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A SakuraCon Chat with Travis Willingham

At SakuraCon, a set of press-only panels was held with the special guests in attendance at the convention. They were fairly loosely moderated and organized, and very off the cuff. One of these panels was held with Travis Willingham, the dub VA for Roy Mustang from FullMetal Alchemist.

Reporter 1: As I am sure you have no doubt noticed, FullMetal Alchemist is extremely popular because of its run on Cartoon Network. How has this affected you?

Travis Willingham: Well, I always started out on Toonami watching Cartoon Network because of Dragonball Z and stuff like that. It is really nice to see FullMetal Alchemist getting the attention and the ratings that it’s getting right now because another great anime that follows it is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and those two shows are just killing at that time slot. I don’t know, I kind of wish it was running in a time where a younger audience could see it. I know there’s no way Cartoon Network would let it run prime time or anything like that, but even in the late time slot that it has Saturday nights and late Thursday [it does well.]

Reporter 1: Well, the content issues would preclude it from essentially running outside of Adult Swim unless they edited it.

TW: Yes, massively edited it.

Reporter 1: And for FullMetal Alchemist that would just hurt it too badly.

TW: I know. It’s too gritty and it’s too real to edit it that much. I mean, a lot of people are upset with the way it is edited, but the DVDs are unedited. I’ve heard a lot about Adult Swim pulling away from Cartoon Network, and I wish they would, so it would just be a full channel.

Reporter 1: They’ve essentially separated the two networks.

Reporter 2: Well, for ratings purposes.

TW: I think that would be great for all anime because I have a huge problem with editing anything out of anime because it is an art form.

Reporter 1: So do I.

TW: I think that’s what makes it so much better than American animation or anything like that. It’s just grittier; it’s real; it’s sexy. It’s got all these aspects that you take out, it just makes it more like the standard of everything else. Makes it less exceptional, so I think in those terms FullMetal has these edges, these boundaries; and I think Adult Swim has done a pretty good job about not taking too much out of it. I guess that’s what the DVDs are there for; just to keep it all the way if you want it.

Reporter 1: How much of FullMetal Alchemist have you done so far? It’s a fairly long series by the standard of most anime series these days, and it is running, so how far ahead of them are you? Have you completed editing the entire series?

TW: It’s not a run like Dragonball Z or Case Closed where you do 200 or 300 or 400 episodes. It’s only 51 plus a movie. Right now, I’ve recorded up to episode 32, and two weeks from now I will be all the way through episode 47, and there are only 51, so we’re pretty close to being done. There are a lot of characters that are already done recording. Obviously, we want to slow down the closer we get to the end of the series just because those are the most important. We feel they are the most important, and we want to make sure we get them absolutely correct and as true to the original as possible. With the movie coming out, there’s a lot of anticipation and a lot of anxiety over at FUNimation because we want to know what’s going to happen. This is the first show that I’ve seen where multiple cast members, both the directors, have seen the entire series before we ever started the show. As soon as we found out about it, Colleen Clinkenbeard and Mike MacFarlane, the two directors, along with myself and I think Justin Cook went out and watched as much of the original as possible. We wanted to know what was going to happen; we wanted to know the twists; we wanted to know the tie-ins; so just like anybody else we are dying to see the movie. We’ve heard the rumors that it’s going to show at Anime Expo before it’s released in Japan, but we really, really want to see what’s going to happen. It’s crazy. Some people have already finished [the series] and the funny thing is there are some people who don’t want to know: Vic Mignogna [the voice of Edward], he doesn’t want to know how anything is. He’s seen a lot of it, but I think the last 15-20 episodes he doesn’t want to watch because he wants to be surprised in the booth; he wants to be in the moment. That’s the way he works — he can be very methodical like that. Me, I like to know, so I can plan it out ahead of time; I want to make sure I hit every point in that episode that needs to be hit; I don’t want to skip over anything or have it air later and be like “aw, I could’ve done that better” or “that could’ve been stronger.”

Reporter 1: Yeah, I warned you about that — viewing the entire series in total before recording as opposed to just doing what they give you — because in anime, as I’m sure you are aware, a lot of things feed back to early parts of the show — like a character may be one way and say certain things that may seem to make no sense at that time, but it’s later revealed that he was being ironic or prophetic and such, and maybe you should have said the line differently if you had known that was coming up.

