Voice actress Michelle Ruff spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about voicing Etna in the Disgaea game and anime series English dub.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): Is voicing a popular recurring character like Disgaea’s Etna who is promised to be an every iteration of the series viewed as a golden ticket in voice acting, work-wise? It’s my understanding from interviewing Carrie Savage on ‘Disgaea 4 Complete+‘, that remasters do not yield further royalties.
MICHELLE RUFF: I mean, I wouldn’t say ‘Golden Ticket,’ I think that’s an exaggeration. Only because as an actor we audition quite a bit for things that we never, ever book or never see.
A lot of us can do a hundred auditions and book maybe one role or 10 roles. It’s nice when a character comes back and it’s wonderful. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘Golden Ticket’.
You have to be working on an almost daily basis to make a living at acting. So that’s where the ‘Golden Ticket’ comes in, where you’ve established yourself in the industry and are able to do more than one character and work on numerous projects. That’s the ‘Golden Ticket’.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How different would you say voicing Etna is for the Disgaea game franchise compared to the one season Disgaea anime series?
MICHELLE RUFF: Usually, in any game that you’re doing, things moves a bit faster. Like you’re doing two to three takes of one line, and you’re just going down the lines.
In the Disgaea anime, it’s more story driven, and sometimes you have sync issues. So it moves at a little bit slower pace.
Usually the anime is a bigger time commitment. With a game you typically are going in for one four hour session.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Wow, that’s really surprising for me. I thought it would be the opposite since in games you have screams and all kinds of miscellaneous non-dialogue gaming sounds.
MICHELLE RUFF: No, no, in an anime, it depends on how many lines you have. Like for a video game, for any video game, it’s generally based off of how many lines you have.
So let’s say you have, 150 lines, that’s gonna translate roughly into an hour, maybe hour and a half. If it’s not timed.
If your lines are timed to the original Japanese, and you have to fit that line within that timeframe, then you’re gonna do about 80 lines per hour. So it’s all very much calculated how long your session is gonna be for games.
For anime, you’re just going in based off of how many cues you have in this script. And it used to be, back in the day before digital stuff, we would do about 25 cues an hour.
Now it’s like 40 is the minimum. And 40 is slow, you know? You’re going in and you’re banging out like 40 to 80 cues an hour for anime stuff, depending on like how difficult the lines are. If there’s a lot of breaths and efforts, that kind of stuff.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: If you were offered to do ‘Disgaea D3’, where Etna would be a full time character rather than a cameo, would you need to weigh in the cost/benefit analysis of other projects lost during that period?
Are voice actors ever afraid to temporarily relinquish a role in fear of losing it to someone else for good?
MICHELLE RUFF: I mean I’m not afraid to relinquish the role. Would I do the role if they offered it to me? Yes.
You never know. As long as it stays with the same licensing agent, then generally they will keep the same cast.
If the show or video game moves to a different licensing agent than they generally want to bring in a new cast just so that they can make their mark.
But I mean as scheduling goes with video games and anime, studios are usually pretty flexible with scheduling stuff out.
So it’s not like I would have to give one thing up to do something else. You just schedule stuff out to do as much as you can within your work week.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How much have you enjoyed voicing Etna and her unique brand of comedy in Disgaea?
MICHELLE RUFF: I love the Disgaea anime show and playing her has been such a hoot! I always have fun because Etna is just so high energy.
I would limit my Disgaea video game sessions with Etna to two hours because she requires so much of my energy.
With the Disgaea anime I could do however long. But the video game stuff, I was like, ‘I can maybe go two hours max at that energy level?’
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you still have to audition often for roles? Considering your exceptionally established resume showing what you can do, are you generally asked to just come in and voice a character?
MICHELLE RUFF: I’ve never stopped auditioning! It’s a gift when you’re given a role without auditioning. It’s like a birthday present.
I do get called in and booked for stuff because people know me, but I still have to audition too. It’s like 50/50, I would say.
I like to audition, auditioning is fun. For me, you get all these different roles coming down and you’re like, ‘Let’s see what I can do with this!’ You know, it’s a challenge.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Michelle!
MICHELLE RUFF: Thank you!
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More Disgaea Series Interviews and Reviews
Be sure to read and watch:
– Relive strategy RPG ‘Disgaea Hour of Darkness’ by purchasing the remastered Disgaea 1 Complete+! Become the demon prince of the netherworld once again with a top shelf battle system! Disgaea PC is also available on Steam.