What *hasn't* the ubiquitous Wendee Lee done? As a voice director, an actress, a writer/adaptor, and more, her work stretches across "Dirty Pair," "Magic Knight Rayearth," the classic anime "Akira," and "Cowboy BeBop," in her well-known role of Faye Valentine - but to we Digimon fans, she's best known as the voice of 01 T.K. (and many others), as well as one of the voice directors behind the first season of the show. She took some time recently to answer the many questions I had.
McFeely: For Digimon, you're known as a voice actress, a voice
director, and on other projects, in addition to these, a
writer/adaptor... but which of all these things would you
consider to be your favourite?
Wendee Lee: Well as I always say, I am an actress first - I started out as an actress as a child and have been an actress ever since. But don't get me wrong - I LOVE directing too!
CMcF: When did you decide you wanted to build a career for yourself in this industry?
WL: I always knew somehow there was a place for me in animation. The mystery was simply how to get started. Once a momentum began building I knew it was something I would continue to do forever.
CMcF: When did you get your "big break" into the industry? What were you doing beforehand?
WL: Good question - I would say my actual 'big break' was getting my first film role and my Screen Actors Guild card, which is very tricky in itself. That made me feel like I had legitimately become an official 'working actress' and very proud. Up until then I had been a full time performer in a Theatre Dance company.
CMcF: How did you branch out from the area you started in, to the other areas in which you now work?
WL: It was a very natural progression for me. I was still dancing, and teaching dance to supplement my acting career and began moving into choreographing stage and video productions which eventually led to directing theatre for many years. I've always had strong leadership skills and knew I would make a good director. After successfully directing theatre for so long I knew I could also direct in my field of animation if given the chance. The truth is there are many things I do in my field and always have had a hand in several different creative endeavors at once.
My formula for success was to diversify as much as possible.
CMcF: Through what events were you approached for the "Digimon" series? When you were approached for the series, was it to work in an acting or directing capacity? Whichever it was, how did you come to work in the other capacity on the show?
WL: I actually began as the shows primary director. I directed all of the original casting sessions and was also asked to audition for the series. After 'passing the audition,' as it were, I won the role of TK.
CMcF: Of the numerous characters you've voiced on the show, which would you say was your favourite to do?
WL: Tk - He's my all time favorite boy voice (of the ones that I do).
CMcF: If there could have been one other character on the show that you would have liked to voice, who would it have been?
WL: Mimi - She was such the perfect type of character for me. I just loved all of her self-absorbed characteristics and knew I could do a great job with her mannerisms and ultra feminine style.
CMcF: Have you done any recording for the third, current series of the show?
WL: Yes - Don't ask me which episodes, but I'm doing several small 'cameos' so to speak. I guess some of them develop into bigger roles at some point.
CMcF: Have you ever had your voice (or your face) recognised by any one when out and about?
WL: Ooo! No one's asked me that before. Not outside of personal appearances or conventions for this stuff - I have
been recognized for other acting work though.
CMcF: Would you say you have obtained work on other projects (in any capacity), as a result notoriety derived from previous high-profile work, or would you consider each project to be independent?
WL: Up until not too long ago I would have said each project is rather apart and independent of another - However, I just did a pilot for the Cartoon Network which was written especially for me based on my performance as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. Quite an honor!
But in thinking your question I should also say that most of the directing and writing work I do is based on the quality of previous shows I've done.
CMcF: It's my understanding that a lot of voice actors rarely watch the shows they work on. Does this hold true for you?
WL: I'm ashamed to say yes... Truth is most companies don't provide us with copies of our work and often we are quite busy moving onto the next one once they've completed.
In my case as a director, I usually attend the mixes of the shows I'm doing so I get to see everything start to finish.
CMcF: It's fair to say that voice actors are offered little appreciation for what they do, beyond cult and fan followings. What are your opinions on this? Do you like the anonymity?
WL: I love the anonymity - (My husband loves it even more!) Actually, I'm a rather private person outside of the work arena. But I also love having contact with the fans.
I do wish there was a bit more recognition for voice actors. It seems the only time the media gets excited & interested in what we do is when a star name is attached to a project. And unfortunately in most cases they are NOT voice artists. There's much more to voice acting then simply speaking into a microphone...
CMcF: Are you friendly with any of the other actors in the shows you work on?
Yes, actually. Many of us have been working together for several years and I have grown close to many of them.
CMcF: What advice do you have you for those out there who aspire to be voice actors? How should they go about making their way into the industry?
