Anime Corner had an opportunity to meet and interview voice actress Natalie Van Sistine at Sakura-Con 2024 and chat a bit about her career, roles, and the incredible Yor Forger, whom she is currently voicing. Van Sistine is an American voice actor known for her work in anime English-language dubs of Japanese animation. She has voiced characters in popular series such as Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, Love Live! Superstar!!, and many more. Most recently, you have heard her as Star and Stripe in My Hero Academia dub. This interview, which took place in March of this year, is a unique opportunity to learn more about how she got to become one of the best-known English dub voices of today while also getting a unique insight into the voice acting scene in the West.

Q: How did you end up becoming a voice actress? N: I started out as a musician. I was interested in pursuing music and thought I wanted to be a music teacher. But I ended up having some health issues come up, to where I just could not pursue that anymore. Looking back on it now, it was the perfect thing for me, but I totally felt like my whole world was ending because I had spent all this time focusing on this idea of being a musician someday. I was really, really hyper-focused on that.

I had to figure out what other things were important to me and what I liked to do. I knew that I loved performing, and I still loved telling stories. I really enjoyed writing a lot. So I figured maybe I’ll transition to being more like a writer. In the process, I was looking for more things to do online because this was around the time that YouTube was becoming a thing, and people were finding really creative ways to collaborate when they were not in the same place.

Until that point, I thought, ‘Okay, everyone is creative in a differnt room at the same time,’ and that’s always been this really surreal, cool new world online. In 2008, when we were meeting up on forums and making Flash animation, the thing that really caught my ear was audio drama. And that has now since flourished and really become quite a cool community in the podcasting world; Audible’s done quite a bit with that. But back in the day, if you had a potato to record on, you could just come in and try voice acting for the first time.


So, I was looking for opportunities to maybe write music because I thought that was going to let me do some music but not be as rigorous as classical pedagogy would require. And I came across an opportunity where someone was looking for a musician but also a voice actor. I already had some basic recording stuff—it was not good; it was my laptop—and I thought, ‘That sounds kind of fun. I should try this. What the heck, why not?’

And I just immediately—I said, ‘This is really fun. I wonder if more people are doing this.’ And I just kept falling down this rabbit hole, looking for more opportunities. And then I found places where whole communities of international people were gathering. So, there were a lot of us, obviously, from the States since it was primarily English speakers, but I also met friends from Canada and Australia and Germany and the UK and Sweden and all over the world.

We would all just try to collaborate and we would make things. Sometimes, we would take games that had never been dubbed or had any voiceover and we would just try to record all the dialogue for it, put it together, and throw it on YouTube. We would just have fun doing stuff like that. Eventually, we started finding ways to make it legit and find professional opportunities.

And then we really just totally pivoted, and we’re like, ‘Okay, let’s start doing this as a fun hobby,’ and it just grew from there. And there until we really—some of us were starting to make it our full-time income. And I never set out for that to be my full-time job. I always thought I would need to have a safe job.

And I actually went to school for audio engineering once I started getting into this because I thought that was a good compromise. And that’s what I moved to Texas to be able to do: work as an audio engineer and a recording engineer and help out with that. And then I could moonlight as an actor. And it’s very surreal that time has gone on. I’m now more of a full-time actor who moonlights as an engineer.

© Tatsuya Endo, Shueisha / Spy x Family Project

Q: Do you have any unique techniques that come up when you step into the recording studio? N: What tends to come up the most is that when you do voiceover it’s not just [about] how you look if you’re on camera. For instance, you’re kind of put into a box with how you usually look—your appearance—and your specific personality that you’re able to bring to the camera.

Obviously, different actors can still bring a lot of range, but with voice actors, that range goes a lot further and has to boil down to a lot of different vocal archetypes. I usually think of it as a Rolodex in my head or like something that I’m able to flip through really quickly where I have different characters that I can pull through. You’ll have a mom type, a soldier type, a young kid type, and an older sister type. And they all usually start in a place that is pretty familiar, like there’s a familiar kind of place in terms of pitch and characterization vocally. And then depending on the project and the context of the specific characters, you start to add extra little details to them from there.

I also try to really incorporate physicality into how I perform a lot, too. So, for instance, when I’m performing in the booth for Spy x Family, and Yor’s civilian personality type is very nervous and anxious, I tend to kind of hunch up a little bit more, and I fidget with my hands a little bit more when I’m performing. Versus when she is in her Assassin mode where she sounds a lot more confident, I usually stay firm or stand and try to make sure I have a lot more breath.

I sit in a more lower, confident register to show that she’s [Yor] physically almost assuming a different personality, and that’s how I’m able to switch between the two characterizations very effectively.

