Photo courtesy of Marissa Lenti.

Before Yaoi Expo 2019 wrapped up, I got the chance to interview voice actress Marissa Lenti and learn more about her and her career in anime. She has also provided her voice in video games such as Borderlands 3’s Moze, Paladin’s Goddess Skin Lian and Jane Foster in Marvel Avengers Academy.

Faith Orcino: How has your con been?
Marissa Lenti: “Good, we had some good panels and a couple screenings. And there was a really good turn out for that. I was really excited. I was hosting the Konodan (“This Boy”) Collection screening and it went really well.”

I saw at your table that you had a reel of all your roles or most of them?
ML: “Most of them. Every year I make a visual reel of all the coolest stuff I got to do that year. What was playing on my table was all four of my reels playing in a loop. 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. Once 2019 is over, I’ll make a 2019 reel as well.”

How did you get started in anime?
ML:” I was already voice acting at the time. I was doing online stuff mostly like indie games and commercials and stuff like that. I was just graduating school and had to decide where I was going to move after school. My options were Los Angeles, New York or Texas. I decided to choose TX because Funimation was local and hopefully if I kept working in voice acting and working there [in Texas], I’d be able to get in somehow. I ended up going to Haberkon, which was a small convention Todd Haberkorn threw. I met Tyler Walker who was one of the directors of Funimation at the time. He was the one who gave me my first shot. He put me in a show called ‘Tokyo ESP’ and shortly after that, he gave me my first name girl in ‘Fairy Tail’ as Libra. It all sorta germinated from there.”

Were you already interested in anime at that time?
ML: “Oh yeah. When I was in college, still deciding what to do for the rest of my life, I was really big into anime. I was watching ‘HunterxHunter’ and ‘Case Closed’ and a couple other things. And I was like, ‘Oh you know the actors in this, that’s a job.’ I had already been a child actor. So I was like, ‘Oh, I could get back into acting and do voice acting.’ I sorta made that connection later but I was already a big anime fan.”

When did you start acting?
ML: “I was about maybe eight when I started doing theater. Then I was doing on-camera stuff around the time when I was about 12. So I had been doing that for quite awhile and it was when I was pretty young.”

Did any of that help you when you do voice acting?
ML: “Oh absolutely. Having a very strong theater or film background makes it so much easier making the jump into voice acting. Because it is the same as any other acting. The acting skills that you apply are pretty much the same. It is just a small couple of skills that I had to pick up in order to become a voice actor.”

Going back at your list of characters you play, do you have a favorite or one relatable?
ML: “My favorite has to be Momoko Hyakushiki from ‘Nanbaka’. She’s so much fun to play. She has two voices. She has a fake outer voice that she puts on that’s really low and demanding. But in her head secretly, her real voice is super high pitched. She’s really like ‘Oh~’. She’s love sick over this guy that works in her prison. Even though she’s the warden and she’s supposed to be very strong, but she’s super soft for him. It’s a really cute and funny show and I’m so glad I got to play her. And even though she’s one of my earlier roles, I still cite her as my favorite. It’s been a couple of years since ‘Nabaka’ but absolutely.”

On the opposite side of that question, have you ever had any trouble playing characters? Because you get a lot of varied roles like different pitches and non-humans.
ML: “Weirdly enough, one of the hardest characters for me to capture was totally human and totally normal. It was Chiaki Hoshinomori from ‘Gamers!’. In the Japanese, she got this really high-pitched, kinda cute voice but we played her very normal and natural to kinda make her sound like a normal teenager. The director kept being like ‘Your normal voice. Just use your normal voice. Don’t go too high. Just your normal voice.’ I kept floating higher and higher because I was listening to the Japanese voice actress and I was instinctively going to where she was. They were like, ‘No, no, no. Just your normal voice.’ And I was like, ‘What do I even sound like?’ You know, when someone asks you to use your normal sounding voice, you go ‘What do I sound like?’ I don’t know. My natural voice changes throughout the day even depending on who I’m talking to and what time of the day. What am I naturally? She was a little bit of a challenge but I really really liked how she came out. It was one of my favorite shows I’ve worked on, as well. She was my first main character. First time I played a character who was part of the main cast. So she was really, really special and important to me.” 

