Glenwood Native Emily Fajardo Turns Passion For The Arts Into Successful Career As Voice Actress, Director

Voice actress and director Emily Fajardo, a Glenwood Community High School graduate.

Emily Fajardo in 1996. (Courtesy photo)

One Piece, Bananya And The Curious Bunch and My Hero Academia are three of the anime shows Emily Fajardo has played a big part in. (Courtesy - Crunchyroll).

A Glenwood Community High School graduate’s artistic aptitude and life experiences have taken her on a unique journey to a budding career in the entertainment industry.

Voice actress, writer, graphic designer, visual artist, illustrator, photo editor . . . those are just some of the many hats Emily Fajardo has worn over the past decade leading up to her current position as a voice director for Crunchyroll, one of the largest video on-demand streaming services in the world.

As a director in the voice-over process, Fajardo is responsible for directing English-speaking actors and actresses during the dubbing of animated shows created in Japan, known as anime.

“Crunchyroll is a big anime company, owned by Sony. We do English dubs of all these Japanese cartoons,” Fajardo said. “My job primarily is to work with actors to find the right emotional read for each moment.

“We are also matching ‘flip-flops’ because everything in a Japanese cartoon is animated for Japanese. So, the mouth moves in a way so that it fits those words rather than what the English equivalent would be. We have the job of taking the translation of that dialogue and finding a way to make the same idea fit into those flip flops and conveying it in a way that is still convincing and still connects emotionally with the audience.”

Fajardo works with the actors on a daily basis at the Crunchyroll studio in Dallas. She also has an instrumental role in casting characters for the shows being produced at the studio.

“I do the casting for any new characters, so I will hold auditions for different things” she noted. “The last audition I ran, we had 1,600 people that read for it. So, I just take days at a time and listen through, bring people in and do callbacks. Yes, it can be chaotic but a very fun process to cast these things.”

In December 2022, Fajardo was chosen to be the lead director for a series called One Piece – regarded as one of the most popular and most successful anime shows of all time. The show has been airing in Japan since 1999 and started getting dubbed in the U.S. five years later. It has an international audience of millions. A live action version of the show debuted on Netflix in 2023.

“It’s been running forever and there’s about 1,200 actors in it, so I’m working with different people from all over the place all the time,” Fajardo said. “It runs every single week. I’ve directed about 150 (episodes) at this point.”

The storyline of One Piece focuses on the adventures of a pirate and his crew searching for a mythical treasure known as the “One Piece” in order to become the next “King of the Pirates.”

The show is geared toward pre-teen and teenaged boys, Fajardo said, but it’s become popular with all ages and genders.

“The more it spreads, the more it is loved by practically everybody,” she said. “It is this very sweet story about friendship. It’s funny, colorful and full of life and everybody is extremely expressive in it, which presents a real challenge for the actors.

“I think that people really resonate with how powerful the message of people coming together is and how much it teaches you to treasure friendships.”

One Piece can be viewed from the Crunchyroll website, the Crunchyroll app and on Netflix.

Voice Acting

Fajardo, 32, refers to voice directing as her “full-time” job, but she also does a good share of voice acting in animated shows and video games, sometimes playing multiple characters in a single production. Fajardo estimates that she’s voiced around 200 characters.

“Usually, it’s one character, but depending on the show, it can be multiple,” she said. “I’ve played twins before,  I’ve done video games where I’ve played up to 14 characters, but it really depends on the project.”

Fajardo prefers roles that allow her to use her own voice, but often she’s required to speak with a tone that more closely matches the character she’s playing.

“I think it’s easier to do my own voice, but more often I’ve been asked to do really zany stuff,” she said. ‘I’ve kind of developed a reputation for doing a lot of zany stuff. I get asked to do that more often than not.”

Fajardo has often been cast as a villainous, including the character Sarahebi in One Piece.

