Veteran voice actress Julie Ann Taylor has been lending her talents to anime and video games since the late 80’s with hundreds of credits in her illustrious career! Fire Emblem fans will recognize her for playing Pegasus Knight Cordelia and her reincarnation Caeldori, as well as Mercenary Severa/Selena in Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates.
For June, I recently had the privilege of organizing an extensive, exclusive interview with Ms. Taylor, who graciously fit me into her incredibly busy schedule!
You’ve performed a variety of roles for Fire Emblem from the businesslike yet melancholy Cordelia to the sassy tsundere Severa to the frosty Flora? Do you have a favorite Fire Emblem character to voice? Which one of them do you see yourself in the most? Do you have any favorite lines?
It’s been interesting voicing all these characters over the course of several years, often with one or two years in between recording time! I would have to say that while I probably most relate to Cordelia, I like performing characters like Severa who are very different from my own personality. My general temperament isn’t sassy or snarky so it’s fun for me to play such a cheeky character since I would never really go there in my daily life. It’s super fun to just be creative in the booth and crack yourself up (which I often did while voicing Severa) playing a character that is so opposite to your own personality. That’s what’s so great about voice acting (or acting in general) is that you get to try on all these hats and feel what it’s like. It can be rather freeing and cathartic. I don’t necessarily have any favorite lines that I can recall off the top of my head, but the writing was so good on all of Fire Emblem so I do remember having a great time in the booth. That said, I always thought the Flora line “Come closer… a little more… a little more” was funny.Julie Ann Taylor
What was it like voicing both Cordelia and Severa? Was it fun getting to play both mother and daughter?
I recorded all of Cordelia’s lines first without the knowledge that I would also be voicing her daughter. As voice actors, it’s typical that we don’t know ahead of time all of the characters we are playing in one game or one episode or series of episodes, so you learn to just go with it. There is a lot of thinking on your feet that goes on in any given recording session at all times! So when they said I would be performing Severa, it was like “Surprise! You’re also playing her daughter!” With moments like those, that’s usually when I give myself a little pep talk because my primary concern, of course, is that the characters will sound too much alike. Even though they are related, I never want to use that as an excuse. But with Severa, the voice came somewhat naturally since she is very driven by her sassy nature so “playing her attitude” helped me to define the voice very quickly. It also helps when the writing is first rate and luckily, that is the case on all the Fire Emblem series.Julie Ann Taylor
3. You were brought back for Fire Emblem Fates to voice two alter egos of characters from Fire Emblem Awakening. During the recording process, were you at all informed that you would be essentially reprising Severa for Selena and Cordelia for Caeldori? Do you think Severa grows up at all between games?
I didn’t know ahead of time that I would be reprising roles. Again, as voice actors we most often show up for a session and then we get all the info on the spot. I think it was 1-2 years in between recordings as well, but for Fates, I do recall the director and producers explaining to me that these new characters were similar to the previous ones. In this case, because they didn’t have to be an exact match, I had some wiggle room to play around with attitude and voice, even if only just a little. But that takes some of the pressure off so you don’t feel married to previous performances. As for Severa’s maturing, thank goodness she does mature a little bit after having her own child!Julie Ann Taylor
For Fire Emblem Heroes, you provided the voice for Linde, a character previously exclusive to Japan that’s never previously had a voice. Did you find it difficult to breathe life into such an enigmatic character?
We don’t necessarily always hear the original voice anyway so sometimes that’s helpful because you truly are free to create whatever you want. For Linde, the director and I found her voice together, so it wasn’t particularly difficult. A good director can get the perfect voice out of almost anyone. In fact, I never knew I could play boys or lower-voiced teenage girls until a few directors helped me create those voices. I started working a lot more when I discovered those voices.Julie Ann Taylor
You voiced the Sailor Moon antagonist Viluy of the Witches 5 for the recent reboot of the series. What was it like playing such a cold villainess? Did you draw on any inspiration from your own life for the part? How did you feel about your character’s demise?
I don’t get to play the villainess roles very much so it’s always fun and super challenging (like how far should I take it?). When playing villains like Viluy, I don’t rely so much on someone specific from my own life, as much as really listening to the direction that the director is giving me. A good director can always inspire you and extract a great performance, especially when you are unsure of how far to take it. As far as her demise, what can I say? What goes around comes around!Julie Ann Taylor
How did you break into voiceover work? When did you realize that voice acting was something you were good at, and that it was the career for you?
