We are pleased to finally bring you our best interview this year - a REAL interview with the REAL Sailor Moon! Linda Ballantyne has so many great stories to share, and we can't wait for you to read them! A special thanks to Linda and her agent for arranging for this interview and this exclusive photo under these special circumstances! Unfortunately, it appears that some mysteries are going to be unsolved. Without further ado, read on, Moonies!
LB: I am fantastic! I'm so happy I've been given the opportunity to answer all your questions. I have to admit, when I was alerted to the "fake" interview my initial reaction was "Wow! What a great interview… I wish someone had asked me those questions". Then as I read through the fake answers I started to get a little frustrated. Not only was this impersonator taking credit for my work, but he/she was giving the wrong answers to fantastic questions. The more I thought about it the more enraged I became. I know how passionate Sailor Moon fans are. This was as much an attack on them as it was on me. But in true Sailor Moon style, the villain has been stopped and now I get the chance to answer all your great questions. Incidentally, this is the first Sailor Moon interview I have ever been asked to do.
MC: So we have a bit of a Moonie Mystery to solve – the imposter had said that you played Snow Princess Kaguya in the Sailor Moon S movie, however the voice for this character has never officially credited. Did you play this character at all or any other characters in Sailor Moon?
LB: You're going to find this really hard to believe, but I can't remember if I played Snow Princess Kaguya. I know, I know. It has been about 10 years since I voiced the series and I honestly can't recall… and heaven knows I wouldn't want to take credit for another actor's work! I did play the odd additional character but we tried to stay away from using my voice as much as possible since I was already voicing so many lines. 4 hours of screaming can really take its toll on your vocal cords.
MC: Were you aware of how big a cultural phenomenon Sailor Moon was before you were cast? Were you shocked with the extent of the popularity of the show once you were involved?
LB: I was definitely aware of Sailor Moon's popularity but I had no idea it was the cultural phenomenon that it was. I knew that kids really loved it but when I discovered the adult following as well I was blown away.
MC (and Sparkling Blue): How did you get the role of Sailor Moon?
LB: I auditioned for the roll of Sailor Moon, like every other roll. I remember I was really, really sick that day with bronchitis. I almost didn't go in because I could barely talk. I was so frustrated because my nieces were huge Sailor Moon fans and I so wanted to impress them (for once!). I knew I could do a good impersonation of Serena and I really wanted a fair shot at the part. I didn't talk the whole time I was in the audition room until it was my time to go in. If you walk into an audition and start giving excuses as to why you're not "on" that day you give a really bad impression right off the top, so I decided to just do my best… and tell them after I had finished. They had me listen to a sample of Terri's Sailor Moon and then I had to copy exactly the way she did it. I find mimicking people very easy. They were really happy with the match. They had me come back a couple of times but I think I probably had the part after that first audition. The really tough part was after I was given the part and I had to do lines that Terry had never done before. It's one thing to copy someone, it's another to take new material and try to do it they way you think the last person would have done it. It can really mess with your intuitions… and that's something you have to always rely on.
MC: The actress that played the role before you (Terri Hawkes) was quoted in an interview saying she saw Serena "as a girl as well as an emerging young woman", still having a "girlish voice" but also going on a kind of emotional roller coaster. How did you come up with your take on the voice of Sailor Moon?
LB: I found Serena to be a girl who loved being a goofy teenager but deep down inside was so much more than that. A teenager who realizes she has responsibilities. I wanted her to be constantly pulled in different directions.
MC: When developing the voice for Serena/Sailor Moon did you try to make it similar to other interpretations of the role, or did you try to take the voice in a different direction? Was it difficult to take on the role of a character played by two other actresses? Did it make you nervous or change your approach to the role?
Chase: Compared to Tracy Moore and Terri Hawkes, how would you say you portrayed Sailor Moon compared to the other two voice actresses?
LB: I started by just trying to imitate Terri as best I could. They wanted an exact match of her voice so I tried to give them that. But as I said earlier, it's easy to imitate someone but it's a whole other ballgame to take new material and try to figure out how someone else would do it. I really struggled with the first few episodes. I remember coming home so frustrated saying to my husband that I just felt like I had no say in how this character should be played. It was my husband who said, "You have to make it your own. You're not Terri Hawkes. Trust your intuition". That's when the character made a definite change in a different direction. She was much more playful and there was a lot less screaming. I guess the difference between my Serena/Sailor Moon and the others is that the goofy teenager came out more.