I’ve noticed recently that you’ve been working moving behind the scenes, working with the dub. Is there a reason for the career move?
ML: “For a lot of voice actors, becoming involved in the behind-the-scenes part is sort of a natural progression. The more you work in the industry, the more qualified you are to write or direct, do all that kind of stuff. For me, it was a very natural progression but it’s something that I have been excited about. I never saw myself being a writer who was working consistently. I always had an interest in writing, but I didn’t think ‘Oh, I would be a writer.’ But once I got into it, I really got attached to the process and being able to write and provide scripts. And some of the shows I’ve worked on like ‘Tada Never Falls in Love’, ‘Bloom Into You’ and ‘Armed Girl’s Machiavellism’, I’ve been really proud of the scripts for them. And then Directing, I think, is the love of my life as far as this career is concerned. I really really got attached to directing, getting able to cast this show and sort of drive the whole ship. For the This Boy shorts, I’m really happy with the way they came out. As well as for ‘B’T X’ which I did at Anime Midstream. That was a 90’s mecha show we intentionally tried to give a 90’s sounding dub. That was fun and I quite enjoyed it. I would like to go forward, maybe be more behind the scene. But obviously, I’m never going to stop voice acting.”

How did you get involved with the “This Boy” project and how was it working on the collection? (I asked her this during a follow-up after the interview.)
ML: “Via Kuma Holdings, I was actually directly in contact with the Japanese company, CoMix Wave Films, about producing the dubs for the “This Boy” animes. The original creator, Yamamoto-san, shared my enthusiasm about creating English dubs for the projects, so we got the all clear to create our English dubs from her. It was challenging, I’ve never been the Executive Producer on an anime as well as a writer and director. But I put a lot of heart and soul into the creation of The Konodan Collection, and I’m extremely pleased with the Blu-Ray release that we created.”

Do you have any tips for aspiring actors or want to work behind the scenes?
ML: “Most important thing is obviously just to practice whatever it is that you want to do. If you want to be a writer, keep your writing skills sharp. If you want to be a director, find some indie projects that maybe will let you cut your teeth on some directing. If you want to be a voice actor, take some acting classes, participate in your local theater. Anything like that. Then the next step is to move to where the work is. Either LA, NY or TX, either Dallas or Houston. And people who show up and are already very talented with the things they want to do can usually find their way into the industry.”

Any memorable moments either as a director or actor that really resonated with you?
ML: “Oh yeah, a lot. I guess I’ll talk about one that was recent. I just worked with David Wald on the dub of ‘KOKKOKU’ and the method that David uses to record scenes is very unique. We roll through the entire episode front to back so I get to experience everything that is happening to the character in real time and then I just react as it comes up. There is a scene in that show where my character Shoko Majima has to kill somebody, stab them with a knife while frozen in time. So they’re just frozen in front of her. Should be able to just do it but she keeps hesitating. And she’s like breathing hard and it’s really difficult. I remember being in that scene and laser-focused in ‘cause we’re all doing this in real time so I’m not stopping in any given point And it’s a timelapse of her taking several attempts at it. That really got to me. That scene stands out to me. From recording that entire show in like two days, absolutely. I think ‘KOKKOKU’ in general is going to turn out to be a really cool dub. It’s going to be released in May [2019].”

Message to the fans:
ML: “We’re here at Yaoi Expo this weekend. I just did a panel here called ‘From Fanfiction to Fan Reality’. It was about how my teenage years of writing fanfiction sort of formed my real profession of writing scripts. So any fan who’s doing fan work, who writes fanfiction, who draws fanart, who does fandub, maybe want to put a pseudonym on all of that stuff so it doesn’t come back later, but keep doing it. As long as you’re doing it under a username and you’re just sort of experimenting, fan work is so useful for harnessing your skills and doing it with something that you’re passionate about. Beit writing fanfiction with your characters or maybe you’re more inspired to draw when you’re drawing your favorite character from whatever series. Like I really encourage people as long as they’re smart on where to post it and how they post it that they continue to pursue fan work. Because one day it could be the basis of skills to get into the industry if that’s where they want to go.

I thank again organizers of YX 2019 and Marissa Lenti for this fun interview. You can hear her in the dubs of “Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun” as the Mermaid, Goddess Ariadoa in “Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious” and Director Olivier Vandeberme in “No Guns Life”.