Interview: Voice of Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum, Sarah Natochenny, Reflects on 25 Years and Reveals What’s Next
In November 2022, Pokémon fans witnessed the beginning of the end of a 25-year journey. Series protagonist Ash Ketchum, also known as Satoshi in Japan, finally became “the very best” and achieved the World Champion title in Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series. For actress Sarah Natochenny, who’s been the English voice of Ash since 2006, this is a big moment with lots of mixed emotions, as the series moves toward the conclusion of Ash’s story in its final episodes.
The English dubbed episodes featuring Ash’s victory have yet to be released. “I’ve finally recorded it! It was very difficult,” Natochenny told The Mary Sue via email. “I played a very happy Ash through tears that were both happy and sad. I’m such a nostalgic, sentimental person, I’m savoring every second, every line, every expression, every last moment I have with him. To see him through that moment after 17 years was absolutely magical.”
“Ash has stayed the same age all this time, but he has matured. His growth is very clear in the XY-XYZ arcs. I’ve come to find the protagonist within me through playing Ash and similar characters,” she said. “I discovered how adventurous and tenacious I really am. Actors are never too far from the characters they play, so every role is an opportunity for intense introspection.”
Natochenny highlighted the times she “got to step out of his normal self,” including when she “got to rap, play Evil Ash, British Ash, [and] perform on stage.” Her favorite scenes for Ash himself include “his moment with Serena [a Pokémon Performer and one of Ash’s traveling companions in the Kalos region] and every time he merged with Greninja.”
In our correspondence, Natochenny admitted that her own Pokémon team “changes day to day,” but right now, she favors the lineup of “Pikachu, Charizard, Greninja, Gyarados, Mewtwo and Weedle.”
Pokémon debuted in the U.S. in August 1998 with the Game Boy titles Pokémon: Red and Blue, as well as trading cards and the anime series. At the time, Natochenny was just 11 years old, and she became the English voice for Ash Ketchum in 2006, when she was 18.
“I still pinch myself and have to convince myself that this is my life. I have a deep love, respect, and appreciation for all aspects of the Pokémon franchise and wish everyone involved continued success in building a legendary universe,” she told us.
This year, the Pokémon Company will launch a new series in its anime franchise, following new protagonists Liko and Roy as they train their teams in the Paldea region. This is also the setting for Pokémon: Scarlet and Violet, the latest game in the Nintendo video game series, and the anime and video game share starter Pokémon Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly.
The new series has yet to receive an international release date, and the English names for its protagonists also have yet to be revealed. Whenever the currently-untitled new series does air, Natochenny will be viewing as a fan, rather than someone involved in its production.
“I’m here with buckets of popcorn for it. I have utmost faith that the people who brought us 25 years of successful television are going to knock this out of the park,” she said.
As for her upcoming projects, Natochenny teased that she’ll be announcing roles in two shows “soon,” and that she’s “working on a script for a live action feature about a very famous voice actor who gets fired from a long time show and spirals out of control,” as well as an animated series. Natochenny will also be traveling to conventions to meet more fans in 2023, and she’ll share updates and appearance dates on social media @sarahnatochenny.
“Be the very best, like no one ever was,” she says. “And do it with love.”
(featured image: The Pokémon Company)
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