: I will say yes. There’s been some things that I did multiple voices in. But one of my favorite roles, which I guess is the sort of craziest, kind of different ranges, was this show Magical DoReMi. I play this little green frog blob in it and (in character, click to listen) she talks like Harvey Fierstein like this the whole entire show. [regular voice] I actually had a voice coach that I worked with at a time and he had exercises to do so I wouldn’t destroy my voice. But yeah, in that sense. It was fun to be Harvey Fierstein for awhile though, it was good times.

TOONZONE NEWS: Are there any characters that you are particularly attached to and for any particular reason? Like, I guess Lina because she’s the longest.

LISA ORTIZ: Yeah. Lina, I’m very, very attached to her obviously because I’ve been with her the longest. She’s fun and great. And Deedlit because she was the first voice that I did and I got to spend a lot of time with her. That was my introduction to the professional world of acting. I always joke that the first professional line that I ever said as an actor, where it was a job and I got paid, was, “It’s moldy in here” (laughter), which was Deedlit. I do get attached to a lot of the characters that I do. A lot of times you’re spending 13, 26 episodes with them, sometimes longer than that. Those are two of the ones that I love the most. I did this show called Winx Club. I did some characters in there, this character Musa and Icy, who is also evil and I loved her a lot too. But those are like the ones I love the most. Maybe not the most, I love the others, but they always stay with me.

TOONZONE NEWS: You got the role of Amy, in the Sonic games, as well as I believe in the series. When you got the role of Amy in the games did you realize it was going to be a role you would hold for years?

LISA ORTIZ: We had no idea, you never know. You don’t even know sometimes what you’re auditioning when you go in. I had no idea but we wound up doing a couple of seasons of the animation, and then we did the video game. I knew who Amy was, when I had auditioned for her, like I knew who Sonic the Hedgehog was. But I had no idea, so it was really a treat; it was very cool, very, very cool.

TOONZONE NEWS: Since you’ve done both anime and video games, is there any difference when you are recording for the two?

LISA ORTIZ: It depends. The biggest difference, because a lot of the work that I’ve done in animation, a lot of anime, is ADR- which is dialogue replacement. The one thing with the video games is that on a lot of the stuff I have worked on, you don’t see picture or you see partial picture. I did this thing for Rockstar and we did a couple of things and literally it was just a page of stuff. That was a lot of background stuff, where they’re just like “fall off a cliff, do this, do that.” And then at the end they’re like “you know, you should do some anime, that’s great.” It’s like, “I do.” A lot of the way the video game stuff is recorded is different because you’re doing the one line at a time. It’s not necessarily story and you’re doing different versions of it for the different reacts. But otherwise it’s fairly close. It just really depends because some of the video games, especially now, are very realistic. So you’re not as character-y as you are in some of the anime.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you prefer one over the other?

LISA ORTIZ: Not really, I kind of embrace them both, I love them both. It’s actually really fun when you’ve been doing one for awhile, to be able to go and do the other one, so it’s very cool.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve worked for quite a few different dubbing studios. Aside from the staff are there any differences from an acting point of view? Do you like directors that give you a lot of direction or directors that sort of let you do your own thing?

LISA ORTIZ: Besides the staff, there are places that I have worked for that have given me more prep. Like sent me materials and things beforehand, and that’s always nice but it’s not always something that they can do or you can do. Most of the places that I’ve worked at, it is the same technique. The difference is like you go in, you get your beeps, they go in and they tell you. What I like with a director is someone who lets you do your own thing, but is telling you the story. Like I said a lot of the time it’s cold read: they fill you in on what’s going on, they give you a lot of information, and then they kind of let you do what you do from there. There’s been times where some people are going too quick and they’re like, “Here, let me play -sometimes you’ll have a scratch track- let me play the scratch track.” And what happens is sometimes for me, if I hear something my voice hitches on to that. So I love when they play me the other language. When I go in, I’ll always say turn them off. Like you can play it for me so I can hear it, so I know what’s going on and then turn it off because otherwise I’m not going to be able to give you the read that you want with that. Most of the time, everybody does it kind of similarly, besides that. As long as they tell you the story that’s okay, if they are telling you go up here, go down here, at first that was really hard for me to do. Then I usually found out that people who were doing it that way were over-managing some of those things. They weren’t getting what they wanted, because what they really wanted was for me to figure out what they want. They don’t really want what they want, they want me to do what I do normally but I just gotta figure out how they’re telling me so.

TOONZONE NEWS: Thank you so much for this interview, I really appreciate it.

LISA ORTIZ: You’re welcome, it’s a pleasure.

Toonzone would like to thank Lisa Ortiz for taking the time to conduct this interview, as well as Otakon press operations for setting it up. I would like to thank staff members Juu-Kuchi and purplehairedwonder for help with forming questions. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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