MC: During the recording of the S and SuperS series, Cloverway was under a strict timetable in regards to completing dubbed episodes. As an actor, did you find it challenging knowing that you might have only a couple of opportunities to capture the mood of a particular scene? What was the production schedule like? We know for the first two seasons that the actors worked into the wee hours of the morning to meet the 5 episodes per week deadline. Was it ever like this for you? How long did it take to get through both seasons?
LB: I wouldn't do more that 4 hours at a time of Sailor Moon. Quite frankly, I couldn't do more than 4 hours at a time! The part was very hard on my vocal cords. I would wake up each day and clear my throat to see if any sound came out. On my drive to the studio each morning I would warm up my voice, trying to get it higher than it wanted to go. I was doing a lot of voice work aside from Sailor Moon at the time. My days were very full. And to top it all off I had a four year old, a two year old and an 8 month old baby! I was exhausted! But as far as the actual dubbing went, we usually only had to do two takes of most lines. They always do a second take as a safety in case there is something technically wrong with the first. We would save all the screaming and fight scenes for the end of the record day to save my voice for the lines. I really can't remember how many months it took to record both seasons but it was quite a few. My youngest child couldn't talk but I remember her imitating the way Serena's voice would roll up and down. I called her Mini Moon… of course!
MC: If you could have a role in a possible re-dub of Sailor Moon again would you like to reprise any of your roles?
Florentino Ramirez: If the studios do redo the dub over again, will you PLEASE repriseyour role as Sailor Moon?
LB: I would love to reprise the role of Sailor Moon again… and I'm quite sure it would be a whole new take on it. It would be fun to see how she would emerge now that I have a lot more years under my belt as a voice actor. I wonder what would come out of my mouth now…
Florentino Ramirez: If they only bring back Sailor Stars to dub, could you at LEAST dub yourself in that so that there's continuity, ending the series with your voice? I hate animes that change voices for characters between seasons (ie; good old Ranma in Ranma 1/2 =p).
L S: If some studio (FUNimation ^^) were to make a dubbed version of the
fifth season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Stars, would you be interested in
doing Serena/ Sailor Moon again?
LB: You guys are great! I would be honored to play the part again… and I'll bet Terri would be too! Maybe we could arm wrestle for it…. no wait… Terri has twins. She's probably a lot stronger than me.
MC: What was your favourite aspect of playing each role? Was there something you found particularly interesting about either or both character(s)?
LB: I loved playing the goofy teenager that had all her priorities mixed up. Hanging out with her friends, boys and (of course) food were Serena's main focus… but then she'd be pulled towards the path of responsibility through Sailor Moon. I especially loved falling in love as a teenager.
MC (and Tpirandsailormoon and Salvatore Maronne): Do you have any memorable experiences from dubbing and/or favorite scenes? What was your favourite episode of the series to work on?
LB: I loved the final few episodes of each series but especially the Super S series. I couldn't wait to find out how it ended. Recording it was really like watching the show. I was hooked!
Fans can watch this one on YouTube! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!
Chase: Did your talents to the dub benefit your career? Did the job make you more popular?
LB: I definitely learned a valuable voice skill dubbing all those episodes and I think doing any role people have heard of helps give you an identity as an actor. Sailor Moon is a great thing to have on a resume. Even today I will audition for dubbing shows and the director will say, "Dubbing is not easy. Have you done any dubbing before?" and I'll say a little. There's usually someone in the room who will laugh and say, "Linda was the voice of Sailor Moon. She's done more than "a little" dubbing before".
MusicallyObsessedBoi: Have you ever dressed up as Sailor Moon?