WL: You can't simply 'become' a voice actor - It is a division of overall acting. If you aren't a serious actor, voice acting is out of the question. In many cases we are working much harder to creative vivid, emotional, complex, interesting and intriguing characters with fewer tools, or rather with our hands tied behind our backs, so to speak. It's like running a marathon race by only 'visualizing' the track. Sometimes it's much easier to get up there on stage or on camera and have your whole person to physicalize the part. Just conveying these things with ones voice can be far more challenging - But hey, many of us are in it for the challenge!
Having said that, if you are still crazy enough to want a life of insecurity and rejection = acting, then the first thing you need to do is to figure out a way to 'afford' it. Acting costs money; there are classes to pay for, wardrobe, photos, workshops, tapes/cd's... It's VERY expensive.
So you must find a line of work that you enjoy and can tolerate to; 1) fall back on, and 2) support yourself as an actor.
Once you're on your way you must build your resume by doing plays, commercials anything you can get to build up your credits. Then it's time to study voice acting (expensive! $$) and have a voice tape or CD made (even MORE expensive!! $$$$).
Next you need an agent. Not an easy feat either! Then once you've got all of the above you have to BE where the work is - Hollywood, New York or elsewhere. The work is NOT gonna come to you. And living in a big city costs plenty!! So say good-bye to everything in your world that you know and love cuz acting is gonna break you down and break your heart long before it'll make you rich & famous.
Sound tough? It is! And that's the god honest truth. But I wouldn't dissuade anyone from pursuing their dream - I sacrificed for mine and it worked out somehow.
CMcF: Who would you cite as your inspirations, in life, in the industry, in anything?
WL: Great question - My life is so beautiful now. I'm in a great place and feel loved and appreciated - And first and foremost I must say my inspiration comes from my beloved husband Robert. We have a beautiful life together and he supports what I do completely. Without him the rewards would mean far less to me.
I find great inspiration in so may things; spirit, nature, goodness, justice, a creative environment, positive feedback, compassion, children, travel, love and life to name few. My role models are obscure; poets, dancers, musicians, philosophers, great artists. People who do good work and take pride in what they do. People looking to make a difference in the world rather than exploit their 15 minutes of fame.
I guess it's not a black & white answer for me.
CMcF: Are there any individuals in the industry who you would like to work with in the future?
WL: I would love to work with some great animators & produce an original project or two. I have a few ideas up my sleeve but not sure where to begin...
Of course I would also love to work with any of the great artists of our time; Sir Anthony Hopkins, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Ulman to name a few - Hey! A girl can dream a little, can't she?!
CMcF: What do you do in your spare time? What hobbies or interests do you have?
WL: Well, I really don't have a tremendous amount of spare time, but there is balance.
I like to cook, I'm a vegetarian and big animal advocate, love films, love our organic garden, been spending loads of time remodeling and improving our home which has been fun and creatively rewarding, write; poetry, lyrics, music & script ideas, TRAVEL my absolute favorite thing to do, visit with friends. I used to do a lot of sewing and bead work, but both require a fair amount of time. I write music with my husband which is a blast. Love CD shopping & treat myself to shopping for fashion whenever I can - Still love glamour!
CMcF: What are you working on at the moment? What can we expect to see from you next?
I'm still working on Love Hina, of course Digimon, Kenshin, Vandread, Vampire Princess Miyu, Mini Goddesses, Gatekeepers, Mysterious Play and a few new ones; Samurai Girl (Real Bout High School), Kurogane Communication, GTO, Brigadoon, Kikaider, Ran, and a brand new one I'm starting next week for Bang Zoom! called X. Also Mon Colle Knights is still airing on Fox, (USA) in which I play 3 roles; Batch (the bad guy) Ms. Loon, the wacky teacher and little Love star. At least that show is free!
Also I just started this really cool interactive game called ".Hack". It's gonna take like a year to record all of it. And for the little kids I've got an ongoing educational web game called "Alfy" at www.Alfy.com - I do like 5 different roles on that one.
CMcF: Any final words you'd like to impart to the fans?
WL: Thanks for your support! Check out my website, which is still under construction, but will be finalized soon (I hope...) and stay in touch! The website will have an ongoing list of current projects, appearances, samples and whatnot.
CMcF: Well, that's everything! Thanks for your time!
WL: You're welcome!
Check out Wendee's website HERE. Remember, it's a work in progress!
With a little tip of the hat to Dave Mallow for getting the ball rolling. :)