TW: That’s a huge deal. There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this, and there are lots of flashbacks: there are tie-ins that show up 30 episodes later and they turn out to be one of the biggest plot twists in the story. If you don’t know that as an actor, [if] you come in and you just have your line list in front of you, and you’re just reading it, and the director doesn’t mention that 25 episodes later “blah blah blah” is going to happen, you just dump the line because you don’t know any better. I think with a story as engaging and complex [with] very real human nature, I think you’ve got to have all those human characteristics: you have got to have these egos, you’ve got to have these walls up, you want to be protected. You don’t want to show people what you’re really thinking or what you’ve gone through; you don’t want to show weakness, and I think everyone of these characters has that. Ed certainly has it; Roy certainly has these deep, shadowy issues.

Reporter 1: He just wants to be the next Fuhrer, that’s all.

TW: And that’s another big thing because the first 20 episodes are all “oh, he’s just ambitious,” “oh, he just wants a promotion”– all these things — and then it’s like “boom” total change. But for anybody who doesn’t know that, I never said that. Yeah, it is the common thing not watch it before hand, but when a story is as complex as this, we thought it was really important [to get it right.]

Reporter 1: What is your opinion of Roy Mustang?

TW: Roy Mustang. You know what’s funny? Initially, I just liked him because I’m used to anime characters being pretty predictable: if you put Inuyasha or Goku or any of these guys in a certain situation, you can pretty much predict how they’re going to act. You stick Goku in front of a bad guy; you know he’s going to talk about truth, justice, and harmony.

Reporter 1: And whale on them.

TW: Same with InuYasha: any of these characters, you know how they’re going to react. Roy, you don’t know how he’s going to react. You don’t know if he’s going to agree with you one second and totally betray you the next. You don’t know if he’s going to sell you out. You don’t know if he’s doing it for a promotion or personal reasons, and that kind of complexity and intrigue that he has — that mystique that he carries — is one of the most attractive things about that character.

Reporter 1: That’s what makes him one of the more popular ones.

TW: Exactly. He’s the guy that you love to hate because you really want to root for him; you really want him to be on your side, but at the same time how can you trust him? You never know what to think of him.

Reporter 1: That’s the dilemma Ed’s going through right now.

TW: The whole show, and finally he stops caring at the end; the last ten episodes he just finally gives up. It’s when he finally gives up on Roy, and that Roy finally starts to depend on him as well. Right when he gives up on him is when he really comes though for him in a big way. It’s good: there are lots of twists. It’s not like your normal bad guy where it’s like condescending evil the whole time. He’s evil, then he’s good; and right you think he’s going to keep being good, he screws you.

Reporter 1: Those are the best villains.

TW: Yeah, it’s like point A to point B is never straight line with him. It’s all over the place. He takes the longest possible route to get there, so he’s a lot fun to play just because he has so many human characteristics that I just don’t think you see that often in anime characters. There’s just not that effort to make it that life-like. I think there are a lot of shows that have those villains like that — Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone is like that, Wolf’s Rain has a lot of that. I like seeing that more and more; I like seeing more realistic sides.

Reporter 1: So how’d you get selected for the role of Roy?

TW: It’s a funny story. I really hadn’t done huge parts at FUNimation. I had supporting parts. I got called in for one episode part and things like that, but Colleen Clinkenbeard and I did a debut of a show in Fort Worth. It was she and I and one other person, and I think she was the lead in Kiddy Grade. I think they were letting her direct some of the episodes, and that was about as far as she’d gone. So I think she really made a smart decision in inviting a lot of the FUNimation people to one of our shows; it really was like a showcase for us. I mean, even though we were already working for them, it was really the ability for us to showcase our talents. In that show, I played a very Roy Mustang-type character, and right after Justin Cook, one of the ADR Directors, came up and said “I think I have a really great part for you” just from the show. I didn’t even have the part yet, but I went out and got all the episodes and watched the show. I totally wanted to be Hughes to begin with just because he was my favorite character, but Justin was like “I think that this show is so real and that we want people to get to these certain places that these characters need to go; I think you’ve got a lot similarities with Roy Mustang, so I don’t think it will be very hard for you.” So, that’s how I actually ended up falling into it.

Reporter 1: Is Roy your first major role in an anime?

TW: Yeah. By far. It will be hard to top Roy. He’s wildly popular. He’s a great character to play. He’s a stud. Can’t beat that.

Reporter 1: He’s practically the third lead.

TW: Yeah. He really is. I’m kind of hoping for a military spin-off show because the characters there are so great.