LB: No, I have never dressed up as Sailor Moon… but my daughter did for Halloween once… her choice. I also had a baby-sitter who screamed when she found out I was Sailor Moon. She was in tears telling me she was Sailor Moon's biggest fan. She said, "I even ruined my grade three class picture because I dressed up in my Sailor Moon costume for picture day". Personally I feel she probably enhanced the picture. My kids were too young back when I was dubbing the show to understand that it was only my voice that was used for the part of Sailor Moon. My eldest told me I didn't look like Sailor Moon because I have brown hair. I would joke with them every now and then by calling out to my husband, "Honey, have you seen my Sailor Moon outfit?" while I was getting ready to leave for a record. Once my daughter asked me if I got dizzy spinning around when I changed from Serena into Sailor Moon. Way too cute!
Musically Obsessed Boi: Was there ever any discussion about dubbing Sailor Stars? If so, where you looking forward to it?
LB: I never heard any discussions about dubbing Sailor Stars.
KaitoMizuno: In the Past, there were some rumors about sailor moon for live action movie. Do you think Sailor Moon would make a great live action film?
LB: I think Sailor Moon is perfect the way it is. I can't even imagine a live action version. I guess I'm just too old school.
Shinraitenchi - There were quite a few inconsistencies throughout the dubbing of Sailor Moon S and SuperS (mainly with attack names and such) so were you aware of these alterations/inconsistencies done to the English scripts of Sailor Moon S and SuperS when you were recording?
Salvatore Marrone: Were you aware of story changes from the Japanese version - such as Uranus and Neptune's relationship?
LB: I wasn't aware of any inconsistencies at the time but it makes sense that there would be. There are bound to be differences simply because literal translations from Japanese to English may or may not make sense. The show was also (supposedly) playing to younger demographic in North America. I think they had to alter story lines to make them more "acceptable". I would have loved the Uranus and Neptune relationship to be in its original form. I guess at the time the powers that be felt North American audiences weren't ready for it. Too bad.
ChibiGinger: Have you ever read the manga (comics)?
LB: I have read some of the manga comics. My eldest daughter loves them!
L S: Did you ever feel that there were silly or strange lines on the script?
LB: Are you kidding me? Every episode we would find silly or strange lines in the script. Some we would change on the spot because they were just so grammatically incorrect. Others we couldn't change for timing issues. And some made us laugh so hard we didn't want to change them.
ChibiGinger: Have you ever watched the Japanese dub?
LB: Every single line I ever recorded I watched the Japanese version first. That's the way you do dubbing. You watch the original to get the timing and then you dub over it by fallowing along with "the bouncing ball". But I have never watched a whole episode from start to finish just for the sake of watching it. The internet wasn't around back then like it is today. Maybe I would have at the time if YouTube existed.
MC: How long have you been acting for and what got you started in it?
LB: I started acting on stage and film in my early twenties. I went back to theatre school in my late twenties to find more direction in my career. One of the courses they offered was a voice-over course. I fell in love with voice right there and then. When I graduated I found an agent who did both on-camera and voice. I was really lucky because I got a part in my very first voice audition (a butter commercial). After that, my voice agent really believed in me and he sent me out for everything. Having someone believe in you is one of the most important things you can ever hope to have. My family believing in me has been my most important strength throughout my career. To answer your question, I've been voice acting for about 15 years.
MC: Do you prefer acting for live-action productions or animation? Why?
LB: I much prefer acting in animation over live action. I can't stand seeing myself on TV. I am way too hard on myself that way. I notice every fault I have. I also love the variety of roles I get to play in animation. I have been everything from a baby to a teenage boy to an insane witch to a common housefly. Come on! Who would love to play a common housefly? You name it I'll play it.
MC: The Rhythmoband technique is not used very much in cartoon dubbing anymore, and now there is a "beep method" that is more commonly used. Which method did you prefer and why?
LB: The initial preparation for the Rhythmoband was very time consuming. Every line had to be hand written and matched up to sync with the character's mouth movements. I think the person who did it must have just about gone blind trying to do it. Not only did they have to sync up the mouth movements but they also had to make the English words match up with the original Japanese. You can't even begin to understand how hard that would be. Today they use computers to do it and if a line is too long or isn't worded properly they can just type in the new words and it's fixed on the screen right there and then. It's a lot like karaoke. You see the picture and the words are under it. Just follow along with the bouncing ball. With the "beep method" the lines are on a page in front of you and you just listen for the beep and start reading. It's a bit harder than the computer method because you can't really read and watch the mouth movements at the same time. You just have to hope you're reading in sync and then you go back and fix the lines that don't match. After doing this method for a while, I find I almost memorize the lines as I do them so I can watch the screen to make the words fit. It's definitely a learned skill.
