Interview: Shelley Calene-Black

by Zac Bertschy,
ADV Films recently gave me the opportunity to ask a few questions of Shelley Calene-Black, the voice actress behind the melancholy Mireille from Noir and the bubbly Melissa from Rune Soldier, two of Spring's hottest anime titles.

Zac: How did you decide to become involved in the world of Japanese Animation dubbing?

Calene-Black (CB): I've been a stage actor for a number of years now and it was through my theatre friends that I heard about ADV. A few of them were doing quite a bit of work (and really enjoying it) and urged me to attend a general audition. I finally did and that's when I met Steven Foster and shortly after that, he put me to work. My first couple of jobs were basically crowd noises, maybe a line here and there, and then Sin came along. That was my first major role and my first real learning experience in doing this type of voice work.

Zac: As an actress, what do you find particularly challenging about this line of work?

CB: It's very technical. Having come from working in the theatre, line delivery and basic character choices are the easiest parts (not that I don't need a directorial push now and then - ha). However, when your choices and delivery must also match the lip flaps of your character - that's where the real work comes in! Sometimes it forces you to make other choices that strangely end up being better/funnier, etc. and sometimes you have to sacrifice your choices to make it fit with the animation. I think that's also where the work between the actor and director becomes most important. It's very easy to get a delivery choice stuck in your head and a good director (like the ones we have at ADV) can either help guide you into another delivery choice or make necessary adjustments in the script to help you out. The ability of the actor and director to work together in this line of work is paramount.

Zac: How do you choose your roles?

CB: Well, I'd love to say that I make those choices, but that's not really the case! Auditioning for each new project remains part of the job. Even though the director may know your work, it's still important for them to be able to match up voices for their show as best they can. (You wouldn't want to end up with two main characters in a show that sound alike). Occasionally, you just get called in on a show, especially if it's a kind of character you've done before and the director knows exactly what they need from you - but for most, you still audition. So, essentially, they choose you. Of course, you have the option to not take a role if you wanted - but that's pretty much the extent of it!

Zac: Tell us about your character in Noir, and how you prepared yourself for that role.

CB: Mirielle is a young female assassin that really has no idea where she comes from. That of course, is the main drive of her character - she's always searching for her past and who she is now. Noir is so well done and has such a feel of it's own, that there really is no sort of preparation involved. You're so taken by the story and the feel of the film that you just go with it. Matt Greenfield is directing it, and he has such a great feel for the piece as well, that we just breeze through it pretty easily. Truthfully, working on Noir is like working on a great play, the work at times seems almost effortless.

Zac: Noir seems to be a bit of a departure for you, looking at your body of work. Did you find the tonal shift challenging?

CB: Going back to my previous answer, no. It's probably one of the easiest roles I've played. As a matter of fact, the most work I do is trying not to work too hard, because it's just not necessary in this show.

Zac: Of the characters you've portrayed, did any of them strike you as being particularly close to your own personality?

CB: As much as I hate to admit it, probably Cleao from Orphen. I mean I'm not a rich spoiled brat, but I think Cleao's temperament is fairly close to my own. Now, in my own defense, I try to keep that under control as much as possible but my husband sure found a lot of similarities to laugh at while watching it. Scary, huh?

Zac: If so, did that assist in your decision to take the role?

CB: From the audition pieces, I only gathered that she was kind of a rich spoiled brat. It wasn't until I started working on the show that I saw how my personality could contribute alot to developing that character. And luckily Steven Foster (director) saw it even more and was able to tap into that - we had a blast working on that show!

Zac: Tell us about your character in Rune Soldier.

CB: Melissa is one of the adventurers in the show. She is a bit of a princess as well - literally and figuratively. I enjoy playing her because she is alot like Cleao - not quite as temperamental, but certainly wears her feelings (and opinions) on her sleeve for all to see. She speaks her mind whether she should or not - and that makes for alot of good one-liners. Her relationship with Louis (or lack thereof sometimes) is quite fun to work on - I still don't know what's going to happen with those two - but I love how she goes from hot to cold on the turn of a dime.

Zac: How do you feel about working on two projects that are as highly anticipated as Noir and Rune Soldier?

CB: Well, I didn't really know that until I was well into working on them. I really like both of the shows - so I'm not surprised by that. For the most part, I guess I don't really think about it - except that I'm really excited to see them when they come out - which, I guess says alot about them, because I usually don't watch the shows I've done.

Zac: Finally, what's in the future for you? Can we look forward to any new roles?

CB: I recently did a couple of characters for a game this past week - that was pretty cool and different. I don't know much about it right now or I'd try to plug it a bit! As for other shows, I recently did work on Gamera II & III which was alot of fun as well - that's the only voicing I've done for live action - loved it. But I still have alot more work to do on Noir and Rune Soldier as well as small parts in Saiyuki and the Kurumi series. So, for right now, I've got a lot on my plate - and hopefully that will continue!

Thank you for your time, Ms. Calene-Black. Rest assured, the anime community is already very impressed with your work and we look forward to seeing more from you in the future!

bookmark/share with:

Interview homepage / archives