Reporter 1: It’s not like Cartoon Network hasn’t thrown a big bag of money at them and said make more before.

TW: That’s true. Didn’t they do that for Big O?

Reporter 2: Yeah, for a second season.

Reporter 1: It basically bombed in Japan, but it did tremendous over here, so Cartoon Network went over and said, “Finish this.”

TW: The thing is that I’ve been hearing about all these events they have in Japan — I guess it’s my first time really noticing it — but they sell out 170,000 seat stadiums just to have the Japanese voice actors come and sing songs as their character.

REPORTER 1: Yeah, the Japanese voice acting is somewhat different from its American counterpart.

TW: Oh yeah, it’s a massive, massive, massive, massive deal over there. I mean, they are celebrities. They are like the Brad Pitts and Jennifer Anistons.

Reporter 1: That’s one thing I always wondered about — as voice actors, the rules you work under — because it’s very rare, it’s getting more common now, but it’s very rare that you would get on the English cast side an actual role to actor listing. They’ll do it for the Japanese, but on a lot of DVDs you just get “English Voice Talent” and a list of names, a lot of which aren’t their real names anyway. I keep trying to get a handle on what rules you work under union-wise and such because, since this stuff is on television as opposed to just going straight out to video, what are your union obligations? Are you AFTRA? SAG?

TW: I am SAG now, but I have no obligation to SAG since I was previously licensed to this show before I signed on with SAG. So for this show, I’m fine. If I wanted to explore other things on the West Coast, certainly it would become an issue. In Los Angeles, a lot of the recording studios — BangZoom, New Generation Pictures — are already SAG franchised, so that’s not a problem. For the properties in Texas, when a lot of people come back, if they are SAG or whatever, I’ve heard rumors of people going under aliases. The thing is, with a lot of the non-union shows we’re not making a huge amount of money. If we were making a lot of money I think that’s when the unions would start to show a lot of concern because that’s where their pull is.

Reporter 1: So are you saying you don’t get residuals? Like if they reran them on Cartoon Network, you don’t get a check?

TW: Nope. We have a buy out, flat hourly rate. That’s it.

Reporter 1: That sucks.

TW: You know, we’ve definitely talked about it because the income that this generates; the people that own the rights to it and are at the top of the deal are making a killing. We’re not really doing this for money, we’re doing it because it’s a chance to stretch ourselves artistically; it’s a chance to challenge ourselves. We love doing it. We have a great time. We do it for the fans. We do it for these conventions. We do it because it’s something that we really, really enjoy.

Reporter 1: But you’re still an actor, you do this to make a living and therefore I think it would be of interest to make the best deal possible for you. When you look at Cartoon Network and you realize that Cowboy Bebop is still being shown you think that if these guys were getting residuals off of that then what a nice piece of change to be getting every whatever.

TW: It’s just that we’re not in a position to bargain for that sort of stuff or I guess it’s just never bothered us. If that was our primary concern income-wise, there are ways you can bargain a little: you can get a little bit higher of an hourly rate, you can write the ADR scripts, you can direct. Colleen writes, directs, and acts there; she’s there all day, and that is her job; that’s her whole income. She does that alone and that pays for everything that she needs, but she works her ass off. I’m just a voice actor. On the flip side of that, we’re not in a good place to bargain if I say “I need more money to do this part” and then they say, “you don’t have the part.” There are so many people who want to slip into these roles. You’re seeing celebrities go from a SAG hourly rate of 700 dollars an hour to come down to like 75-100 just to do the part, just because it’s this new thing. It’s on this amazing skyrocket right now. Anime is just firing upwards with Steamboy coming out with Patrick Stewart and Anna Paquin. You’ll see people using aliases and totally underbidding what their contracts usually are.

Reporter 1: The problem with that is, a name not withstanding, like a Mel Gibson or such like that, from what I’ve talked about with other voice actors; voice acting is a totally different world than physically acting in front of a camera on stage because a lot of the assets an actor has — body, face, stuff like that — you don’t have. All you’ve got is your voice, and something else is there being what ever you’re supposed to be. It sounds to me like a much harder job to put into your voice things that you would normally convey through facial expressions or other subtleties.

