Lydia Mackay spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about voicing Kyoko Honda in Fruits Basket -prelude-. Spotlighting the shared experience of widows like Kyoko.
This Lydia Mackay interview contains spoilers for Fruits Basket -prelude-.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): According to the APA, the first year of widowhood is the most harmful to mental health.
Prior to Kyoko returning to Tohru, promising never to leave her alone again… Time passes rapidly around Kyoko but she’s motionless in the corner of her living room. The clock stopped.
What does it mean to you to voice a character that resonates so strongly with that shared experience of many widowed women?
LYDIA MACKAY: It’s definitely a huge responsibility on my part to bring truth to those moments… the hard moments and the good moments. I’m not a widow, so I don’t personally have that experience.
But as an actor, my job is to put myself in that circumstance. To use my imagination and think about what it would feel like to lose someone that means so much to you. Having your partner, your spouse taken away from you like that is one of the most tragic things that can happen to a person.
It falls to me as an actor to be as responsible as I can. To be as authentic as I can. I can’t be afraid to have those emotions myself… I need to feel these emotions in order to voice the character as authentically as possible.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: A study by Harvard’s School of Public Health found that the ‘widowhood effect’, which is the likelihood of a widow dying shortly after their spouse does, is greatest in the first three months afterwards.
When you consider Kyoko Honda almost takes her own life before seeing that mother-daughter on the boardwalk by chance… How do you feel about it?
LYDIA MACKAY: I think it’s a really accurate portrayal of what it must be like to experience a great loss like that.
Suddenly, you are without the person that you were hoping to spend many, many more years with and raise a child together. Without warning, they’re gone, just like that. It can tip your balance in a huge way. It’s devastating.
So the way that Kyoko was portrayed in the film… Maybe I shouldn’t use the word ‘accurate’ because it’s different for everyone who experiences this.
But I think for Kyoko being as young as she was, being a new mother to a daughter that she was worried about raising… To suddenly have her rock, her partner in life taken away from her, I think the way they portrayed that in the film was beautiful and heartbreaking.
In that one moment, it’s like Kyoko had to snap out of it and realize, ‘Wait a minute, I have someone else to live for! Someone, I have to live for.’
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you find rage more challenging to vocalize than being in love? You transitioned between both often as Kyoko in Fruits Basket -prelude-.
LYDIA MACKAY: I don’t know that I have difficulty with one or the other more… Gosh, I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been a theatre actor, event actor, and voice actor for over 20 years now. So I’ve had to play a wide variety of characters with different given circumstances and emotions.
I kind of go into it thinking, ‘whatever the character needs in that moment is what I, the actor, have to deliver.’
By really putting myself in their shoes and investing in their given circumstances, I find that whatever emotion a character needs automatically comes up for me.
By being as present as I can be with their words and the experiences that they live through, the emotion just comes.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was your original audition like for Kyoko Honda?
LYDIA MACKAY: You know what, I don’t think that I actually auditioned for Kyoko! Caitlin Glass who directed the English dub for the series just called me in and said, “I’d love for you to play this role.” And so I did.
I’ve been working for Funimation, and now Crunchyroll, for over 20 years. It’s some of the same people who began there with me, there’s people that I worked with back in 1999.
We all know each other, and there’s a lot of loyalty there. They trust some of the veteran actors to just come in and perform a role without an audition.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you feel the film hits harder because Kastuya’s death is so realistic?
Usually in anime, character deaths seem majestic. But here a type of cold or flu takes Katsuya’s life just like that. No grand exit.
LYDIA MACKAY: Yeah, it’s not “magical” in any way, there’s nothing “supernatural” about it. It’s just an immune system being completely shut down by something that starts out as an innocuous sickness that gets progressively worse.
I think, now more than ever in these last two years, coming out of, but kind of still being in COVID… Something that starts out as just a scratchy throat and sniffly nose, can very quickly go downhill and end up killing someone. I think it’s really, really tragic. So I do think it resonates a lot right now.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How has it been recording during COVID? I know a lot of voice actors record at home these days.
LYDIA MACKAY: When the COVID lockdown first happened, I was in the process of recording Black Clover. There was a weekly dub for it going on for Cartoon Network. We couldn’t go into the studios any longer.
At the time they were still called Funimation, so Funimation sent the actors what they called ‘actor kits’. It was essentially a microphone, headphones, a mic stand, and an iPad pro.
We were recording all of our elements from home and then transferring it to the engineers. They were doing the mix and everything.
That lasted for about, gosh, I would say going on two years! Then at the beginning of this year of 2022, that’s when we very slowly started getting back into the studio. So that was the way it was for about two years. And now we’re back.
Why was this practice dropped in favor of the 1-2 week English Dub lag we see now?
