I got the chance thanks to organizers to interview voice actress Mela Lee during Anime California 2019.

Q: I attended your panel earlier with some of your fellow Fate cast members and you answered several of my questions there. One of my other questions about your list of characters. Was there one that was a bit more challenging than others?
Mela Lee: “I’m not in a place in my career where I do tons of research. I think I’ve been lucky enough to play characters that are very similar to me. Rin Tosaka, even my Catholic school uniform looks just like hers. It’s a beautiful red sweater with a v-neck and a white cross with a black and charcoal pleated skirt. But I think the characters that I’m playing now are more like myself so I think the most research I had to do is kinda dig deep inside to find what makes these characters tick.
Anime has evolved just like I have over the last ten years. In anime and gaming, you’re finding a depth of character that didn’t exist before. So we’re not so two dimensional. We’re very three dimensional and finding the why of the character is really important. I think what’s important to me is being honest as I can with the characters because now when I first started I was just grateful for the job. Ten years in, I met people from all of the world and they’ve been able to tell me their life stories and how a character has meant to them. Shinkoku from “Rozen Maiden” and Lifeline from “Apex Legends”, Rin Tosaka, Yuki Cross from “Vampire Knight”. I’m so moved by the ability of these stories and these characters to inspire people and to create their own stories or be true to themselves. I feel the weight of it now. Not that I didn’t take my job seriously before but I’m aware of how powerful the medium of anime, animation and interactive games can be and I wanna do the best job I can.”

Photo taken by Faith Orcino

Q: I saw on your bio that there was one thing I was interested in learning about more. It said you were a vocal replacement specialist; what does that entail you to do?
ML: “Well voice replacement ADR is post production sound. Sometimes, it’s just replacing sound that isn’t even there. What’s in the background. What I specialized in was medical, legal and financial terminology. So let’s just say it was a Wall Street movie and everyone’s talking about tranches and talking about portfolios, investments and hedge funds. My mother was a medical specialist in the military so I called her and replaced dialog about triage for chemical warfare and burn units.
Then there’s the time where you sound like another actress, and for a famous actress. When I do my job right, you don’t know I’ve done it at all. They might be working on another film. They’ve moved on and they can’t come in to replace dialog. Maybe it was an action scene and the sound wasn’t clean. So you’ll put in the fight breaths, the yeses and the no’s or just a line that they’ve cut out an entire scene and you kinda gotta stick in so that the story still makes sense. It’s very precise work. It’s very behind the scenes. When I do it right, you don’t know I’ve done it. But in the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to step into more of a lime light and I think I’m more comfortable behind the scenes. Lately I’ve become more confident and a lot has to do with meeting people at conventions scene and circuit and learning about who I am as a person, my heritage, my background. It allows me to have a little bit more braver to get to step out in the front and be a leading actress behind the mic and in front of the camera.”

Q: Looking back again at that panel, you talked about your start into voice acting and what you were doing, can you talk more about the transition?
ML: “I took a class, a voice over class. It was four weekends, four intensive weekends and it taught me about animation, audio books, commercials and narration. At the very end of that four-week class, there was an agent’s night and the little eight year-old in me thought maybe I could, you know, get discovered. You know, that kid in you that thinks it’s possible, but I did. So it wasn’t full-time work but I did some audio books. I had auditioned for a couple of animes and got them, but it didn’t pay the rent. I’m sure a lot of actresses will tell you that. I was a good eight years before I kinda thought that maybe I can do it for a living. But looking back, I probably could have done it for a living sooner, but I kept my job with banking and being an analyst and I think again, I put myself in the background and I think of how many of us do that. You know, I was a little bit curvy. I didn’t think I looked like the actresses in my mind would looked like. What’s been beautiful in my career now is that we find that we’re perfectly drawn for our purpose for the future that we have. There’s room in anime, animation, voice gaming, illustration, all of these wonderful parts of the industry. You could be any age, any sex, any diverse background and there’s a place for you. It’s really a magical industry.”

Message to Fans: “I just wanted to say thank you. You are the reason I have this career. I can’t believe I’m this lucky and blessed. I’m so honored that you trust me with these characters that I love so much. And more importantly, I hope I’ve inspired you in my work and my words to follow your dreams because everybody has a little something inside of them to make them miraculous.”

Some of her recent anime projects includes “Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front: Bablyonia” as the goddess Ishtar, Uwasa and Nemu Hiiragi in “Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story” and Olivia in “Carole & Tuesday”.

We thank again Mela Lee for taking the time to talk with us.