TW: Yeah, there are a lot of people who definitely do well, in my opinion anyway, in the mainstream — the film and television market — that probably wouldn’t fly so high [as a voice actor] like Keanu Reeves; Keanu Reeves does not have the most interesting voice in the world. He’s very good at playing deadpan characters. Without his little Neo and Constantine looks I think he’d probably flop voice over-wise. I think it’s because of that reminder of competition that we do do it because the more we see this increased interest from A-list actors, B-list actors, whatever, it almost makes it more valuable to us because we see the appreciation; we see desire from these other people to do it, and the fact that we’re doing instead of them always feels very good. It’s always really nice to be appreciated for your work, but it’s even better when other actors admire your work as well.

Reporter 1: Do you anticipate there to be a point given the popularity of anime, given that more and more of it is turning up on television and, in fact, American producers are producing anime-like shows, because of it that one the voice actors who do this stuff may be in a position to negotiate those kind of deals for themselves?

TW: You know I think so, especially with the increased popularity of these shows. I don’t think there is any way that American animation is going to be able to fully make the anime switch. I’m seeing it all the time. I’m seeing all these shows in American animation, and they’ve got their characters looking like they’ve got the Goku saiyan hair. They’ve got all the character design traits of anime, but it’s just not there: the time, the work, and the detail. It’s just not there. I don’t think the voice acting is either. As far as the popularity, I think in the last three years, people like Monica Rial, Scott McNeil, and Greg Ayers — all these people are in heavy, heavy, heavy demand — and I think like with any other projects a name is probably going to start helping to sell your projects. If you can make an anime movie with Monica Rial and Scott McNeil and get couple other big names up there, people are going to buy it just because of the voice actors, even if they don’t anything about it. So I think eventually certain names will be in a position to bargain like that. It’s just like anything else: the more you do it, the more recognition you get for it, and the more recognition you get for it, the more room you have to bargain for things. It takes time like anything else. I hope it comes to that point; that’d be nice.

Reporter 1: I don’t want to monopolize this if anyone else has anything to say. If not, I’ll just roll along.

Reporter 3: Do you play soccer?

TW: No. I didn’t when I was I kid, so no. I do believe that soccer players are the greatest athletes on the planet.

Reporter 3: So you don’t kick balls?

TW: No, I don’t kick balls. No ball-kicking. In fact, I’m not a fan of anyone kicking balls.

Reporter 1: Has the role of Roy Mustang and its popularity brought you up this line of consideration for other major roles now?

TW: You know, I don’t know. I’ve heard lot of buzz. There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes talk. The thing is that the show isn’t even half way over yet, so I think it’s a “we’ll see” kind of thing. The thing about voice acting is that I think there’s a cardinal rule that you want to see character for the character. If you’re a really, really talented voice actor like Chris Sabat who in DBZ did like six different voices, and I didn’t know that he was Vegita and Piccolo and that they were done by the same guy and that he was Mr. Popo too. He does all these crazy voices, just like Sean Schemmel who was King Kai and Goku and all these different voices, and I was like “are you kidding me? I had no idea.” So thing is, as long as you can make an original voice every time they hire you, and then I think that could come into play. It’s not like you can get the guy who did Roy Mustang do to Roy Mustang’s voice for another part. It doesn’t work like that because every time you watch it you’d be like “sounds like Roy Mustang.” So that unfortunately doesn’t work, where as Neo all of a sudden is in Constantine.

Reporter 2: Or Bill and Ted?

TW: Yeah, I was like “I have seen this guy nine times now!” Bill and Ted is the one. So yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

Reporter 4: Have you ever tried any acting inside film work?

TW: Yeah, actually I have a really extensive stage, commercial, TV, and film resume. I thought I was going to do the triple-threat thing and go to Broadway. I got a musical theater scholarship in college, and I just ended up doing straight acting — not because I wasn’t any good at [musical theater], but because [acting] is really where my strength came out. I did like two musicals in college, and I toured Russia with a national Moscow tour through St. Petersburg. I did this national theoretical competition called Irene Ryan scholarship. Every university and college in the nation sends out actors and they pick 12 out of the country; I was one of those 12. I got to go the Kennedy Center. I got an agent in Dallas. I’ve done a ton of national commercials, probably some that you’ve seen and you wouldn’t believe if you saw them again. I did Second-Hand Lions; it was my first supporting part in a feature film. I did Friday Night Lights. I was in Ray. You know, a lot of these major films. I’m trying to get into the television market now because I’ve been in Los Angeles for 8 months and have had the chance to audition for some pilots, Will and Grace and what’s that one, King of Queens? I almost got a part in that. That’s really what I’m trying for. If [voice-acting] was more of an income factor, I’d probably put all my attention into it, but since it’s not [I've got to look elsewhere.] Although, I am trying to continue it in Los Angeles on the West Coast. I did sign with like a strictly voice-over agency in Los Angeles, and they’ve had me auditioning for video games already. I’m trying to get into some Saturday morning series. I prefer anime; I watch those types of shows, and I don’t think [in American animation] the acting is quite as spectacular as some anime acting is; I don’t think it’s as gritty. I like that challenge, but yeah, I’m trying to continue that. I’d like to focus on all aspects and never shut anything out.

