Interview with Voice Actress Dawn M. Bennett
Voice actors have become the many unsung heroes of the animation world. While subtitled anime may be easier than ever to come across, it often takes a dubbed version of a series for an anime to truly explode in the western market. Without the work of talented voice actors and actresses like Dawn M. Bennett, anime and Japanese culture would not have the success that it does in the states and beyond. Dawn was kind enough to sit down with us at Ikigai Spin to talk about her experiences as an actress and what goes into creating your favorite series.
You are most well known for your voice acting roles in Fairy Tail and Freedom Planet, but originally graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in songwriting. How did one medium lead into the other?
Get ready, ‘cause it’s a long story! During my first semester, I began voice acting through the Video Game Music Club (VGMC) at Berklee. I took part in a game jam, where students from different colleges collaborate to make a video game over a weekend. I’d signed up as a voice actress because I’d always wanted to try, and it turned out I was one of three students who’d offered it at all. After the game jam, I got asked by music engineering students to voice for their class projects that involved ADR and narration. Soon, I was voice acting more than I was making music. In the summer before my second year, Akash Thakkar, who was president of the VGMC and Freedom Planet’s sound designer at the time, recommended I audition for Freedom Planet. That game ended up becoming my first professional project, and I hadn’t even graduated yet. My FUNimation future began during my third and final year at Berklee. After meeting at Haber-Kon about six months prior, Fairy Tail’s director Tyler Walker contacted me during commencement and asked me to come audition at FUNimation two days after graduation. That audition led to my first anime character ever, Frosch. Despite not immersing myself in music as much as one might’ve hoped a music student would do, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this far in my career if it hadn’t been for Berklee. All that ADR practice, working with directors experienced or not, helped me prepare for the real deal. I still have much to learn, but I truly owe my beginnings to Berklee and my fellow alumni.
You are currently playing the role of Miku Kobayakawa in Keijo!!!!!!! this season. How would you describe diving into the role in this unorthodox series?
Keijo!!!!!!!! is about knocking swimsuit-clad girls off a floating platform with only your bust or butt… Needless to say, you’ve gotta have fun with it! In episode 2, I got to say a butt pun, which is amazing. Then, you see Miku use her butt to launch a piece of chalk at Nozomi’s forehead. The show is definitely out there, but I think that makes it all the more enjoyable. Kristen McGuire, who plays Hanabi Kawai, puts it in the best possible way: “They’re not MY boobs!” And it’s certainly not my butt. Wow. How many times can I say butt in this answer? Is there a limit? Anyway, this job can throw some crazy, silly roles at you, but it's a career one can get behind.
Of the various characters you have voiced, which would you say has come the most naturally to you, perhaps reflective of your own personality?
Kiriko Shikishima from Ultimate Otaku Teacher definitely came the most naturally to me. She’s shy at first, but holds conviction in her identity. When Kiriko’s about to be expelled for working at a maid café, she notes the loss won’t kill her. Rather, Kiriko states, “Losing my whole way of life, on the other hand, is a fate worse than death.” I’ve been told many times to settle for a more "lucrative" career and put voice acting off to the side, but I'd rather take the road less traveled than let go of a significant part of my soul. For Kiriko, working at the maid café gives her confidence in herself and a joy she can’t quite find anywhere else. For me, voice acting has the same effect.
On the other hand, which role has pushed you forward, challenging you as an actress?
Ritsuka Tachibana from Dance With Devils was the first role in which… I got sick. I didn’t know what to do; what happens when an actor gets sick? The thought made me terribly anxious, particularly in the possibility that an episode could be delayed because of me. I told director Kyle Phillips this, and he simply explained that if we had to, we’d use an actor who sounded like me and then rerecord the episode later. That day, we recorded what we could until my voice couldn’t take anymore, and I remember apologizing profusely. I felt embarrassed and awful that I couldn't perform my job as I should, and that I was wasting people's time. Kyle responded, “Your health is more important than finishing the episode.” I don’t know if he remembers that, but the memory is still sobering and has stuck with me ever since. As artists, we struggle to achieve perfection and try to push our bodies beyond their limits. As entertainers, we aim to please as many as we can. However, that’s highly unrealistic and dangerous. Playing Ritsuka showed me that I needed to give myself room to be human, to make mistakes, and to learn and grow from them.
What sources of inspiration or direction have helped to shape you as an actress? Have there been specific people in your life that have helped to push you forward in a positive way?
Reading and hearing other actors’ stories definitely inspires me. I look up to Mark Ruffalo, who had 600-800 auditions before landing a role, and went undiscovered underneath directors’ noses for nearly a decade. His story taught me that just because you don’t land an audition, doesn’t mean you’re a bad actor. Again, it’s all about giving yourself room to be human and that if now’s not the time, it’s just not the time. I’ve received this advice from so many of my dear family and friends, and I’m scared that if I try to name them all, I’ll forget one. If you’re reading this, you know who you are, and please know that I’m eternally grateful for you.
Are there any projects that you are currently working on that you would like to tell us about?
Absolutely! FUNimation just released the cast list for Show By Rock!!’s second season and I can’t wait to reprise my role as A. Also, I’m happy to announce my role as Lisa in the visual novel, Remember, Remember, which has an online demo that came out on Halloween. GalaxyTrail just wrapped all voice recording for Freedom Planet 2 a little over a month ago and it's looking to be more fantastically amazing than the last. If you haven't played its predecessor, Freedom Planet, you should check it out! You can hear me as one of the playable characters, Lilac the Dragon Girl, in both the first game and its sequel.
Final Fun Question: Do you have a favorite series of all time?
Trigun. That anime will always have a place near and dear to my heart. Find happiness. Talk about your dreams. Because the ticket to the future is always blank. Love and peace.
Thank you for sitting down with us today! Stay up to date on everything Dawn is up to by following her on Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube! For more interviews, stay with Ikigai Spin on Twitter and Instagram!