Hinata Hyuga, Naruto’s shy admirer, finished her major story arc on Cartoon Network’s broadcast. We were fortunate enough to catch Stephanie Sheh, the voice behind the North American Hinata about her role in Naruto and speak to her about her various roles. In this interview she talks about Eureka Seven, her role as Orihime in Bleach and has some tips about breaking into the voice acting industry.
Siliconera: Let’s see where to begin… your major arc in Naruto as Hinata just finished, what do you think of her now that you’ve said more than "Naruto-kun"?
Stephanie: I’m so happy to have had more lines. Actually I knew a bit more about the character going into the show, because I have friends who are hardcore fans. When I auditioned I read for both Sakura and Hinata, and they said to me I hope you don’t get Sakura. I’m like you’re mean! But really it was just because they loved Hinata’s character so much. She’s more complicated than you are first lead to believe in the show.
Siliconera: That’s true. So were you happy about your role? And what do you think of her as a character?
Stephanie: I was happy just to be a part of Naruto. But the more I go into the character the happier I was about getting the opportunity to be Hinata. I love her so much. It’s like I’m protective of her. I also think her issues with self-esteem are very very relatable. I often get insecure about my own abilities.
Siliconera: What do you think about the popularity of the series in the USA? Was it a surprise or did you expect it?
Stephanie: I expected it because I had friends who were huge fans, but I had no idea how huge until I was at Anime Expo. It’s freakin’ craaaazy. I have never been in such a packed room. (editors note: At Anime Expo 2006 there was a Naruto panel with most of the voice actors for the show. Fans lined up hours before just to get in the room to ask the cast questions. Tons of Naruto supporters showed up in costume and completely packed the room to the point where they had to cut off people from getting in.)
Siliconera: In contrast what do you think about Eureka Seven and the lack of popularity with the series?
Stephanie: I can never tell what shows are going to popular or not. I have no idea how well Eureka 7 is doing right now.
Siliconera: I’m not clear either, but adult swim seems to be complaining about it a lot on their bumps. Plus they keep rearranging the schedule to push back the time slot.
Stephanie: I think Eureka 7 has a difficult time slot. Plus I think it has other difficulties. It starts out pretty light-hearted, but then gets really serious and intense. Some fans like the more intense and hard-hitting stuff, and so they hear about the show and go to check it out, but then it takes awhile for them to get into it. Some of them aren’t giving it a chance. That said, Eureka 7 is a quality show, but the scheduling of it makes it difficult for some fans to follow. It’s also on very very late.
Siliconera: That’s true the timing is awful, Saturday nights at 1AM? It might perform better on weekdays
Stephanie: The younger kids are in bed at that time and the older kids are out partying.
Siliconera: What would you tell everyone about the show to give it another chance?
Stephanie: I would just let them know it takes a while to get into it, but the payoff is so good. If they can’t keep up with the schedule then go get the DVD. The show won best animated series at the Tokyo International Animation Festival. There is a reason for that.
Siliconera: So Bleach is about to premiere on Adult Swim at a similar late time slot, how do you feel the series will perform?
Stephanie: Bleach fans are rabid. I have never seen so much online buzz for a show that hasn’t aired. If that’s any indication it should do well.
Siliconera: You’re playing Orihime right? How did you land the role?
Stephanie: That was a long hard process. When I auditioned for Bleach I read for like 6 characters I think. Then I didn’t hear anything from them for a long time. I didn’t think I got any characters. Then I got a callback and they had me do a bunch of screaming and yelling. And then I didn’t hear from them for a while again. Then bam, come in and record. It was a nerve-wracking experience, because they did a lot of tweaking with the voice in both auditions. Even the first day of recording they were still tweaking it.
Siliconera: Tweaking? What do you mean by that?
Stephanie: Yeah. You know, higher, lower, more innocent, more natural. Just a lot of adjustment and direction
Siliconera: so what did you think of the character you got casted as?
Stephanie: She’s hysterical and very very sweet. And I love her approach to food. I must say I share the same mindset.
Siliconera: do you ever feel like you get typecasted as the "sweet" characters?
Stephanie: Maybe recently. But I started out playing anything but sweet.
Siliconera: Sources told me you’ve been doing some video game work too aren’t you in Disgaea 2?
Stephanie: Disgaea 2? Her name is Hanako. She’s the bratty sister.
Siliconera: What do you think of the video game voice acting versus the anime roles?
Stephanie: It’s very different, but equally fun. I just don’t like to scream too much and there’s a lot of that in video games.
Siliconera: do you ever get to play the games you do?
Stephanie: I wish! I don’t have that much time. The only game I really played was Obscure. Plus I only have an Xbox and no Playstation, and most of the games I get cast in are rpg’s so…
Siliconera: Alright here’s the burning question that everyone wants to know… as a voice actress how would you explain the path to becoming a voice actor/actress
Stephanie: My answer is going to be very boring. I would say like any other career you would want to pursue, work at it. Go to school for it. Practice. Build a good resume and demo. Do all sorts of different kinds of acting. It will help you.
Siliconera: "Build a demo"?
Stephanie: Research which recording studios in the area will record you a demo. It’s a CD of different characters that you do. You give this to casting people so that they have an idea of your abilities and what you sound like. Work with a coach or on your own to pick which characters you are going to record. Studio time costs money so you want to be as prepared as can be when you go in.
Siliconera: You sound like you have a straight plan, was being a voice actress something you’ve always wanted to do?
Stephanie: Being an actress was something I always wanted to be. Being a voice actress came out of that. I never thought I would specialize in that. It sort of just happened.
Thanks for the time Stephanie and we’re all wishing you success with Bleach, Naruto and all of your future VA projects!