Voice artists, actress, singer, instructor - these are all words that would not only describe Alex Moore, but would play as a vocal symphony should they pass her lips, as hers is a voice unlike any other. Though a gifted actress who domineers stage, it is only when experiencing her vocal work in isolation that the full impact of her talent shines. There are few who could portray the complex nature of an otherwise restrained role through nothing but their voice alone, and yet this is exactly what Moore achieves in any one of the animated project she takes on, gaining wide acclaim for work in ‘Fairy Tail’, ‘Seraph of the End’, and notably as Suzuno in ‘The Devil is a Part-Timer’. Her ability to move from pain-filled screams to whispered poems, gravelly adults to bubbly teens, or fierce warrior to humble maid shows uncanny talent to maneuver through her range like the most beautiful of dancers, flowing with both ease and swift finesse from one emotion to the next. Though even she no longer knows which sound is indeed her “natural” voice, there is one thing for certain - no matter which style, age, or species of character it may be, all will gain a wealth of raw emotion should they be portrayed by the talented Alex Moore.
Do you feel you were interested in the arts form a young age, and was that mainly skewed towards acting, or all arts in general?
- I was. I come from a theatre family as both my parents were actors, and actually met doing theatre. I was working in theaters even when I was very little. Most of the time I was sweeping, but also hanging around the dressing rooms and playing with the actors while they were in rehearsal and just being generally distracting (laughs).
- I’ve kind of always been encouraged to pursue the creative lifestyle as it’s sort of the family business. As we were growing up, my sisters and I would always write scripts and act them out with teddy bears and barbies and all of that, and we always had the best Halloween costumes because when you come from atheatre family you learn how to build things out of nothing. It was great!
- Since my parents were working in theaters all the time, I would help with concession stands and, when I got older and a bit more experienced, I would do lights and sound, and more of those types of things. I got to know all the aspects of theatre. It’s not just being an actor. That’s all the audience sees, but I got to see the back stage and all the design elements - the hard work and technical rehearsal. You’re often doing eight hour days in the theatre just trying to get things lit properly and all the tiny details the prep entails.
Are all those other aspects of theatre something you are, or would like to, still be involved in or do you mainly focus on acting these days?
- It’s mostly acting now. I’ve helped do sound and construction for a couple of shows but not as much as I have in the past.
- I think I’m very lucky that I get to now just focus on being an actor, but you always carry that experience with you. It makes you think, “I’m going to be really nice to the stage manager today because I know that we are in tech week and everything has just gone to hell so I’m not going to be the problem today” (laughs). You understand where you need to stand in the lights and you understand that you can’t be rough with the costumes all of the time, even ifthat is what the character would do, because you know that it needs to make it through a lot more shows. You understand the delicacy and the work that goes into all areas that help make you look good.
Have you found that many other actors have such an awareness of and appreciation for these various aspects?
- I think those who had the academic, collegiate experience tend to be a bit more aware of where they are. That’s not always the case though (laughs). When I was in college, there were people who would just through straight up diva fits on stage because, “I don’t like this color! No!” (laughs).
- With an academic-type background you kind of learn the language of collaboration a little bit. Directors and other departments tend to butt heads every once in a while but you learn to kind of come in and say, “Ok, I understand where both sides are coming from but this is where we need to compromise, can this happen?” You learn to problem solve a little bit easier and with less bloodshed.
Did perform throughout your schooling years, or was it not until college that you really embraced it more fully?
- I did a bit in junior high and middle school, but I didn’t do it in high school, mainly because in Texas we learn to make everything competitive and I didn’t want it to be a competitive thing. You can’t act to win. Acting is so subjective and I didn’t want it to be about winning something, so I really just kind of backed off. I was in other things in high school so when I got to college I wanted to be in a room with people who wanted to learn, not just people who were taking the class because they didn’t want to be in another class or something.
How many years total of study did you end up doing, as I noticed that you also did a post-grad course?
- I did. I have two degrees in theatre - I have a Bachelor’s in Acting and Directing and then my Masters degree is in Acting and Teaching Of. There’s not really a performance degree.
