Interview: The English Cast of Fairy Tailby Cindy Sibilsky,
As charming, fun and big-hearted as the Fairy Tail anime series and characters are, the cast -- Cherami Leigh (who voices Lucy Heartfilia), Todd Haberkorn (Natsu Dragneel), Tia Ballard (Happy) and director Tyler Walker -- are even more so. My interview with these four was peppered with oodles of laughter and love for each other and the cherished series that is currently filming its final season. It felt much more like a conversation between old friends than an interview.
It's been eight years since the English dub of Fairy Tail began in 2010 and the group feels like a family or guild themselves, even though they're rarely in the studio booth together. This is one of the main challenges for voice actors (along with getting the script in parts and not much ahead of recording time) and skill and magic of directors who have to piece together the puzzle of different actors' interpretations as if they were playing off of each other in real time. The challenge is further increased by the constraints of the translation, which can be rigid, leaving little room for creativity. Whether or not they spend all of their days together, their devotion and familial feel run deep.
Cherami Leigh, voice of Lucy
But, sadly for many fans of the series and the cast and creative forces behind it, the beloved show will be coming to a close. Both Todd and Tyler have made their commitment to Fairy Tail permanent (quite literally, as they have tattoos to prove it) and they all also know that as Funimation (among other studios) regulars, they'll get the chance to work together again, even if not on this adored anime.
Of the looming end date (which won't be too soon, Tyler mentioned that they have about a year of dubbing one episode per week left to go) Cherami said, “I will never let Lucy go! I am completely in denial that this will be the end of Fairy Tail. There's got to be a movie, spin-off, filler arch or something left.” Of the filler arc prospect, Todd chimed in, “Filler arcs can be a double-edged sword, though there's nothing like a good, streamlined story arc, sometimes the filler arcs are the most fun and memorable -- like the lobster arc, or infinity clock arc (all nodded in agreement) -- those seem like fillers but they added dimension to the Fairy Tail universe.” And when and if (they all speculate the finiteness) that end comes, they are hopeful and confident that the fanbase will continue to grow and thrive to keep the world of Fairy Tail going.
“Conventions are what keeps characters alive,” noted Todd, “Some fans are only starting their journey with the series and others have yet to discover it.” They also appreciate the multi-generational appeal of the show which they feel is a key to its current and future longevity. “Our teenage fans' commitment is the best! It's just so special,” chimed in Tia, while noting they have adoring fans of all ages. The group fondly recounted a family of four who came up to them at Anime NYC and told them that Fairy Tail was the first series that the parents (both longtime fans of anime, even before they got together) watched with their 10- and 14-year-old daughters as a wholesome family activity and cross-generational bonding experience.
Todd Haberkorn, voice of Natsu
But this was not the only touching tale from enthusiasts who got to meet the actors who breathed life into their favorite characters. Cherami got misty-eyed (as did all of us) when she told her fellow castmates to prepare themselves to meet a very special fan who is on a mission to meet each and every one of them. “Recently at a convention in Michigan, I met a fifteen-year-old who came up to me with tears streaming down her face as she told me, 'I never thought this day would come but after a ten-year battle, I am finally cancer free. It was discovering Fairy Tail that got me through my treatments and gave me the courage I needed to beat this. Now that I am cured, I am going to meet all of you to thank you in person for giving me the strength I needed.'” Each of the Fairy Tail English dub crew had similarly meaningful moments, such as Tia's observation that anime shows help kids with Aspergers or autism better understand human emotions due to the broadness the characters display. Tyler recalled an encounter with a U.S. Army veteran who watched the series while in Iraq and credited Fairy Tail's powerful, positive and healthy form of escapism for getting him through the toughest times across the ocean and when he returned home. “He found surprising depth in the stories and characters I hadn't even recognized.” Fan letters keep pouring in saying that the show gives them hope.
All agreed that the secret to the series' success is that kind of connection. “The Fairy Tail Guild is based on a collection of lost, alienated misfits needing a place to go and be themselves,” noted Tyler, “Yes, the past may suck, you may have suffered loss, bad luck and difficulties and you may feel different from everyone else, even your own kin, but you can build your own chosen family.”
Tyler Walker, director
I posed the question: If you could rewrite or create the ending of the series from your character's perspective, what would happen? Not surprisingly, they had some interesting answers. Cherami responded, “I'd like a ride off into the sunset, 'happily ever after, everyone gets their desires met and are all friends' kind of finish.” Tia has more homey wishes for Happy, “I think that Happy would want to settle down and have kittens with Carla. What would that coupling be called? Cappy! (all laughed and nodded in agreement). And for everyone to be together and be lifelong friends, like we all are in real life.” Todd had the most vivid, creative vision: “I'd want there to be a montage with a voice-over monologue where you see the bird's-eye overview of all of the character's lives flashing by and then it will pan out and fade to real-time where I (Natsu) am passing a glass of wine to Lucy, recounting the tale in candlelight, then we snuff out the candle leaving only the darkness.” Hard to beat that imagery! But fans will just have to wait and see.
Tia Ballard, voice of Happy
I asked what messages they'd like devotees to take away as this book with many chapters for over a decade is coming to the very last pages on the small screen soon, here are their responses: Todd stated, “If you can eat fire, you can breathe it (a lesson learned from Natsu)” and expressed the importance of one's power to overcome all fears and discomfort. Tia wanted everyone to remember, “There is room for love and trust -- open up to others.” Cherami said, “As hard as things are it's all going to be fine. You are not alone. Others are dealing with the same or similar hardships. Find your tribe, find your guild and if you cannot find your own, you are always welcome at Fairy Tail.”
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