To describe Terri Doty through even the most inclusive list of titles would be an act of great injustice as her worth as an artist, and genuine human being, extends much deeper than any number of the roles she has fulfilled. Not only is she a gifted voice artist, but a voice of inspiration, calling out the greatest qualities of those around her and encouraging a strength of passion, confidence, intellect and beauty through simply continuing her life as the embodiment of each. Her work within the world of anime, as voice artist, writer, and director, has seen to the success of a range of series including ‘Parasyte’, ‘Black Butler’, ‘RIN: Daughters of Mnemosyne’, ‘Hetalia’, ‘Corpse Princess’, ‘Tokyo Ghoul’, ‘Assassination Classroom, and more, skills she is all to happy to pass forward through her work as a educator in the arts, and host of the hit podcast ‘That Anime Show’. To say she is an icon of the industry would not even begin to describe the raw power that is Terri Doty - an artist more super human than even the most lycra-covered hero she may voice.
Why do you think that anime is able to reach audiences in a way that other art forms, even those that involve acting and story-telling, seem unable to? Particularly the disparity between Anime and Western based animation which seems to not only have a differing fanbase, but a differing level of resonance with its audience?
- Friends in high school really tried to get me into Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon. To be fair, I tried. After watching a couple episodes of each, but they just weren’t gelling for me.
- There can be a stigma to entertainment outside your region. When people talk of seeing foreign films or enjoying music not particularly popular in the states, some easily categorize you as “pretentious” or “weird.” Ex. I love the La Mécanique du Cœur album by Dionysos. It is also tied to a book called “The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart.” Probably one of my favorite things ever but hard to talk about because people first response is always, “Wait, isn’t that all a little too French?”
- For many years, I just assumed anime wasn’t for me. Notice how easy it is to lump ALL ANIME together as if it is a genre when, in reality, it’s a medium.I forget where I was when Ghost in the Shell came on. That changed everything for me. It spoke to my Sci-Fi/Horror roots. Suddenly, everything clicked: There’s an anime for everyone.
- Along with Sci-Fi/Horror, I’ve found that I’m a fan of Slice of Life shows. But these aren’t the types of shows and stories that you’d see originating from the states. Yet I identify with them. They speak to me. And someone on the business end of the storytelling knows that their tales will speak to various audiences.
- Anime, more often than most western animation, isn’t about instant gratification. Pacing is deliberate. You have to be patient. Every panel, every charged look, words (spoken and unspoken) all lead somewhere.
- Basically it boils down to this: you either get it or you don’t.
You are indisputably one of the most inspiring woman within the arts and the world of entertainment (and life in general), not only for your artistic prowess, but your upbeat and strong personality. As such, do you feel that we should be celebrating the work of women in various roles within the arts/entertainment with particular emphasis, or is it better to simply celebrate them as a talented artist, actor, director etc as opposed to celebrating them as a female artist, actor, director etc to best create a sense of equity among the genders?
- I don’t think we need to go out of our way to refer to people as “actresses” or “female artist/director/writer.” It is a fine line, but I do wish we celebrated women’s accomplishments more.
- Recently, I was re-listening to the last episode of That Anime Show. For those that don’t know, it’s a podcast that ran for four years where J. Michael Tatum, Stephen Hoff, and myself interviewed fellow anime insiders and the like. Anyway, in the aforementioned ep, I went out of my way not to label myself as a feminist. I called myself a “humanist.” Kind of cringe-worthy moment if I’m totally honest. I can’t help but roll my eyes because WHO THE F*** SAYS SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!
- I know why I did it though. God forbid I make someone uncomfortable by talking about issues plaguing women today. Referring to yourself as a feminist causes people to straighten in their seats. Others groan, but they’re on guard. They’re ready to get into an argument.
- In the almost three years since that episode was recorded, a lot has changed for me. We have Olympic runners being referred to as “Athlete’s wife.” Women are getting murdered for breaking up with someone or saying “no.” Women in my industry aren’t immune. The stories I could tell you. Those require a good drink that likely has gin in it and a seat by a fireplace.
Do you think that anime tends to have a wider scope of character and is more likely to have a strong female lead etc, or be more open to LGBT based themes and storylines? It does seem that Japan seems more open to celebrating love in a range of forms, even many years ago, while the West is only now just including LGBT, transgender, gender fluid etc characters in their entertainment
- Such a great question! I think it is worth mentioning that localization can sometimes help in the realm of representation.
- When I was doing research for Baka & Test, I was a little confused about how the original scripts addressed the sexuality of one of the show’s two gay characters. This show is a comedy and lots of situations are about one or two characters confusing the reality of a situation (i.e. “This guy is really nice to buy me lunch” when really Kubo is buying Akihisa lunch because he has a crush on Akihisa).
- Miharu is CLEARLY gay. She OBVIOUSLY has a crush on Minami Shimada. In the Japanese, characters often mentioned how “weird” it was that Miharu liked Minami because they’re both girls.
