Just as the new year began, there was a lot of buzz among our staff writers about Smile Down the Runway, a new series adapted from a shounen manga set in the world of fashion and modeling. Portraying the challenges of aspiring fashion designer Ikuto and too-short model Chiyuki as they reach for their dreams, the show has thus far been compelling. The characters have an authenticity to them and their aspirations feel both reasonable and incredibly difficult and far out of reach. Perhaps most the character I’ve found most captivating is Chiyuki, most likely because I’ve run the scale from disliking her very much to now openly rooting for her. I sat down recently to voice actress Macy Anne Johnson, who voices Chikyuki in the Funimation dub, to talk about how she’s approached the character.
Twwk: Congratulations! This is a really big role.
Macy Anne: Thank you! I’m excited!
Twwk: How did you prepare to play Chiyuki?
Macy Anne: She’s pretty relatable. I can find myself in her and I think a lot of people can as well. Her draw in that she has this thing she wants to do. Everybody says she can’t do it, but she’s going to do it anyway! It’s a classic shounen style arc.
Twwk: She has a “go for it” kind of quality. For you, what’s that thing you’re going for?
Macy Anne: It’s definitely acting. Wanting to be an actor is hard. The competition is insane! I think just the drive to succeed is so necessary if you want to do any type of artistic career. I relate to her drive.
Twwk: That drive is important to liking Chiyuki as a character. At first, I almost dropped the show because I had trouble rooting for her. I thought, “She’s not real nice.”
Macy Anne: She’s kind of entitled. That’s her biggest flaw. She’s presumptuous and a little snarky to her friends. But I think that’s also what makes her appealing. She’s not perfect by any means. We’ve seen her be a jerk and whiny, but she’s so lovable for her spirit. There’s no one that can defeat her even though she’s the underdog.
Twwk: How do you get into a character like that?
Macy Anne: I always find myself visualizing my character. So if I have a snappy line, I (snaps fingers in a sassy way). It really helps to physicalize lines before you say them. It helps me when giving punchy lines.
Twwk: Is it difficult to act when your character is interacting with another character and the actor isn’t there?
Macy Anne: I’ve been the first person to record and the last person to record. When you’re the first person, it’s interesting because you’re setting the tone for the scene (of course the director is helping you a ton). You don’t have much to play off of, but when you’re the last person recording, the tone is kind of already set.
Twwk: Is it more challenging then to be first?
Macy Anne: I don’t know! You’re leading or your matching. They’re both different. I like doing both!
Twwk: How does chemistry develop when you’re not in the same room as the actor you’re playing against?
Macy Anne: It’s really tricky! It falls a lot on the second person recording to match the energy of the first.
Twwk: You’re a pro now! Now that you’ve done a few different voice over roles, what would you say is the most unexpected thing you’ve found from being a VA?
Macy Anne: I feel so welcomed into this community by people I’ve looked up to. Even though I have significantly less experience, everyone is so kind, which I didn’t anticipate but am so thankful for.
Twwk: What about challenges?
Macy Anne: It took me a long time to feel confident in voice over for sure. For anime specifically, matching mouth flaps is pretty hard, and it’s not a skill you can practice a lot on your own. The best practice is actually being in the booth. The more time you spend doing it, the better you’ll be. I remember not knowing at all how it worked the first time, but now I know what to expect and have a process. It’s a really fun job. It’s really fun to play characters different from yourself.
Twwk: Have you ever played a villain?
Macy Anne: I haven’t in anime…I don’t think I have on stage yet either. But I would love to play one someday. One of my favorite characters of all time is Jessie from Pokemon—something goofy like that would be fun, too!