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‘Spy x Family CODE: White’ Interview: Megan Shipman & Natalie Van Sistine

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I recently had the pleasure to sit down and talk to two of the English voice cast for Spy x Family CODE: White, Megan Shipman, who voices Anya Forger, and Natalie Van Sistine who voices Yor Forger. We chatted about the new film and their hit anime series Spy x Family, what makes the characters so special, the preparation for and what it was like being cast in the hit anime series.

The interview with Spy x Family CODE: White stars Megan Shipman & Natalie Van Sistine (Anya & Yor Forger)

[Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. You can listen to the full interview below, find it most places podcasts are available or read on.]

Lizzie: Did you ever expect that that Spy x Family would become such a global phenomenon when you started?

Megan Shipman: You know, you always like think, Oh, well, maybe this one might kind of be a big deal. Like, we were anticipating… but you could never anticipate how big something’s going to be. So it was really something to kind of watch it go from like, “Okay, maybe like a bunch of anime fans will like this a lot,” to now it’s kind of exploded into where it’s a lot of people’s first anime they’ve ever watched. And so, yeah, it’s been really special to just kind of see it explode. And you know, a lot of people just connect with it, and watch something for the first time that they’ve never watched before, like anime. So yeah, it’s been really fun to see it kind of just boom.

Natalie Van Sistine: Yeah, it’s something you kind of hope might happen. Especially if you’re like, Oh, I’ve been working on this project for a while and fell in love with it. And now you’re like, “Oh, I want everyone else to love it as much as I do.” And that very rarely happens. Not because stuff isn’t good. But just because, you know, sometimes it just has to kind of be the perfect storm of things. And that’s not always anything you can predict. And you can kind of hope for it.

So I was talking with someone at a convention yesterday about how kind of the “aha moment” for me especially was… I mean, the manga [created by Tatsuya Endo] I had read ahead of time and was already really good. But the proposal scene, like seeing that animated, and seeing how good that was in episode two, I was like, this is so special, this is really going to be something special. I didn’t know what that meant yet. And it’s still exceeded my expectations. But yeah, I think there were some early indicators, and you always hope, but I’m glad it worked out.

Spy x Family CODE White poster

About the Forger family dynamics and what makes Spy x Family so special

Lizzie: It wasn’t my first anime, My Hero Academia was my first one. And then my friend put me on to this one, which I absolutely love. And, you know, one of my favorite things about it is the family dynamics and how they’re all sort of growing together. I think it makes it really what makes it accessible to people. Also, there’s lots of badass action and fun stuff, and political intrigue, and all this other stuff, which is a little bit more adult. Of course, Anya is so, so adorable. But I wonder, what do you think about the family dynamics? What about the family dynamics do you think works so well?

Megan Shipman: It’s really such a good, I guess, found family dynamic. Like yeah, like you were saying, it’s really sweet to kind of watch people who don’t really have anyone else, kind of find a place with each other. And even though it’s done under the guise of, “oh, I need a fake family,” or “I need this so that I don’t look suspicious,” it becomes something I think that they need, especially for the adults, like for Yor and Loid. It’s more of a “oh, I need this. To maintain,” you know, I don’t know, what’s the word I’m looking for. But you know what I mean. But yeah, it’s more out of accessibility for them.

And then for Anya, it’s more of like, “well, I hope this works out.” You know, and it does, and I think it’s really sweet how they kind of have, just without them realizing it, they all kind of, for lack of a better term, now just kind of fall in love with each other. Unknowingly. Like they don’t realize it yet, but they all really love being together and just spending time together. And I think that’s really special. So I love that what started as something out of a need, or to not raise suspicion, has become this very, very sweet dynamic.

Natalie Van Sistine: Yeah, I think a big thing- all of that. Absolutely. Yeah. And what also comes to mind too is there’s a lot of communication that’s really good, too. And even though they’re all kind of hiding their big secret, like about kind of who they really are, in a certain way, when it comes to the family dynamic, and honestly say the things that really matter in terms of them being able to function as a family, they’re very communicative. So even when there are misunderstandings, that’s a really good template in an odd way to talk through; like, “oh, I misunderstood this.”

Yor Forger in Spy x Family CODE: White
Yor Forger in Spy x Family CODE: White (Tatsuya Endo/Shueisha)

Natalie Van Sistine: That even happens in the movie, Where Yor thinks something, and then I love how Loid is always so quick to reassure her; or how, when Loid is working with Anya, at school, he’s quick to realize, “okay, I might be going over the top, I might be forcing this in a wrong way. And even though I’m doing this for the mission, I also don’t want to exhaust her, maybe I’m expecting too much out of a child;” and he and Yor brainstorming ways to approach Anya’s education differently.

