Interview: The Cast of Sailor Moon R: The Movieby Zac Bertschy,
Sailor Moon R: The Movie was originally released in 1993, and by the time it finally arrived on bilingual uncut DVD in the year 2000 courtesy of then-licensee Pioneer Entertainment, the film had already gained a considerable reputation as one of the shining jewels of the Sailor Moon franchise. Thoughtful, deeply emotional and run through with the kind of well-written high-stakes drama that elevates a show like Sailor Moon in the consciousness of adult fans, Sailor Moon R: The Movie is due out in theaters and on Bluray soon as part of Viz Anime's massive Sailor Moon revival. We sat down recently with the voice of Umino (and Sailor Moon R: The Movie's villain, Fiore), Benjamin Diskin, the voice of Tuxedo Mask, Robbie Daymond, and Sailor Moon herself, Stephanie Sheh, to chat about what it was like recording a new English dub for this beloved film. We also had a chance to catch up with Charlene Ingram, Senior Manager of Animation Marketing at Viz, about the state of the Sailor Moon world.
Zac: We're coming to around the halfway point of this project, the original show anyway, and I wanted to know how have your characters—and you—changed most since you started in 2014, when this was first announced? How do you feel about your character and how do you feel about you as an actor, how far you've come?
ROBBIE DAYMOND, TUXEDO MASK: Well my character's definitely had a lot of journeys, I mean he got semi-possessed, sort of lost himself, kidnapped, broke up with his long-time love, found out he was a space king, I dunno, it was a lot of stuff! So it's been fun to sort of track all that, and thankfully we've got a great director here who guides us through all the ins and outs of the plot. As an actor, Sailor Moon was my anime trial-by-fire, so I really like to think that I've learned a lot about not only the technical aspects of how to dub anime, but also how to deliver a good performance within that framework. So yeah, Sailor Moon was not only a great learning experience for me, but I feel like it's just been a really positive experience all around.
Zac: So having done this now, are you going to be doing more anime work? Is that something you're interested in taking more of, do you see yourself getting into the world of being an anime voice actor and what that means and all that stuff?
Robbie: I'm in a lot of anime now.
STEPHANIE SHEH, SAILOR MOON: It stuck!
Robbie: Yeah, yeah, it stuck. And thankfully, you couldn't ask for a better launching pad into this business, and I'm appreciative of it every day. I really enjoy the industry and all the people involved in it, so you know, I get to thank Sailor Moon for my anime career.
Zac: So do you have to fight against getting cast as Tuxedo Mask types?
Zac: Cause he's not really a type, right? He's just sort of a dude.
Robbie: He's two different dudes, he's kind of a bro in the streets and a hero in the—erm—cape! But yeah, not really. I play occasional romantic leads, but it's a lot of different stuff. Thankfully, they haven't pigeonholed me quite yet, it's only been two years.
Zac: Alright, that's good! Stephanie?
Stephanie: I think that, for a really long time after I got cast, it didn't seem real. For a long time afterwards. Like I was walking my dog thinking, "My dog doesn't know. He doesn't care." And it didn't seem real! It was like I was in an alternative universe where somehow I was Sailor Moon, but really in the normal universe, I would have gotten some supporting role. Now it seems real, and I've kind of accepted my fate or destiny, shall we say? But now I'm totally comfortable with it, it's okay. It doesn't weird me out to where I would forget. Even though I was well into recording, I would still forget. And people would come up to me, and I would feel awkward. I mean, I still feel a little bit awkward, because I'm not a person who likes that much attention, but now it's just like I own it, and I've adopted that identity. I've accepted it, and it's real.
From Left: Stephanie Sheh, Robbie Daymond, Benjamin Diskin
Zac: Have you gotten used to the reaction that you get, like when you go to the panels and there's that big crowd, and they announce you as Sailor Moon?
Stephanie: Yes. I don't feel like an imposter, is what I'm saying. I might not feel entirely comfortable with all the attention, but I don't feel like an imposter, you know what I mean?
Zac: You've been doing it long enough to overcome imposter syndrome, so...
