A fan-favourite actress among anime fans, Michelle Ruff - aka Georgette Rose, her mother's maiden name, which she freely admits to using as her pesudonym - has leant her voice to many high profile shows, such as "Lupin III," "Gundam 08th MS Team" and ".hack," to name but a few, while on Digimon we know her as the voices of season three's Lopmon/Antylamon, and Zoe and her Digimon forms from season four - her first animated TV roles. Recently, she shared her thoughts on her work with me.
Chris McFeely: When did you decide that you wanted to build a career as an actress?
Michelle Ruff: Back in Chicago. I started doing theatre improv at Second City and Improv Olympic and got an agent. I was doing it part time, then I moved to L.A. and decided to go for it all the way.
CMcF: How did you get your start in the voice-acting
world, or more specifically, your start in the anime dubbing
MR: I met someone who I was doing voiceover with and he had me come in on a project he happened to be directing. He was kind and patient enough to work me through the technical aspects of dubbing and I brought by acting skills and my musical intuition. That was my first. Then I started looking for the work. I had a demo tape and I sent it to some companies. I went in for auditions. At first, I didn't book anything. Then, all of a sudden, I was in.
CMcF: How were you approached for the Digimon series?
MR: The third season, I was brought in by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn to audition for Lopmon and Antylamon and the fourth season, I auditioned for Zoe and got the part. Mary Elizabeth knew my work from other projects, so that's why she approached me.
CMcF: Zoe was easily your biggest role in the series, in the show's fourth season. What were your impressions of her as a character? Did you try to bring anything of yourself to the role, or take anything away from it?
MR: Zoe was very girlish. My friends always tell my I'm such a girl, so she was perfect for me in that way. The Italian was just silly fun. I also tried to bring a soft side to her at time because I felt she needed that balance in her character.
CMcF: As is the case with the other human characters in the show, the voices of Zoe's Digimon forms are similar, yet subtly different, from her normal voice. Did you do anything in particular to differentiate them?
MR: I aged her a few years and made her a little tougher and cooler.
CMcF: What is Digimon to you? It's natural and understandable for actors and actresses to view it, or any project, as "just more work," but what's your take on it?
MR: Digimon, as with any project, is an opportunity for me to work my acting muscle. Mary Elizabeth was a great director in that she demanded good acting from me. I couldn't fake it, even if I wanted to or didn't feel like it that day. It was also a step up for me in my career - that was the first show I did that actually aired on TV. I was thrilled when I booked it, especially since I had auditioned with all the actors in town, who I felt were the best around. It gave me a confidence boost.
CMcF: When you joined the show, it was as Lopmon toward the end of the third season, as it entered it's particularly dark phase of storytelling. Did you find your subsequent fourth season performances contrasted with your previous roles in the third season? Which did you enjoy performing more?
MR: I enjoyed the third season because of the contrast in the two character I played, but I think I enjoyed the fourth season more because I was there, recording every week, so I got more attached to the characters and the story.
CMcF: And to round out the Digimon questions with a simple, fun one - got a favourite character on the show, besides Zoe?
MR: Oh boy. I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling. I think during recording the character I would hear that would make me laugh the most was the train with the funny German accent. I don't remember his name, but he would always say, "Mein liebshen!" You know who I'm talking about?
CMcF: Certainly do - Angler the Trailmon. He's one of my favourite characters from the season too.
CMcF: To take a wider look at your acting... what are you favourite kinds of roles to play?
MR: I just got to play "the sassy girl" in a live action film called "Attack the Gas Station." I had sooo much fun with her. I never get cast as the bitch or the girl with a bad attitude, especially since I'm so the opposite in real life. So I would have to say that's my favorite role to play.
CMcF: Any roles you WANT to play, but haven't yet had the chance to?
MR: I can't think of any right now. I've pretty much done them all... oh! I know! I'd like to play a nerdy girl. But I mean, like a REAL nerdy girl. I doubt any of my clients would go for the vocal character I would want to do, though. I've tried it in a couple auditions, but I never book them.
CMcF: Across the face of your career, is there any one role, or several roles, that you could pick out as being your favourite(s)?
MR: Fujiko Mine from "Lupin III," Miki Koishikawa from "Marmalade Boy," Lady Meow from "Tsukikage Ran" and Chi from "Chobits."
CMcF: Have you ever found your face or voice recognised while out and about? How did you react?
MR: Nope!! That's the beauty of doing voice work!
CMcF: It's understood that many voice actors don't get to actually watch the finished versions of show they work on. What about you, do you try to catch shows that you've been in?
MR: Yes, if they're airing on TV, I will. I'm in a show that airs on Cartoon Network starting this Saturday (5th June 2004), "Rave Master." 8.30pm. I play Elie.
CMcF: Have you ever had any experiences behind the mic that you'd rather forget?
MR: I'm sure I have, but I can't remember them. :)
CMcF: This question is the one that just keeps being asked and doesn't go away, I'm afraid. :) Do you have any advice for those who want to enter the voice acting industry?
MR: Yes. Take an acting class. And take an improvisation class. Contrary to popular belief, voiceovers DO require acting skills. That's first and foremost. And improvisation is an excellent skill to have. Improv, improv, improv!!! Then if you still like it, take a voiceover class and find someone to help you put a demo tape together. I always recommend calling an agent in your local town to find out who they recommend for teaching. And while you're at it, ask the agent what they require for submission to the agency as far as voiceover actors go. Comprende?
CMcF: Who or what would you cite as your inspirations in your life, your work, in anything?
MR: Wow. That's a good one. Ummm... my inspiration in my life is pretty simple. The actual gift of life itself keep me going. Each moment that I have is precious so I do my best to make the most of each one. In my work... well, I will set a goal for myself and will do whatever it takes to get there. And I'm always grateful for every audition and booking I get. I'm so very fortunate to be doing something that I love that's so fun. It doesn't really feel like work! That alone inspires me!
CMcF: Is there anyone in the industry that you'd hope to work with in the future?
MR: No, not anyone I can think of.
CMcF: What do you get up to in your spare time? What hobbies and interests do you have?
MR: Well, I lovvve to travel. Spain and Italy this summer. On a day-to-day basis, I really love being outside in my garden, playing in the dirt with flowers and stuff. I hike, run and exercise on a regular basis. I love shop - a little retail therapy never hurt anyone! I used to fuss over my animals, but I recently lost both of them, one to coyotes and one to cancer. But I'll probably adopt some doggies in the fall. And I love music and going to concerts and going out to dinner with my friends! I think that's everything!
CMcF: What are you working on at the moment? What can we expect to see from you next?
MR: I can't talk about show that aren't released yet, sorry. As mentioned, "Rave Master" debuts this Saturday on Cartoon Network. I'm doing "Ai Yori Aoishi Enishi" over at Bang Zoom (love them!). "Marmalade Boy," "Last Exile," etc. I have quite a few projects that I'm working on that haven't been released yet. So you'll have to wait and see!
CMcF: What does the future hold for Michelle Ruff? What do you want to do that you haven't yet done?
MR: I would love to do original animation. I've done a couple of things and it's sooo fun. You work as an ensemble group with the other actors. So that's my goal right now. Other than that, I'm pretty darn happy with my life and my career.
CMcF: And finally, any closing words for the fans out there?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!! Without the fans, anime wouldn't exist as we know it. Your role in anime is just as important as anyone working on the production side, so again... grazie!!!
Thanks to Justin Lam for finding a contact address for me!