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Voicing Naruto Taught Maile Flanagan To Never Give Up

In the early 2000s, plans were in place for an anime series based on Masashi Kishimoto's "Naruto" to reach the small screen. It eventually reached the airwaves in 2002 and ran until 2007, with the English dub running from 2005 to 2009 via Cartoon Network. To bring the story of Naruto Uzumaki to English-speaking viewers, a host of new voice actors were brought in — led by Maile Flanagan, who freaked out upon Googling the show after her audition. She would go on to become a pop culture icon thanks to her portrayal of Naruto, voicing the beloved character for numerous works over the years.

Aside from her exploits in the sprawling "Naruto" franchise, Flanagan has tried her hand at a wide array of projects (via IMDb). From live-action acting on TV for "Grey's Anatomy," popping up in movies like "Evan Almighty," or lending her vocal talents to other endeavors such as "Back at the Barnyard," she has proven as consistent as she is talented. One has to imagine that in addition to her strong acting skills, one of the biggest contributing factors to Flanagan's continued success is an important lesson she learned while working on "Naruto."

Thanks to the years upon years she has spent with the Naruto character, Flanagan has adopted the life lesson of never giving up no matter what.

Naruto has left a lasting impact on Flanagan and fans alike

In October 2022, Maile Flanagan spoke with Crunchyroll about all things "Naruto" and, of course, her time voicing the titular anime icon. Speaking specifically on the impact the role has had on her, Flanagan explained that Naruto Uzumaki himself has taught her the importance of never giving up. As she has noticed as well, she's not the only one that has taken a lot from the character, with fans putting their devotion to him and the show on full display. "I think it means a lot to people. I do appearances and conventions, and the guy who was helping me out this last week said, 'Okay, I counted four grown men that cried,'" she said of Naruto's impact on the fandom.

Still, for as beloved as Naruto is and Flanagan is for voicing him, as is the case with many voice actors, she's not always recognized by fans as his English voice actor. In an interview with Isaiah Hudson on YouTube, she recalled an event where she played a new "Naruto" video game against a young fan, against whom she didn't stand a chance. After accepting defeat, she bid him farewell and moved on to her "Naruto" panel a room over. Sure enough, the kid and his father were seated in the audience for it, and when Flanagan took the stage, the young "Naruto" fan was in absolute disbelief that she was the one behind Naruto all along.

Maile Flanagan has become an animation legend for her work in the "Naruto" franchise, so it's good to know that she's gotten something more out of the experience — even if fans don't always recognize her at first glance.