Disgaea 4’s Carrie Savage spoke to The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019 about the title’s remastering and finding beauty in voice acting.
You could pick out Carrie Savage’s unique, sugary sweet sounding voice from across the room. Disgaea 4’s voice of Vulcanus/Artina was already doing theater starting from grade school on. Flash forward to a couple of Film and TV execs in LA telling her she sounded ‘too young and innocent,’ during auditions, and Carrie, undeterred, decided to make the voice work for her. It’s no surprise industry powerhouses like Funimation and New Generation Pictures would take notice of her talent.
There’s something charming in Carrie Savage’s delivery which fans just getting into NIS’ Disgaea 4 Complete+ will no doubt enjoy. “Mr. Vampire!” A voice that’s easy on the ears you could say. As you would expect from Disgaea’s Celestia.
Watch the full interview with Carrie Savage above or read the transcript below:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Disgaea 4 Complete+ was released recently, how do you reflect on it and Artina/Vulcanus eight years later?
Carrie Savage: That was one of my favorite games to do, I loved doing it!
What was it like exploring the whole relationship with Valvatorez? Were you recording with Troy Baker in the studio?
No, it was one at a time. I remember it was my first time working with Keith [Arem], PCV, and Valerie and I just love them. They’re awesome and I was so excited to work with them.
What does it mean to you that a whole new generation of fans are going to hear your voice again?
I didn’t even think of that, that is awesome! (smiles) That’s exciting! Because I feel so much of the stuff I’ve done is so much older now compared to the newer stuff. But the old stuff, some of it is amazing! Like the one you mentioned with the angel, Haibane Renmei. (smiles) I’m excited for a younger generation to come in and be watching my work.
What kind of rituals do you have when you go into a booth? Do you have something you do every time, where if you don’t do it you feel off for the rest of the day?
Yes, this kind of applies to my theater auditions also. It’s different in New York though. When I was in LA, I used to have these these certain CDs that I would sing with in my car to warm up my voice. And then I developed like this list of about twelve characters. Some of them were from classes I took and some of them were actually characters that I did.
I would go from highest to lowest and I would do all these little snippets of all these characters in a row. So, that I could warm up the softest kind of voice, (does voices) down to the low part.
I did that, I sang, and I used different parts of my voice when I was singing in different placements. And then I would do all the characters because the way they speak was different, the placement was all different. Like, if I’m going to play an old lady, it’s going to a different place in my whole system. I used to do that in my car and I had a lot of time because it was LA and there was traffic.
In New York, the difference is I have to do that in my bathroom and I don’t have as much time! So, I don’t get to do all the singing with it. And I have 30 to 45 minutes of stretching that I also do, prior to going to any audition or voice work. Which is based on my dance classes.
What do you do to protect your voice?
In theater school, I learned about how to free up the voice and how to support it so that you’re not damaging things. How to keep the vocal apparatus free. For me warming up helps. Using different placements helps. Some of the ways that I learned to warmup in school, I still use some of those tricks to warm up my voice.
If you’re working on a character like initially Mokona [Modoki] in xxxHolic/Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. (does voice) You have to find ways to make it easier on yourself. It’s placement.
You have a really unique speaking voice! Do you feel you were born to do this pretty much? Where you pushed into this career or steered into it somehow?
I’ll tell you what happened. I was a theater actress, I still am. But I started doing theater when I was in grade school. And when I got into High School and after High School. Actually, I was going to be a Doctor, I was not going to be an actor. But when I realized that I loved acting so much that I couldn’t give it up for pre-med, and I started acting again… So many of the directors I knew would tell me after I auditioned for things, “We can’t cast you because you sound too young and innocent!” So, it would be like characters who commit suicide or who are like really depressed.
Then a film I did later, I auditioned for the crazy street chick. And they’re like, “You would’ve been our first choice. But you just do not come across as… You’re just too innocent for this street chick!” I was younger too, you know? So, they wrote a part for me in that which totally fit and was really cool.
My character was the more super innocent, didn’t know anything type. For a couple of years while I lived in LA, I had two of my closest friends keep telling me I should do voiceover work. I didn’t know what that was, I was like “What’s that?”. Finally I was out auditioning for Film and TV, and my agent had arranged a specific audition. He said that these people were having a really hard time finding the person that they wanted for this role. I was around late 20s at that point.
I went in and I auditioned, the Producer and the Director were sitting there and they go, “She is exactly what we’ve been looking for! But we can’t cast her because she sounds like she’s 12…” Right in front of me. That was when I was like, “Fine. I’m going to start making this voice work for me!” That’s when I decided to do voiceover work. I’d been toying around with the idea like wanting to do a demo before but it was only because I met somebody who did voiceover work. But I still didn’t know a lot about it.
But that’s what really pushed me into it, I was like I’m not getting any more of this, ‘We can’t cast her because she sounds too young!’ (laughs)
What was that first voice acting audition like? Many voice actors have told me that they’ve been really nervous or they thought they messed up but they actually got the role.
