Erica Lindbeck picks up the phone just as she’s leaving a studio in Los Angeles: She’s a voice actor, and she’s spent her morning at work. This North Carolina native is living the dream, voicing everything from Barbie dolls to video games to dubbed Japanese cartoons.
Growing up in Greenville, however, she felt she had to hide her love of anime to fit in.
“Everyone is, in a sense, trying to get by in high school,” she says. “I was afraid that people would think it was weird that I watched anime.”
Yet one birthday – her 15th, she thinks – her mom surprised her. She got home and saw what appeared to be a makeup box. When she opened it, she found four volumes of “Hellsing Ultimate,” one of her very favorites. She was so happy she cried; it was the first anime she owned.
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This weekend, Lindbeck returns to North Carolina as a guest for Animazement, the massive anime festival at the Raleigh Convention Center this weekend. She will be signing autographs and speaking on panels all weekend.
Read our interview with Lindbeck below.
Q: Growing up in Greenville, were you active in drama? How early did you know you wanted to be a voice actor?
A: Voice acting came a lot later in my life. I have been doing theater and musical theater since I was in the single digits. I went to The Oakwood School for first grade through seventh grade. One of my first plays there was “Annie,” and I played Miss Hannigan. I moved to Parrott Academy for the eighth grade, and I did theater every year. Early on in life I started with Smiles and Frowns Playhouse, which is a little community theater in Greenville. Then there was Oakwood and Parrot Academy and then I went to UCLA for theater.
I had always been a huge fan of anime and animation and video games. I was a really big gamer in high school and early on in college. It was something that I wanted to explore. There are a lot of classes available out here in Los Angeles. I took a couple of classes with Crispin Freeman, who is a fairly well-known voice actor out here.
My senior year of college, they always bring in some industry professionals, and they happened to bring in three voice actors. They brought in Fred Tatasciore who voices the Hulk and just about every other monster you can think of in any video game or animation, and then they brought in Mocean Melvin, who does a lot of commercial work, and then they brought in Richard Tatum, and he ended up making my demo reel for me and walking me into his agency. The rest is kind of history.
Q: Tell me about your early interest in anime.
A: I’ve been watching anime since I was young, I just didn’t know it was anime. I was obsessed with “Pokémon,” “Sailor Moon,” “Yu-Gi-Oh.” I loved “Yu-Gi-Oh” – I felt it was a darker version of “Pokémon.” I watched everything that was on Toonami. “Gundam,” when I was little, it kind of scared me, so I didn’t watch it as much.
Anime, I’d thought, was something weird – I’d thought anime was for kids. I think I was in high school and I discovered “Naruto.” I became obsessed with it. It was back when Netflix, you had to order the DVDs. My mom would let me order them. I wouldn’t hang out with my friends on Fridays. I would just wait next to my mailbox. This is when I was in high school, mind you. I was so obsessed with “Naruto,” and then I discovered “Hellsing,” which is probably my all-time favorite anime series. It’s a little gory; I wouldn’t recommend it for small children.
Q: How did it feel when you got your first role in anime?
A: My first role was a lead, and that doesn’t happen very often. It was sort of a fluke, and it just happened to be a really perfect part for me. It’s a show called “Coppelion,” and it’s not a very big show, but I love it. It’s beautifully animated.
Q: How do you feel coming back to North Carolina for Animazement?
A: That was on my bucket list for conventions – I really, really want to go to Animazement, because I knew all my family could come and I could see all my friends. I’m actually hanging out in Greenville for a few days. I love North Carolina, it’s my home state, and I’ve always loved Raleigh.
Q: How did you get to be the voice of Barbie?
A: That was one of the first jobs I booked, actually. I auditioned for eight months with my agent and booked nothing. That was eight months of auditioning every day and not booking anything, and that is really difficult mentally. That level of rejection is kind of intense.
Most of the time you’re going to audition at home in your home booth that you can make in a closet or however you want. Some casting directors like to have people come in. They called me and they said, “We want you to come in and read for Skipper.” I didn’t really see myself as a Barbie, but I was like, “Whatever.” So I went in and I auditioned for Teresa and Skipper and I thought I did a nice job for Skipper. I was such a newbie at that point.
A week later I got a call and they said, “Hey, they want you to go in for Barbie.” I told Nick, one of my agents, that I sound nothing like Barbie – why would they want me to come in for Barbie? I went in, I was handed a long script, and I read it. Two months later I got a call. I thought it was for one movie. I didn’t realize they were looking for a new Barbie voice. I read it pretty much in my natural voice and I ended up booking it. It ended up being this huge thing, and I’ve been the voice for her for over a year now. It’s been incredible – Mattel’s been amazing for me.
I did the movies, I do “Hello Barbie,” and I do most everything else. The only thing I don’t do is the Barbie Blog.
When: 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St.
New this year: This annual celebration of anime, both as a genre and a cultural phenomenon, attracts cosplayers dressed as fictional characters and casual fans alike. The guests range from voice actors, translators and J-pop musicians. This year, there is an actual spaceman: Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. On Sunday, Japanese composer Toshiyuki Watanabe leads the Duke Youth Symphony for a free concert at 1 p.m.
Meet Eric Lindbeck: The voice actress and anime star will sign autographs from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-noon Saturday and 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday. She also will speak on two panels: “Let’s Talk Specifics About the Voiceover Industry” at 2 p.m. Saturday and “Ladies of Anime and Video Games” at 5 p.m. Saturday. She also will speak by herself at 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday and noon-1 p.m. Sunday.