By Quentin H. / April 15th, 2016
Xanthe Huynh, best known for her voice actress roles in Hyperdimension Neptunia, Sword Art Online, Love Live! School Idol Project, and K-ON!, sat down for an interview with me last Saturday on Skype. During our conversation, we discussed her career beginnings and her voice roles as Falcom (Hyperdimension Neptunia), Hanayo Koizumi (Love Live! School Idol Project), and Ui Hirasawa (K-ON!). Towards the end of the interview, she filled me in on her upcoming indie projects and con appearances, what it takes to make it as a voice actor/actress, and why it’s important to build up your ‘alligator skin’.
Interview by Quentin H.
This transcribed interview was edited for content and brevity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with Operation Rainfall, and I am here today with Xanthe Huynh. Good morning.
Xanthe Huynh: Hiii!
OR: Ok, let’s jump right into it. What do you do for a living, and what anime/video game series would people most likely recognize you from?
XH: I am a voice actor. I’m most known for video games like Hyperdemension Neptunia, Atelier Meruru, and Omega Quintet. And from anime such K-ON!, Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, A Lull In The Sea, Sword Art Online, and most recently Love Live! School Idol Project.
OR: What exactly is ‘voice acting’?
XH: Voice acting is – anywhere you hear a recorded, or sometimes even a live voice – this includes, but is not limited to things like movies, animation, video games, TV and radio commercials, theme parks, airport terminals, and things like that – they’re all done by voice actors. And they’ve just become so normal that we just don’t even notice them or think about them. It’s just so ingrained in our lives.
OR: Going back in time a bit – you fell in love with theater in middle school, and you wound up earning a dramatic arts degree from the University of California, Irvine. Before you became a voice actress, was there another path you wanted to pursue?
XH: I was interested for a time in sound design. I did it a little bit for a couple shows while I was still in school. But as fun as it was, I don’t know how well I would have done pursuing it. I still really like it. I think would have been much more interested in doing things like post-production work. I’m actually doing something similar on a small scale for an indie game right now. Like, I’ve been holding auditions with a couple people, handling their scheduling. Right after this interview, I actually go straight into directing some of the actors for the game. It’s also been a lot of e-mailing around, but it’s a really fun project. I can’t wait until it gets announced so I can talk about it more.
“I always tell people that when you audition for something, to always do your best because even if they feel [like] you’re not appropriate for one role, they [may] think you’re good for another one or maybe for future projects.”
OR: What made you want to combine theater with your love for anime?
XH: When I was in college, there was one time when I was watching anime because I was procrastinating on homework, and the things I needed to do. (laughs) And in the show, I really loved the cast, except this one character that I thought her voice was really annoying and jarring with everyone else in the show. And I thought to myself “I can do better than that!”. And that’s really conceited, but it was that moment that – “I can do better than that, I should act for anime! This is the most amazing thing I’ve EVER come up with!”.
Then I realized that I had no idea how to approach this, I have no idea how to get into it. And that same day, I went into rehearsal and it was still on my mind. I was talking to some other cast members about it and one of them had mentioned hearing about a voice acting competition at Anime Expo  and told me to sign up, and I did. From there, it was when I started to really learn more about voice acting.
I’m so happy to be able to do it, because I love anime and being able to be a part of it is just a dream, really.
OR: Let’s take one of your roles that you’re really well known for – K-ON!’s Ui Hirsawa. How did you prepare for that role?
XH: I did get to preview some of the episodes before going in. And I just kind of looked at the relationship between Ui and Yui because the majority of her scenes involve the two of them. Ui is really mature, so she is kind of like – even though she’s the younger sister, it’s almost like she’s Yui’s mother. (laughs) And she absolutely adores and spoils her.
And so that’s how I approached her role. She just finds everything Yui does adorable. She never gets angry at her. It was a lot of fun. It’s so cute and some of the moments that they had together are just adorable. (laughs)
OR: You mentioned that you saw some of the early episodes [of K-ON!]. Do you try to keep the same time for the character when you provide a voice as the original Japanese [voice] or do you try to put your own spin on it, or how do you approach that?
XH: Generally, I like to try to keep the tone as close as to the Japanese as possible, unless I’m told to do otherwise by the director [or] the client. Sometimes they will tell me things like ‘Oh, we liked this about the character, but you know, we want to it change up’ – maybe a different pitch, or what have you – but for the most part, for anime and for dubs, they try to keep it as similar to the original as possible.
Xanthe’s roles in Love Live! School Idol Project, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Atelier Meruru on Page 2
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