Actually, my first audition was for a show called 3×3 Eyes. And that character was a little girl and her voice was high but then she had to talk like this (does deep voice). I could do that but I didn’t have the mastery of that at that point. I hadn’t worked on that lower part as much, so I didn’t get casted in that. But I don’t remember being that nervous, except for just trying to understand how this character was going from that high voice to that low voice.
It was two years later that Jonathan Klein and New Generation Pictures and his partner Reiko [Matsuo], they remembered me from that audition and they called me back. I auditioned for Strawberry Eggs very eyes and another show called Dangaizer 3 and got those.
I don’t remember being any more nervous than anything else. I just remember being excited and having fun, and wanting to pour my heart and soul into the voice into the character. That’s just like I do all the other auditions I kind of approached it exactly the same way.
A voice actor [Todd Haberkorn] mentioned to me in an interview earlier that he tries not to ad-lib lines because he doesn’t get any writing credits for that. That the credits go to the person who wrote the episode. He essentially said he ‘didn’t want to coin a popular phrase that he wouldn’t get writing credits/royalties for.’ How do you feel about that and ad-libbing in general?
I can understand that. For me, that’s not the case but also, I script adapt for a lot of Anime and Korean Animation. So, it doesn’t bother me to ad-lib something or change the line at all. In a lot of auditions, like a lot of commercial auditions or mainstream animation auditions, they want you to ad-lib. And actually I find I’m not as good at that as I would like to be.
It’s different when you’re script adapting because it’s kind of your focus. But when you’re auditioning or whatever the things don’t come to me as quickly. So, I actually wish I was better at ad-libbing. I don’t have a problem with it.
Do you like working away from the mic? Behind the screen so-to-speak doing scripts and directing.
I prefer acting over everything! I do the script adapting because as a voice actor especially in the Anime world, we don’t make enough… Most of the time to pay the bills, especially I found that to be the case in New York. What I do like about the other stuff is that exercises a different part of my brain.
I think it’s the part of my brain that I would have used had I studied medicine and been a Doctor. It maybe gets a little left out a bit when I’m acting because the acting all comes from my heart! (smiles) It’s from my gut. You know what I mean? Because you don’t want to overthink things when you’re acting.
I’d still prefer the acting over everything… And the dancing. I love dancing! And singing! (laughs)
You mentioned wanting to be a Doctor, I’ve read you’ve done a lot of charity work in other countries as well. I was wondering if you’d elaborate?
When I was eight years old, I felt like I was meant to be a Doctor/Missionary in Ethiopia. To bring medicine to kids who were starving and didn’t have access to medical care. That was my heart.
Who are some of your biggest acting influences do you feel?
When I was younger and in school for the Arts, a teacher mentioned Meryl Streep to me and I didn’t know who she was at the time. He’s like, ‘You need to go look her up! I watched the dingo one [Evil Angels] and I think I watched Kramer vs. Kramer. I was like, this woman does exactly what I’m trying to do the way that I approach acting! That’s the way she does it! And she’s completely successful at it, she completely changes, you wouldn’t recognize her from one film to the next. So she was a big influence because she successfully does the type of acting you’re supposed to do.
And also Anthony Hopkins, for the same sort of reason. Those two are my biggest influences. There are other actors that I love and there are other actors that have kind of gone in that direction. Movie stars I should say, when they first started being in stuff, they were not so different from role to role but they were very enjoyable to watch. I’ve seen some of those people actually start changing from role to role and that’s the kind of thing I love! When someone is so immersed in a part that you don’t recognize them.
But I value the other side of it too. I value the side of acting of just using everything. I mean I think as a person you have everything in you anyways. But I’m starting to realize that just using yourself, is great too! You know what I mean? So like, I’m very unique and quirky, and that can be an asset too!
In Haibane Renmei, I mean I have other shows that are my big favorites that I love too like Shin Chan. Like okay, she [Penny] swears and I don’t. I try not to swear in her life. So that was really fun because it was part of my job!
You don’t have like a swear jar or something do you?
No, no (smiles) and New York has ruined me, I got to admit. And theater school ruined me a little bit. I just don’t want you to think that I’m not remembering my other roles because I love them all.
Do you have a personal message to fans?
In light of Haibane Renmei, it’s very important that the characters in Haibane Renmei remember their dreams that they had when they were born. So, I’m always writing, “Always Remember Your Dreams.”
I feel very strongly, that what you most want to do in life is what God wants you to do. And so my message would be, if there’s something you want to do that’s very strong inside of you… Don’t give up. Put your heart and soul into it, and try to do it.
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Carrie Savage was nominated for ‘Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in an Anime Feature Film/Special’ in 2015 for her role as Hakufu Sonsaku in Ikki tousen: Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku at the Behind the Voice Actor Awards (BTVA Awards).