Where Are They Now?
Former Student Featured As Lead Character In Animated Cartoon Series
In 2001, Bailey began voicing characters on the popular anime series Dragon Ball Z, which still shows up in reruns on the Cartoon Network, alongside the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT.
Dragon Ball, originally created and broadcast in Japan, has become one of the most popular anime series ever produced. It consistently ranks as the number one animated show of all time in many countries including the U.S., Japan, France, Spain, China and Mexico. The series has been translated into more than 40 languages and is eagerly watched by devoted fans all across the globe (millions in the U.S.A. alone).Bailey’s main character on that popular series was the younger version of a character named Trunks, who first appears older earlier in the series, so her character is known as chibi (meaning “young”) Trunks. Bailey seems to have a knack for voicing young characters.
Another of her young characters is Tohru Honda, the gentle Japanese teenager on the DVD series Fruits Basket. Tohru is a cheerful schoolgirl who was orphaned when her mother was killed in a car accident. Afterward, she moves in with a local family afflicted with a strange, metamorphic curse.
As the lead actor in Basket, Bailey’s voice literally carries the show. She lilts, squeals and whimpers on cue. Japanese animation tends to be static and pictorial, so American voice-over acting goes for expressive exaggeration. On anime shows in particular, voice acting contributes greatly toward creating a character’s personality.
Bailey can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours in the recording booth doing just one episode of an animated series, depending upon the size of her role and upon the complexity of emotion called for in the script.
“The last four episodes of Fruits Basket were so emotional and draining,” said Bailey. “My character, Tohru, was crying the whole time—and it was so hard. It was very difficult to get through it.”
Both shows, Dragon Ball and Fruits Basket, have loyal sets of fans. Likenesses of chibi Trunks have appeared in the form of action figures, trading cards and 3-D posters. Bailey also carries a key fob with the likeness of Tohru Honda on it. The character looks remarkably like Laura Bailey herself: long brown hair and big eyes. The resemblance is striking. “I wish I had more in common with her, minus the whole orphan thing,” admits Bailey, “I really admire her constant positive outlook.”
One of the best parts of her job, she says, is going to conventions and meeting fans of both series. Since most young fans want her to do voice impressions of their favorite characters on the spot, Laura makes sure that she brings a lot of water with her to the convention room floor. Voice-over work can be tough on the tonsils, but otherwise good on the ego.
“I love getting to hear the fan response to the work I’ve done. And it’s cool to see people dressing up as my characters. But I think the funniest part about doing the signings are the marriage proposals. I’ve had about 15 [so far], most of them from guys under the age of 17. The best though was from a kid about 10 who asked me for my phone number. I told him it would probably be long distance, and too much money for him to call me—and he said not to worry, because it was his parents’ line.”
So how did her training in theatre at CCCCD prepare her for a career voicing aliens and little lost Japanese girls?
“The shows I had seen there made me realize that I’d learn more there than at most universities,” she said. “Honestly, it taught me how to be a better actor. I don’t think I’d have this particular career if it weren’t for [CCCCD]. All my connections were made there.”
Several other CCCCD students, including Andrew Chandler, Meredith McCoy and Chris Cantrell, have also worked on shows with Bailey, many produced at the FUNimation studios in Fort Worth.
Brad Baker is director of theatre at CCCCD. He remembers his former student as being gifted with range.
“Laura Bailey is among a rare breed of actors, equally capable on stage, in musicals, in commercials, on film, and in the voice-over recording booth,” said Baker. “Her flexibility and range as an actor is astounding, and her career will be a long and diverse journey. We are proud to number Laura among our recent CCCCD theatre graduates.”
Considering that Laura Bailey is only 22 years old, she has a levelheaded view of this otherwise crazy business. Her goal is to be a successful, not necessarily famous, actor, and to keep it all in perspective.
“I don’t care if I’m famous,” she said, “I just want to be working constantly.” And considering that the next Japanese import is just around the corner, it’s a pretty safe bet that she will.