LYDIA MACKAY: You know, I have no idea, your guess is as good as mine! Gosh… I guess it’s just something they wanted to try out.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I’ve heard from some voice actors that they like being able to watch the original Japanese voice actor’s performance beforehand. Sometimes on the same day.
I was wondering if you do as well or if you feel it biases your voice acting interpretation?
LYDIA MACKAY: I think there’s a benefit to both. I know for me, whenever I’m recording, I love to see the Japanese version just to get a sense of the original way it’s intended.
So to get to watch those actor’s performances and hear them, it helps me kind of determine how I’m going to frame my performance.
I really use their work as a guide because I want to be as authentic to the original intention as possible. I think having the Japanese version out first and then the English dub out afterwards makes a lot of sense.
You get to see it one way and then you get to see it another way, versus doing an immediate comparison, because of course it’s going to be different.
You’ve got different actors, so they’re going to have slightly different takes on the role. I can see both sides.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How do you compare playing Kyoko Honda to another anime mom in Motoko Izumi on Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie?
LYDIA MACKAY: (laughs) Wow, that’s a tricky one! It’s interesting, they both strike me as really young moms. Obviously, Kyoko began young with a young husband as well. On Shikimori, the mom looks so much younger than her husband and she’s just kind of a happy go-lucky kind of mom.
I don’t know that her emotional core runs as deeply as what I’ve seen from Kyoko, but that’s just what I’ve seen of the character so far. But I will say I loved and am so grateful for the opportunity to have played Kyoko because she is so multifaceted.
She is not overly sexualized in a way that a lot of female characters can be. I appreciated that.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: On UN Women, they write, “When a woman’s value is contingent on having a spouse, widowhood can force women out of familial and social structures, leaving them particularly vulnerable to isolation.”
Outside of Katsuya’s father, his entire family blamed a vulnerable Kyoko for his death, within earshot, at the funeral. Do you feel this is what leads to Kyoko self isolating herself in the aftermath?
LYDIA MACKAY: There are so many different experiences all around the world, so many different circumstances & family structures and reasons for things. It’s difficult for me to say, I can only speak to Kyoko’s experience.
Kyoko had a mother and a father who pushed her out at a young age because, “she was the rebel” and wasn’t doing the things that they thought she should be doing.
She was suddenly out and alone in the world on her own. Luckily, Kyoko met her husband’s father and they formed a really beautiful relationship. It was nice to see her at least be brought in by Katsuya’s father and be accepted as family in some way.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: According to The Society Pages by the University of Minnesota, over 700,000 women become widows every year. But only 2% of widows are said to remarry over the age of 55.
Even though Kyoko Honda was considerably younger in Fruits Basket, do you feel it’s similar and relates back to why she never remarried?
LYDIA MACKAY: Possibly. I don’t know for sure. I think towards the end of her life, Kyoko was finally starting to figure out how to be okay on her own.
I mean, she wasn’t totally on her own, obviously she had Tohru with her. But I think maybe sometimes just being your own woman without needing a partner can be enough. Again though, I can’t really speak to what other women choose to do or don’t do.
For Kyoko, the greatest love of her life died and she was able to put all of her love and attention into raising Tohru.
I feel that was her priority as well as taking care of herself & learning how to be okay within herself for the first time in years and years.
Sometimes, you just don’t need another man in your life in order to be able to do those things.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Lydia!
LYDIA MACKAY: Thank you!
– Catch up on all three seasons of the Fruits Basket (2019 adaption) anime series on the Crunchyroll streaming service.
– Be sure to read our Fruits Basket –prelude- review!
Fruits Basket -prelude- English Dub Cast
Lydia Mackay as Kyoko Honda
J. Michael Tatum as Katsuya Honda
Laura Bailey as Tohru Honda
Jerry Jewell as Kyo Sohma
Eric Vale as Yuki Sohma
John Burgmeier as Shigure Sohma
Phil Parsons as Kyoko’s Father
Alicyn Packard as Kyoko’s Mother
Doug Stone as Katsuya’s Father
Wendy Powell as Kyo’s Mother
Mikaela Krantz as Momiji Sohma
Justin Cook as Hatsuharu Sohma
Colleen Clinkenbeard as Akito Sohma
Jad Saxton as Saki Hanajima
Caitlin Glass is the ADR Director for Fruits Basket -prelude-.
Fruits Basket -prelude- English Dub Trailer & Film Synopsis
“Before there was Tohru and Kyo – there was Katsuya and Kyoko. Discover the turbulent beginning of Tohru’s mom’s dark past, and the man who breathed new hope into her.
Watch the evolution of their love story and the birth of the Honda family, as this chapter completes the full adaptation of the heartwarming Fruits Basket story.”
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