(Coordinator of International Relations in Shiga Prefecture, 1993-1995)
By Jessica Tang, JETAASC Career/Networking Coordinator (Assistant Language Teacher in Saga Prefecture, 2008-2009)
In the third interview of our Alumni Spotlight Series, JETAASC was honored to speak with Yuri Lowenthal, an alumnus best known for his leading voice-over roles in the “Naruto” anime, the “Ben-10” cartoon series, and the “Prince of Persia” video games. Lowenthal unveils his post-JET experience and what it is like to be living his dream.
“The most interesting actors are actors who lead interesting lives. Being a JET has been a huge part of me leading an interesting life,” Yuri Lowenthal shared about a driving force to his success in the voice-over industry. Prior to his JET journey in Japan, he attended The College of William & Mary in Virginia. He was destined for a worldly upbringing as his father worked in the Foreign Service. Lowenthal was born in Ohio and grew up in Tennessee, North Virginia, and West and North Africa.
After four years of Japanese in college as an East Asian Studies Major and studying abroad in Osaka his junior year, Lowenthal became a CIR for two years in Shiga Prefecture (famous for Lake Biwa). “Being a CIR and sometimes having to make things up as I went along helped with my confidence,” he remarked. “My Japanese might not have been perfect, but I had to dive right in [my work].”
Lowenthal began acting towards the end of high school when he auditioned for a play and fell in love with the art. He took theater classes in college and continued to do performance-based activities while on the JET Program. “I did sketch comedy, butoh, dance, Suzuki-style theater, and made independent movies with other JETs.” Then came a turning point when Lowenthal committed himself to try acting after returning to the U.S. post-JET. “I didn’t want it to be one of those things I regretted not taking the chance to do.”
Like many actors first starting out, he tried the two cities he thought would be optimal for acting. “I loved New York, and hated L.A.,” Lowenthal recalled humorously. After six years in New York working with Japanese production companies and Off-Broadway theater, he moved cross-country to Los Angeles and serendipitously got married along the way. “I proposed in Ohio to my girlfriend, we got married in Las Vegas, and ended in L.A.”
In Los Angeles, Lowenthal along with his wife Tara Platt, now also an accomplished voice-over artist, began to explore all of their entertainment career options. “It’s a hard road with no guarantees. We started thinking about voice-over work, though neither of us had really considered it before.” While doing temporary work for a year, Lowenthal and Platt took a voice-over class and made a “demo reel” (an equivalent of a head shot or resume) and luckily came across an opportune chance. “The guy who taught the class got a job directing Japanese anime, asked me to audition, and I got the job. You could say it was my entrée into the industry.” After a year and a half of small anime jobs, Lowenthal built up enough work to leave his day job and started voice-overs full-time.
In building a career in the voice-over industry, Lowenthal advises heavily working on the business end. “The work really is in constant promotion, auditioning, and networking. You can’t survive on one job and none of the jobs last forever.”
He stressed the need for having drive and getting exposure to the public. “Make yourself so readily available that if someone needs you, they can easily check you out online.” In fact, Lowenthal and Platt have fielded so many queries about their industry that they have even written a book about it called “The Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic” which was officially released in March 2010.
With roles such as “Ben Tennyson” on the popular “Ben-10” series and “Sasuke Uchiha” on the “Naruto” anime, much of Lowenthal’s fan base is children. His friends have watched the shows with their children and noticed Lowenthal’s name as the main character and requested that he leave a message for their children as a favor. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has even had events where children can go to the studio to watch a show recording. “One of the favorite parts of my job is the ability to make a connection with them,” said Lowenthal. “It energizes me as an actor.”
As for JET influencing his career, Lowenthal recalled he gained many positive experiences. “To go into JET, you have to be open to experiences and have a positive spin on things because it’s not always easy and you have to be patient.” He acknowledged that there is not always an immediate connection to the JET experience and future career paths, though one should “trust that your experiences work for the better and make you a stronger person.”
Lowenthal is currently working on a “mockumentary” called “Con Artists”, a behind the scenes look into the convention circuit. You can also catch him as the voice of the “Crawler Splicer” in the “BioShock 2” video game and in upcoming top-secret video games now in production. For more information about Lowenthal’s work, please visit www.YuriLowenthal.com and check out his book at www.voiceovervoiceactor.com for helpful tips about starting a career in the voice-over industry.