Q: Spy x Family has been one of your biggest new titles in recent years. You voice Yor in the English dub. She’s quite a unique character, what do you like about her the most? N: I find her tremendously relatable. I remember the first time when I was preparing for the audition, and it was one of the rare times I’ve had enough time. I wanted to make such a good impression on the audition that I sat down and I read the manga—or the first volume of the manga anyway. I really loved how much she just immediately felt like a real person that kind of came off the page.

Sometimes you get characters that are still wonderful and lovable, but they can kind of have a very narrow range of what their wants and needs are and their personality can be very focused. I loved how Yor immediately felt like this very well-rounded person who had very relatable and real anxieties as well as challenges she was facing. [I also loved] how she was trying to fit in, feel like a normal person, and adjust to the world while not always sure if she was doing the right thing.

But then finding the people who kind of started to understand her and wanted her to be in their life…I just love that whole dynamic, how well-rounded she was, and how much she just felt like this full real person very quickly. And that is just how quickly that was able to happen too, so I love that so much about her.

Q: The Spy x Family movie is coming up. How did it feel voicing in the movie compared to the TV anime? Were there many differences? N: There wasn’t a lot of difference. The movie—my understanding is that the mangaka was responsible for coming up with the plot and helping them develop it. It does, as far as I can tell anyway, feel very organically like an extension of the same series. It doesn’t feel like a whole different writer and production team came in. Working on it in a lot of ways was like coming in and just working on a really long episode that happened to be like five or six.

It felt very natural and organic just from the perspective of the content and how we were approaching doing things. We were in the same space recording, we used a lot of the same processes, and it was the same director. For us, it was very easy to kind of slide in and start that. But at the same time, there was a little bit in the back of my head that was like, ‘Okay, but this is a movie now, and this is my first time working on anything that’s going to be theatrically released.’ There was a little bit of that surreal context where I was like, ‘Whoa, this is even a bigger deal.’ I kind of had a little bit of brand-new jitters just a little bit at first, but it felt very comfortable, honestly, pretty quickly.

Q: You voiced so many characters over the years. Do you have a favorite character? Are there any you would be friends with? N: I would say, as far as favorite characters go, it’s really hard to top Yor in Spy x Family just because it’s in a league of its own in terms of its significance in my life and how important that character has become. It has literally changed my whole life—it completely redirected the trajectory of everything. Not that it was going in a bad place to begin with, but it’s even more beyond my wildest dreams at that point. So, it’s really hard for me to not look at Yor as the pinnacle. I love the character and the show so much. It could not have been a more perfect character and property.

But I will say, besides Yor, I really love playing Miorine Rembran from Mobile Suit Gundam. I just love that character so much. She was outside of my normal, traditional wheelhouse. I tend to play characters who feel very genuine, and not that she wasn’t genuine, but she was such a spitfire. She had this attitude to her that was infused with aggression because she’s so confused and she’s trying to figure out how to interact in the world around her when she feels constrained by it, and how to break out from that in a way where she has some control. I loved digging into a character like that. It was so fun and interesting, and her storyline is great.

I also love Serval from Honkai: Star Rail, which is another project I love working on. I feel like Serval and I would probably be the best of friends. We’re about the same age, she’s a musician and an engineer, I feel like we would really, really get along well. We’re both kind of our own little weirdos, I feel like we would vibe really well.

Q: What project were you the most excited to take part in? N: I have been wanting to work on My Hero Academia for a long time. That was just this one I’d hoped maybe I would get to be a part of. And I really love this series. I actually met Justin Briner, who plays Deku, back on the forums that I got started on. So, we’ve known each other for a long time. To see his journey and where he’s coming what Deku has done for his life and how that’s changed things so much was kind of like a torch. I was like, ‘How do I do it? Maybe it’s possible for me to do something like that too.’ And how cool is it that that happened? So, being a part of that franchise is also very special in that sense. It has that added significance.

Q: Do you have any voice actors that inspire you? The field has grown so much over the years. N: There are so many. It’s really hard to throw a stone and hit someone who’s not just lovely but also such a nice person to be around. I have been blown away by the amount of love and talent in the community, especially when you’re coming in as a genuine person who’s not trying to get something out of it and wants to contribute to the community and be a genuine part of it.

I would say one of my favorite people I’ve met would be Luci Christian. ‘Cause one of the first conventions I did, and Lucy’s been around, she’s been like a staple in the industry for years. And she was immediately warm and friendly and introduced herself. And whenever she sees me, she’s remembering our conversations and talking with me. I love hearing [about] her experiences and hearing her talk about where she’s been, and I just have so much respect for the work she’s done and what she’s contributed. So, like her, I have so much respect. Lucky is so lovely and just so talented. So, those are definitely some I’m blown away. I love them.

Also, one of my other friends is Amber Lee Connors, and she’s also someone I met again back on the forums, and I’ve known her for years. She’s done so much to do a lot of incredibly exciting new things and blaze this trail. And then she turns around and has helped so many of us come after her and has made it possible for so many of us to work in new markets. She’s the reason I work in LA now. So I’m so grateful and appreciative of her and what she’s been able to do for so many of us too.

