Fans of The Slayers need no introduction to New York based voice actress Lisa Ortiz. As the unmistakable English-language voice of feisty sorceress Lina Inverse, she starred in what would become one of the more widely-championed examples of how to do an English-language dub right. She made fans all the happier when she returned to continue voicing the role after a hiatus of several years when further installments of the series were licensed for the U.S.
Lisa was one of a slew of English voice actors who appeared at Otakon 2011, and I was lucky enough to sit down with her for a few minutes and speak to her about the business and art of voice acting. What follows is a transcript of that interview, edited slightly for clarity.
Q: When I heard that you’d been compelled to come back and voice the role of Lina Inverse in Slayers once again, I thought it must be really interesting to turn around and suddenly discover you’ve got this whole fanbase. What was that like?
Lisa Ortiz: It was kind of really crazy! Well, when I started it, it was really exciting—my older brother was a big anime fan. And when I first started doing it, they were really old-school—they were like, “No dubs! Bleahhh!” But I never imagined it would be so popular, so it’s really crazy meeting people now who are like “This show got me into anime.” I hadn’t gone to conventions in a long time, and so I went back to a Texas convention, I had someone who came up to me and who had a baby that was born, like she’d brought the kid and they’re like, “And now we’re watching Slayers together,” and I’m like “That’s crazy!” And then I was like, “I can’t feel old, that’s just weird!” It’s been a long period of time, but it’s also been a short period of time. I’m really proud that I was on a show that made that much of an impact.
Q: Last year I talked with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn [the voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex], who started off in front of the camera with a small role in Xena: Warrior Princess. She injured herself during that shoot, and while recuperating landed her voice acting roles. After you had your own on-camera roles, did you discover that you were more comfortable behind a microphone than a camera?
Lisa Ortiz: Well, in my case, I did a lot of theater stuff beforehand. I wound up doing so much voice-over stuff that was kind of where I went. I was still in college when I started doing this, so I … actually, I always joke that it was a car theft that got me into it!
I was home with mono, and my car battery had died in my car, and I had gone home for a semester during my junior year. I woke up one day and my car was gone, and it turned out that my brother had taken it. And I didn’t know, so he stole my car! Then I had to track it down, I called him and said “Do you know where my car is?” And he’s like, “Yeah! Do you know your car battery’s dead?” “That’s why I said don’t touch my car!” And I’m like, “Where’s my car?” He’s like, “I dunno, it’s not with me. I’m at the beach. It’s at George’s house.” “Who’s George!?” So I wound up calling up all his friends I’d known who he’d grown up with, and I wound up going with my friend Rob, and he at the time was interning at Central Park Media. He was like, “We need people to come in and audition; do you know anyone who would be interested?” And I’m like, “How ‘bout me?”
I had always been interested in animation, and I had always been – you know, when we were kids, we would make up radio shows and talk along with them—but I never in my wildest dreams was like, “I’ll get to do that.” I went in, and that was the first audition I did, for Deedlit [the High Elf from Record of Lodoss Wars] and I got that.
Q: Just, bang, they gave it to you?
Lisa Ortiz: Just, bang, they gave it to me. I did the audition, and I didn’t hear anything for six months; it took them six months to get back to us. But that was the first thing, and every role I got after that was when people came into the studio, saw me and asked me to audition for something else. So it was one of those things that for me, I would never have been able to play a role like Deedlit on stage, because there I was never cast as an ingénue. I was never cast as a, like, sweet young girl. I always wound up being these sort of heavier, older, more sarcastic kind of things. For me I was excited because I could get to play all these roles that I would never be able to be cast as otherwise.