I had done theatre all my life and studied it in college and I was at loss as to what to do when I graduated. It was hard to get acting jobs, certainly for on-camera roles on television. I ended up taking a voice over class and subsequently made a voice over demo. I gave it to a friend of mine who in turn gave it to a friend, and she cast me in my first voice over role with a Los Angeles based company called Animaze. The role was Mica from a show called Hyper Doll directed by Kevin Seymour. Kevin taught me how to do ADR for anime and I’ll always be grateful to him.Julie Ann Taylor
The first of many red-haired heroines!
7.You’ve had an extensive career playing young women and schoolgirls? What were high school and college like for you?
I went to high school and college in the eighties (before the computer age with cell phones, email, social media etc! Can you even imagine?!) Looking back, I’d say that it was a very carefree time. I was always doing a play at school (ever since second grade really) or a show at the local community theatre. I went to UCLA (Go Bruins!) where I majored in Theatre, Film and Television. It was an invaluable experience. I managed to perform in a play every single quarter that I attended, even during summer school. I also met some of the best friends of my life as well as my husband at UCLA. After graduating, I went on to perform in Los Angeles County schools with LA Music Center Education Division On Tour. We performed condensed Shakespeare plays and turned middle school and high school kids on to The Bard. It was a blast. Every single theatre experience has helped me to be a better actor. I rely on my training and stage skills every time I do a VO session. It really is some of the most valuable training as a VO actor.Julie Ann Taylor
Do you have any experience in theatre (outside of school), improv, or sketch comedy?
I have much experience working in the theatre (although the last time I did a play was 18 years ago!) including local Civic Light Opera houses, theatre companies including The Young Americans, Will & Company, and The Actors Gang, all based in the Los Angeles area. I also studied improv and sketch comedy at The Groundlings.Julie Ann Taylor
What sorts of television shows, films, or novels do you enjoy? Any recommendations?
I really like the HBO show VEEP because the writing and acting is absolutely brilliant. Occasionally, I’ll also catch Silicon Valley, which is another HBO goodie. I also loved watching Big Little Lies— another brilliantly written and acted piece. Beautifully and artfully shot! For mindless entertainment, I like Cupcake Wars and The Bachelor/Bachelorette, although every single time it comes on, I say I’m not going to watch it and then I get sucked in!
Oy! In terms of reading, lately I’ve been obsessed with reading about how the body processes stress and trauma. I just finished reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, a fascinating look at how we hold stress patterns in our bodies and what we can do to re-pattern ourselves for the better. But my favorite genre is narrative non-fiction. I’d recommend In the Garden of Beasts or Long Walk to Freedom. Next in my cue is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A neighbor recommended it me and gave me his copy and it’s sitting on my desk waiting to be opened.Julie Ann Taylor
What does your family think of your work? I can imagine story and book time must have been magical in your home. Has your son played any of the games your voice has been featured in?
My family is very proud of the work that I do. I think that I enjoyed story time more than my son, maybe, LOL. It’s because I love children’s books and I love a good story. My favorite children’s books include The Giving Tree, The Story of Ferdinand, Where the Wild Things Are, Blueberries for Sal, The Runaway Bunny and anything by Dr. Seuss. Yes indeed, my son liked story time and learned to do different character voices. For a while there, he had some really good accents like Scottish, British, Aussie and Russian. He’s better than me at accents actually, but he has no interest in acting at all. My son hasn’t played any of the games I’ve been in but his favorite games are FIFA and UFC 2.Julie Ann Taylor
11.Cordelia recently got a new form in Heroes’ Bridal Blessings Banner. How did recording these new wacky lines make you feel? Do you think Cordelia enjoys her new outfit and its festivities? Or does she merely consider it her given duty?
Well, at first I was like… ah…what? Cordelia’s a bride?! Hmmm, ok. And then we started recording and it was great. Her lines really fit with her character and within the context so it was a hoot. I think she would definitely see it as a duty, but she would also enjoy it as well. Any way you slice it, she’s a badass archer, no matter what she’s doing.Julie Ann Taylor