And just that communication dynamic is a theme through the show where they’re all problem-solving together, and where they are all… You know, sometimes they have their preconceived notion of what normal is, and what a family is supposed to look like, but overall, they come to understand, “Okay, well, maybe that’s not always the case.” And sometimes us doing things our own unique way can still be just as successful and valid, and often when they kind of make that admission too- I love how a lot of the periphery characters are like, “You guys are such a cute family. You’re so amazing.” So I think that’s that’s a big thing that I love about the show.

Megan Shipman and Natalie Van Sistine on their favorite desserts

Lizzie: With the movie in mind. I really had to ask you what is your favorite dessert?

Megan Shipman: Oh, I love anything with chocolate. So I mean, it’s I usually like chocolate mousse or chocolate cake or so anything like chocolate because that’s easy for me.

Anya Forger in Spy x Family CODE White
Anya is on the hunt for a very special dessert in Spy x Family CODE: White (Tatsuya Endo/Shueisha)

Natalie Van Sistine: I’m a big fan of a like a good German bakery desserts, especially my great grandma had an amazing recipe for Kringle which is kind of like a flaky pastry with a fruit filling and a glaze over the top, which is really good. So stuff that’s not super, super sweet, but it’s nice and rich. Love that. That’s great.

On their experience getting cast and preparing to play Anya and Yor Forger

Lizzie: What was your experience of getting cast? Did you audition for anything else in the series?

Megan Shipman: Yeah, we auditioned for the show, and initially, it was just I think the only characters you could audition for were Twilight, Yor, and Anya. So I sent in auditions for Yor and Anya, but I definitely was more comfortable in Anya’s range. And so I spent a little bit of time kind of watching trailers and seeing what Anya was about. And I very quickly was able to see like she’s the funny one, she’s the comedic one. So I made everything super over the top, and yeah, it was great and just kind of sent it off and said “well, I hope that happens.” So when we got cast, it was a really nice surprise because I really enjoyed doing the audition.

Natalie Van Sistine: Yeah, we got those three auditions and I did the same. I watched some of the trailers because I wanted to get a sense of what they all sounded like, and I ran into the fact that Yor is not in any of the trailers. So I was like, oh, no. I gotta pivot here. But also I realized pretty quickly I’m probably not in a range of something where I have a really strong chance to – I don’t tend to play younger children characters that young especially – so I was like, okay, I think I’m going to focus on Yor. And when I first read the copy, I was kind of thinking Yor was just very confident, like total like definition, just assassin, I was just totally thinking assassin. And I could tell, I still was trying to grasp the full breadth of her character. And there was like a nuance there that I still wasn’t totally connecting with.

Yor Forger in Spy x Family Code: White
Yor Forger in Spy x Family Code: White (Tatsuya Endo/Shueisha)

I got really lucky that we did have a copy of the first volume of the manga that we picked up at some point in the house. And I went, you know what? I’m going to do this, I think there’s going to be a big enough show that I should take some time, and I’m going to go read the manga, and see if that helps me understand Yor’s character a lot better. And that was like the big eye-opening moment where I realized how much her civilian persona, and her anxiety, and how much she struggles with her confidence, just in her day-to-day life, was really a big factor. And how much of the dichotomy she had between that and her assassin persona. And so that really helped that when I went back and started recording my lines for the audition. I could really have that context in mind and to start focusing on that. And then when I actually was cast, and we got in the booth, we played with that even more, we brought that out even more, and I’m really happy with where that ended up as a result.

On the influence of the Japanese voice artists’ performances on their own

Lizzie: I was curious if you guys listened to the Japanese versions of the episodes before? Do you go and to try to get anything from those voice artists at all?

Megan Shipman: We do. We get to watch the Japanese before every single line and every scene we do. So it’s always super nice to have context of like, timing and energy. And we get to base it off of what they do. And they’re so talented and wonderful. And I always am just laughing at Anya, and then I go oh, no, I have to be that funny. So it’s always really fun to like, hear them and see what they’ve done. Because it’s such a treat. Because we want to make it as as as true to the original as possible. And so it’s always great to see them, see them and hear them. So. Yeah.

Natalie Van Sistine: Yeah, every single anime we’re always referencing every single line, every single performance, we always hear exactly what they’ve done immediately before we record and so that definitely informs a lot of our decisions. And it’s really helpful for us to match and hopefully stay true to that.

[Note: In the Japanese version, Anya is voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki and Yor is voiced by Saori Hayami]

Spy x Family is truely a delightful watch!

Spy x Family CODE: White is now in theaters, and you can catch the Spy x Family series currently on Crunchyroll (also available to watch on Hulu). Have you seen the series or the movie yet? Let us know what you think on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

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Lizzie Hill

I'm a lifelong fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies. In July 2021, I launched The Cosmic Circus as Editor-In-Chief with a small but passionate group of writers. @MsLizzieHill on Twitter and Instagram.

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