Stephanie: Right, and the whole uncomfortability thing has nothing to do with Sailor Moon, I'm just an awkward human being in general. In terms of Usagi herself, she started out in the beginning of the series just your kind of klutzy comedic teenage girl, not so good at a lot of stuff. And now, she's really kind of taken ownership of her leadership role as Sailor Moon, and she's gotten better. And especially in this movie, she's also like mellowed out and matured. There's a comfortability to it. So you can really see how she is Princess Serenity.
Zac: Now Ben, you're playing a new character in this movie specifically, so the question doesn't quite apply the same to you, but...
BENJAMIN DISKIN, FIORE: Oh god, I thought you were going to ask about Umino and how I've grown with him. He's barely in the show anymore, I wouldn't know what to say!
Zac: Ha ha no, but how do you feel you as an actor have changed since starting on Sailor Moon, because you've still been part of the project?
Ben: Well, I've changed as an actor playing this character not that much, because I think I did it like a week ago, but you know, just getting to play a different type of character from what I normally get. Normally I'm like the crazy over-the-top weird ones, so to play like—he's not a "romantic" character, but he has that sort of "I'm a sexy bad guy" kind of tone. And that's not what I'm used to, so it's fun to kind of like stretch out into areas that I'm not normally cast in.
Zac: It was a romantic character for a lotta girls in the '90s.
Stephanie: Well, it could still be again!
Zac: Definitely. So do you have a memory of a particularly tough scene for you, or a moment that was the biggest challenge for you while recording Sailor Moon?
Robbie: Difficult time in the studio? Yeah, I think the breakup scene in the first season, I always go back to that just because I wanted to do it right and make sure that it was um—
Zac: Lotta pressure?
Robbie: Yeah, people love-hate that scene, so I just wanted to make sure that those few episodes were really good. And then carrying that through line to the next half-season in terms of why he's actually doing it, trying to pretend that you don't love someone because you're doing it for the greater good. I think that's kind of a nice allegory for not being with someone because it's best for everyone, even though you love them.
Zac: Huh. Complicated feelings.
Robbie: That's what I took from it, I think it's a common complicated feeling! But if you put it in the world of anime, you can make the stakes higher. You know, the universe is gonna end. So I don't know, to a teenager, maybe that's what it feels like during a breakup.
Zac: Yeah, I think so.
Stephanie: Instead of "it's not you, it's me," it's—
Robbie: The universe! "It's not me, it's the universe."
Stephanie: For me, there's been so many moments. I think just in general, some of the callouts are really long. The earlier ones are shorter, but some of the later ones are really held for a long time. And there were a few days where I came in, and maybe I was working a lot, and my voice was kinda scratchy or something, and it was kinda tough. Like I would crack or break, so there have been tough times in terms of that, especially as the series progressed, there was a lot of yelling. But that's the only thing that pops in my mind immediately.
Ben: For me, I guess just in this movie, my character gets pretty miserable. I mean, he's basically dealing with a breakup and a friend who doesn't even acknowledge he existed. So it's basically him losing his cookies throughout the film, which was tough for me, because whenever I play a character who's going through something rough, I usually experience it to a pretty strong degree in the moment. So then when it's over, I can go "Okay, it's just a joke, it's fine!" but during it, just that thought of having somebody forget all about you and not care, so you become lonely and miserable, that got me emotional.
Zac: So these are such iconic roles, Sailor Moon along with probably Dragon Ball Z are like the Coke and Nike of anime. Getting those roles must have been huge, so how anxious were you about taking them on in the beginning, and how do you feel about them now? Was there a moment where you were like "Okay, I'm Sailor Moon."