MC: You voiced several humorous enemies in the Disney Cartoon, Yin Yang Yo! Many fans don't know that some Disney cartoons are actually dubbed in Toronto. What was it like when you found out you had gotten a role in cartoon from such a legend in animation? We also loved the voices you came up with for the enemies (especially Saranoia!) in Yin Yang Yo! How did you come up with the right voice for them?
LB: Getting a part on Yin Yang Yo was definitely a high point of my career. To be able to say "I work for Disney" is pretty cool. And they really trust their actors which made it all the better. There is a very big difference between dubbing and regular animation. Disney cartoons are all original animation. No dubbing is done with them. What that means is that you do the voice first and then animate it after… which is the complete opposite of dubbing. It's a lot more fun to do because the actor is able to create a character and give it a lot of subtle or not so subtle characteristics. Working on Yin Yang Yo was like a dream come true. I was thrown a lot of different characters and told to go for it. I usually start by looking at the concept drawings for the character. I get a feel for what the character looks like and then I read the script with that in mind. I try to figure out what I think this character will sound like but I keep a very open mind because sometimes the director will want to go in a completely different direction. If you get too set in your ways it's hard to break away from them. With Yin Yang Yo they pretty much let us do anything we wanted. They really trusted us and that made it a lot more fun. We could change lines if we thought of something better or just add quirky characteristics to our characters and they would stick. The writers really got on board with that and they'd incorporate our choices in their writing. Playing villains like Saranoia is always fun because they have so many faults and they take themselves so seriously. They are always so full of themselves and that makes it even more rewarding when they finally fail at whatever it is they are trying to get… because, let's face it, bad guys usually don't win. The crash and burn is just so much fun to play. When I was asked to do Smoke I realized right away that it could easily be played like a bad version of Sailor Moon. I really wanted to stay away from making her sound like Sailor Moon. It just didn't seem right. I actually thought they had asked me to do that part because they knew I had done Sailor Moon… and I was surprised when they went with the character I chose. It wasn't until after we had finished the series that I found out the director, producers and writers had no idea I had been Sailor Moon. One of them was a bit freaked out because he was a huge Sailor Moon fan. He said that's what inspired the character in the first place. Then they were kicking themselves for not getting me to do it like that. For the record, I wouldn't have!
(Interested fans can watch an episode of Yin Yang Yo here.)
MC: How did you get involved with the Rubber Chicken Farmers? Some fans have seen the hilarious Oh Baby! How did that project come to be?
LB: I have a friend I went to theatre school with who lived in Vancouver and was part of the Rubber Chicken Farmers. We were really missing each other and sad we weren't working together. We wrote the script for Oh Baby! together by email as a simple writing exercise… but when I flew out to visit her she insisted we film it. It was purely for fun and not meant for anything other than that… And then YouTube came along…
MC: When coming up with the voice of Percy in Thomas and the Magic Railroad, how much did the old series on PBS influence how you portrayed the voice? Or did you come up with something completely different?
LB: I think the original Thomas and the Magic Railroad series was narrated by Ringo Starr and there were no actual voices for the trains at that point. Percy was the first 'boy' voice I had ever done. I got to meet Britt Allcroft after I was cast and I was so nervous because I had never done a boy voice or an accent on a show before. I asked if my English accent was OK and she said "Oh ya. It's such an easy accent to do. There's no right or wrong. You're fine." And that was that.
MC: You were also the voice of Janet van Dyne/The Wasp in the Avengers: United They Stand cartoon. Having played a female superhero in an American cartoon and in a Japanese anime cartoon, what do you think makes these two interpretations of female superheroes different?
LB: The Avengers and Sailor Moon are two totally different cartoon styles. There is no comparing the two. I suppose Wasp was a lot more serious than Sailor Moon but again it was a completely different cartoon. I'm not sure that the difference was between American and Japanese, just different styles. I always enjoy finding the fun in characters and it was harder to do that with Wasp. But in the end, they were both on the side of virtue.
