From Superfan to Superstar
Time, dedication and loving your craft to the max. With this creed in mind, Dawn M. Bennett found herself going from a voice-acting enthusiast all the way to starring in hit anime such as Fairy Tail, My Hero Academia and Yuri on Ice, while also getting to go balls to the wall with hilarious titles such as Keijo and Bikini Warriors. Given how she’s arguably a bigger anime fan than most of us, it’s fair to say she’s living the dream. Thankfully, even while she’s snagging roles in summer hits such as Hanebado, she still found time to chat to us about her passion for the medium.
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to let us probe your brain!
“Thanks for having me!”
Before we get into your roles, it’s worth noting that like many of us, you grew up watching classic anime and were inspired by voice actors, many of whom are now your co-workers! In your mind, what was the pivotal moment that made you want to pursue this as a career?
“During my first semester at Berklee College of Music in 2011, I joined the Video Game Music Club and participated in a game jam, an event where you team up with other club members to create a game in 24-48 hours. One of the roles we could choose was voiceover, which was something I’d always wanted to try as a kid but never went any further with it. My college roommate and fellow actor Victoria Vitti and I voiced male hillbillies for our assigned game, using nothing but our MacBook’s internal microphone and GarageBand. It was silly and stupid and just a ton of fun.
After that, the VGMC’s president Akash Thakkar encouraged me to keep voice acting based on the praise of the team we worked with. I volunteered for as many engineering students’ projects as I could, sometimes staying at the studio until 2am. I found myself having more and more fun every time I stepped in the booth, to the point where I wanted to focus on voice acting instead of music. I did this throughout college up to graduating in 2014, and was cast in Fairy Tail not long after.”
Everyone certainly has an idea of what it’s like to work full-time as a voice actor. Can you tell us one thing that’s absolutely true and one that’s a huge misconception about the craft?
“The truth is simple: it’s fun! We get to act in situations we wouldn’t normally be able to fulfill onscreen. I’ve gotten to be a French spider, a purple dragon girl, a green kitty who thinks they’re a frog, and even Satan! I can be the villain trying to take over the world and the hero trying to save it. It’s like playing pretend on the playground back in elementary school, only with a much higher production value. I have moments where I just stand back and think, “This is a thing I get to do. I get to work on the kinds of shows I watched as a kid. This is awesome!” It’s such a wonderful feeling.
The biggest misconception is that work will be constant. You audition far more than you book, and the amount of rejection tends to discourage folks in the beginning. It’s even more so if you decide to move to a new area with little to no experience and expect you’ll hit it big instantly – every experienced actor out there highly recommends not doing this. There will be slow seasons and you have to be prepared for it.”
Since becoming a voice actor, have you had any type of fangirl moment when meeting some of your acting heroes? Have you had the same happen to you?
“I’ve had too many fangirl moments to count, but there are two that stand out! The first was when I got to Skype with Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS from the Portal series. She and I had been emailing back and forth about how I was going to sing “Cara Mia Addio” for an end-of-the-year choir concert at Berklee, and she offered to give me a master class for it. Even though a screen separated us, the choir members and I could all feel the presence Ellen had when she directed us. I remember shaking so badly!
The second time was when I met Christopher Sabat at HaberKon in 2013. You know him. Voice of Vegeta. And Piccolo. And Yamcha. And Kuwabara. And Armstrong. The guy who’s voiced almost every anime character of my childhood. THAT guy. I had the biggest smile on my face after hearing him do shout-outs as Vegeta at the convention, and he was so nice to everybody!
For me, I remember meeting a young man at a gaming convention a couple years ago. His name escapes me, but I remember he was shaking with excitement but was too shy to say hello! In that moment, I saw myself. I’ve been scared to approach people I look up to far too often. I’ve been that guy! So I said, “Hey man! Do you do hugs?” And we hugged! I could feel the poor guy shaking. But like I said earlier, I get the shakes too!”
Despite initial appearances, Yuri on Ice’s Isabella is actually quite the supportive finance, almost to absurd degrees. Was it refreshing to play a character so positively unwavering towards her beloved?
“Yes, yes, yes! When I read people’s thoughts on her after her debut episode, so many people were expecting her to be the type to abandon JJ at the drop of a hat. JJ and Isabella are #relationshipgoals for sure. The scene with Isabella cheering JJ on as he’s lamenting his performance in the kiss and cry is definitely one of my favorite moments in the show. Even if they’re a bit arrogant at times, you can’t help but admit they’re a cute and genuine couple.
