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Sarah Natochenny reflected on her life-changing audition for the role of Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum to The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019.
You never know when an audition thought to have gone rock bottom is actually the complete reverse and sends your career soaring high. Actress Sarah Natochenny told The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019 about such an audition, one that largely defined her future, and most recently was influential in winning her the Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo. The role of a lifetime… Pokémon’s lead character, Ash Ketchum.
Just when Natochenny thought all the chips were down, it turned out she was perfect for the job all along. Sarah Natochenny went on to describe the surreal, humbling feeling she gets when fans write that she brightened up their day, just by ‘liking’ their Instagram fan art.
Watch the full interview with Sarah Natochenny above or read the transcript below:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How do you reflect back on the first day you got the role of Ash? What was that day like for you?
Sarah Natochenny: Actually, I don’t really remember that day. I remember the day I auditioned the first time and how I left that studio crying… Because I don’t think I’ve ever actually left the room feeling that bad about an audition since. I thought it went horribly. I sounded right, I guess? But I didn’t know how to dub.
They taught me how to do my job at my audition. So, that to me was a horrible audition. The fact they had to do that. But I guess in hindsight, the fact that they actually stayed with me and took the time to teach me and to see how I would respond to that kind of teaching… Which I guess I did fine! It’s a testament to the fact that they actually wanted to work with me.
Did you picture this role would end up largely defining your life for so many years?
Oh God! Yeah, Yeah.
You thought it would keep going from the beginning?
Yeah, I didn’t know if they would manage resurgences like they have. They’ve really done an amazing job! Pokémon Go really changed everything! I didn’t doubt that they would but I didn’t know what was possible because that’s not my business. I don’t look ahead and create technologies based on other amazing technologies. I’m an actor.
Do you get notes from Nintendo ever? Do they ever get involved?
Like notes, “On well on that episode?” like that? No. They keep to themselves. I’d welcome their notes, I just don’t have any notes. I’m all ears!
Do you read what fans say, both praise and criticism on voice acting? Does it impact you creatively when you’re back in the booth?
Impact mentally? That’s a very deep question. Less now. Unless I get a link to something and then I go down a deep hole, it’s usually not pleasant. The positive responses, especially now that I’m active on social media, I get so many positive notes. It’s amazing! That I read! That I love to read, when people who follow me, actively engage with me on the Internet.
I’ve taken screenshots, one recently I liked an image of some fan art on Instagram and they wrote a whole thing like, “I was having the worst day. And she liked my photo and I’m crying and it’s the most amazing thing! It’s exactly what I needed!” I’m just like, the fact that I have a power like that to make someone’s day…
As a voice actress, that started working really young… You know, there was the fantastic South Park voice actress, Mary Kay Bergman, who sadly took her own life when she thought she might be losing her talent. Do you ever worry about that? How do you protect your voice over the years?
I haven’t worried about it, yet. But I drink a lot of throat coat tea. I try not to scream a lot. I don’t go to loud bars or restaurants. If a restaurant is too loud, I’m the person who’s like, “Yeah, we’ve got to go.” Yeah, I’m fun! I try to protect my voice, reasonably but I’m not thinking about it a lot.
When I interviewed Funimation cast members, they spoke of how they typically don’t record together. I was wondering if for you it’s the same? I mean, you don’t have that partner to play off of. I know you studied at Lee Strasberg.
Yeah, it was definitely strange when I first started doing it. Like “What do you mean, I need other actors.” It varies now. I used to be the last to record, so that I would have everybody already in… But at this point I don’t even notice it. It’s really second nature to just imagine how everyone would sound. I feel like I know what Carter [Cathcart] and Team Rocket are going to do. I know what my partners-in-crime are going to do!
We do a few different takes, I trust my Director completely. So, if there are different reads to be done, we do them all. Then the Editor does everything else.
Do you listen to your own takes?
Sometimes, if I’m not sure about what what I did, I’m like, “Can I just hear that one more time?” Then I do it again.
I read you were in the Junior Olympics for Rhythmic Gymnastics and won a Bronze Medal. I was wondering did you ever want to go back to that?
Oh God no! No, no, no. I was 13 when I quit doing that and no, I never looked back. I’m very grateful for having had that because it showed me that you could be not very good at something, practice really hard, and lose your whole childhood…. And then get really good at it! So, that was a great lesson to learn but once I quit, I was like, “Thank you goodbye.” I will be an actor now.
What does it mean to you to get nominated for Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo? Did you call your parents?
Yeah, my mom is right over there! (she really was) I’m very excited! It’s going to be great. Just to be nominated is amazing!
[Sarah Natochenny went on to win the Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo]
I swear I'm posting about this really soon. ICYMI – I won the Voice Arts Award for best Animation/Gaming Demo. My life's work is on that reel, so this means a lot. Thank you Society of Voice Arts and Sciences for this honor. https://t.co/NyUQYttjDl
— Sarah Natochenny (@sarahnatochenny) November 19, 2019
Follow Sarah Natochenny on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and her official website. Be sure to periodically check Anime NYC’s official website for the latest updates on Sarah Natochenny potentially returning for Anime NYC 2020!
Check out The Natural Aristocrat’s Anime NYC 2019 interview with Lisa Ortiz, voice of many of your favorite Pokémon characters, and one of Sarah Natochenny’s best pals in the recording booth!