We had the good fortune of connecting with Akira Lee Watanabe and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Akira, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
Listening; Actively and deeply. I think I owe any progression in my career to this habit. From meeting someone new and making an impression to getting feedback from directors/clients. Listening to what they say and what they don’t say really helped me connect with the work and the people I’m working with. In my creative field, you are valued for what you bring to the table and how you can serve the project. As they say, the quality of your answer comes from the quality of the question you ask. You’re just a better artist when you have the habit to listen. Also, we do a lot of creating characters so we are natural collectors of stories. The more I hold a conversation with people every day and listen to their life, beliefs, and perspectives, the more I can draw on them and make my work more rounded.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a Voice-over artist, Actor and Host. I think what sets me apart is that I really come from an international background. I was born in Japan, my heritage is Korean/Japanese, I went to an American school, and started my career in the UK. I am super niche and that can be a double-edged sword sometimes. I’m really grateful and proud of working on projects that I have personal attachments to. I worked on ‘Tom Clancy’s Division 2’, which as a gamer I was excited about. Then I voiced Disney audiobooks for kids which was amazing since I grew up with them. I also was in BBC’s Radio 3 production of ‘Thousand Cranes’ which is set in Yokohama, my home town. These are the unpredictable exciting perks of the job. I got to where I am today by always making sure that I have a ‘gut check’ and asking myself “which choice will you regret not taking”? It wasn’t easy because nobody in my family or circle was in the industry. I had to forge my way into figuring things out often by trial and error. I think I overcame the challenges thrown at me purely by not giving up. I’ve learned so many lessons but at the end of the day, the biggest thing I learned is that the more that you know yourself the easier the journey will be. I think when you are in a field where so many things are unpredictable, you sometimes lose your bearing. The more you understand yourself and know who you are, the easier you can let things go and keep going.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For food, I will take them to Nong Lá for amazing Vietnamese food, Spartina LA for great pasta, or for a quiet dinner and ambience Cavatina. I’m not usually a dessert kind of person but Shakey Alibi on Beverly has waffles to die for. For drinks, I love coffee so I will take them to Andante Coffee on Beverly, Stone Street Cafe on Melrose, and Coffee for Sasquatch also on Melrose. To visit/hang Runyon Canyon Park for a good hike, Hermosa Beach for a beach day, and Highland Park Bowl for bowling.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m so blessed to have such amazing people in my life who has supported and inspired me throughout my journey. There is Laura Russell; My best friend, cheerleader and brilliant mind; She’s the Head of Development at SLNda UK: A production company that is heading up projects examining UK street culture, musical diversity, and the spectrum of gender identity, telling the stories of modern, multicultural Britain. And then there is Nagajan Modhwadhia who has been my mentor, friend and brilliant strategist. He is also one of the most giving, kindest people I know. He is always expanding to be better and thinking outside of the box. There’s Crystal M Lee, my manager, eternal supporter, and wonderful human being. She is a 20+ year retired U.S. Air Force and disabled veteran who set up her own Voice-Over business and is a constant inspiration for me. There’s also Cheryl Neve, an inspiring British female director who is one of the most dedicated and talented people I know. She’s such a delight that naturally everyone gravitates toward her. Last but not least, I couldn’t go through the list without mentioning Ashley Walters. He is one of my supporters and such an inspiring person; I am grateful to have worked with him in different ways in the past 3-4 years and he is one of the most hard-working creatives out there. His work ethic, empathy, authenticity and generosity always inspire me to do better. I think a lot of people feel that way; He is so grounded and wonderful.

Website: https://www.akiraleewatanabe.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/akiraleewatanabe/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/akira-lee-watanabe

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.