It’s the end of an era as the final Pokémon episodes with Ash Ketchum are here. Sarah Natochenny, who has voiced Ash for 17 years, spoke to Otaku USA about what Ash has meant to her, the parallels she and the character have, and how Pokémon inspired a pet fostering organization.
How did you first get involved with Pokémon?
I studied acting at Lee Strasberg and improv at the UCB and Magnet theaters. A wonderful English teacher at Brooklyn Tech High School introduced me to a manager who sent me on that audition. It’s one of few jobs I’ve booked in my career without knowing anyone on the production.
What has Ash meant to you over the years?
The series came to America when I was 10 and I loved it then. I was 18 when I booked it and became pretty reclusive for many years. Playing him and other adventurous protagonists forced me to look inward and realize I too am adventurous. Now, like Ash, I’m never home and always with friends, traveling to conventions almost every weekend to meet fans, and making new friends wherever I go.
How has your life and Ash’s life run parallel?
This was a wild discovery. In 1999, an episode aired where Ash won the Orange League. That year, I won a bronze medal at the Junior Olympics for rhythmic gymnastics. In 2019, an episode aired where he won the Alola League. That year I won a Voice Arts Award. In 2023, an episode aired where he won the world championship, and I won a Webby for Best Celebrity/Fan social media…thank you forever to all who voted for me! Also, he was late to pick his starter, and I forgot I had the audition until the day of. ALSO, my cat Pikachu wasn’t nice to me at first either. Dude would bite my ankles as I tried to feed him. We’re cool now though. So bizarre!!
You don’t just play Ash! Can you tell us about some of your other favorite Pokémon characters to voice?
I voice 21 of the Pokémon including Chansey, Buneary, Wigglytuff, Diglett, Staraptor, Roselia, Super Pikachu…the list is at sarahnatochenny.com. I also voice Delia (Ash’s mom) and several other humans including Skyla.
An episode of Pokémon dealing with dying inspired you and voice actress Lisa Ortiz to found Voices for Fosters. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes! My mom and I fostered over 100 cats and kittens that year, mostly through Bideawee. Since then I’ve been raising awareness and money for small rescues. There’s currently a shortage of fosters in NYC (and I’m sure elsewhere), so if you can open your home temporarily to animals in need, please do! Visit https://www.voicesforfosters.org/become-a-foster to learn how it works!
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
I’m all over social media: @sarahnatochenny. I got stuck with @sarahnatochenny1 on YouTube (help?). If you’d like some insight into how we made Pokémon:
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.