Q: Are there any anime series you hope to become a part of someday? N: My favorite series to watch is Made in Abyss. I don’t care who I am; I just want to be in the show. I love the world-building and the scope of it, and Kevin Penkin is so good. It’s not for everyone; it’s a very hard show to watch sometimes, but it is incredible. It is breathtaking with its creativity.

I just started watching One Piece, and I am loving One Piece. It was one of those shows where I fought it and fought it, and I fought it, and then there were some clips coming from the Wano Arc, and I was like, ‘I feel like I would like this show a lot if I could just kind of get into it.’ And I realized that I am not a fan of the beginning of Shonen; I really have to get over that first 10 to 20 episodes hump. And then I’m home free and doing great, and that’s all it takes. I just had to get past the Usopp introduction arc. Once I got that, and then you meet Sanji, and okay, this is the show I want to show up for. And I love One Piece, and I’d love to do more with One Piece.

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©Akihito Tsukushi, Takeshobo/Made in Abyss “The Golden City of the Scorching Sun” Production Committee

Q: Sometimes, some voice actors don’t get a chance to interact with each other outside of and during recording sessions, but do you have any stories about what it is like working with a bigger cast? N: It depends because it can’t always happen, and it also depends on the different markets we’re in. For example, Dallas actors don’t always get to interact with LA actors as much. However, in projects like Honkai: Star Rail, many of us are part of a big group Discord server. This allows us to coordinate different events and activities, whether they’re in Dallas or LA. Sometimes, Dallas actors attend events together, and the same goes for LA actors. We also organize group dinners when one of us is in town, and we occasionally do streams where all of us, regardless of location, come together. 

Some of the voice actors aren’t even in LA or Dallas. We have one person who’s out in Maryland somewhere, and we’ll all stream together. And we’ll play party games or we’ll play the game, and we’ll make dumb rules to follow, or we’ll do polls for the new banner together. And it’s a lot of fun to be able to hang out with them, and there’s a good sense of camaraderie with that group. So, that’s been great.

For Spy x Family especially, Megan, who plays Anya—we’ve become such good friends and really got to know each other well. We do a lot of fun things together; we go to cons together, and we went to Universal when we were in Orlando about a month ago and that was a lot of fun. We’re going to a hockey game tonight. We found this cool sushi place and we’re excited to go together. It’s been really nice having that camaraderie too, especially the more we travel and get to meet people and go have all these adventures. We’ve got to know the Chainsaw Man crew pretty well too. We’ll try to get dinner every time we’re at a show together, and that’s a lot.

Q: Anime fandom can be very passionate and dedicated. How do you engage with fans, and what do you appreciate most about interacting with them? N: I really love it when anyone who’s cosplaying or an artist tags me and stuff. That way, they’re like, ‘Cool, I just spent like months working on this masterpiece. Hope you like it,’ or ‘Oh, I just made this dumb little meme, made me laugh. I hope you enjoy it too.’ I love it.

Megan always says Twitter is a place (as in an interesting place to see wild things etc.) , but it’s a place. But it makes it worth it to still be there at least a little bit and to be able to see the cool stuff that people are creating. I just got to see a fan I met last year; he and I bonded over the fact that we both cross-stitch. He’s working on this gorgeous, gigantic cross stitch of Yor from Spy x Family, and he’s been showing me progress and he tags me in pictures and social media. So I love that aspect.

I really love the creativity and the way people are inspired by the work. That’s probably my favorite part of engaging with the fans and being able to also like if a new chapter drops or new episode drops, we’re probably screaming together about it. I love that.

Q: Do you have any tips on voice acting for people who want to get started? N: These tips are absolutely invaluable. First and foremost, I have to mention the website that got me started: the Voice Acting Club. It still exists today and is an incredible resource. My friend Kira Buckland put it together, and I cannot gush enough about how great of a job she did in making it accessible to basically anyone who wants to start, especially in the same way I did—just with a microphone, a song, and a prayer in my heart, let’s just see what happens.

Another thing that really helped me back in the day, and something I think is important for aspiring voice actors now, is to approach it with the mindset of just having fun and enjoying the process. Unlike many who jump into voice acting with dreams of anime stardom and full-time careers, I initially saw it as something fun to try out. I fell in love with it before it ever became a career goal. It wasn’t until later that I realized I could make a living from it. This approach allowed me to discover what I liked about voice acting, what I was good at, and what brought me joy, without the pressure of turning it into a career right away. It was about enjoying the journey and discovering the possibilities along the way.

We’d love to thank Natalie for taking the time to chat with us! Make sure to check out the Spy × Family Code: White movie, which is now out in theaters in the US.

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