They’re like the type of couple you see in tabloids. Celebrities with personalities some may not tolerate well. However, because their relationship is solid, it makes Isabella and JJ feel more real and less like the couples you see on reality shows. In anime, one might expect someone like JJ to be comically dumped by Isabella after his loss, but I’m glad the show kept a more realistic approach and gave the characters such great development.”
While each of your Yandere Simulator characters would make for the ideal romantic interest in any other video game, are you more interested in seeing how they will meet their end at the hands of the somewhat psychotic protagonist?
“Oh yes. Michaela Laws, the voice of Yandere-chan, is a dear friend of mine and I’m extremely interested in learning how she’s going to end me. Er, I mean, how Yandere-chan will end Asu, Hanako, or Muja. Right. That’s what I meant.”
If you had to choose, which one deserves to be spared Yandere’s wrath?
“I love Asu Rito to bits. She’s just an innocent athlete who’s pumped about sports and challenges! Yandere-chan should just befriend her and help her find a different senpai. Then they can work out together and help each other become strong, buff ladies.”
In many ways, Keijo must be a dream role given the absurdity of the premise. How much pride did you feel playing a character that inspires the next generation of posteriorly prominent professionals?
“I felt pride in the scene when my character, Miku Kobayakawa, booty bumped a piece of chalk right at Nozomi’s face, with her eyes closed. I was also proud of the moment Aoba used her “Scanning Hand” to activate the “Gate of Bootylon,” revealing Miku’s own ability, “Boob Dunk.” We’d all been wondering what Miku’s special move was and we finally saw it! I only wish we’d gotten to see Miku use it herself.
Given that Keijo is now a sport in Portugal, I’m hoping someone can reenact Miku’s booty-bumping chalk scene with their eyes closed. That would make my year.”
What would you say are the qualities you most admire about Ritsuka? Her ability to forgive unconditionally even in the worst circumstances, or have gentlemen such as Rem and Lindo fall for her natural charm?
“I love that Ritsuka had a backbone instead of being the typical “damsel-in-distress” girl in a reverse harem. Even though all these handsome devils were falling for her, she wasn’t completely blinded by their suavity. She knew how to fight back when it mattered the most. I wouldn’t even say that she forgave unconditionally, at least immediately anyway. When (spoiler!) died, Ritsuka tearfully told Rem that she “hates” him. She didn’t let his handsomeness or charm hide the fact that she lost someone extremely dear to her. I won’t give away the ending, but I really admire the final decision she made because she chose it for herself. She thought for herself, and not whatever was typical of a fairy tale ending.”
Now we come to everyone favorite cat-frog; Fairy Tail’s Frosch. Aside from just being too adorable for words, what was your fondest memory playing Rogue’s loyal companion?
“My fondest memory was meeting Rogue’s voice actor Garret Storms! We happened to meet each other in between sessions at FUNimation when one of the directors mentioned his name. I perked up immediately and asked, “Excuse me, are you Garret Storms?”
“Yes?” He replied.
“I’m Dawn! I’m the voice of Frosch!”
He lit up and exclaimed, “I found you!” (If you’ve seen episode 202, you’ll know what this references)!
We hugged and took a selfie together. I was so happy to meet him at last!”
Konohana Kitan’s Satsuki goes beyond your typical foxgirl, especially given her numerous insecurities. Was her character one you could relate to in anyway?
“Absolutely. Satsuki has this problem where she constantly compares herself to her sister and forgets she has her own skills and accomplishments. Satsuki’s also sensitive to what people think about her, believing that everyone considers her sister to be better in every way. Even when Satsuki’s naturally gifted at kagura dancing, her harsh self-criticism prevents her from thinking so; rather, she claims her sister being there is the only way she was able to fake her way through the dance. It’s a classic case of Impostor Syndrome.
I can understand Satsuki’s feelings of mediocrity because we can only see our own flaws while everyone else shines. We both work harder to overcome these feelings, but it doesn’t stop the feelings from existing. I was so happy to play a character whose emotional turmoil I identified with.”
Dawn, thank you so much for your time! If fans want to message you and declare their undying love for Frosch, where can they find you?
And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo, if you could choose a subject for a top ten list, what would it be?
“Top Ten Anime Foods! I’m a foodie and would love to check those out!”