Interview with Laura Bailey and Colleen Clinkenbeard

During late October, UK anime fans made their bi-annual pilgrimage en-masse to the ever-growing London MCM Expo and it’s large array of exciting guests. Amongst the many dazzling sights to behold were a trio of the most popular American anime voice actors, and since we’ve already published our podcast interview with Johnny Yong Bosch, we’re now delighted to introduce our group interview with close friends Laura Bailey and Colleen Clinkenbeard.

Laura Bailey’s most notable roles include Young Trunks in Dragonball Z, Lust in Fullmetal Alchemist and of course, the leading role of Tohru Honda in Fruits Basket. Similarly, Colleen Clinkenbeard just recently began her portrayal as Luffy in One Piece and actually directed a lot of the English language dub of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Our own Fruits Basket loving journalist Nargis Ahmad sat down with both to chat about a broad range of subjects – ranging from the future of the Fruits Basket anime (apparently, it’s not looking very likely) to the challenges faced by crossing genders and playing male characters. This interview shines a light on the lives and times of two of the most well-known actresses working in the anime industry today.

When Laura met Colleen

AUKN: Laura, can you actually tell me how you met Colleen?

Laura: I met Colleen because we were in a play together. In Dallas, we got cast together, we hit it off immediately and became very fast friends and became roommates shortly after as we were both voice actresses…

Colleen: No, I get this part. She was already a voice actress at Funimation and she thought I would be an okay voice actress.

Laura: And [I thought] she would be a wonderful voice actress! She was an amazing voice actress already!

Colleen: So she brought me up to Funimation to watch one of her sessions and hopefully get the director to give me an audition and the director did. And I got an audition through that. Actually he just threw me in the booth and I think he made me scream. The first thing I ever did was scream.

AUKN: I’m going to be very cheeky and ask you what was your first impression when you first met Laura?

Colleen: Actually, that’s a good story. When we first met it was at an audition for the play… we didn’t see each other in the waiting room. I was already in the room auditioning and she came in and auditioned for a different character and we were playing opposite each other and after we left the room she just left and we didn’t see each other at the audition and that was one read or two reads maybe and then when the director called both of us to tell us we got the part and would we like to be in the play, both of our responses were the same. It was like, “Was that one girl cast – is she in the show?” We clicked immediately, even reading for another part and reading for another character, it was immediate.

Fruits Basket

AUKN: What was it like being a part of Fruits Basket?

Laura: It was wonderful being part of Fruits Basket. When I first got cast I had no idea that the show was going to take off as much as it did. It was so much fun to record, I loved every single character and every recording session was a blast. Every time I came in I would ask my director, Justin Cook, what was happening in these episodes, were they ever going to kiss? And was anyone ever going to hug? I was so enthralled by the romance story, I was so happy that the fans reacted as much to it as I did.

AUKN: So why do you think Fruits Basket has been so popular all over the world?

Laura: It’s such a beautiful story, I think, unrequited love and everything like that is so universal and it’s told in such a sweet way and it really is a show that leaves you feeling happy, like you feel good when you watch it.

AUKN: Have either of you been reading the manga to follow up on the story?

Laura: You know I haven’t and I didn’t for a while because I was hoping that they would do a second season and so I didn’t want to read the manga because I wanted it to be a surprise when I recorded. Now I know that the second season isn’t going to happen. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

AUKN: Can you tell us what happened there?

Laura: Well, they were hoping, I know Funimation is really trying to get that to happen in Japan but it’s such a hard thing to do because, it was such a diverse group of people to come together in the first place that it’s hard to get everyone back together to do it and it’s just not going to happen.

AUKN: Speaking as a Furuba fan I’m very disappointed.

Laura: Speaking as a voice actress, I’m very disappointed. But I think I’ll probably pick up the manga now that I know it’s not gonna happen so that I can know the rest of the story. I’ve heard bits and pieces from fans at conventions and everything and it sounds so interesting so I have to do it.

AUKN: So Colleen, which Fruits Basket character is Laura most like?

Colleen: Lets see, Momiji because she’s annoying.

Laura: …except that he’s a boy…

Colleen: Really? Oh my gosh!

Laura: It was a long time ago. She wasn’t sure – it was four years ago.

Colleen: Oh, that’s disappointing. Um, but that’s okay, it’s not like her anyway and I was gonna say she’s not like Tohru because Tohru’s too nice and I think I actually ended up with her being like Kyo because he is kind of a jerk and likes to have his way and underneath all the tough exterior he’s actually quite sensitive which is where I think Laura ends up being. She turns into a cat when you hug her.

AUKN: Do you really turn into a cat, Laura?

Laura: I do, I really do!

AUKN: Laura, who do you think Colleen’s most like then?

Laura: My answer here is that Colleen is most like Shigure because she might be pervy but…

AUKN: How so, dare I ask?

Laura: I think that’s a bit mature [of an] answer, [so] I’m not gonna go there but no, she’s very funny and she’s very protective of her friends and she’s kind of like… Well, Shigure’s like a big brother but Colleen’s like a big sister.

Colleen: That’s a much nicer answer than mine.

AUKN : Yuki or Kyo – who do you like?

Laura: I like Kyo and I know that’s going to make some people mad but I think Kyo is so wonderfully sweet like he tries to hide it. The reason I say that is Yuki is really, really, really, really nice and sweet and is always trying to please Tohru and everything but his love for her is more brotherly and I think that Kyo, you know, I just think he is the underdog and you always want to root for the underdog.

AUKN: Many people think that there aren’t people like Tohru Honda in this world as she seems to be too perfect, what do you think?