- Jamie Marchi, the lead adaptive scriptwriter for the show, told me in a meeting we had before casting, that her writing team threw that out. They made it more about how Minami is just annoyed because Miharu is coming on way too strong. There’s nothing in the dub about how Miharu is weird for being attracted to a girl. At the end of the day, it is left up to the storyteller. If they can’t identify with the journey of the LGBT community, attempting to do so often comes off as forced or halfhearted.
- That was a very long-winded way of saying yes. Yes, I do think anime has a wider scope of characters, a lot of which you wouldn’t necessarily get to see otherwise. Perhaps that’s why it speaks to so many people across the globe.
When voicing a character, or playing a character in live performances, which requires you to connect to that character on a certain level, have you found over time that you need to distance yourself from them in some respects as to not become too emotionally involved? This could simply be for reasons of not wanting it to affect your performance, or not investing too much in a character/series in case it never makes it to air or is not received in the way you hope etc
- It depends on not only the role, but the type of character I’m playing, the kind of world they live in, the director/engineer/client/producer I’m working with, and what the writer has cooked up.
- I started out in stand-up comedy and became a techie before performing as a character actor. When I started getting more serious about the craft, I studied different methods. Some call for me to “become” that character while others have me pull from real life and so on.
- I don’t know if it is because Chutaro Kumo from Laughing Under the Clouds is so unlike me or what, but he was a sneaky little bugger. He wormed his way into my heart and we went through some major stuff together. For one particular episode, I pulled from the experience of my father dying. It was risky and hard to really explain, but I think it paid off. I mean, it better have, I cried like a baby after that session!
- Other characters are kept at a distance because that’s who they are. I respect their space and they respect mine. Well, they don’t, but they’re in charge. You get attached to characters. It isn’t a bad thing. Does it make it hard to say goodbye? HELL YES.
Do you feel more freedom, whether creatively, self-consciously, or emotionally, voicing a character that has an accent or uses a voice that is more removed from your natural speaking voice? What percentage of characters you play or have played would you say are quite close to your natural voice?
- I get to play a lot of characters that are in my comfort zone. It’s nice. But getting to experiment is never a bad thing.
- I believe it was Michael Caine who touched on the subject best. He went as far as saying that if a performer isn’t comfortable with an accent, they’ll likely spend the bulk of their time trying to stay in voice rather than focus on the performance.
- In Hetalia, I voice Fem Germany. Being that my husband can speak German, I bugged him a lot about the accent. What we ended up doing in booth was more stereotypical German than what is natural to me. Which I can’t believe shocked me because IT’S HETALIA! So I had to trust Voice Director Christopher Bevins on the voice more than myself.
- I had to play an Australian hotel clerk in Free!: Eternal Summer. I was not informed that I’d be doing an accent until I was in-booth. My OCD immediately boiled over. I’m a girl that likes to prepare! But, again, I trust my crew. Voice Director Jerry Jewell and Sound Engineer Kenneth Thompson helped me stay in voice. I even had a few Aussies approach me about the accent I did. Most liked it! Not gonna lie, that felt pretty damn good.
- So basically, my comfort level varies depending on the day, director, show, accent, pitch, what color shirt I’m wearing, if Mercury is in retrograde, and what I had for breakfast on the morning of August 4th, 1997.
While I understand that each role requires you to access a part of your own personality through which you can relate to the character you are playing, but has there been a role or series that significantly made you re-examine your own stance on an issue or outlook on life? Perhaps more than other roles you have taken on?
- I’ve learned a little something from each show I’ve done. Some roles call for “more” than others, but I can’t recall an instance where something has “changed” me.
Has your preparation or performance in the booth changed over the years, either in terms of warmups, being able to extend your range further, or finding you are able to record more proficiently and in less time these days compared to when you first began?
- I’ve been working in the biz for almost 9 years now. Of course things have changed with time. Confidence built over the years has allowed me explore more of my range. Warm ups vary depending on what sessions call for.
You have said that you are a big fan of the horror genre of films, does this passion extend to animated horror films, or do you prefer the live-action ones? What do you see as the main differences and the strengths each possesses in tackling the genre?
- If it’s good and in the horror genre, try to keep me away. I DARE YA! It doesn’t necessarily have to be live action in order for me to love it. Heck, I’ve gotten gigs based off my love of horror.
- Many shows and movies coming out lately have missed the mark with me. I’m not fond of jump scares or “torture porn” (i.e. gore simply for shock value). Focus on the story and don’t force-feed exposition through dialogue. Make me care about these characters.
- The best example I can think of right now of horror being done right is Babadook. It had little gore and managed to scare me with things as simple as the lighting and camera angles.
- The great thing, as much as some might tell you otherwise, is that there are no rules. There is no absolute right or wrong way to do something. Horror is no exception. You can likely find something positive to say about the crappiest thing in the genre. Even if it is as simple as, “The concept was clever.”