Reporter 1: If you take off with a career, say in television or major motion pictures, is voice-acting something you’d leave behind?

TW: Oh no. Absolutely not. I would totally try to utilize that to get into bigger projects [in voice acting.] I want to see more animes as national theatrical releases. I see Pokemon and Digimon getting these national theatrical releases, and Steamboy just got one.

Reporter 1: Well, there no ruling out the fact that, given its popularity on television, they might not try a theatrical release for the movie.

TW: I think they should. I’m afraid, well I’m not afraid, I just think that once it’s offered that they probably won’t chase it.

Reporter 1: That would be a mistake.

TW: I think it would be huge. I think it’d be a huge investment and that their returns would be amazing. With as many cons that go on through out the nation as often as they do with the type of attendance that there is. I mean, the support for a film like that would be off the scale, and I just don’t think anybody’s quite tapped into that yet. Steamboy is not something you see at these conventions a lot. You take a movie from any one of these series, take the best one and put it in theaters across the nation – the Midwest, North, South East, and West – people are going to go see that movie. Doesn’t even have to be like an extended release. I think once you take the first step it’s just going to gain momentum like anything else.

Reporter 1: As a voice actor, since basically your larynx is your living, and talking to other voice actors can be stressful on your throat, particular certain aspects like foley work or they’ll put you in the booth and make you do all the screaming scenes one after another or yelling scenes one after another. So how do you as an actor, realizing [your voice] is gold, how do you protect it?

TW: It’s a lot about technique. Chris Sabat has this terribly low voice — opera trained — he has a lot of ways to protect his voice because Vegita and Piccolo are extremely gruff and low and he had to power up for 300 episodes, and it’ll kill [your voice]. Laura Bailey played a young boy, so she had to gruff up her voice the whole time. If you’re recording for 6 hours like that, it definitely wears on you. There are all sorts of precaution; they’ve got herbal remedies where you put drops in your throat, honey, and tea. Just like anything else. It’s like being a Broadway performer: musicals usually don’t perform two nights in a row because they have to protect their voice. You can do some serious damage if you’re not careful. But for me at FUNimation, they’re really good about that type of stuff. With [Roy Mustang] it’s just my voice, and since I really don’t scream that often I can record seven hours a day for two days in a row if I have to. With Dragonball Z they give you one day of recording and at least two days of rest, and they probably won’t schedule a lot of yelling things in a row. They’ll probably skip all the yelling actually, and just put all those together at the very end so you can just walk out of there with nothing. So, you make sure you can say everything first, and then just scream your balls off which kills. That was one of things I wanted to do so bad was get in there and scream and sound all angry and mad and stuff. And I finally got in there to do it and seven takes later I’m kind of lightheaded and got a headache and stuff. I’m like “god, this sucks.” Then it’s like “yeah, we’re doing again.”

Reporter 2: Yeah, I heard from one of the people who was at FUNimation’s panel yesterday who said that Sean once passed out.

TW: Oh yeah, it was Eric Vale.

Reporter 2: Oh, it was Eric Vale?

TW: It wasn’t Sean Schemmel. Sean Schemmel had a 30-second scream — and it was at the top of his register too — and he just screamed for 30 seconds. Like I said, it’s about technique like anything else — like holding a high note in a singing — it’s all about support from your diaphragm. Basically you’re just screaming, and Eric Vale took this huge breath which you never do — you never just blare it out; you take this three-quarters breath and then support it — and it was like this throaty yell and I think he got like 18-20 seconds into it and you just heard this ba-bump. Then it’s like “Oh ****! He just passed out.” We open the door and he lies on the floor there, and you’re like “Oh my God!” I’m sure Sean Schemmel might have passed out too, but it’s all about support; and they are not a whole lot of screaming battle cries anymore. I think Ed and I do it a couple times. I think I just yell at people; it’s not like when I snap I’m like “raaaaaaaaaaawwwawrr.”