- Having had that approach, though, and looking at it from an academic perspective actually helped me iron out a lot of my process. It gave me a greater understanding of the meaning of certain things, and meant I was figuring out how to be a better actor by teaching people how to act.
- The other acting techniques and other schools of thought and training that I hadn’t been exposed to in my undergrad degree and learning more of the history of theatre in general actually opened my eyes a lot more than I had anticipated it would.
Do you enjoy learning about the historical side of acting?
- Parts of it. The actual study of it can be mind-numbing when you’re in a class for 2 hours a day (laughs), but actually having it sink in and inform your process really did help quite a bit. A lot of baby actors don’t understand the history of it so when you make a reference to something that you studied and they don’t know what that means you have to break it down and explain why you made that comment. It’s more information than they want, but you feel better for having given it. You feel like, I know my craft enough to be able to impart this wisdom upon you, someone else who may no know that. You can’t fault them for not knowing, though, because they didn’t pursue that life.
Do you feel your background in theatre has assisted in your work as an anime voice artist?
- Yes and no. Anime and manga is all based in Kabuki theatre so the stances are all very stylised, stock poses. Looking at just the 2D manga, you see the progression of each panel and these are all part of that theatrical art form, so knowing that I can say, “Just looking at this one frame here, this is the hero character, this guy is a demon over here, and here is what would inform that character.”
- You get the Japanese voice actor’s, the seiyu’s, interpretation and then I have to put and English spin on it while still keeping true to that original intent and art form. It’s very interesting. I feel like I’m kind of a clean-up, and am localizing it for an English speaking audience, but there’s so much that can get lost in translation.
- Some directors will call me in because I’m very good at matching the pitch of the original Japanese actor or actress. Some say, “I know you can play crazy pretty well, so play that” (laughs). It’s really just trying to find that balance of seeing what the character is, what they have been presented as, and how much leeway I get to play with that.
Is it more common for directors to want you to sound quite similar to the Japanese actor, or is it more the essence of the character that you are capturing and you are given a range of what you can do with your voice?
- I would say, for most of us, it’s almost matching pitch. They want them to be very recognisable.
- If you’re watching a show like ‘Fairy Tail’ or ‘One Piece’, those characters are very larger-than-life, they are not presented as truly real people. They are in outlandish situations, and they are outlandish people themselves so you get craziness with it, but even then English-speaking actors are kind of encouraged to match what they are doing. Very rarely will you have a character in English who varies wildly from the original Japanese actor. Most of the time, if it’s a big old hulking dude, he’s going to sound like a big old hulking dude, it’s not like this Mike Tyson teeny tiny voice kind of thing (laughs).
- We have played with that before in some shows and fans sometimes like it, but there’s also a bit of backlash like, “That’s not what he’s supposed to sound like! He sounds like this! Why would you deviate from the original intent of the anime?” So we’ve kind of been encouraged to match as much as we can. It doesn’t allow for a lot of play or a lot of “acting”, but it’s what the people want and what they expect and you really have to cater to your audience on that.
How did you first become involved in voice over?
- Quite by accident (laughs). When I graduated from grad school, I was working with a touring production for a children’s theatre and I came off the tour after about a year and moved to Dallas where my now-husband had moved to. I was trying to find theaters and work here but nothing was really happening as it was a strange time in the year where everyone had already picked company members and all of that, so I started working at a car dealership. It wasn’t a great fit for me (laughs). They would make fun of me all the time and call me “Hollywood” - the fancy actor who moved to town, so I was always the one who had to page people over the PA system like, “So and so to the service drive, you have a test waiting,” and they said, “You have a great voice!” so I wondered why I was wasting it there (laughs).
- A few months of that went by and then I thought, you know what, I need to be using my degree, I need to be acting! I realised that Funimation was nearby, it was probably half an hour drive from where I live, so I thought I would try that and see what happened, as they could really only say no.
- About three months later they have a big cattle call audition where they clear off the list of all the people who had submitted so I went in for that.
- They give me this big binder of sides which all have little pictures of the characters, short descriptions and then just five or six lines of something they would say. It’s separated into male and female, and then kind of whether it’s a high, middle, or low voice that’s necessary. So, me being the actor, I want to show them the range that I have, so I pick a high, middle, and low character and try to memorise the lines, which was hard because I was really nervous (laughs). I write down which ones I want to read and they call me and they say, “Oh, you’re a stage actor, aren’t you?” and I said, “Yeah, how can you tell” (laughs).
