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Pokémon: Original Ash actor Veronica Taylor says role was an 'honour'

Pokémon: Original Ash actor Veronica Taylor says role was an 'honour'

In an interview with GAMINGbible, Veronica Taylor told us how much it means to her to be a part of Pokémon and make fans happy.

Veronica Taylor is a legendary voice actor. To most, she’s best known as the original voice of Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon anime series. Others might know her as April in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sailor Pluto in the English dub of Sailor Moon, or Manuela and Micaiah from the Fire Emblem games. But to anyone who’s had the joy of meeting her, Taylor is simply the kindest, friendliest person you could ever wish would be the voice behind all your childhood favourites.

Taylor’s positive effect on the people around her - strangers, friends and family - is palpable. She was a guest at MCM London Comic Con this May, and the never-ending line of people queuing up to see her spoke for itself. This wasn’t just a fast-moving production line of fans waiting to get a quick signature, though - out of all the guests there, Taylor was the only one constantly standing at the front of her desk, greeting each and every person, and spending as much time with them as they wanted. She could be seen embracing people, gently holding their arms, enthusiastically having conversations with everyone who met her, all while maintaining a genuine smile throughout. At one point, I saw her and her daughter spend 20 minutes drawing pictures with two kids and their family who’d come to see her. All weekend long, fans could be seen walking away from her with the biggest grins on their faces, with some even tearing up from the experience, and in an interview with GAMINGbible, Taylor told myself and Tom Ryan-Smith that she feels that it’s an “extraordinary honour” to connect with people in such a personal way.

Take a look at our chat with Veronica Taylor right here.

“It's really an honour for me to talk to people about their experiences when they were younger. I’ve met kids when they were 10, and then seen them through the years at different conventions, seen them get out of university, get married, I've seen their kids. I've heard things along the way of 'I just got my first job'. You know, all these amazing real life bits, where our families come together, and I'm a part of theirs, and they are now a part of mine,” Taylor smiled. “It is such an extraordinary honour that someone would take the time to come see me and talk about anything - share with me their joys or their sorrows. That's my greatest fear, that I won't be able to rise to the occasion. So I think everyone deserves my utmost energy and focus, and that's the most important thing in the world to me.”

Despite her huge influence on the Pokémon anime and its fanbase, Taylor remains very humble, and considers the joy she brings to fans to be a “responsibility”. That responsibility, she says, has merely “evolved” over the years as young Pokémon enthusiasts have grown up.

“When you're talking to a 10-year-old who's just started watching the show, there's a different responsibility than you have now to someone who's in their 30s and has had a lifetime of Pokémon,” she explained. “So, my job has evolved to just take on the responsibilities that are needed.”

During MCM London Comic Con, Taylor reunited with her fellow Pokémon: The First Movie cast mates - Eric Stuart (the original voice of James and Brock), Rachael Lillis (the original voice of Jessie and Misty), and Jay Goede (Mewtwo) - on stage for a Q&A session, in an experience which was so emotional, it brought her to tears.

“It was incredibly overwhelming. Even to think about it now makes me want to cry again. But we were there and talking and hearing things that I've not ever heard from my cast mates. We all feel so deeply about this show, about being a part of this, and that was great. But wow, when I looked out and saw all those people, it was amazing,” she told us, tearing up again. “So anyway, it just struck me like, wow, this is a fraction, but we had a full house out there and [for] everyone to be standing up [impersonates cheering] at the end. Oh my god, it really hit me.”

Ash, Brock and Misty. /
The Pokémon Company.

She wasn’t the only one who felt emotional during the cast reunion - sitting in the audience, you could almost feel the nostalgia emanating from fans young and old, and as you’d expect, every person who got up to ask the cast a question felt compelled to first share their heartfelt thanks for essentially making their childhood. Earlier in the day at a press roundtable, Taylor made reference to the many people who’d already approached her during the convention to share their stories about how certain parts of the anime resonated with them or helped them - from watching it as they went through chemotherapy as a child, to the series simply being something to share with their friends growing up, Pokémon’s impact on a generation of people is undeniable.

Needless to say, certain episodes have resonated with Taylor, too - she told us that the notoriously sad ‘Bye Bye Butterfree’ has stuck with her over the years, as well as those when the gang got stuck in a freezing cave, and when Ash, Brock and Misty parted ways. Beyond these moments, however, Taylor says it’s the “feeling of teamwork” that the anime is full of which she continues to carry with her: “When the characters - when the friends - get together and help each other out to achieve a goal or to fix a situation, those are the parts that really do sit with me.”

Speaking to Taylor, it’s abundantly clear how much she cares about Ash and the Pokémon series more generally, despite the fact that she hasn’t officially worked on it for many years now. As we chatted, she beamed as she told us that she loved “every single day when I went to work”, and even revealed how her daughter, Rena, had provided the voice for Sentret when she was around three or four years old, since she used to bring her to the recording studio.

Of course, Taylor is well aware of the Pokémon anime’s controversial decision to retire its main protagonist (a choice which, during the aforementioned press roundtable, she said initially left her feeling “unsettled”). Right now, it’s not known if Ash will be aged up for the remainder of the series, or if he’ll ever appear again, but his original voice actor would be extremely keen to return to the show if given the chance to voice him.

Ash and Pikachu. /
The Pokémon Company.

“Oh my gosh, we were replaced by Pokémon USA after the eighth season, so none of us had the option to go on with the show,” she explained. “So I would go out on a very far limb to say that any of us would come back in a second. We would have come back. We would have never left. So yes, of course I would come back for that. Or any character really, in the new series.”

On that note, she’s hopeful that Ash will return in the future: “We all want to know what he's going to do - we want to know how long does he take a break at his mum's house, let's say, or what does he do? I think everyone's interested,” she enthused. “We love Ash. Ash is us. So what do we do next? I don't know. We'll have to see.”

More than anything though, Taylor loves the Pokémon community, and would “love to stay a part of it in all of its forms”. Later in the conversation, she gushed as she told us about all the things that she’s seen people create which have been inspired by Pokémon, from custom Funko Pops (she was even gifted one which looks like her) to terrariums, giant cards and clothing. She’s received countless drawings from fans over the years, and revealed that she keeps every single one of them in her apartment (“I don't even have walls to hang them but when I some time grow up and get a real place, I will hang them all,” she said).

“Pokémon, especially in the beginning, you felt like you could make it yourself, do it yourself. You didn't have to buy a tonne of stuff,” she told us. “So you would buy a card, or a game, or whatever. But it was about you, and how it came through you, that's the power of Pokémon, I think, really.

“So when we talk about where the show will go now, I hope that the storytelling will be the heart of it, as it has been. Because that's why we all still watch the show. It's the story and the relationships, and not the merchandise,” she continued. “So I think that's why Satoshi Tajiri should be quite proud that he's created this empire based on a true love of nature, of animals, and story. So it's incredible to carry that on. I'm quite honoured.”

Featured Image Credit: Tom Ryan-Smith, The Pokémon Company

Topics: Interview, Pokemon, Anime, TV And Film