Some of her other more well-known acting roles include the characters of  Bojji in Ranking of Kings, Rem in Trigun Stampede, Eleanor in Borderlands 3, Tenko in My Hero Academia and Bananya in Bananya and the Curious Bunch.

“Voice work is just acting but in a different setting,” she said. “The challenge in voice work, in particular, is that we don’t have another actor to play off of so when you’re in a voice-over booth, it’s just you and you have a director and an engineer on the other side of the glass talking to you. Other than that, you don’t have anyone to play off of. You’re not matching energy with anybody – it’s just you.”

Growing Up In Glenwood

Fajardo said her interest in acting and theater can be traced to her childhood days in Glenwood. It was a childhood that was both enlightening and challenging at the same time. At the age of 9, she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a debilitating autoimmune disorder that often prevented her from going to school and doing other activities.

“It manifests in ways that are fairly unpredictable,” Fajardo said. “There were a lot of times where I couldn’t walk. I had a lot of vascular issues and I would have legs go numb.”

“I wasn’t able to walk for a long time so I was home quite a bit and I would learn to do new stuff, research a lot of different things, look into voiceover, art, acting, directing and writing – all of those things online. I learned a lot of new things (on my own). I found a lot of fun even though the situation was not fun.”

Fajardo said she’s always had a love of learning, which is a direct result of being raised by two educators. Her father Fidel is a professor at Creighton University and her mother Deb a teacher at Northeast Elementary School in Glenwood.

“Both of them really instilled the love of learning in me from a very young age,” she said. “They taught me how important it is for people to learn new things.”

Fajardo said she’s very appreciative of the opportunities and exposure to the arts she had growing up in Glenwood – at school and with groups like the Mills Masquers. She considers her parents to be her primary mentors but also received valuable guidance from many teachers, including Mavis Miller in the third grade and vocal music director Kay Fast and art teacher Dan Dosen in high school.

Miller encouraged Fajardo to pursue her artistic interests and talents at a young age and even introduced her to Glenwood native Don Hall, an Oscar-winning animator and filmmaker.
 “She (Miller) was probably one of the biggest influences on me growing up,” Fajardo said. “She knew how much I loved art. I think she saw that spark in me. I loved movies and creating so she had him (Hall) come in and show us what he was working on - Tarzan and little bit of TheEmperor’s New Groove at the time. We all got to talk to him. That made a big impact on me.”

Fajardo, a 2009 GCHS graduate, said she’s forever grateful for not only the opportunities she had in Glenwood as a child, but also for the outpouring of support and generosity she received after her diagnosis was made public. She vividly remembers a community fundraiser that helped make it possible for her to receive the extensive physical therapy treatment prescribed by her doctor.

Fajardo still makes it back to Glenwood regularly.

‘Dream Job’

Following her graduation from high school, Fajardo enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis where she studied art and design. At WashU, she continued her focus on “learning new things” and gaining valuable hands-on experience in areas that would help her build a resume.

“I got to college and I had found voice over online,” she said. “I met some people through different forums that kind of showed me the ropes on that and I learned how to audition online and submitted for some independent animation and video games. I did a lot of theater in college as well.

“I have a minor in theater from WashU, so I learned a lot about acting and directing there. I kept my self-teaching up, too, quite a bit. I would go into the music practice rooms and record myself and try different sounds.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Fajardo did some work as a designer, photographer, illustrator and photo editor, even spending about a year working for The Onion, a popular satirical news website.

She later moved to Texas with the intent of pursuing a master’s degree in animation.

“I got a little ways into that and realized it wasn’t for me,” she said. “But, that was also how I stumbled upon what was Funimation and is now Crunchyroll.”

At Crunchyroll, Fajardo said she’s found her calling with work that not only showcases her artistic talents, but also inspires creativity and expression.

“I really love this work. I don’t see myself going anywhere, but you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball,” she said. “I feel like this is the dream job for me. Voice directing in particular is really the professional love of my life.”

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