- I get in there and tell them the parts that I want to read and they give me a little direction on each one, am I’m thinking “Great! I wanted to show that I am direct-able so let me show the difference in there for you.” “Great. We’ll let you know,” and I was like, “Hmmm, actor death nail, thank you very much” (laughs). But I thought you know what, I auditioned for Funimation, achievement unlocked, and now we wait.
- A month later I was in auditioning for a show, and a month after that I was doing my first role as the narrator on ‘Date A Live’. It was a long process and a long road, but I got there.
- I think with the advent of the simuldub seasons where they’re trying to put out an English episode about four or five weeks after it airs in Japan has probably expedited that process quite a bit. I go in now and see all these people I haven’t met before. We have a lot of new crop of actors who you’re going to be hearing a lot from in the coming months.
Prior to the simuldubs was it more of a smaller community of actors there?
- From what I can tell, yes. You’d hear the same voices in almost every show, which is not to disparage them as they are very good at what they do and they’ve got a great sound, but it was a bit more insular.
- What people forget though is that you don’t really get a chance to meet people in the booth. It’s always just you on your own working for an hour or two at a time, so it used to be that you’d never really make eye contact with other voice actors on the same project until you’re doing the commentary with them a year or so later. Now, with the advent of the simuldub, you’re passing them in the hallway like, “Dude, have you seen this episode yet?! Just wait, it’s going to be crazy!” (laughs). You’ll see now that we’re hanging out a bit more as actors and getting to be friends now rather than just as colleagues. It’s really fun!
Are most of the voice artist you work with based in Dallas?
- Most of us are. We’re all local actors - stage actors, film actors. We’ll talk up our own other projects and people will come to see those and that’s always fun. There are some that will work out of Houston that will come in, or from LA - the big names that live out West will come in for a week or so and record as much of a series as they can, or they’ll submit from their own studio in LA and the levels will just get tweaked over here.
Do you enjoy just working on your own in the booth, or would you prefer if the productions were recorded together and gave that interplay of actors?
- As a stage actor, I love working with other people. You feed off the energy and it’s fun having those people around you to be able to play and build off of, as opposed to just going a line at a time in the booth by yourself.
- That being said, I think I kind of prefer voice acting on my own because it gives me a bit more space to really worry about the tone and intent of what is being said and to focus on those lines. It’s very difficult to just record one line after another. On the stage, you memorise everything and you build those relationships and play off the other people, whereas in the booth, you get glimpses of your character five seconds at a time so you don’t get that internal time with a character.
Do you think having a musical background assists you in reading the lines in such a short segment like that and still being able to give multiple version on one line?
- You’ll find that most of the voice actors, or at least the ones that I know, are singers or have some kind of musical background. It definitely helps for pacing and even just having a musical vocabulary. Directors will often ask things like, “Can you make this a bit more staccato? Can you flow a bit more, we need a bit more of a discord on this line? There’s something strange in this scene, can we play with that?” and for those of us who have that vocabulary, we absolutely can answer that. I think just having the basic musical understanding would help most voice actors.
Does it help also protect your voice, as some character must be very straining on your vocal chords?
- Oh yes, absolutely! Learning how to scream properly is a big part of being a voice actor. Even being on stage you’re doing it night after night after night and if you do it wrong you’re gong to do damage.
- I was on ‘Attack on Titan’, not a main character by any means, but I was doing a lot of screaming and dying. Anytime you hear that high-pitched, air-raid siren of a scream in the background, more than likely that was me (laughs). I was trying to scream from my chest versus screaming from my throat, and you’ll see a lot of actors losing their voice from recording like that.
- Playing with characters like Flare Corona on ‘Fairy Tail’ was interesting voice-wise too. She gets really into the moment it’s a really throaty sound, so I ended up drinking about half a gallon of water in the two hours of recording because I didn’t want to damage my voice
- It’s a fine line to walk to not strain your voice while still trying to play something new. When you stretch and try to exercise something new you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to do a little bit of damage but you learn from it and can hopefully not do that in the future (laughs).
