Ricco Fajardo spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about voicing Shinichi Sakurai in the ‘Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!’ English dub at Anime NYC 2022.
This Ricco Fajardo interview contains spoilers for Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! Season 1 and Season 2.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): What do you think about Hana’s mom Tsuki Uzaki having kind of a crush on Sakurai? Something like that ever happened to you?
RICCO FAJARDO: Man, I think it’s hilarious! Wait, in real life for me? Okay, romantic life of Ricco Fajardo… So, I’ve always had good relationships with the mothers of the folks I’ve dated.
And I will say with confidence that all the mothers of the folks that I’ve dated, all y’all out there, your moms are beautiful for real!
I’m not just saying that as a blind thing. There’s an old adage where it’s like, ‘The person that you’re gonna get get married to, take a look at their parents because that’s what they’re gonna look like when they get older.’
And so usually I’m like, ‘All right! Way to go mom!’ You know?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You’ve never looked and been like, “Look, this isn’t working for me?”
RICCO FAJARDO: (laughs) Oh no! How sad. I’m like, “Wow, you’re so beautiful.” And then I look, “Well it was nice knowing you!”
No, I’m kidding. That’s messed up! (laughs) No, I don’t think so.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You think Tsuki Uzaki is ever going to come on to Sakurai? She seems almost there sometimes.
RICCO FAJARDO: So Uzaki’s mom is played by my pal Terri Hoff (Doty), she’s also a wicked good writer, super, super funny. She’s got sassy humor. So I think it’s hilarious.
She’s playing Uzaki’s mom who’s like, ‘Oh my God, I just don’t know. I’m very demure and caught off guard.’ Cause she actually plays it beautifully. I love all the moments of tension, but it’s all miscommunication.
And I think like Hana, she’s a wonderful cook. But Uzaki’s mom, she keeps having these misconnections thinking that Sakurai is coming onto her from the things he says.
But he loves cooking and he’s very thorough about it. But then also Uzaki (Hana) talks about Sakurai and her mom is trying to understand what her daughter’s relationship is.
But if you watch the recent episode, you all understand that Uzaki’s mom watches a ton of those dramas. All those dramas where the relationships are twisted and turned intertwined. So she’s like, ‘What if this is like my life?’
So I think she’s just imagining all these things and trying to plug yourself into them. So I don’t think Tsuki Uzaki will come on to Sakurai, I think she’s too demure.
I haven’t read ahead in the manga. I mean, I know some stuff that’s gonna happen. I usually read like, for big story points, but she just seems so sweet. I think she likes living in her fiction, you know what I mean?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: At the start of the new season of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! I was really surprised when at first there was a different voice actor for the simulcast. Sakurai had such a deeper voice, it changed the dynamics of the show for me.
RICCO FAJARDO: (laughs) You think so? How funny! Yeah, that was my buddy David Matranga, a wonderful stage actor and voice actor as well. He’s Shoto Todoroki in My Hero Academia and a good pal.
Right before the pandemic, we were out in Australia together before everything hit. And so I got to learn about David and his energy and his life, and he’s a really good guy to hang out with.
I wasn’t sure who they would fill in for me because I wasn’t sick, I was just busy. I was around doing a bunch of other things traveling. I had just gotten back, I think from Scotland and London and they’re like, ‘Well, we couldn’t get Ricco for the premiere and we needed to get the premiere.’
So sometimes the big advantage of voice work is we can have an actor step in. I think David did a good job. I saw him in the lobby and I was like, “Man, you sounded great!”
And he went, “I was sweating because I don’t sound like you!” David has such a distinct quality to his voice as well. So I thought it was cool. It was cool to hear one of my friends work on a show I worked on for a while.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I thought Sakurai changed completely!
RICCO FAJARDO: (laughs) Really?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yeah! Immediately when I heard it, I thought, “What’s going on?”
RICCO FAJARDO: Oh man! (laughs) I love David! He’s a good friend. And I love to play Sakurai.
I think some people get very precious. I had some fans reach out and they were very fired up because my voice originated the role in the English dub.
I’m like, ‘Guys, I’m not precious about it. I mean, I came up through theater. We all can play Romeo, Hamlet, whatever.