[Both Eric and Sean have passed out recording DBZ. —ed.]

Reporter 1: Ed gets a little intense during his fight, but Roy pretty much stays cool no matter what he’s doing.

TW: Pretty calm, pretty calm.

Reporter 1: I think that’s his whole facade; it’s part of Psy-OP against his opponent or who ever he’s fighting, no matter what you do I am not going to get rattled.

TW: And of course we have the master of it, Chris Sabat, who plays Armstrong, and he is certainly the master of that in DBZ every time he’s like “grrrrrrrrrrr.”

Reporter 1: You mention that the other voice actors are doing ADR directing and writing and such like that. Do anticipate doing that yourself or do you just want to stay in the trenches?

TW: You know, I remember in college we had a directing class that was mandatory for our fine art program, and I hear a lot of actors that are like “Man, I want to direct, I want to write and I want to produce.” I directed one show, and I don’t ever want to do that again. I am strictly an actor. I’ll make decisions for myself, I’ll make interpretations of the script, but when it comes to trying to get other people to do what I want them do or just being open to different things and having this all-encompassing idea about every aspect of a show, it’s just not my thing. I’m very focused on one thing, and Colleen and Mike deserve a lot of credit because they have to deal with all these different actors, get them do it the way they think it works best without giving line reads or getting frustrated or whatever. It’s certainly a skill and talent that you just have to have. You can learn it, I guess, but it’s not something I’m looking into doing. Writing I could possibly do, but not the directing. The directing is just not my thing.

Reporter 1: Okay, going back to something you just mentioned, how much input do you have in interpreting your character? I mean, if the director says “I want you to do Roy this way” but because of either advance knowledge or just your own understanding of the character you say “no, he wouldn’t do that in this situation.”

TW: Totally done that. Normally it’s not a factor because you haven’t seen the episodes. You don’t know the background history, you don’t really have an opinion, and otherwise you just really wouldn’t care because whatever the director says, if you don’t know the show, you’ll be like “Fine, okay.” But there have been times where you know, we didn’t think a line was translated right, or I would do a read a certain way and he would want it done differently. And a lot of times I agree with him; I’m like “Yeah, that’ll work better.” There are times when it’s kind of like a give and take; we try different things. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t win. The other thing is with recording he’ll say “get it three different ways,” and we’ll do it how it is originally, how I think it should be done, and how he thinks it should be done so we have three takes. Those go to the executives, so it gets out of both of our hands. He’ll be like “we have this, we have this, and we have this,” [and they] pick one, and that’s what goes. I can’t do anything about that. I can’t be like “Really make sure you use take three! I really want you to use take three!” So, it’s kind of out of our hands after, so all I can do really is give them what I think sounds best. That’s where all that creative construction from so many different angles comes into play: you’ve got producers, directors and executives, and they all have to pick on one thing. If I don’t agree with them, I don’t agree with them.

Reporter 1: I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, you might be, but in Japan when they dub a show and they’re doing a scene all the actors involved in that scene are in the studio at the same time reading off, whereas in American basically each actor goes into the booth by himself unless the situation’s unusual like the characters are really closely interacting. Of those two approaches, which would be your preference?

TW: Man, I don’t know. I’ve never had the opportunity to do the group recording. I certainly would want to try it once because there’s a lot to be said for being in the moment, for chemistry, interaction. There’s a lot of intensity that builds up when you’ve got a rapport going with someone, a lot of eye contact, and you can totally read them. Lines will come completely different from when you’re just hearing them in your head, imagining what there going to say. It takes a lot of focus to be like “do line 173, watch the screen.” You’re like two lines before it; you here three beeps and where the fourth beep is you’re supposed to start talking and deliver a performance. It’s very forced. I’d be very open to group recording; I think that’d be awesome, but I’ve never done it so I can’t really make an opinion.

Reporter 5: Boxers or Briefs?

TW: Neither.

Reporter 1: (chortling) Okay.

TW: No, I’m kidding.

Reporter 2: (also chortling) That would have been a headline though — right on ToonZone.net — “Roy Mustang Goes Commando.” Fan girls might enjoy it.

TW: Well right, you know, you can go with that if you don’t have anything else.

[And we drive a dump truck right through that opening. -ed.]

Reporter 2: Have you had to deal a lot with fan girls at cons?

