Ahead of Supanova Melbourne and Gold Coast, we were lucky enough to speak with Amanda Winn Lee, the voice of the inimitable Rei Ayanami from Evangelion (as well as Yui Ikari and Pen2), as well as Gally (a.k.a. Alita) from the original Battle Angel OVA. Winn Lee has also written and directed dubs for several anime, but most importantly, the (pure kino) End of Evangelion film!
As Winn Lee tells, being a voice actor can be a problem-solving process at times, especially when you have to make some strange… non-human sounds.
“For the [Pen2] mouth thing, because I co-directed the series with Matt [Greenfield], he and I were trying to figure out what to do for it, and I went, ‘Oh my god, what if I went *sound that is too hard to express in writing but if you know the show, you know what we’re talking about*, and I did this thing where I pinch my cheeks and shake my face, and he went, ‘Perfect! Moving on.’”
It’s no secret that Eva is a dark show, with End of Evangelion taking the series to even darker depths. Winn Lee reveals some backstory on what she describes as the film’s most “messed up” scene.
“It’s interesting, in that scene, I originally had… Okay so this is a million years ago before the internet, so I had three different translations of the script, just around me from people, there weren’t any online. I’d given Spike [Spencer, voice of Shinji] one of the translations and a copy of the video just to watch, to know what he was gonna be doing. And, at one point after that specific scene, he said, ‘I’m so f-ed up.’ And I had changed that to ‘I’m so disgusting’ or something like that, and Spike went, ‘No, that needs to stay, that’s perfect.’ I went, ‘Okay! You know the character, let’s do that then.’”
And of course, this leads us to the most hotly-debated line in all of Eva, a topic that still inspires rabid discussion and analysis to this day; “how disgusting.” The very last line of EoE.
“Some of [the crew/fans] didn’t like that I said ‘How disgusting,’ people said it should be ‘You’re disgusting,’ or it should be this, it should be that, or whatever, you know the literal translation was very open to interpretation, but once again, I asked Tiffany Grant (voice of Asuka), ‘What do you think is right?’ and that’s what she gave me.”
As someone who helped make Shinji the icon he is, Winn Lee discusses the shift in attitude towards the character in recent years, from hatred to empathy.
“It’s a completely different social atmosphere now,” she notes. “Back then it was, ‘Ohhh great another whiny teenager,’ now we’re like ‘You know what? We really need to start listening to teenagers when they’re upset, and when they’re not doing well.’ So I think people are taking that more seriously, I think that’s wonderful.”
Winn Lee also recounts the difficult (but entirely worthwhile) process of putting together the dub for End of Evangelion. Since many of the old cast had moved away from Texas, in order to get as many of them back as possible, recordings had to be done on the east and west coasts of the US. As you might imagine, not an extremely common practice in the industry, but Eva has always been very special.
“For me, it was super important to get the original cast back, we’d all been through this journey of this series, and it felt important to me that we take it to, what I thought was, the end of the journey,” she says. “And I’ll be honest, I’m friends with a lot of the actors, so I didn’t really wanna replace anyone. They’re good people, they work hard, I know that I can get a good read out of them, and I know that we can get this done and move on, we’ve been working on this for two years.”
Lastly, Winn Lee addresses the elephant looming over all post-2019 Eva discourse; the Netflix version, and in a very-on brand move, she had nothing but nice things to say about the new cast.
“Spike and I did one of our watch parties, where we raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and we watched the first six episodes of the new Eva dub, but then we met [the actors] and they’re all so adorable we can’t make fun of them anymore! I love them,” she enthuses.
Winn Lee and Spencer currently don’t have plans for another watch party, but if you’d like to be notified when they do, you can subscribe to Spike Spencer’s newsletter.
Winn Lee also left a message for her Australian fans!
“Thank you so much! Without fans, we’re just morons in a padded room makin’ funny noises. So thank you for being there for us!”
Catch Amanda Winn Lee at Supanova Melbourne (March 6-8) and Gold Coast (March 13-14), returning in June for Sydney and Perth. Evangelion ‘Central Dogma Access’ Passes are on sale now via Moshtix.