Given your love of horror, do you find yourself being drawn more towards horror-based anime (or projects in general) on which to work? Would you like to create your own horror film in the future?
- Like music, I love a bit of everything. Horror can be a way to get me interested, but the overall concept is what’s gonna sell me.
- I’ve seen what goes into creating a film. No matter how simple the script may be, it isn’t an easy undertaking. There are things possibly in the works, but the right crew would have to be involved. Stay tuned!
Since the world of anime does tend to include many features that are not seen in Western-based animation, whether that be a genre, scope of story, theme, or even aesthetic property, are there any aspects from anime you would like to see more of in Western animation?
- There are so many creators with their own stories to tell, international, indie, and so on. They have their visions. Not all of them are going to personally interest me, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist.
- I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s something out there for everyone. So I wouldn’t necessarily wish for any creator to get so hung up on what others are doing that it affects their creativity. We’re in a great spot. Western animation is no exception.
- It is quite sad that women are still having to fight for so much in this day and age, and even having to fight for how we individually define being a “feminist” etc. I personally, am definitely aware of your podcast and, I won't get into too much detail and bore you, but I have had a history with quite severe illness that required many hospitalisations/chemo etc and your podcast got me through so much so I genuinely cannot thank you enough. Many hours of literally not being able to move from pain were greatly eased listening to you guys chat, so I sincerely thank you for that and I have no doubt I was not the only one reached in such a resonant manner.
Given that you have worked in several roles in animation, do you often encounter any restrictions of "suggestions" on what type of things can be transferred from the Japanese to the Western iteration and what must be omitted?
- Argue about “sub vs dub” all the live long day, but companies like Funimation Entertainment, Sentai Filmworks, Bang Zoom, and the like work with the creators. They want their stuff accessible to everyone. That’s why we do what we do.
- Some shows can be harder to adapt than others for a variety of reasons. The writing team for Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt were told to make it funny. Not a hard job for Jamie Marchi. Can you tell I’m a big fan of Jamie Marchi?
- Sometimes jokes or references don’t land like they do in the Japanese. Ex. In Baka and Test, the character of Kouta Tsuchiya was repeatedly called “Mussolini.” We scrapped this in the dub because it just didn’t work.
- Localization is about honoring the original content. It is NOT about simply dragging over a translation and adjusting.
Was being involved in multiple areas of the production process something you always aspired to be involved in, or did it come about organically? Have you found, whether in your own roles or that you have seen in others, that being involved in multiple areas leads to someone performing better in a individual role?
- I started out doing stand-up comedy. From that I moved to stage performing in community theater and hosting events. After I graduated high school, I moved to indie film as an actress, writer and director as well as cable access news. Oh, yes. Then I got into voice acting.
- That was almost nine years ago. Needless to say, MUCH has changed in that time. My confidence behind the microphone wasn’t immediate. It took coming into my own as a voice director and taking classes in voiceover.
- For me, it was/is about hopping from one lily pad to the next. Adapting, learning.
What do you find you end up remembering most about a project you have worked on - such as it pushing you out of your comfort zone, the series overall, your attachment to a characters, the fans reaction, or even simply the people you got to work on it with?
- Sometimes it’s about the characters. Other times you remember the crew and the hijinks that may have taken place... Honestly, each project is different.
Is there a particular "myth" about your work that you hear or get asked about more frequently than others? Such as voice acting being easy to get into, being an "easy job because you're just talking", that anime VO's are at war with western-origin cartoon VO's etc? Or even something technical that the make the mouth flaps fit your wording and not the other way around?
- “I don’t need acting experience.” - Yes, you do. Voice ACTING.
- “Texas voice actors hate LA and NY voice actors.” - Not really. We’re all just actors. Some get along better than others just like with ANY. OTHER. JOB.
- “You can Japanese.” - Nope. Not even a little.
Do you think the ways in which people can best support the anime industry have changed in recent times, particularly with the invention of things such as streaming, illegal downloads etc, and how can fans out there best support those who create the works they so very much love and ensure they get to see more of it in the future?
- I’ve been in shows that will never see the light of day. Reasons for some not hitting the shelves have been due to poor sales… Popular shows. Shows that I get bugged about to this day simply as a fan. Hard not to think that pirating doesn’t have something to do with that. I wish I could say I know for sure one way or the other.
- No one is entitled to watch something for free. Creators, animators, actors… Show them you love their content by supporting them. THAT is how they’ll continue to bring you new content.
You recently had a live reunion recording of ‘That Anime Show’ reunion at a convention that you all attended, do you feel you would ever be interested in doing something similar in Australia?
- LOTS of things would have to fall into place. But the main thing is getting the entire crew together: Tatum, Stephen, and myself. We’ve often run into the issue of people just trying to get Tatum and me. Many don’t understand just how important Stephen is to the show.
- But YES! Get us to Australia!