Like, it’s fine. And it’s an advantage to be able to do it in voice. Like, you could hop in for me!’
It was exciting. I thought it was a treat. My other buddy, Cliff Chapin jumped in for me once.
And also Alejandro Saab is a good pal and we all live in kind of the musical notes on a staff, you know, we all kind of inhabit that area.
So I love it. I enjoy it because, we all don’t sound exactly alike, but I think we all have our impressions of each other.
If I were to do David, it has a little bit more of a smokey quality to it. Not that he smokes, but there’s this thing to it that has like earth to it and yeah… I like it, but I can’t do it the whole time, it makes me tired! (laughs)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was your original audition for Sakurai like?
RICCO FAJARDO: My audition for Sakurai? God, it was a while ago! I’m reaching into the data banks of my hard drive in my brain.
If I recall correctly, my pal Tia Ballard reached out to me because she was directing the show. We joke around a lot, we have a lot of inside jokes.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Does she call you Darling?
RICCO FAJARDO: Oh, because of Zero Two? (laughs) I’m in DARLING in the FRANXX, I’m one of the the Greek letters (9’γ).
Anyway, Tia’s great dude! She’s a beautiful, talented, wonderful hand drawn artist. And yeah, incredible sense of humor! So that show specifically, for those of you who watched it, know that there’s comedy on every turn.
So it’s been a delight to work on that show and have different jokes pay off.
My favorite one I think, is Sakurai loving cats, but cats don’t really like him.
I’m actually a cat guy in real life. Got three cats. I love them. I’m allergic, but I love them!
Sakurai wants to pet a cat. It kind of hisses and leaves, goes away from him. So he’s sad.
Uzaki (Hana) cares about Sakurai. So Uzaki goes to get the cat and she gets stuck in a shrub.
And so her skirts up in the air, Sakurai’s like, “What are you doing? I’ve gotta cover you!”
He goes behind her, he is trying to pull her out of the shrub and in the Japanese, the translation was more or less, “Hurry up and finish. We have to go.” Which you get that joke. That’s funny.
But it’s weird because he’s behind like pulling her out. So Tia and I put our heads together.
I was like, “Well if you’re asking me, I think it’s funny if these girls are rounding the corner and they catch the scene and he says, ‘Now brace yourself because we’re going to do it real hard!'”
And it’s always good because if you’re directing me and I hear you laugh, I’m like cool, we get the joke! You know what I mean?
And that’s one of the big challenges in adaptation and dubbing is making sure the comedy is preserved. You’re in for a treat guys if you’re watching this show.
We just did an episode. Let’s see, what day is it today? We’re recording this on Sunday, November 20th at Anime NYC 2022.
I just recorded an episode of Uzaki-chan where I was blushing. I was like, “I don’t know how this is gonna go over in the English, so be kind please!”
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What do you think of those ‘shippers that are trying to get Uzaki and Sakurai together? I’m talking about the characters in the show btw, not fans on Twitter.
RICCO FAJARDO: Oh, okay! I was like, what do you mean, people can be creative. Well, I’ll address both.
There’s folks out there that bring different characters together in whatever form or fashion… And it happens in anything really! Whether it’s like, Game of Thrones or Stranger Things.
It’s interesting to hear people’s likes. But I went to drama school, I went to theater school for a long time… And I do believe that art inspires a variety of things. So whatever comes out of it, whatever you glean out of it and whatever your mind starts to put together, it’s in service to you.
So I think that’s awesome, whatever it is! Now, if you write a 200 page fanfic about it and you’re like, ‘You have to read it!’ That’s cool, that’s a lot of energy you’ve got going! (laughs)
But like you said, it’s the art reflects what is inside of you. So yeah, I would say the, the folks who want Uzaki (Hana) and Sakurai together, a little spoilery but Sakaki played by my pal Nazeeh (Tarsha). Lovely, lovely drama.
Again, everyone that cast in the show is just tremendously funny. Jad Saxton plays Ami. Dude, they’re so funny!
They’re so, so, so funny. Both in personal life and in the show.
Jad, I do not think is anything like Ami Asai in the slightest. So it’s really funny to see her like just be a complete lech thanks to acting in a fun role. And similarly, Nazeeh is also super respectful.