Are you able to select when you’ll record different characters? For example, if you had a stage performance coming up, can you make sure you’re not recording a more straining character right beforehand, or does the studio ore allocate what voice at what time?
- Most of the time, the studio asks you to come in at a certain time. You hope that it’s not going to be three hours before a performance and you’re screaming, but it’s really at the studio’s discretion. You could ask if there was any chance you could move it to another day, and they may tell you no, but you can always ask and just hope for the best.
Had you been aware of voice acting or considered it as a profession before becoming involved yourself?
- I was aware of it, definitely. I mean, you grow up watching cartoons and everyone wants to be a Disney princess at one point or another (laughs), but I hadn’t considered it as a career choice at all, or at least not as a baby actor or anything like that. I never sat and considered the avenue I would need to pursue in order to become one, it was just another part of acting for me which I saw and thought, “I could probably pick that up! I’m trained. Let’s see what happens.”
It seems like most of the more successful voice actors have fallen into it in a similar method, in that it comes more organically from their pursuit of acting and comes across in their performances as they do not simply treat it as doing a funny voice, but appreciate that it involves being a character, just without the physicality
- Exactly! The only thing you see of my performance is my voice but I’m still flailing around in the booth (laughs).
Since you are involved in so many different forms of acting, how do you choose which you will focus on at the one time? Do you juggle them, or specifically alternate between them, or is it more just whatever work is around at that time?
- It’s whatever job comes along when it comes along. Voice acting is pretty much year round as it’s contract work for us. It’s like, “Hey we’re going to put you on this show, can you come in? Let us know what your schedule is this week and we’ll go from there.”
- Throughout the year, I also work as an actor in a dinner theater where I play a scientist and that’s kind of my day job and how I make money.
- So it’s not that I choose to focus on one thing for that entire year, it’s more that I will take the job and the money as it comes along.
Is there quite a big theatre scene around Dallas?
- You would be surprised, yeah. If you meet one actor, you know six others because we all have stories of working with other people. It’s a very insular small community - any theatre community is - but judging just by the size of the the metroplex here, it’s a small community.
Do you find that much of your work transfers from theatre to voice acting, even simply from the people you know? Are there many people who work in both?
- Yes and no. If you meet somebody along the way they will probably cast you in something else because they see how you work, they know if you’re good or bad to work with, and how effective you are at your craft. Sometimes people will ask, “Hey I have this new show coming up, would you mind reading for this character? I see you in this, but I just to get a feel for what other people can do.”
- We’ll call our friends in if someone drops a show, so we all use our connection for everything. It's not like you’re only going to get cast if you’re friends with that guy or you know this person - it’s not clique-ish. Everyone's always looking for new talent, and people who are talented will tend to know other talented people.
Do you find that you are kept within a certain wheelhouse of characters? When you are asked to audition for a new role is it often quite similar to one you have done before or do you get to extend your range often?
- I don’t, personally. My voice tends to be lower than most women’s and that’s really what people honed onto, so I do a lot of narrator voice, mom voice, self-destruct voice and computer voice-type things. Suzuno [from ‘The Devil is a Part-Timer] and character roles are honestly kind of a departure for me. I very rarely get to play young girls, but I think that I have been slowly getting more high-pitched and younger roles, and more consistent roles.
- Mitsuba, from ‘Seraph of the End’, involved maintaining a higher voice and playing with higher range which is not something I often get to do, so I think showing that I am capable of matching pitch, which is obviously a big thing, will help me gain more of those roles in the future. Some directors know that I can do it. Some don’t and will consistently cast me in lower pitch roles, but people who let me play in the booth with the bit parts or the walla sessions know that I can hit those higher ranges and so are more likely to cast me in younger roles.
- I would like to take on lot more of those as most of the feature characters are high school students and characters of that age group. It’s just making sure that people know I am capable of doing so.
When you voice a background character, are you brought in specifically for that or do they just request you to do a couple while you are already in the booth recording other characters?
