Tiana Camacho’s resume stretches back over a decade, boasting titles that range from audio dramas to radio work to videogames and animation. A Brooklyn native and lifelong nerd, Camacho is best known for her work in multiple Pokémon entries (including Bea in Pokémon Journeys and Nessa in the mobile game Pokémon Masters EX) and for voicing Ermes Costello in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean.
Vrai sat down with Camacho at Otakon 2022 to ask her about her influences, her dream role, and the expectation put on marginalized public figures to act as educators.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and flow. Interview questions are presented in bold, responses in plain text.
Could you talk a little bit about your experiences when you were first coming to LA and auditioning as a mixed-race actor?
Well, when I came to LA it was really interesting, because I didn’t want my race to matter, right? I wanted it to be like “I don’t see why it should,” because we are just doing voices. When you really look at anime dubbing, it’s a lot of white people voicing Asian characters. So why should it matter what my race is, right? It shouldn’t even be a thing. So when I came here, I was very much hands off. I’m just not gonna mention my background unless people ask. And we’ll see how that goes for a little bit.
People noticed, obviously, that I wasn’t white. [dramatically] I am not a Caucasian person, at all.
So people, they would ask things and then I would clarify cause they ask. “Well, I’m Puerto Rican but mostly biracial, Black and Spanish. And I have a little bit of Indigenous ancestry through my grandfather, who was Mestizo. But for the most part I am a biracial person.” And then after a while I stopped getting sides for white characters. And it would be just Latina characters and Black characters. And that was where they put me. It was like, “well, I still got a little bit more opportunities than monoracial actors of color who were marginalized in that way,” but at the same time I wasn’t actually getting a lot of opportunities. That was something I had to really fight for and that was something I really need to advocate for myself for. Which was stressful, but I did it! And, uh, I don’t care anymore. I’m just doing my thing.
Has there been any positive change recently?
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I would say so. First of all, the thing is, the representation of, let’s say, Latin American anything is usually Mexico, right? Doesn’t really deviate from Mexico. And I’m not Mexican. I am Latin American, I am Latina, absolutely, there’s a lot of common threads there. But it’s either, everything I do it kind of has to be characters from these one or two countries. When I am specifically Latin-Caribbean. So, y’know, I don’t get a lot of sides for Puerto Rican characters, that’s not something I see a lot of representation for. That is starting to change.
The cool thing about that too is because I come from an Afro-Latina background, there’s starting to be more of that kind of journey in things. Disney’s Encanto was incredible for the representation that was in that, because that was the first time I saw a family—well, aside from Miles Morales in Into the Spiderverse when that came out, yes definitely—when I saw Encanto I was like, “oh my goodness, this is a very Latino family that looks exactly like mine.” Because of the whole Pepa side of the family, “I was like, that’s me.” Y’know?
You said at your panel yesterday [“Fandom & Diversity – Behind the Curtain”] that this has built a really tight-knit community among voice actors of color in the LA scene.
Right. We all look out for each other. Every single one of us looks out for each other. And we always have each other’s back. It’s not a competition. It’s more like we want everyone to win because we understand what we’re stacked up against.
You’ve talked about feeling comfortable being an educator but also that there is that burden of education.
Yeah, like I shouldn’t have to be but I’m comfortable doing it.
Could you put that into words for folks who might not be aware what the burden of education on marginalized folks is?
Sure, sure. When you’re learning about other people and you’re learning talking points about things like racism, sexism, transphobia, things like that, which are all intertwined with each other, there is sort of this whole idea that “you need to teach us stuff, and you have to do it for free.” Honestly, I kinda just wanna live my life like a normal person. I want to feel comfortable living my life and not have race be a thing, y’know what I mean? I think that’s literally everybody. We all want to not have this be a looming, overarching thing in [our] life.
But in all honesty, it’s my reality, and I have to live it every day. When you’re asking somebody questions about their lived experiences and their everyday, there might be a lot of really traumatic stuff for them that they have to unpack so that they can sit down and tell you why you’re being problematic or why certain things in society are not okay, when you have questions like that.And it was always really interesting, because I always noticed that the people that wanted to be educated the most just felt really entitled to my time for some reason.
There’s this whole idea that we have a lot of free time to teach people and do these things, but we don’t! I have to sustain myself. There’s articles written by people whose passion is specifically that, you can find those. I don’t mind educating people because I feel like I’m very good at connecting to people, and as someone’s who’s mixed-race, there’s certain things I’m not going to have to experience, and certain things I definitely do experience within that specific way of existing.
I like being the person to help understand and bridge that gap for people that, let’s say, have more to deal with than me. I feel like, it’s not really my responsibility but it’s a good thing to do, so I’ll do it. But like…I just wanna watch Netflix. And I just wanna have my White Castle Burger in the microwave, y’know? That’s it. I just want to be a person that just exists and doesn’t have to worry about existing. I think that’s what privilege is. It’s when you don’t have to think about it. Not that you had things to deal with, it’s that you don’t have to think about your life in relation to what you have to deal with.
When you were deciding as a young fan of animation to become a voice actor, who were the really big presences that led you into acting—the actors who really inspired you?
Tress MacNeille, Mary Kay Bergman, Cree Summer. I love them endlessly. Mary Kay Bergman’s range was so endless that I could never find her from show to show, and that sort of disappearing into a role and talent was something that I definitely admired about her. She was incredible.
Talking about either western animation or anime dubbing, is there a dream role, archetype, or something from a manga that hasn’t been adapted yet that you’d love to play?
I am dying to be in an eventual English dub of The Rose of Versailles. I love that show more than any other show, it is my favorite anime of all time. It is a shoujo classic, and the fact that it has not been dubbed and therefore not been as accessible to other people in the English-speaking world is what I would like to call a fucking crime.
It’s so sad!! Would you be shooting for Oscar, or Marie, or—?
Well, I feel like as an alto I would do really well with Oscar, but the thing is there’s other alto parts in that show. And if I get the audition I’ll probably submit for it, but I think I would prefer for a non-binary actor to take the role. Because the more that you unpack Oscar, and the more that you look at Oscar, you’re like, “there really is something that’s not cisgender about this character.” But I would not say that they’re binary transgender, I would [have] more of a non-binary read of the character.
And as far as I know…I’ve questioned my gender and my gender expression a lot, but for the most part I feel pretty cis. So I think somebody who understands the lived experience of being non-binary would probably be a better fit for Oscar than me. But like, would I read for it? Absolutely. But I would much prefer that the role go to somebody who is enby.
I would probably do really well as Madame du Barry. I could totally be drunk grandma, that’s really easy, and I do old women characters very sparingly, but I’m very good at it. I think Madame du Barry’s an excellent villain in that show with her Baby Bop-lookin ass. That dress looked terrible, the purple and green dress. And she just pure…she wasn’t even really pure evil. Her or Madame de Polignac, but I feel like Madame du Barry was a much stronger villain that Madame du Polignac in certain parts. Madame du Polignac was basically, “I’m just a rich woman doing rich woman things and doing whatever.”
Not quite so deliciously ham.
No, she’s not as ham. She’s just, “I’m in the thing.” But I would probably want to be Madame du Barry or something. I would just want a significant part on the show. If it is Oscar, cool, but it really doesn’t have to be. Because I’d much rather—my dream cast for Oscar is actually Marin Miller.
You’ve put this dream in my head now.
That’s what I want.
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