So to have him be this like Don Juan, “Come on bro, let’s get in there.” It’s very like counter to who they are, IRL but delightful to hear them like play at it.
I don’t know man. I try to imagine I have friends like that advocating for me.
I think they’re trying to do me a solid because they see that there is something there whether Uzaki and Sakurai. But I also think that Uzaki and Sakurai, take things at their own pace. You know what I mean?
It’s just one of those relationships that no matter who you are in their life, they have to find their own way to make it happen.
Sakurai is a little socially anxious. He cares about the people he cares about. But if you watch the show, you realize there’s very few moments where he doesn’t want to compromise relationships with people.
So he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. So if you watch season one, there’s a moment where he gets intoxicated and he’s singing karaoke and they’re literally like “Come on Sakurai, drink!”
And it’s like, ‘Oh man, you’re enabling!’ “Come on bro, take a shot!” You’re like, oh dude.
Which is all in good fun as long as your friends care about you. And they do, they make sure he gets home safe. But at one point, he compliments Uzaki (Hana) because she’s wearing this bunny suit and she looks good.
He’s like, ‘Yeah, I think you look really good,’ and everyone just stops because that’s like the only compliment he’s ever paid to Uzaki about her like aesthetic features. Which she has many.
Which shows he’s trying to be respectful, you know what I mean? I think that’s really cool. And the only way that he was able even he got a compliment was to be like righteously intoxicated.
Sakurai’s finally like, “I think you look attractive!” It took all of that for you to say that?! So he’s got a lot of walls. But I like playing him.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I think you have great chemistry with Monica Rial (Hana Uzaki) on the the Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! English dub. Have you met her in real life?
RICCO FAJARDO: Absolutely! Monica’s hilarious dude. She’s amazing! She also, in My Hero Academia, she plays Froppy, who is one of my favorite characters.
Sorry, I know we were talking about Uzaki chan, but let’s talk about My Hero Academia for a second.
Everyone always asks me who your favorite character was and it’s been Froppy for the longest time. Cause I think she’s so cute and intelligent and awesome and Monica plays her so well.
Then Mirko came along, the bunny hero. I was like, ‘The bunny hero is soooo cool!’ But still got my heart for Froppy and of course Bulma (Dragon Ball franchise) and all these things.
Monica is a rockstar man. She’s so good at her gig and teaches me stuff all the time. So I delight in really trying to raise my game because comparatively I’ve been doing this, I’m a rookie compared to Monica even though I’m doing this for like 11 years, you know what I mean?
But it’s nice to be in the booth and to hear her voice and work across from her. because when I get, the chance to work across from her voice, it changes my performance every time. Like it just makes it so much better.
That’s how you know you have a good team is when they elevate your work.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: We discussed fitness earlier, and I’m curious if you can swim like Sakurai?
RICCO FAJARDO: Mannnn, I have a form of asthma. Whenever I get very excited, like I get a little asthmatic, which is really crappy, because if I’m winning a race, I’m like, “Yes, I’m gonna win! Oh no, little tiny lungs!”
So I cannot swim like Sakurai. But I have been told that I’m a good swimmer. I love the front crawl, long legs. But I do love swimming.
It’s the best thing for everybody, you guys. No impact on your joints, gets your heart moving.
Very good for you. But yeah, I wish I could swim like Sakurai. Also, I’m in Free!, I played Natsuya Kirishima in Free!
I wish I could swim like Natsuya. That dude’s insane! The Kirishima brothers. Anyway, sorry, spoilers.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You mentioned before how not all shows are like My Hero Academia but Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! has been trending in the romance section on Crunchyroll and Funimation for a few years. If you log onto Funimation, it’s usually on the front page. I think there’s something to that.
RICCO FAJARDO: Yeah, I’m grateful for it man. I think it resonates… And I always ignore all the heat because everyone’s always gonna say something at the top when the show is coming out.
Even in Japan, they’re like, “Oh, this girl, she’s smaller and they’re like, infantilizing her.”
I’m like, “The girl’s a grown woman. There are women that are shorter. You know, she’s an adult.” That was a big thing.
They’re like, “Ah, she’s like a kid.”
And I say, “Well y’all be careful what you’re projecting onto this character. Because this is you. You’re saying this, remember that. That’s not what’s being written.”