TW: No, not really. Everybody’s pretty respectful. Every person’s an exception. It’s part of it you know. I love the fans; the people at conventions are the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. I’ve heard horror stories; I don’t have any.

Reporter 4: Any stalkers yet?

TW: No stalkers. Lots of glompers, but no stalkers.

Reporter 1: So how many Roy Mustangs have you had your picture taken with?

TW: Oh, man, I don’t know. I’m sure not too many, not as many as I probably will in the next two months.

Reporter 1: How many Riza Hawkeyes have you had your picture taken with?

TW: A lot. It’s cool though; I like coming to these things and seeing all the military uniforms. It’s encouraging — a good show of support. I’m glad it’s as popular as it is. It’d be a lot better than coming and nobody cosplays you and being like “what am I doing here?”

Reporter 1: Well you won’t get that here. Right now it seems to be a running battle between Naruto and FullMetal Alchemist, and Naruto‘s coming.

TW: That’s true. That’s a hard show to compete with — very, very popular show.

Reporter 1: Considering it hasn’t even aired here yet.

TW: I know. Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind.

Reporter 4: It’s being licensed by Viz, right?

Reporter 2: Yeah, Viz is doing the work, but it’s Viz Media now. It’s weird.

Reporter 1: And Cartoon Network’s already announced it.

Reporter 2: So who knows? They may already have work done on it. Cartoon Network may be like it’s really popular in Japan [and jumped on it.]

Reporter 1: Well, the negotiations for it were murder.

TW: Yeah, that’s such an expensive property. I’m surprised anybody got it. That show has money behind it.

Reporter 1: They eventually had to form a coalition to get it. Apparently it was well beyond the means of any single importer simply because the licensors knew what they had and they wanted to wring the most out for it. In fact I was surprised FUNimation was able to lock on to FullMetal Alchemist because that’s very popular in Japan. I’m sure [the licensors] must have held out for a little [money] before they gave that up.

[Funny how even press only panels can be derailed into Naruto debate. 2. I have no clue what Reporter 1 is talking about it when it comes to coalition other than maybe a weird of talking about the Viz/ShoPro merger.]

TW: Anyone else with a question?

Reporter 1: Is there a difference for you in terms of work that just strictly goes out on DVD and something that gets television exposure?

TW: No, not personally. It doesn’t really make any difference to me.

Reporter 1: It’s not something you can put on your resume?

TW: I put it all on my resume. I put everything on my resume because you never know who’s seen it. Like Spiral doesn’t have that much exposure; it’s not as popular as FullMetal Alchemist right now, but I’ll totally put it on my resume. You don’t know who’s seen it; you don’t know who enjoys it. I don’t give importance or credit to one thing more than another ever. I think everything deserves equal treatment. It’s your work, and if you do anything half-heartedly — if you’re more proud of one thing than the other — I think you’re doing a terrible job: everything should be 100 percent all the time. You can have favorites, “man, I sucked in that, but I did it.”

Reporter 1: So are you anticipating more major and leading roles in future FUNimation properties?

TW: You know, not anything I could really say at the moment. There are rumors of this and talks of that, but I’m sure you guys will hear about it the second I do.

Reporter 1: Were you in Gunslinger Girl?

TW: No, there was a lot of possibility in that, but it just wasn’t long enough and the scheduling wouldn’t work out with me being in Los Angeles and with the recording studio being in Dallas.

Reporter 1: They should’ve at least made you one of the fratello.

TW: I don’t know. Not this time, not this time.

Reporter 1: Cause we got to sample the dub last night, and it is kick ass.

TW: Gunslinger Girl?

Reporter 1: Yeah. Well, it was a good show to begin with, but they did a good job on the dub. That was going to be a tough one because it’s basically all dialogue driven and it’s all low-key stuff. Which I’m given to understand from other voice actors, and I’d like your opinion on this, I’ve heard from other voice actors that given the choice between doing someone that’s really over the top as opposed to someone that’s really low-key they prefer going over the top because it’s easier.

TW: Yeah, because you’re just using your voice the tendency is to try and over compensate, but after doing Roy I think I like subtlety in acting; I think subtly is what it’s about.

Reporter 1: Then you would’ve liked Gunslinger Girl. Very, very subtle.

