Interview: Voice Actress and Musician Kylie McNeill on Her Role in ‘Belle’

Earlier this month, Belle, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, had its wide theatrical release. Like many a feature-length anime, GKids was responsible for the English dub. The casting was announced publicly on December 9, 2021, and while many of the supporting actors and actresses were well established, the role of Suzu/Belle was given to newcomer Kylie McNeill. Awards Radar had the opportunity to sit down with Kylie and discuss her work on the film, and what she brought to the film’s English dub.

Read the full interview transcribed below.

Benjamin Wiebe: Seeing as Belle was your debut within the film industry, what was the process for getting involved with the film?

Kylie McNeill: Belle is my first feature film, and I auditioned in August initially. And about a month later, I was contacted about callbacks. It wasn’t until October that I found out I had the role, so the auditioning process was quite long; albeit very worth it. I mean, working on Belle, on this film, has been a dream come true.

BW: What do you feel that you brought to the role of Suzu? How did you distinguish your portrayal of Suzu from the work of Kaho Nakamura?

KM: So once I found out I had gotten the role, I was given a link to the subtitled version of the film. And I cried through the film, it was so beautiful. And I was instantly a fan of Kaho Nakamura, through listening to the soundtrack of Belle and her own music. So when approaching this role that was already performed so beautifully, I was definitely a little nervous. But, I think I made sure I was approaching it not from a place of emulation and copying, but rather from my own experiences. I wanted to make my portrayal of Belle my own as much as possible. Suzu is a shy, introverted high schooler that’s drawn to music. And I found a lot of my past self in her character, especially as I graduated High school a little over 2 years ago. So that personal experience of being that shy, of loving music but now knowing how to express myself, really informed how I portrayed Suzu.

BW: The English dub cast was chosen around the same time for the project. Did you get to meet them and learn anything from these veteran actors?

KM: Sadly I did not get to work with, or even meet, the other VA’s, in person or over zoom. We all recorded at different times, so sometimes they would have their lines recorded for a scene before me and I would react to it. At other times, I would be the first person to record the lines for a scene. And so, I had to adapt my own acting around it. When my other English Voice Actors hadn’t yet recorded, I would base my reactions on the Japanese VA’s. And later, once all the others had recorded, I got to go back and rerecord any lines that were out of place. So it was a very interesting approach to the material, but I really do hope to meet the other cast members someday.

BW: When did you first start working on Belle? I presume this was mostly a pandemic project for you.

KM: Yeah, It definitely was a pandemic project. It happened really quickly, once the auditioning process came to an end. So while it took nearly two months to get the role, the actual recording process only took about a month. And work started immediately after being cast for the film. It was crazy to me because each element of the film just flew by. For example, the music was recorded in about 7 days of work. And the dubbing of the film took about 20 days of work as well. It was a fast and furious project.

BM: What was it like working with the original music team for the project? How did recording the translated songs challenge you?

KM: To answer your first question, working with the original composers was incredible. They were all so kind, frequently assuring me that this would be my version of the songs. They took a lot of the pressure off of me, telling me I didn’t need to copy Kaho or Louane, who did the French version. And they pushed me to make the songs my own, so working with them was amazing. They are all musical geniuses. As for the difficulty of this project, a lot of it stems from the rhythms of these songs. Take the first song, U, for example. It’s got a fast tempo, with a lot of words on partial beats making for a unique challenge. The composer  Ludwig did a fantastic job with translating the songs and really helped me through it. Sometimes he would tell me, “Kylie, you’re rhythm is off, we need to try it again.”

BW: This is your debut film. Where do you hope to go after Belle? What will you be working on next?

KM: I hope to be pursuing my own original music, I’ve been songwriting since I was 15, now I am 19, soon to be 20 in a month, so I hope to persue that. I really want to have an album out there, and that’s the big goal I have right now.

BM: Thank you so much for your time, it was a pleasure talking to you. 

KM: Thank you very much!



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Written by benjaminwiebe

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