Elizabeth Maxwell is an accomplished voice actress with numerous standout roles, with some of her earliest appearances including taking on the role of Motoko Kusanagi/The Major in Ghost in the Shell: Arise and Ymir in Attack on Titan. She has since gone on to appear in various other smash-hit shows such as Dragon Ball Super and My Hero Academia, and has also taken her talents to video gaming in titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Just Cause 4, Persona 5, and Street Fighter V, among many others.
Scoop’s Carrie Wood had the opportunity to sit down with Maxwell during Otakon 2019 to discuss her past and upcoming roles and the impact that anime has had on pop culture.
Scoop: Fruits Basket is one of your most recent roles. What’s it been like to come into the revitalization of what’s ostensibly one of the most beloved shoujo series of all time?
Elizabeth Maxwell (EM): It’s interesting, because I was asked when I was cast if I knew of Fruits Basket. I knew of Fruits Basket in that it seems up there in terms of Naruto and Pokémon in terms of people talking about big famous anime that they watched when they were kids. So I hadn’t seen it, but I had heard of it. I had kind of the new experience of being a new addition in a new cast, and I got to fall in love with the series for the first time on this new series in the same way that I feel like a lot of people did with the old one.
I don’t usually like shoujo anime, to be perfectly honest. It’s just not my cup of tea. Fruits Basket has kind of changed all that for me. I love this show so much, and I’m in awe of the performances for a lot of it, too. Laura Bailey, to me, makes that anime. Her portrayal of Tohru – I feel like that character so easily could have come out as too saccharine sweet, and she makes her irresistible. I’m a couple of episodes behind right now, but I recently watched the one where we get to see Momiji’s background – oh my god, I seriously feel like I end up crying every episode. So yeah, I love it.
Scoop: Another big anime right now is My Hero Academia, which comes back in October. Did you expect this show to become the sort of worldwide phenomenon that it’s become?
EM: I knew that it had done really well in Japan, which is not always a marker of how something is going to be received elsewhere. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t [think it would do well here] when I first heard about the show, but I hadn’t watched any of it. After I watched it, it seemed like a no-brainer. Like, of course. How could this show not win over so many people’s hearts? It’s such a special show. It’s so funny but so heartfelt, and yeah. In retrospect I’m like – well, duh. But no, at the time I did not realize it was going to become as big as it did.
Scoop: Let’s go back to a series you did towards the beginning of your career in anime, which is Ghost in the Shell. Obviously Ghost in the Shell was iconic before you even stepped into the role as the Major. Was there any pressure that you felt when doing that? What sort of mark do you feel you left on the character?
EM: Oh, yeah. I was terrified with that role. It was only my third anime dubbing role ever, and my first lead role. Ghost in the Shell, the movie, was the first anime I ever saw. I grew up watching Ghost in the Shell, I grew up hearing Mary Elizabeth McGlynn [as the Major], and she’s iconic. Her voice is unmistakable. She made that character for American audiences. So to know that that’s the shoulders I was stepping onto in order to take on this incarnation of the Major was nerve-wracking, personally. And of course I was nervous as to what the fan reaction was going to be to hearing somebody else that wasn’t Mary Elizabeth McGlynn voicing Motoko.
I was really lucky. The director was incredible to work with and kept it light and fun, and kept reminding me that this was a different incarnation and wasn’t the same character. I feel like when we first encounter Motoko [in the film], she’s a seasoned officer. She’s been doing what she’s been doing for a while, and she’s good at it. I feel like the Arise series kind of allowed you to see her when she’s not as sure of herself, when she’s not as self-confident, when she doesn’t know how to play well with others yet. Cyborgs can’t be teenagers, but you kind of get to see the teenaged angst version of Motoko, and that was fun. It was fun to get to explore that side of the character when I already felt that I kind of knew who the adult version was.
Scoop: Dragon Ball Super breathed new life into the Dragon Ball franchise, and Caulifla was a big part of that. What was it like to get to voice the first female Super Saiyan?
EM: It was so cool. I loved that character. I loved every episode that I got to work on with that show. She’s so spunky and so irreverent and so much fun. I love that she’s one of the few characters that’s just so irreverent with Goku, which isn’t something we get to see from [other members of the cast]. She was a blast to play. It was also really cool in that [the director] was very open to us taking ownership of our characters and giving us the freedom to work within the translation and the script and be like – you know, that doesn’t feel like her, let’s play with that line and figure out what feels the most organic.
Scoop: Anything coming up soon you can tell us about?
EM: The only thing I can talk about – because everything else is completely NDA – is that there’s a Rooster Teeth show called Nomad of Nowhere. The creator of that show, Geordan Whitman, split off and created his own studio called Portside Studios, and he’s creating a new animated show called Port by the Sea, and I can’t say specifically how I’m involved with it, but I am allowed to say that I’m involved. I’m very excited for it!