Voice Actress Elizabeth Maxwell on Sushi, Screams, and SXSW

The first conveyor belt sushi restaurant I went to was in L.A., in the middle of Koreatown—BYOB. They definitely didn’t have their liquor license.

Conveyor belt sushi, if you’ve never had the pleasure of trying it (the first such restaurant opened in Higashiosaka sixty years ago), is an experience as much as a meal. My first time was at a different location of Kura Sushi than the one at which Elizabeth and I had lunch. The setting isn’t anything particularly unusual, except for of course the conveyor belts running around the tables and bar and through the kitchen, carrying plates of sushi, dessert, and other meal items. How very Japanese to combine a food for which they’re so well known with technological innovation.

These restaurants are inviting to all kinds of diners, so those like me, who primarily want to go because they’ve become enamored by the idea through anime (Madarame and Kasukabe picking their plates while navigating their odd relationship being a personal favorite scene), can hide their inner otaku while indulging as well. There’s something permissibly geeky about conveyor belt sushi. That said, I’m not one to hide that part of myself, and neither is Elizabeth Maxwell, who is a geek through and through and one well before she became a voice actor known for roles like Bishamon (Noragami), Winter (RWBY), and Urbosa (Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild).

While Kura is a nice diversion for us both, Elizabeth related, “I don’t really have a go-to sushi joint.” I offered a few recommendations (as I write, I remember that I’ve forgotten to text them to her), but we did agree that Austin is kind of sparse when it comes to these types of establishments—not that it’s totally bereft of good Asian dining. Elizabeth arrived here from L.A. within several years ago, so she missed the great drought of anything good other than BBQ in Austin. Asian food is slowly catching up, including Japanese eateries and especially ramen joints. Elizabeth’s favorite, Ramen Tatsu-ya, is mine as well, though she also recommends Michi for takeout. I’ll have to try it sometime.

As the plates steadily moved along, on her left and my right, we gabbed about Elizabeth’s particularly busy schedule as of late. You may have seen that she was recently cast in the much-anticipated reboot for Fruits Basket. She was also fresh off the public premiere of her film, Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains. No, it’s not what you think—Virgin Cheerleaders is a “meta-horror-comedy,” garnering much acclaim on the festival circuit. A trailer for the feature exhibits Elizabeth’s ability to convincingly scream out in fright, which, by the way, is not an easy thing to do:

True terror is one of the hardest emotions to portray. Horror is also a physically demanding genre, often filmed outside and at night to capture the ambience of an abandoned house or forest. And dealing with the gore is kind of its own thing. Being covered with fake blood day after day after day is not comfortable. It’s difficult to clean off. It’s a fun experience, but it’s demanding.

I was reminded of the magic of film—it makes us forget the hard work that goes into it, all the planning, development, and post-production. Acting is work after all, and a craft as well. Horror isn’t Elizabeth’s favorite genre, but acting in one is of course something totally different. I can’t imagine screaming on cue, but jumping out of my seat while watching a horror film? I’m an expert in that. My teenage years were filled with not-so-scary and trying-to-be-hip (succeeding in varying degrees) horror flicks like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. I also dove into creepy anime fare like Higurashi during my early twenties, but to my shame, I can’t do scary anymore. I don’t even get enough courage to watch Bird Box in my own, well-lit house. Not that I apparently missed much—Elizabeth described it as much lesser film than A Quiet Place, to which it’s so often compared.

As we talked about recent movies, I realized that not only is Elizabeth a professional in the industry, but also an astute observer and a student of film. She recommended me a foreign art house flick that I’ll never watch, but her rec didn’t come across as self-important—it was passionate. She’s just as ardent about independent films as something geeky, like Fruits Basket, which is her current choice of both study and enjoyment, as she explained. “It reminds me of what I fell in love with about anime—it’s so charming and whimsical and has so much heart.” She also recently watched Alita: Battle Angel, a movie that was filmed right here in Austin.

I really enjoyed Alita. Could the movie have been a little shorter? Sure. It was a little long. And I thought some of the writing was a little weak (I love Christoph Waltz and I don’t think he was given good dialogue), but overall, I thought the performances were really good. I had a really great time watching it. I totally bought into the world and characters and I want to see more. It’s really exciting to see a new IP—I know it’s based on the manga, but the world is new to American culture.

I was explaining that I felt very much the same about Alita, when Elizabeth dropped a story that reminded me of how enamored I once was with film and that must have put an awkward, teenage smile on my face. Anime may be my passion now, but my entire childhood was far more saturated in Hollywood. I was the kid whose room was covered floor to ceiling with movie posters, all provided free of charge by Tony, my local movie rental store guy who saved them for me each week. I felt like that kid again for a few minutes when Elizabeth mentioned that she auditioned for a different Robert Rodriguez movie, also filmed in Austin—Sin City 2. Alas, she didn’t get the role. It went to a much older actress, demonstrating that the part you read for isn’t always what the role ultimately turns out to be.

As we finished our meal—I begged Elizabeth to order just a little more so that I could film a plate sliding down toward our table (and she agreed only if I would share the dish with her)—I asked her about another activity she’s busy with. This wonderful, bustling, too-busy, but active and diverse city in which we live is known for among other things SXSW (South by Southwest), a music, media, and film festival mashup that happens every March. For SWSW Gaming, Elizabeth is joining Victoria Atkin (Evie Frye, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate) and Mela Lee (Rin Tohsaka, Fate/stay night) for a panel about video game voicing. They’ll chat about auditions, give advice, and most interesting to me, explain the motion capture process.

Film festival panels, movie premieres, casting calls—the life of an actress, in both its exhilaration and diligence. But that’s Elizabeth—advancing a career that combines talent, skill, intelligence, and rigor, but refusing to lose her passion for film, while remaining earnest and kind in an industry where those qualities aren’t necessarily valued. Like our sushi carousel, she is constantly on the move, bringing Hollywood to Austin and Austin to Hollywood, but still giving this anime blogger an hour or two to nibble on nigiri, chat about culture, and geek out about the food, people, and movies that make us happy.

Follow Elizabeth on Instagram and Twitter, and read about Charles’ first visit with her at Kinokuniya.


10 thoughts on “Voice Actress Elizabeth Maxwell on Sushi, Screams, and SXSW

  1. I went to a sushi 🍣 conveyer belt restaurant back in February on the 10th
    The sushi 🍣 was good!

  2. I like me some sushi as well but not in large amounts.
    In her list of characters she plays, she’s actually got a lot of unusual or crazy characters she plays. It definitely looks like her affinity for horror has somewhat guided some of roles she takes, but nothing stands out to me as being a weak performance at all.

    1. A conveyor belt sushi parlor might be up your alley, then. You can be picky and just try a little bit of sushi at a time, while also ordering other food items!

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