But I’ve done this long enough where I’m like, “Let the people say what they wanna say, just make the art, you know what I mean? Just do the thing.”
All I can take care of is my role, which is Sakurai. And Sakurai is a person who is introverted, loves video games, and there’s so many like things where I’m like, “I love this guy!”
Except, it’s hard for him to share his heart. And I think a lot of folks out there resonate with that.
Where it’s like, man, ‘I have so much fun with you. I have all these feelings and whenever I start to sense them, no spoilers, like, you kind of like shut them up up. But how do they come out? How can I, how can I put to words, you know, that I care about you, that I love you.’
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You think Sakurai loves Hana Uzaki?
RICCO FAJARDO: Personally? Absolutely! Yeah, absolutely. Are you kidding dude? He literally he loves playing video games with her. It’s like the perfect relationship.
I mentioned when we were doing the sound test, I did some Romeo & Juliet, I played Romeo in Shakespeare Dallas years ago.
And I like to talk about if you met your soulmate… If you met the person that was like lock & key perfect with you would you know it?
Someone that would grow with you in your life, perfectly. I know perfect is a subjective word, but like for all your needs in life, all the things that happen, all the twists and turns, this person just like moves with you.
I suspect that is what Uzaki is. Or you know, for Sakurai, they like compliment each other in this way. They’re just trying to find that way together because they are actually both, even though loud as hell, both of them very soft inside.
And they’re trying to find how to reveal that to each other, which is really sweet. I think that discovery of friendship, which is why when you have, their ‘shipper friends who are trying to push them together…
I can’t tell if that’s a sweet thing or kind of not malicious, but you know, more of an aggressive thing. (laughs)
But I do think they mean well for their friends. I think what they want is for them to be romantic because once they realize that they get along this way, it’ll maybe open something up for them. Because they both have walls, those walls I was talking about.
And they’re like, break ’em down with alcohol and, you know, sexy times. But yeah, I think they definitely are at their own pace and it’s a sweet relationship to watch unfold.
So yeah, I think that reflects our fan base. We have a lot of folks who are our little softy romantics after all.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: There was that tarot card reading scene in Uzaki-chan Season 2 Episode 3 (Does Uzaki-chan Want to Go to the School Festival?). Would something like that in real life bias you to have a relationship, you think?
RICCO FAJARDO: I’m not a big tarot guy. I have friends who love tarot. One of my closest friends, Felecia Angelle, she plays Toru Hagakure in My Hero Academia, Invisible Girl. And Mona in Genshin impact, she adores tarot and she’s really good at it.
And her husband Graham is wonderful at it as well. He’s a nurse practitioner and studies Reiki, very spiritual. I love this guy! There aren’t a lot of people I would sit and play Elden Ring for three days straight with and just sit there, eat pizza and play this game.
But Graham, he’s a good friend, but he did Tarot readings for me and his energy man. He’s like, ‘You got this going on in life, you got that, there’s this,’ and I kind of always take that kind of stuff with a grain of salt.
I don’t want to be a fatalist, even though in my life sometimes I’m like, it feels like this is where I’m headed.
I always like to leave that X factor in the room because I feel if I commit to whatever, here’s the death card man or not. That’s very dramatic, but like whatever great fortune is coming your way. That can be anything, you know what I mean?
Great fortune could be, “I got this cup of coffee and it was free!”
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Ricco!
RICCO FAJARDO: Thank you!
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Uzaki Chan Wants to Hang Out characters: English Dubbed Voice Cast
Ricco Fajardo as Shinichi Sakurai
Monica Rial as Hana Uzaki
Terri Doty as Tsuki Uzaki
Jad Saxton as Ami Asai
Kent Williams as Akihiko Asai
Nazeeh Tarsha as Itsuhito Sakaki
Matthew David Rudd as Fujio Uzaki
Brittany Lauda as Yanagi Uzaki
Hayden Daviau as Kiri Uzaki
* David Matranga as Shinichi Sakurai (Season 2 Premiere English Dub Simulcast)
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! : Where to Watch
– You can also get the Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! Season 1 Blu-ray collection which includes a digital copy of the TV Series.
– Will Shinichi and Hana enter into a relationship at the end of Season 2? Only one way to find out!
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