When you watch any of Funimation's biggest series, the odds are good that Colleen Clinkenbeard is involved somehow.

As Monkey D. Luffy, she provides the American voice for the lead of the most popular series in the world. Add to that Erza Scarlet in “Fairy Tail,” Riza Hawkeye in “Fullmetal Alchemist,” Mai in all things “Dragon Ball” since “Kai,” Hana in “Wolf Children” and dozens and dozens of other roles, lead and supporting, across a wide spectrum of series. Add to that an extensive resume as ADR director and line producer, and she is a major creative force in the American anime industry.

Clinkenbeard will be a guest of honor at Sangawa Project, Pittsburgh's 18+ Japanese pop culture convention, December 8-10 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Greentree.

The Swerve Magazine: You have played a number of lead roles in long-running series. Beyond the job security, does tackling these roles with ongoing character development hold a particular appeal to you as a performer?

Colleen Clinkenbeard: Oh, I far prefer the ongoing roles, to be sure. One of the sad truths about being an actress in anime series is that we typically get 12 episodes to explore a character—25 if we’re lucky. But with some of the larger universes like “One Piece,” “Fairy Tail,” and “My Hero Academia,” we get a chance to really KNOW our characters inside and out. I instinctively know how Luffy will react in any given situation. It’s an amazing feeling to be so in tune with the person you’re voicing; it makes it feel more like a relationship and less like an imitation.

SM: You likely have many more years of voicing Luffy and watching him grow. Of the other characters you have voiced, who is the one you wish you could have spent more time with?

CC: I dearly wish they had made a second season of “Good Luck Girl.” Momiji was half god and half Bugs Bunny, and 100% hilarious. I’d play her every day if I could.

SM: Of course, “One Piece,” “Fairy Tail,” and “Dragon Ball” are hugely popular epics, but have you ever been surprised at how fans have connected to a character or a smaller series that you have been a part of?

CC: There are several shows that get more love and attention than I expected them to, though they all deserve it! “Rosario+Vampire” comes to mind. I didn’t know, while recording, that that show would be as popular as it eventually became. One show that I desperately wanted to become popular and did, in fact, develop something of a cult following, is “Steins; Gate.” It’s so good. So, so, good. I am relieved and thankful that it got the attention it deserved, despite a slower start.

SM: How have your experiences as both actor and director informed your work on the opposite side of the recording booth?

CC: Being a director makes you about 10 times better at acting, and vice versa. That’s why there’s so much of an incestuous relationship between the two roles in any studio. We borrow actors when we need new directors, and every director eventually does some acting. Anytime you can develop a better sense of a project or industry, and view the process in a more 3-dimensional way, you will find yourself getting better at the task you originally attempted. I don’t think that’s limited to acting and directing.

SM: How does your approach change between acting in a series and directing/producing a series?

CC: Acting is so carefree. My job is to go into the booth, get in the character’s head, and trust the hell out of my director. As a director, there’s just so much more to think about. You have to know the project inside and out, make decisions about the original intentions and how far you can stray from them without losing something in the translation, and you have to basically manipulate the actors into feeling the way you do about their characters so you’re all on the same page and you get what you want from them. It’s not as fun as acting, but it can be far more rewarding.

SM: As a director, is it challenging to develop recording schedules that do not overtax the actors' voices while respecting the company's release schedule?

CC: It can be, yes, especially with the newer Simuldub schedules Funimation has been exploring. We are a boon to actors because we have SO MUCH work for them these days, but we have to be cognizant of the tipping point when we’re asking too much of one person’s voice. I think that’s sort of similar to the entirety of the LA voice industry. There’s only so much Troy Baker to go around, so sometimes you have to look for the new Troy Baker.

SM: With a concurrently-released series such as “My Hero Academia,” is it more difficult to cast the series? Does scheduling recording sessions differ much from more traditionally-released series?

CC: I just have to have a very careful eye on the big picture with “MHA.” I read the manga pretty religiously, so I have a good idea of what characters will be coming up in a season or two, and I make sure to reserve an amazing voice actor for those roles, rather than waste them on episodic characters. Now, there’s only so long that will work. Mike McFarland played that game with “One Piece,” but he has long since run out of his initial reserves and started double casting and desperately hunting new talent. I both hope and fear I will one day run into that problem with “MHA.” Recording sessions are about the same as far as scheduling, although I did strategically cast most of Class 1-A with people who work in the building. That’s been awfully handy.

Do you think actors tend to soldier through more for you, as it is a bit awkward to complain to the voice of Luffy about having to shout?

CC: Hah hah hah!! YES. And boy, do I milk it. I’ve had any number of people say they feel like they can’t complain when it’s a hard session because of what I’ve had to do with my voice. But then again, it also gives me a very good perspective of what it feels like to taste blood and know you’ve gone too far. I don’t ever want to push people that hard. There’s always another solution, and it’s not worth a career to get that scream just right.