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Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette gives voices to the evil twin sorceresses in Spirited Away. Though twin sisters, these two spellbinders have polar opposite personalities, the short-tempered Yubaba exuding greed and sadism while the more refined Zeniba radiates compassion and good taste. These powerful sorceresses vie for control over the hot springs bathhouse at the center of the strange world in Spirited Away.

Pleshette notes, "It was great fun getting to play twins in this film. The interesting thing is that I made some choices before I'd heard the Japanese track, and it turns out that they were the opposite choice of the Japanese actress. She made one sister lighter and the other heavier, and somehow in my mind I decided that they were the reverse."

Pleshette is delighted to be giving voice to another animated villain (she had previously voiced the evil Zira in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride). The actress notes, "She's hysterical! The wonderful wart right here, and the hair that never moves, and the silly little clothes. In terms of playing the villain, it seems with my voice that's all Disney does with me. It's a good healthy voice. I don't baby it. Judging from this and ‘Lion King II,' I don't think I'm the kind of voice they usually call in for the ingenue."

Pleshette doesn't consider this acting job to be less engaging than a non-animated performance. Acting is acting, she observes. "I still have to give a full performance, I have to really know who I am and what's happening emotionally at the time. The difference is, here I have to time it. The hard thing is hearing Japanese in my ear, and having to lip-synch English words to the mouth that was synched to the Japanese words. Talk about schizophrenic! Playing two people in another language and coordinating all of that. But that's the challenge, and that's what's fun."

The New-York born actress began her career on Broadway in such plays as Compulsion, The Cold Wind and the Warm, The Miracle Worker, and Special Occasions. She made her film debut in Jerry Lewis' The Geisha Boy and went on to star in Alfred Hitchcock's classic shocker The Birds. Some of her thirty-odd feature roles have included Nevada Smith, A Distant Trumpet, Rome Adventure, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Mr. Buddwing, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, Oh God! Book II, and Disney productions including The Ugly Dachshund, The Shaggy D.A., and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. Most recently for Disney, Pleshette played Zira, evil maternal leader of the Outlander tribe in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.

Pleshette has earned four Emmy nominations and Golden Globe acknowledgement for her roles. A performer who takes on comedic roles as effortlessly as dramatic, she often ends up competing against herself in more than one TV award category at once due to the enormity and variety of her output. While starring as Emily on The Bob Newhart Show for six years, for example, she meanwhile played roles in Bridges to Cross, Nightingales, The Boys Are Back, Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs and The Single Guy. Among her many TV roles, Pleshette played the ruthless, real-life title character of Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean (1990).

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Suzanne Pleshette Facts

BirthdayJanuary 31, 1937
BirthplaceNew York, New York, USA
Date of deathJanuary 19, 2008 (age 70)

Selected Filmography

Miyazaki's Spirited Away
The Birds
Support Your Local Gunfighter
The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series
Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection
The Ugly Dachshund
One Step Beyond 6 DVD Collector's Set
Blackbeard's Ghost
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