MC: Did you know about the Avengers comic before you got the role as the Wasp? Did this have any influence on how you came up with the right voice for the character? If not, how did you come up with the right voice?
LB: Wasp was the very first cartoon character I had ever auditioned for. I was excited just to get the audition let alone the part. But what made it all the more sweet was my older brother was a huge comic book fan and loved the Avengers. I had read a few Avengers comics growing up but I didn't know a lot about Wasp. I listened to what the director wanted and just went for it. He was a great guy and really worked with me to bring the character out. There were also a bunch of other actors on the show who really helped show me the ropes. It was a great learning experience. In truth, Wasp sounds pretty much like me. It's what my real voice sounds like… only more dramatic.
(Interested fans can watch an episode of The Avengers here.)
MC: This year marks the 15th anniversary of Sailor Moon in North America. Did you ever think that the fandom would continue to stick by this show through the good and the bad for so long?
LB: It really is amazing. Sailor Moon has become a cult classic. The fans are so strong in their beliefs and their love of the show. I am in awe of their commitment.
MC: Some industry sites are reporting that you are going to play the reindeer Vixen in an upcoming Christmas movie called Rudolph and His New Friend Frosty. This is also slated to feature Sailor Jupiter (Susan Roman) as Cupid, the original voice of Rudolph Billie Mae Richards, and a Beatle himself, Ringo Starr! What can you tell us about this project? Are you excited to work on it and are you going to get the chance meet any of the other stars involved at all?
LB: I would be very excited to work on this project but unfortunately I'm not… at least, not to my knowledge. I haven't heard anything about it. But to meet Billie Mae Richards would be really cool. She was a voice I grew up with—a real inspiration. And Ringo Starr! Come on!
MC: Do you think you or your character would want to eat Sailor Moon Character-Themed Bento for Lunch? What do you think of this very different event in Japan to promote the return of Sailor Moon?
LB: Are you kidding me?!!!!? Serena would eat anything… and love it! And so would I! I love Japanese food. Sailor Moon Japanese food would definitely taste even better! I think the event is a great-- very fresh and different. I'm not so sure I'd have the patience or the skill to make it but I sure would love to eat it.
MC: You've played a lot of different kinds of voices for early childrens' cartoons (I've caught Gerald McBoingBoing a few times myself!) When coming up with the right voice for these characters, how does it differ from action shows or other cartoons you do for older age groups? Do you think about the kinds of shows you used to watch when you were that age too?
LB: You definitely have to change your read according to the age group you are playing to. A younger audience needs love and innocence, caring and compassion. An older audience needs more a more clever kind of humor and read. I don't think the sound of the voice is what makes the difference but the way in which the lines are delivered. I could use the same voice for a character in a preschool show as I did in a teen show but because the attitude is different they will sound like completely different characters. I was a Flintstones and Jetsons fan when I was younger. I loved those shows. Also Bugs Bunny. Anything Mel Blank did was pure gold. Carol Burnett was also my idol. She has been a great source of inspiration throughout my career. I still watch cartoons all the time. There are a lot of really great shows out there.
MC: Thanks again so much for your time Linda and we wish you the best of luck in the future! And we promise, in the name of the Moon we won't ever let impostors bother the fans again – they will be moondusted! Are there any other upcoming productions that we can hear your voice in?
LB: Currently I'm working on a few new shows. I'm Lily's Mom in My Big Big Friend, Queen Mayla in Yoko, Mo and Me and Kazarena in Bakugan. I've been "the voice of" the Comedy Network for the past 13 years as well as being in a bunch of radio and TV commercials. I also have a Lucky Charms on-line game that should be coming out soon. I'm the cute little Magical Creature. I'm also putting together a talk radio show with two other women. We are just in the beginning stages of it but I think it's going to be great-- really fun!
Thank you so much for letting me answer all your fantastic questions. You are all so inspirational to me. If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to throw them my way. It's been a blast!
PS - Thanks for all your kind words and support. This is a great site. It is for the true fans.
Once again, thank you to Linda Ballantyne and her agent for this opportunity!