Stephanie: You know, it wasn't a lightbulb moment. I think it was one of those things that just gradually happened. This is a weird analogy, but like I'd never been good at doing dishes. It was just always a task that I had to do, had to do, had to do, until all of a sudden one day I was older, and I was like "Oh, I've been doing the dishes for this long, and it's not a problem." I mean, I still don't like to do it, but now I just do it, so it was just a natural thing like that. I think what really helped was going to conventions, because you're in this room when recording, and it can only be about the work at that time, so you don't adopt the character as part of your identity yet. So going to a lot of conventions is what helped me come to terms with that identity. I wasn't too anxious at first, I mean cerebrally I was anxious, but emotionally I wasn't. I'm just the type of person to have an emotionally delayed reaction, where I'll be like "Oh my gosh, let's jump out of a plane, that sounds so cool," and then I'll be in the plane before "Oh that's right, I'm afraid of heights." So I didn't have too much anxiety beforehand because I didn't think about it. I do remember that Michelle Ruff took me out for my birthday right before we started recording, and she pulls up in her car, I get in, and the first words out of her mouth were "Are you ready for all the haters?" And that was the first time that it dawned on me, but even then it was only about three days of worrying about people hating me, before I was like "Well, what can you do about it? Nothing, you can just do the best job that you can do." Luckily, VIZ had this great plan for AX and getting to interact with all the fans. Everybody was just immediately so positive that all the anxiety just disappeared really quickly.
Zac: Was there a moment where this became “real” for you?
Robbie: I get anxious when they put out promotional material, but once it's out there, I can't care about it anymore. Nothing I can do after that. I try and stay out of the message boards as best I can.
The moment it was real was the big Anime Expo announcement. Once they finally announced it, I'm thinking “okay! No take-backsies!”, it's out there now! [laughs]
One thing though, the few times I have looked at the internet for feedback on Sailor Moon, it's all positive. Nothing but positivity.
Zac: Ben, when you come into a situation like this, Sailor Moon – do you feel any anxiety, given how big a deal the show is?
Ben: Nah – I've been a voice actor since I was 6. But as for the forums, I look at those all the time like an idiot, but I'm so hard on myself that if I see someone saying “man, that guy sucks!” I say “well he's not wrong” and move on.
Stephanie: Wait, so you read the forums and if they're just trashing you, you're just like “yep, that's true.”
Ben: The only time I get mad is when they attack my friends, talk about actors I respect. That upsets me. But that's it.
Robbie: My personal experience with Sailor Moon fandom – all the cons, every interaction I've had, has been astoundingly positive. Amazingly positive.
Stephanie: One thing to keep in mind is that there wasn't just one original cast before us. There have been several casts for Sailor Moon – it hasn't always been the same cast, so that helped. I'm sure there are plenty of people who prefer the other dubs, but those aren't the people who approach us.
Zac: Do you have a personal favorite scene from Sailor Moon? Something you recorded, something that meant something to you?
Ben: For me it was – this is terrible, but - the episode where Umino gets possessed and becomes a “bad boy” and he flips up his teacher's skirt and shows her underwear. That was never in the US cut – but now it's here, and that was like ‘we're announcing that the show is available uncut, here's a skirt getting flipped up”. Terrible, but that's what I thought.
Stephanie: I always gravitate toward the comedy, rather than the big dramatic moments. Hard to pin only one down, though. I love the fact that Haruka and Michiru are partners in this version. I will say I'm very proud to be part of the show – they acknowledged and fixed that mistake, editing that out.
Robbie: Anytime I get to tease or flirt with Usagi a little. There's a great moment in the movie where she's trying to kiss him, in a flashback, and he's sliding away from her with this series of confused grunts. I just love that – he'll kiss her passionately in the sunset after a fight, but then they're just in the street and she's being a weirdo and he's like “eh, you don't get a kiss right now”. I like those little moments – I like the grand cosmic stuff too, but the little slice of life moments, they make it real.
Zac: So you'd say you're about halfway through the entire original Sailor Moon series?
CHARLENE INGRAM: We've finished Sailor Moon S, and we're wrapping up the Sailor Moon R Movie.
Zac: Are you on your original timetable for release?
Charlene: Pretty close. With Crystal coming in and the movies, we've had to wiggle around a little. A lot of care is paid to right place right time, proper release spacing, all of that has a tremendous amount of effort put into it by the whole team .
This is such a big title – it's a lot more than just getting it out as quickly as possible. You have to be cognizant of so many moving parts.
We announced this project in May 2014 – it still feels like yesterday. On 11/11 we enter our third year releasing Sailor Moon.
Zac: You've got a few years left, right? More than 100 episodes?
We've got Super S, Stars… it's a nudge past halfway.
Zac: Are you happy there, with plenty of road left?
