If you happened to catch any of the Pokémon anime from the late ’90s to mid-2000, a special someone by the name of Veronica Taylor was with you — virtually — every step of the way. Not only is Taylor the talented voice actor for 10-year-old aspiring Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum, but she’s also a mother, a traveler, a dancer, a soccer player, and a people person. Ironically, Taylor’s no fan of tall grass.
Can you please introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Veronica Taylor.
How did you get started in the industry? When did things take off for you?
Well, I decided I wanted to be an actor at age 5. After that, I was constantly involved in plays, workshops … anything that involved theatre and dance — and sports. I’ve played soccer since fifth grade. I went to college and grad school for acting, and toured the U.S. with several acting companies before moving to New York City. I got my first animated voiceover audition through a recommendation from my acting coach. I booked that job and was asked to audition for another project and it kept going from there! Even though I have an agent, I would say much of my work has come through networking. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people and we all try to keep each other working.
You began voicing Ash Ketchum from the very beginning, starting in September 1998 with the debut episode of the first season called “Pokémon – I Choose You!” How did it all start? Did someone contact you, or did you apply for the position?
I had been working on the anime “Slayers” and this little project called “Pokémon” came up. I was asked to audition as I was in a pool of actors that were really good at dubbing. At the time, it was just another audition among many. I remember watching the small clip we were shown and just loving it. The energy, the colors, the characters — it struck me as so fun. I admit I really hoped to be cast in it!
Has anyone inspired you along your incredible journey?
I am on an incredible journey and there are many who inspire me! First of all my parents, who are endlessly supportive and wonderful (and creative and talented). Next, my daughter. She truly inspires me to be my best every day because she is so amazing (and creative and talented). There are many actors that I have looked up to and teachers with whom I have studied which inspire me and help me to be better at my craft. An unexpected gift of traveling to conventions has been the opportunity to meet so many fans of Pokémon and hear their incredible stories of love, bravery, courage, triumph, and friendship. It has been extraordinary and truly inspiring.
“We learn that in this world, humans and Pokémon all have big dreams of evolving into their best selves and those goals can be reached by working together.”
Ash Ketchum caught his first Pokémon, a Caterpie, during the third episode of the Pokémon: Indigo League season in the original animated series. That was a major event and, of course, you voiced that. How do you recall that?
I think the first few episodes of Pokémon are the most unforgettable. They really lay out the foundation for this crazy adventure we are jumping into. We learn right away that Ash is just like all of us — a kid excited for his first day, not really a morning person, fiercely driven and loyal, not always showing the best judgment (taking Misty’s bike rather than asking to borrow it), but standing up for and protecting his best friend (Pikachu). He’s new (as is the audience) to how this whole “capturing Pokémon” thing works, so when it actually happens and he gets Caterpie, well, we all celebrate and start looking forward to what’s next. We learn that in this world, humans and Pokémon all have big dreams of evolving into their best selves and those goals can be reached by working together. I love that we can all experience real emotion through Pokémon — joy, sadness, anger. It’s a rarity in a cartoon meant for kids. It allows us to really be on the journey. And for me, as an actor, it was truly challenging and very special.
Providing voice-over work for Ash only scratches the surface of your diverse career. You’ve also voiced April O’Neal from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nico Robin from One Piece, and Sailor Pluto from Sailor Moon — to name a just a few. Is there a single role you that you have found most enjoyable?
Working on a show for a length of time is a luxury. Fully inhabiting the mind of a character for longer than an hour is another luxury. As an actor, I have to be able to come up with fully fleshed out characters in seconds, giving them a voice and a background without time to prepare. Ash is by far my favorite character given that I had 8 years to, shall we say, walk in his sneakers. But there is something that I love about each of the characters I play, whether they are very well known or totally new. The chance to become someone else, and really understand what motivates them, is what acting is all about. And when you have amazing characters to play, it’s a dream come true!
Now I would like to ask you a few fun questions. First, you’re asked to choose between bicycling and roller-skating for your preferred method of transportation. Which one would you pick and why?
Well, I’ve biked and rollerbladed the streets of New York City. Both are probably the closest I will ever get to flying … I love the feeling of just sailing along and the freedom that comes with being self-propelled. I guess if I had to choose, it would be bicycling because I can stop more quickly. Safety first!
“OK, first of all, I’d never stand in tall grass. Ticks are everywhere!”
My second question is a bit more, uh, interesting, but bear with me! I’m taking a stroll through a park. We’ll just refer to that park as Route 35. You’re standing in some tall grass, occasionally facing different directions so you don’t miss anything exciting that may happen around you. You see me walking toward you, and we eventually make eye contact. What happens next?
OK, first of all, I’d never stand in tall grass. Ticks are everywhere! But let’s say, for the sake of this, that I was, and I saw you walking toward me … I am a peaceful person, so I would smile and say hi! (I would probably be there with a petition to change the name of this park to something more inspiring, preferably after someone creative and inventive.) Next, I would strike up a conversation about birds, bugs, and flowers in the area. If it were night, we’d talk constellations.
Wait, was this a trick question … is there a Route 35 in some video game that I’ve never played??
When you’re not voice acting, what are you doing? Are you striving to be, you know, the very best, like no one ever was?
All joking aside, yes, I do strive every day to be the best. This has always been important to me, but when you play a character for eight years who is incredibly positive and never gives up, it reinforces how important that is in everyday life. I believe that we all must be role models for those around us. This, coupled with the fact that I have a daughter, nieces, and a nephew … well, let’s just say actions speak louder than words.
What else do I do … I travel, read, draw, bake. I love playing sports or going to museums, flea markets, and farmer’s markets. When I travel I really try to get an idea of the community — eat local food, go to non-touristy places. I’m interested in what makes people and places unique.
Do you make any mental or physical preparations prior to a recording session? Are there any tricks to keeping your voice in tip-top shape? I’ve heard sipping a mixture of honey and lemon helps soothe the throat. Is that true?
I definitely do vocal warm-ups before a session. I take singing/voice lessons to stay in shape. I try to stay as healthy as possible — exercise, eat plenty of vegetables, and try to keep positive. Never knowing when your next job is coming can be pretty stressful, as can figuring out how to get all the work done by the deadlines. Everyone has their own way of keeping themselves on track. I choose exercise over meditation to clear my mind. And yes, a nice slippery elm tea with local honey definitely helps!
So, what’s next on your busy plate?
I do a million different jobs, mostly voice related, rather than on-camera, at the moment. I’m involved with some terrific cartoons, Audiobooks, and early learning projects. My daughter and I have a pretty packed touring schedule to conventions around the world this year. On top of that, we’re working on a blog about our travels and doing some arts and crafts videos. I’ve just started work writing a book. So, my plate is pretty full, but happily so.
Thanks to Veronica Taylor for sharing her warm thoughts, experiences, and wisdom.