TW: Yeah, I know. That was the thing; we were auditioning for it and he was like “can you all bring it down a lot. Make it conversational.” There’s not much anime that’s conversational. You’ve got a lot of high pitch girls’ voices squeaking and stuff like that; you’ve got Gunslinger Girl and FullMetal Alchemist on the other side. I don’t know, it depends on the show, and it depends on the character. I think it totally defines you too. It’s part of the animation too. You get those characters with the big eyes, and that’s supposed to make them open, happy, and the protagonist. Then you get the guys with the really small, slanted eyes, and that’s supposed to be like a symbol of evil.

Reporter 1: There getting away from that now, now they’re throwing you a curve by taking someone who’s like really rancid and really evil and making them cute.

TW: Yep, they’re messing with it. It’s fun. It keeps you on your toes.

Reporter 4: I’d like to know some of those commercials you’ve been in.

Reporter 2: Yeah.

TW: There’s an All State Insurance commercial that’s running right now, that’s like a guy buying a car in front of a sunset or whatever, and I’m just like jumping all over the place, freaking’ out. I did some for Arrowhead water, some commercials about a year ago. There’s an HBO commercial for The Sopranos running around. Every now and then they’re like “The Sopranos, that’s incredible” or “I saw you on The Sopranos, what’s up with that?”

Reporter 4: What’d you do in Friday Night Lights?

TW: I was a football player for the Midland League football team. I was a football player for like two week on the picture, and then I got knocked out and didn’t want to work with it anymore. They actually had like a 45-person squad to field both teams throughout the game; they just changed our uniforms, and I was tight end. They had me going out on a pass, and the problem with those types of movies is that people know exactly what’s going to happen in the play: you know exactly where you’re blocking, you know exactly who’s doing what, there’s one guy who knows he’s catching the ball right there, and there is one guy that knows he’s tackling the guy who’s right there, and this guy just completely knocked me off before the ball ever got there. I was looking up and the ball was coming in, and I don’t remember anything else. I just remember seeing the ball and a big, white light and smelling some wicked smelling salts. He cleaned my clock.

Reporter 4: You also said you were in Ray, and what was the other one?

TW: Ray and Secondhand Lions.

Reporter 4: What was your role in Secondhand Lions?

TW: I was one of the three hoods that got beat up by Robert Duvall.

Reporter 4: Oh, the bar.

TW: Yeah, the bar. We’re all in black, and this 72-year-old guy is beating the crap out of you. It’s fun, man. Not a lot of people get to get punched repeated by an Oscar-winner.

Reporter 1: So what got you into voice acting? From what I’m given to understand, if you’re studying acting, were you in school for this or are you basically preparing for stage and screen work?

TW: Yeah, stage and screen work. This is really just a side thing, kind of more like a hobby. I was a big DBZ fan; when I found out some of my friends were doing it, I went to my talent agent and said, “Well, crap I can do that.” So, I really went after it. Like with anything else, with hard work comes results. It was just something that I wanted to try and fortunately it worked out. And I really enjoy doing it — it’s a lot of fun — it’s not like my primary point of interest, but I love doing it, and the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. For me, it’s not something I can have as my highest goal. My highest goal is to have a very successful career in all aspects of acting on stage and screen. So you just work at it like anything else and the more you do it the more recognition you get. So it helps; it’s a great marketing tool, it’s a great way to meet people in the industry. It’s just a great ride, you know? So it’s cool.

Reporter 1: Would the role of Roy Mustang be an asset in pursuing these other [goals?]

TW: Yeah, I hope so. Especially if it garners as much attention as it’s accruing right now. The popularity of it is just skyrocketing, and anytime you can use something as springboard into other aspects of media or the public eye or anything, you always want to take advantage of that. So, I hope so. Well, how ’bout some lunch? Thank you guys for showing up.

Reporter 1: Thank you for coming.

Reporter 2: Now that I think about it, you’re not the only person who worked on Secondhand Lion to end up doing anime VA work.

TW: Really?

Reporter 2: I heard from Jerry Chu that Haley Joel Osment would be on the upcoming Cartoon Network Original Anime IGPX.

TW: Really?

Reporter 2: Really.

TW: That’s cool. You know Jamie Clark, who does Sal and Toguro and all those guys, he was in Secondhand Lions too.

Reporter 1: Cool.

TW: He’s actually got a really big part in A Scanner Darkly, the Richard Linkletter movie. Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves are in that, so we’re all over the place; you’ve just got to look for us.

Reporter 1: Or listen.

Reporter 2: Or check the Internet Movie Database.

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