Michelle Ruff returned to Sac Anime and was glad to answer my questions
You may not know the name Michelle Ruff, but Anime fans should be familiar with her work. She has been voiced all kinds of characters in Anime, movies and video games. I was not that familiar with her work at first. It turns out though she has had small roles in a ton of films I really like. She was at Sac Anime Winter 2017 and I was lucky to be able to ask her some questions.
So how did you get into voice acting?
Michelle Ruff: Well I was going to school at Michigan State. I was studying to be a producer. I worked for Michigan Public Broadcasting for a while. I also worked at a talent agency, I was an office manager there and I booked talent. My boss was like ‘Hey, why don’t you go up for this commercial? You’d be perfect for it.” I was like “No, I really don’t want to do that. I’d rather be behind the scenes.” He was like “Go! Just go. You’ll have fun, trust me.” So I go to the audition and I lay the audition down. It was for Buckle Your Seatbelts in Michigan for some kind of public safety thing.
Like a week later I am in the car with my roommate and the spot comes on the air. She is like “Isn’t that you?” I was like”That does sound like me. That’s weird. That is the audition I did” We listened and I was like “Oh my god! That is me.” They had taken my audition and they just put it on the air. They never actually booked me. My boss then went back and got me paid and everything for it. That was actually my first commercial by accident.
Then I moved to Chicago and I started doing players workshops and pursued the voice actor thing because I thought it was a hoot. Then I moved to LA which was like a whole new world out here with video games, Anime, cartoons and film. But that is how it started.
What has been your most challenging character to voice?
Michelle Ruff: There are two kinds of challenging. One is emotional and one is vocal. You can have a vocally challenging character in a video game. Or a character that ‘s going to be a little bit harder to attain and then you have to work a bit harder at. Then there’s the characters where you are in the booth and it’s just gut wrenching.
I just did a show called ‘Erased’, not sure if anyone has seen that. I play young Satoru. The content of the show is really difficult. It’s about child abuse and abduction. I mean, it is a tough show. I’m putting myself into that mindset of a ten or twelve year old boy. And being in the middle of a situation that you know in your head and you heart as an adult is not okay. But having to be in that and not judge it and just be vulnerable and be the character. That was probably the hardest for me. Like I would walk out of the booth and I was just wrecked for the day.
Have you had a chance to work with anyone that you looked up to or idolized?
Michelle Ruff: You know, every day. It’s interesting because all of the people that I work with I really admire so much. All the directors, even the engineers that I work with. The voice over talent. I have opportunities to work with celebrities but I feel like everyone in this business is taking a chance and is so courageous. So for me I learn from my peers, I look up to them. I gleam from everyone and we all gleam from each other. Different things that maybe we don’t have ourselves we can learn from someone else. Never miss an opportunity.
What would be some advice or suggestions you would to people who want to get into voice acting?
Michelle Ruff: I would say to them taking acting classes. Because it is not just about your voice, especially now in the business in LA. It is very much about your acting chops and who you are as an individual person. People really want that. They’re not as interested in the vocal quality as they are in your character. Some vocal quality can open the door for you. But if you get the door opened and you don’t have the acting chops to back it up it’s not going to last very long.
So I say take acting classes, take improv classes, study your craft and network. Do stuff, see if you even like it. Take an acting class and see if you like it. If you like it, then find a voice over coach. Get yourself into an area where there is voice over work available. I don’t know if there is stuff here, but I know there is in San Francisco. I am not sure about Sacramento. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.