At Otakon 2017, The Outerhaven had the opportunity to sit down with Stephanie Sheh (also known by the alias Jennifer Sekiguchi). She is most known for her roles as a voice actress and director. Many fans know her for her work as Usagi Tsukino in the new Viz Media dub of Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal. Stephanie was happy to answer our questions.
Below, she discusses her various roles as a director and voice actress from both a technical and personal perspective. Stephanie also revealed to us her feelings about the relationship between Mamoru and Usagi along with her personal love/hate relationship with video games.
Q: How does one prepare for something like Naruto’s Sexy Jutsu?
A: [Laugher] You get very little preparation. That happened because… I don’t know if people know that there’s several actresses that voice sexy Jutsu because it’s like there’s clones of clones. I was the first and really because there was extra time left over and Hinata didn’t have very many lines and they were like oh we have this sexy Jutsu, sexy Naruto version uhm.. do you want to do that? And I was like, sure! That was really fun.
Q: As you are the newest voice of Sailor Moon in the new Viz Dub and the Sailor Moon Crystal series, did you take any inspiration from the original Japanese voice or the first English dub when coming into the role?
A: Everything is based on the original Japanese voice. When I auditioned I did not really reference the original English. I just went off of what I felt the character would be. Since getting cast though, I did listen to the English voices but that’s something Viz didn’t want to emulate. Also, there were three different actresses who play Tsukino Usagi and they were all pretty different so it wasn’t like they were doing a similar thing so I decided to base my performance more on the Japanese than the previous English.
Q: Are there any parts of the Sailor Moon manuscript you find to be a bit excessive?
A: I think sometimes later on in the series the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru gets [laughter] it’s a little… the trauma gets a little repetitive I think. For the most part the story is still really great. I enjoy the humor and I enjoy the theme. I really do love working on the show.
Q: Are you at all concerned that being cast in a major role like Sailor Moon will overshadow the rest of your accomplishments?
A: No, not at all. It’s weird. I think I’m different things to different people and I’m totally okay with that. I like wearing a lot of different hats. I think I get more upset when I start doing only one thing [laughter]. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of producing and casting and I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, ‘uh I don’t want to be a casting director, and I think I’m doing too much of it and it’s taking away from my acting career.’ So, I never want to do too much of one thing. I want to have options.
Q: You’ve had a lot of roles in Anime, Western Animation and also video games. Which do you find more enjoyable to do as a voice actor and which do you find the most difficult?
A: I think that’s really hard. It’s a case by case basis. I don’t wanna say that I love one more than the other. I started out as a fan so I love anime. That genre I love. I think there are difficulties in all of them. And when you deal with anime, the cool thing about it, sometimes you get on a show with a unique story with developed characters which you don’t always get in other works. The great thing about that is as soon as you do it you know what it looks like. You have the instant gratification of knowing exactly then and there. You get to do wacky and out there things. I think the difficulty with anime is sometimes you’re restrained by the original source material and you have to match the mouth flap, and the moment is tricky because of cultural differences and it’s not really working but you can’t really change it. That’s something that can be really difficult.
The good thing about video games is not so much for the import games, foreign games, but for domestic games so the ones just for American audiences, you get to do a little bit more of a naturalistic style of acting which can be really refreshing. But so much of it is also out of context you don’t get to see any of the animation because they haven’t rendered the game engine and there’s so much unknown. You don’t know how big the thing is going to be so you have to trust the director. The other crappy thing about video games, unless it’s a cut scene…. they don’t do cut scenes anymore, it’s all live rendered real-time playing. I’m not very good at playing video games so I don’t ever get to really see how it turns out because I’m not good at playing it. Maybe I’ll see the beginning of the game. One I don’t have time to finish it, and two it’s really hard because I’m not that good at games. I miss turn based RPGs because there was a turn and you stood there and you cast a spell and wack wack wack and they would stand back in your line and now in real time with different spheres, it’s too much for my brain. So that’s the downside of video games. The other downside is it’s really vocally taxing. The efforts and the grunts, you can’t sound good without going full out. While you can protect yourself screaming certain things, a pure scream, falling down scream, you can protect yourself. If you’re asking for a lot of grit and rasp from the pain of being stabbed in the gut or whatever, being burned alive. It’s really hard to protect your voice and sound believable with that kind of noise. It’s really taxing on the voice and you can’t work for the next three days. Or maybe if you can work, I certainly can’t sound like I’m 15 or 16 the next day because I’ve thrashed my voice and need time to recover, which is another reason.
I don’t know if your readers are aware but there’s a video game strike right now. A lot of the video game actors are asking for things like bonus pay which means if a game sells millions and millions of dollars the actor gets a bonus and it’s not a lot. Maybe a quarter of what they make per session fee… and there’s a cap. They can only get four bonuses which means the most they can get is double pay. So it’s really not a lot but that makes sense to me when other people are getting rich from selling all these games and also there are things in it, in the new contract they want like vocal health… how many breaks or how many hours they can go after screaming their heads off.
The last thing I want to talk about is original animation. I think original animation is totally fun and wonderful. It depends on the kind of show you’re in. It could be stand alone episodes and they’re entertaining. Then there’s certain shows I was in where there is a longer story and that was great. I will say when I am in a group record doing original animation I feel like I’m in my element. That is where it’s most like home to me so I really hope to do a lot more of that.
Q: How does your life as a director contrast with voice acting? Does your experience as a voice actress help you in your other role?
A: I definitely think so because as a director you can be sensitive to how the actor might be feeling or how they might feel insecure or what they need or how to communicate with them. So being able to speak after as they say, is helpful. Then also as an actor having done directing you know what the director and producers need so as a performer you can be aware of the technical elements and what they’re asking for and maybe not take things so personally if they’re asking to do something again.
Q: If you had your choice of any role in any medium, what role would you like to play most?
A: I think maybe an original animation that is not ADR and I don’t know what roles. I feel like recently in original animation I’ve gotten cast as moms and even a grandma but I haven’t really been cast as a young heroine that’s sarcastic and kick butt. I’d like to do that.