- Some directors will do that, others try to keep a distance between characters. For example, Jerry Jewell, who directed ‘Seraph of the End’, cast me in ‘Kamisama Kiss’ - I was the guard bunnies in that show - and he usually brings me in to do bit parts because he knows that I’ve got a range so I can play two different characters within the same episode and you would never know.
- I honestly have no idea what my actual voice is like (laughs). I sound like I’m going through puberty half the time. Sometimes I have a high pitched voice when I get really tired and other times I’ll have a really throaty voice in the morning, so it’s like “Hmmm. I know I’m playing with this style of character, what time of the day do I need to go in?” (laughs). If you are a main character in a show, though, it’s very rare that you will play something in the background.
You mentioned Suzuno before, which was a fantastic performance in that she is so restrained in her character and yet you still get a great sense of her personality. Was that something that was hard to perform, and did you have to play with it much before settling on your approach?
- Suzuno was actually one of my very first main characters. I hadn’t been with Funimation long, only about three or four months, when I got Suzuno. I actually auditioned for Amelia, Suzuno wasn’t even a side that was considered but they put me in it and I was like, “Cool! Ok...who is she?” (laugh).
- Like I said earlier, we really only get the lines and character for five seconds at a time, so I knew she was a church assassin who comes to the real world and that’s pretty much all the information I had. I knew that’s she’s little and she dresses in kimonos in modern day Japan. The whole thing was about being a fish out of water, it was just the fishiest fish out of water (laughs).
- She just didn’t understand how the world worked and her intel was bad - she was watching Samurai movies and thought she was going to blend in, but ... not so much (laughs).
- Vocally, it didn’t take much direction for me. I could she that she was stilted and awkward in her formality, and just her manner, so I kept her very quiet and very restrained. I didn’t need to do a lot of deviation. Her emotional outbursts are jarring to see because she is so reserved and so restricted that when she has an outburst you realise that something must be really wrong, whereas Amelia and Chico are just a bag of emotions the entire time (laughs). Suzuno’s outbursts are just kind of rage, she doesn't really get sad - she gets angry! She’s the teeniest tiny hulk you’ve ever seen.
- I would describe Suzuno as “speaking in watercolors”, whereas Amelia and Chiho are very bright, broad lined, very expressive, soaring manners of speech. Suzuno being so restrained and so limited in her musicality meant that you didn't listen to her tone of voice, you actually had to listen to what she was saying.
- It was an interesting character for me to play and to open with, compared to those I voice now where I play more vocally with the characters. I think Suzuno was a good starting character for me because I tend to be a bit more monotoned in my everyday manner of speech because,like her, I want you to focus on what I’m saying, not how I say it.
That’s a very beautiful way of describing it as water color.
Do you find that you gravitate towards a certain style of character, in any forms of acting?
- I don’t have much say in what I get to play as a voice actor. Often they wont tell you who you’re playing, I think mostly to ensure that NDA’s arent violated. It’s not a big deal for me though, as I like that it’s always different and keeps me on my toes as an actor.
- Theatrically speaking, I tend to gravitate towards very strong and very independent women. I’ve been told that I play women who are present and in the moment, who make you stop and look at them. Not ones who steal focus, but those that say, “I’m here. This is why I am here. Here’s why you need to listen to me”.
- However, I like being able to break that mould every once in a while. I’ve been told that I can’t play weak. In grad school, we were given scenes specifically to make us stretch and to play characters that we don’t see ourselves as. I was playing a very weak, small girl who was being taken advantage of sexually and I was like, “I would never allow myself to be like this!” and they said, “Exactly! That’s why you need to learn to play this,” and I realised that that made sense.
- Being able to play things that you’re not is kind of why we are actors. If you’re playing yourself, you’re not growing. I always want to play someone who I would never consider myself to be in real life because that way I’m learning, as an actor, to make that interesting and make that character likable. Every character is going to make themselves lovable. They think they are worthy of love - that’s why we have villains and heroes as they always think they are doing it for the right reasons and they have a particularly valid reason to do what they do. Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes is an important part of humanity, not just being an actor.