So I'm really looking forward to Super S. It's a 90s anime, very different from the manga. But I believe the uncut dub, fresh takes on the characters – they're going to add a lot to Super S.
Zac: Redeem it, so to speak?
A: I don't know about “redeeming” it but there are a lot of layers to the villains. It might not be the most popular opinion, but I kinda like getting more time with the Amazon Trio and the Amazoness Quartet. I love when the Sailor Guardians get their Super S powers – and you get so much more time with all the characters. When you're reading the manga, it's down to business super quickly. But sometimes you don't always want to take the expressway – you want to mosey around and see the sights, at least for me.
Zac: So maybe this will reintroduce the show to fans.
So here's something to consider – back in the day, in the late 90s or the early 2000s, go to a convention and you wouldn't see a single Chibi-Usa cosplayer anywhere. You might see a parent dressing their kid up as Chibi-Usa – you know, ride or die Chibi-Usa fans – but now, you see a lot more Chibi-Usa love. Not just people who grew up with her or fans of the cast, but people who get her. They spent more time with her, thought about that character's place. Seeing more love for Super S shows me, at least, how much fandom has grown up. They really appreciate all the parts.
And I love Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa. She's so good – she nails it. She has that spunk without taking it too far – comes from a place of purity.
Zac: Can you characterize Sailor Moon’s performance at retail since launch?
It's still extremely strong. It isn't a perfect metric, but you can tell a lot about a release by where it's placed. Anything you want is on Amazon, for example, and anime specialty stores will carry most things – and then it starts to get harder. So you see stuff in Fry's and FYE and Suncoast (yes there is still one of these in Baltimore) – but then sometimes you see stuff in Best Buy and Wal-mart and Target. Sailor Moon is in that last category. Retail has been very supportive, and that's because the fans support this title so much.
One other thing – it isn't about boys’ shows or girls’ shows. Human beings like good content, human beings are buying Sailor Moon. Which says something – here we have a title that isn't only pink, it's pink AND sparkly, and that's sometimes a challenge in retail.
Zac: I noticed Sailor Moon winds up in the kids’ section a lot. Are you placing it there, or is retail?
That's retail, to place it where they feel it's appropriate. There's a content rating on the back of the box so the vendors can make the decisions best for them.
Zac: Are you anticipating that rating going up as the show goes on?
It shouldn't – ratings on animated content tend to be very conservative already. But parents know what's right for their children.
Zac: If you could've done any part of this release differently, what would you have done?
There are so many moving parts. Especially on the packaging. So to make those limited editions so over-the-top, there's a lot of work that goes into the booklets. From the beginning, I think I would've allowed a little more time for that. You get 96 pages in and you and the whole team have to proof all that – it doesn't even fit on my desk, I have to book a meeting room for over an hour to check everything each round, send notes back to the designer, get approval, etctera. The team in Japan goes over every single detail – on some anime projects you won't get many notes, but with Sailor Moon they take the utmost care.Everything top to bottom takes a little longer.
That first set was really ambitious. The style guides are so beautiful – it'd be a shame not to share all that art with the fans and supporters of Sailor Moon.
Zac: For you personally – is there anything else you can see yourself working on, where you'd be this involved in such a huge property?
Well, back in the day when I worked at Funimation, I worked - even just a small part – on some of the most amazing and legendary shows, on Dragon Ball and One Piece and a lot of other huge shows. Then I came to VIZ and now I experience more of the great Shonen Jump catalog – I get to work on Naruto, Hunter x Hunter and many others.
One-Punch Man has been such a trip. When you work on these huge shows, like Sailor Moon, you wonder if it's defining you, spoiling you for anything else. So One-Punch Man coming along for us after Sailor Moon, that was such a departure. And it's a cultural phenomenon – people send me clippings. It's been very refreshing. I love the shows that mean a lot to people, and One-Punch Man feels like the right show at the right time. It's more than just an action show – it's a beautifully animated existential crisis. That's the soul.
Sailor Moon isn't just a bunch of girls in glitter and friendship, there's a message. You don't have to be the best at everything, and you can save your world. The shows that mean something to people – those are the ones I love to work on.
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