Laura: I think if there are people like Tohru then you wouldn’t really know it because she’s so unassuming and she wouldn’t broadcast that she’s perfect, you know.

AUKN: There was an online discussion on our forum and they were saying that someone that kind is going to end up being hurt.

Laura: Well, honestly, I think Tohru was hurt, is hurt and does get taken advantage of because she is so kind but she has friends that look out for her and hopefully there are people out there in this world who will look out for their friends as well.

Playing boys

AUKN: You’ve also played little Trunks in Dragon Ball Z and the very cheeky Shin Chan, so I’m wondering, what was it like acting as a male character?

Laura: This one would be good for Colleen as she’s recently been cast as Luffy in One Piece. We’re both playing little boys and its a lot of fun because you know when you play a little girl they’re so sweet and innocent and they never say anything really gross. But when you’re a little boy you get to be a punk and you get to tell people off and make people mad. You know, it’s a lot of fun.

AUKN: Colleen, so tell me what its like being Luffy in One piece?

Colleen: Similar answer. It’s a lot of fun to be a punk and Luffy’s case in particular, he’s really stupid, or at least he does a lot of stupid things and it’s a lot of fun to play a character like that because you get the most random lines. It’s fun to play any kind of comedy show.

Laura: On the downside, usually little boys are more painful to play because they hurt your throat as they’re always gruff.

Directing anime and FullMetal Alchemist

AUKN: Laura, I understand that lately you’ve done a lot of directing work for Funimation, especially Gunslinger Girl to mention one of them and we were just wondering is this where you see your long term future and how does being a director differ from being a straight up actress?

Laura: This is also a very good question for Colleen, she’s doing quite a bit more directing than I have.

AUKN: Colleen, I think she’s trying to pass the buck on to you.

Laura: I’m just saying this is probably a better question for her. The difference is that you get a lot more control as a director, you get more involvement with the show and gosh, I don’t know, go to Colleen…

AUKN: Okay, she’s ducked out of that one but we’ll offer the question to Colleen and lets see what you have to say.

Colleen: Directing for me is far more difficult that acting. Acting, you have a director there and so you’re able to take someone else’s vision and help them make it a reality and as a director you have to come up with the vision on your own, which has a lot more responsibility attached to it and directing is much more technical and requires so much more time. It’s actually lower paying, it’s all a harder job.

AUKN: I thought they’d give you a lot more money for directing?

Colleen: You do because you just work more as a director unless you’re working full time as an actor… It gives you more stability but it pays less by the hour. It’s nice in a way that if there’s ever anything that you want to happen with a show you get the ability to make it happen, it’s not someone else making the decisions which can be taxing and uncomfortable but it can be fruitful as it’s a chance to do things the way you want them done.

AUKN: Could you tell me a bit about your directing work in FMA?

Colleen: Yeah, I share that show with Mike McFarland, we each directed about half the show and he directed the movie and it was the most amazing directing experience. If every show could be FMA, it would be amazing. It was perfect animation, beautiful music, excellent characters, perfect plot, the relations were great the cast was excellent, it was just one of those once in a lifetime experiences that we probably are never going to come across again, but it was wonderful. I think we all liked working on that show.

AUKN: Laura, you play Lust in FMA. You normally play goody two-shoes characters, so I was wondering what was it like having to switch over to play the very sexy villianess, Lust?

Laura: It’s nice actually. If I’m auditioning for film roles or on camera I don’t get to play the sexy vixen very often because I don’t have the boobs for it and Lust did have them.

AUKN: I can’t believe you just said that but I’m glad you did!

Laura: It’s nice to live precariously through my characters.

Colleen: Good answer!

Glass Fleet

AUKN: We recently heard about a series called Glass Fleet and we know very little about it over here in the UK so can you give us the scoop?

Laura: Glass Fleet is a melodrama by Gonzo and it’s kind of like the French Revolution in space and it takes place far in the future in some faraway galaxy and I’m kind of a Joan of Arc character. The lead is a boy named Michel who is leading the People’s Army and there’s fun romance lines and all this fun action. Colleen is another female lead and Travis Willingham is the male lead as well as Jason Liebrecht who plays the lead villain.

AUKN: So, you’re both in this one together. Who do you play in Glass Fleet, Colleen?

Colleen: Like she said, my name is Rachel. Sorry, you don’t ever see your own name which is funny and she starts out being a more vulnerable, taken advantage of character who is trying to stand up for herself and making maybe not [too] good a job of it… So she has a journey all the way through. It’s fun.

Laura: Yeah, there’s a lot of armies that are conflicting and there are twists and turns in the story, it’s a lot of fun.

Colleen: There are a lot of levels to it.

Anime Conventions

AUKN: What are the conventions like in America and how do they compare down here?

Colleen: We were talking about that. They are very, very similar.

Laura: I feel almost at home at the Con because it’s… so much like what we experience in the States.

Colleen: The only difference I would say is that usually in America there is a lot of different rooms. We did a panel in here yesterday that was very much out in the open, it’s fun and involved, it’s just very loud. Usually panel rooms, there is a lot more discussions going on.

AUKN: Have you guys ever cosplayed?

Laura: We’ve never cosplayed, I have an entire outfit for Sana in Kodocha but I never wore it in public, but I have the whole outfit going.

AUKN: What would it take for us to get you into your cosplay outfit?

Laura: A lot of money!

Colleen: …or three wishes…

Anime UK News would like to say a big thanks to Laura and Colleen for being simply wonderful and answering our questions. Also, special thanks to Revelation Films for kindly setting up the interview.