- Being able to see where they were coming from helps me grow as a human being and as someone capable of compassion and love and forgiveness. I think we need to see more of that and be able to see more people step in other shoes and try roles that they haven’t tried before. Making themselves uncomfortable as actors shows the audience “I found compassion in this character, I’m asking you to as well. Even if the character isn’t written to be loved, I want you to love me”
Do you prefer playing a role that offers those social commentaries, or do you enjoy having more light-hearted roles?
- That honestly depends on what mood I’m in that day. Sometimes, you just need something silly and something that is just fluff. Sometimes you want something “thinky” and relevant and that will make your mark, so to speak. It’s broad stroked for different folks
Do you think you will stay within the realm of anime, or would you want to do Western animation as well?
- I will go wherever the money takes me (laughs). I would love to be able to originate a role, to work with animators and work with directors on informing a character and to make different choices that way. I think I have much more to learn before I can get to that point, though. I would also probably need to move to LA or New York to get that kind of interface with companies.
- I would love to go into video game voice acting a little bit, just because that is... not improv-per se, but you absolutely have to have an A, B, C, D take on those and be able to say the line three different ways and with different intensity and intent and I think that would be fun for me to play with.
Are you a gamer yourself?
- Oh yes! My husband and I have been gamers since we were little. I think it’s fun that my generation have grown up with video games. It wasn’t that you needed to go down to the arcade and spend all your quarters all day, but I got to sit at home at 5.00pm with an NES. My parents had an Atari and I remember them busting it out and kids today wouldn't even know what they were or how to play on it (laughs).
- Growing up with video games and seeing the progression that they have taken to where they are now basically interactive films has been amazing to watch and I really want to be a part of that. Knowing other voice actors and getting to see them do the voices of the characters they originated just makes me nerd on my own friends (laughs).
The games that utilise motion-capture are particularly incredible too
- How great is that! Especially that stage acting and theatrical training has come back to it. You have to be able to know how to stand and present that character. Getting the conflict distance and playing with it that, and actually having to worry about what your face is doing and how tense you are in your body to bring all elements of that character to life! It’s theatre that you get to play with. “Tap X for theatre” (laughs)
Are there any other areas of the industry you would like to be involved in, such as directing or writing or producing?
- Me being the consummate theatrician, I would love to be able to do everything. My degrees are in acting and directing. I don't’ really get to direct too much these days but I’ve helped AD some friends who were directing shows and I would love to start directing in the booth for anime just to put my own spin on things there.
- I’ve seen a lot of people start directing in my tenure at Funimation, so just being able to play with it more and add my voice to the industry in addition to just voicing a character would be great.
Would you be interested in the adaptive writing, as it is such a different beast to straight screenwriting?
- I’ve had talks with people who say, “I’ve been trying to make this joke work, and it just doesn’t translate, and trying to work around it is difficult.” It’s not just transliteral - you can’t just plug in the words and have it make sense. Getting the tone, intention, and deciding things like how modern do you keep it? How stilted do you keep the speech? How is that character reacting? Is this character a street tough or is he a pretty pretty princess? You have to get the idea for the dialogue for the characters and be able to use that. I assume it would be very difficult to do. I don’t think I could do it right now, but with a little training I’d hope I’d be able to.
Do you get to do many conventions, and is that something you’d like to do more of?
- I have done a few, but not terrible many. I’m still very new on the circuit. I’ve been doing very small conventions recently. I actually just came back from a smaller one just north of Austin. It was a library convention that was more of their summer reading program and geared towards graphic novels and comic books. I was the one voice actor there and it was very small, only about three hours on a Saturday or something, but it was really a lot of fun!
- They were very excited to have me there as a guest and I was very excited that they asked me. Usually I approach the con, but they actually requested me to be there so that was great (laughs).
- Getting to impart what I have learned as an actor and a voice actor and see people be genuinely excited to know what I know was really fun. I would love to be able to do more cons, but my schedule won’t allow for it right now because of theatre. Hopefully sometime in the future they will start rolling in more.
Do you think you’d international ones?
- I’d love to! I think that would be very scary for me. I’ve only been out of the country once my entire life so I’d would be that one girl going, “So I get on this plane? I get on this plane? Right now?” (laughs) and I’d be terrified of getting lost in some foreign country (laughs). I’d definitely love to do it though, so people just need to get their local cons to request me.