Otakon 2010: Toonzone Interviews Anime Voice Actor Vic Mignogna
While at Otakon, I had the pleasure of conducting my first interview with none other than voice actor Vic Mignogna. He has been in over 150 dubs; he is most known for his roles as Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High School Host Club, Broly from the Dragon Ball Z films, and Fai from Tsubasa Chronicles.
TOONZONE NEWS: It’s Vic Mignogna like “mañana”…tomorrow?
VIC MIGNOGNA: Like tomorrow, yes, it’s the Italian version of that word.
TZN: Just making sure. What is it like voicing so many characters? Do you ever go home and forget who the real Vic is?
VIC MIGNOGNA: [laughing] Well I was doing that before I ever started voicing characters. No actually, I don’t, I really don’t. One thing about playing so many different characters is that there are really almost too many to ever just lock into one and lose yourself. When I am recording, I love to just really focus on the character. I turn out all of the lights in the studio. The other voice actors always tease me, saying they know when I have been in the studio because all of the lights are off and all of the headphones are turned up really loud; because I love to just totally immerse myself in the series. I’ll turn the lights off and the only lights on are the television and the computer, because I read my script off of it. I immerse myself in the character when I am recording. But as soon as I am done recording, I can’t even remember half the things that I said. I am like a stage play, but I don’t have to memorize the lines. They are on a script right in front of you, and if you do it right the first time you just move on to the next line. Years later people ask me “Remember that funny line you said in episode 41 about ten minutes in?” And I’m like “I have no clue what that line was, because, that was 10,000 lines ago.” But I do believe in getting into the characters when I am recording.
TZN: I guess that sort of answers my next question, how do you keep things fresh? You just really get into the role?
VIC MIGNOGNA: Yeah, and I love what I do. I love what I do. It’s funny because this seems to be a recurring theme in my interviews: others asking me about other voice actors that don’t really get into the role and do it for a paycheck. Well, I love what I do. I am so grateful to God for the chance to get what I do. I never expected it, I never trained for it, I never moved some place and knocked on doors and beat the pavement to try and get into voice acting. It was just an opportunity that presented itself and I stepped into it rather unwittingly and not knowing what to expect, and I love it. As far as keeping it fresh, I love what I do. I think every time I go into record something, there is something special about it, no matter how many years I have been doing it or how many hundreds of shows. That’s what keeps me fresh.
TZN: It’s really inspiring that you love voice acting so much; it’s hard to find people who actually really love their job now.
VIC MIGNOGNA: It is very rare. It is hard to find somebody who wakes up every morning and considers themselves very blessed. All of us are very blessed in many ways, and we often don’t see it. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to be where I am.
TZN: Do you have a favorite role? Since you love them all so much I feel like you might not.
VIC MIGNOGNA: You’re right, it would be impossible to pick one out. I mean, I love Ed from Fullmetal Alchemist, but then I love Tamaki from Ouran High School, and I love Fai from Tsubasa, and there’s Zero from Vampire Knight, and there’s Kurz Webber, and there’s Broly from Dragon Ball Z. I mean, I love all of the different characters and I find something special about each of them. I will say though that I have played Ed a lot longer than any other character. But I could never turn my back on the rest and just pick one, because I think they’d all gang up on me and turn on me.
TZN: Who knows what Tamaki would do.
VIC MIGNOGNA: Oh my gosh, he’d be in the corner sobbing.
TZN: Yeah. Speaking of Ed, how has it been reprising that role in Brotherhood?
VIC MIGNOGNA: I’ll tell you, when I started I was kind of worried because the first series turned out so good. There were high expectations, as you can imagine, and I was really kind of worried at first, wondering if it would be as good, wondering, “What if we don’t capture the same whatever that was in the first series?” So I was rather scared, but then you know, I was like 20 minutes into the episode and I was like “ahhh I love this, I love this guy, I love this character, I love this show.” Especially as it is taking new twists and turns, and we get to see new characters and storylines, and I love the new series. Glad to be a part of it.
TZN: Let’s talk a bit about the problem within the industry, mainly pirating. What is your take on it? As a voice actor how does it make you feel?
VIC MIGNOGNA: Well, I think my take on it is probably every intelligent person’s take on it, and that is the industry will not survive if people continue to steal property. If they steal anime, illegally download episodes, and rip disks, it can’t survive. No company can survive if people steal their products. That is simple, but it makes sense. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to make these shows and how are these companies going to make back their money if people keep stealing it? So my word to fans is if you love Anime and you don’t want to see it disappear, don’t think you are sharp and saving $10 by not buying an Anime. Multiple your $10 savings by a million and think about how much money the company that would have made the next show you would have loved runs out of business because people were stealing their property. I hope that stops, I hope it changes. I know companies like FUNimation, VIZ and others still in business are doing their best to answer the fans, to meet the fans’ needs and expectations, to keep them from illegally downloading. I hope it stops, for everybody’s sakes. The voice actors will be out of business, the dubbing companies will be out of business, you know, everyone will be out of business.
TZN: Along those same lines, what do you think of simulcasting? Do you think it is possible to ever find a real way to make profits off of it?
VIC MIGNOGNA: You know, I’m not a business man. I don’t know all of the details, I don’t know what the Japanese companies need to make off the show to make a profit, I don’t know what FUNimation charges. I do know that these companies are trying to figure out ways to keep the fans from illegally downloading. They are trying to release them as soon as possible, entire seasons at once. The fans are like “I want it now, I want it now.” Well, wow, geez, ya know, take a pill. Patience. We live in a society of instant gratification, where everyone is used to getting whatever they want right now. Well, I’m sorry, but number one, just because you want to see the next episode is not a life shattering problem, and number two, that’s not an excuse to steal it.
TZN: Getting away from industry talk, a lot of the roles you have been cast in have a rather large fan base before being dubbed, like Ouran and Fullmetal Alchemist. What is it like to have that kind of pressure on you?
VIC MIGNOGNA: [laughs] You know what is funny? You just said a lot of the characters I have been have a large fanbase. I have done over 150 shows and I can count on one hand the number of characters that have a large fanbase. Because they don’t have a big fanbase, nobody knows a lot about these other shows that are going on. The ones with the big fanbases get more attention, but there are tons more shows that I have done that have very small fanbases, if any at all. In answer to your question though, a unique thing happened to me when I got cast as Edward Elric. Before I recorded one line, I started getting fan letters stating “I heard you have been cast as Edward Elric…better not screw it up.” I had probably done 30 or 40 shows before Fullmetal Alchemist, and I was not a novice by any means. But that was the first time I had ever gotten an email saying “you better not screw up this show.” That was the first indication I got that Fullmetal is a pretty big show. The fans are protective of it. So yeah, there has been a bit of pressure about stuff like that, a lot from the bigger shows. And you know what? All you can do is the best that you can do. You do your very best and hope that people will like it. Some will and some won’t.
TZN: Like life. So what has been your most interesting fan/con experience?
VIC MIGNOGNA: You know, had you asked me that question ten years ago, it would have been an easy answer. But in the last ten years I have had so many wonderful con experiences. I’ve have so many amazing interactions with fans. Everything from getting emails that say “I’ve lost my father this year,” or “I’ve lost my mother or sister,” or “I’ve been in a bad accident” and “it was your show, it was this character that you played that I really connected to and got me through this time in my life.” I mean, what more could you ask for? It’s neat that people are like “You’re funny” or “You did a great job as this character,” but to know that can have some really powerful impact and help someone through difficult times in their lives is priceless. There is no amount of money you can put on that. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of those experiences. I mean, I get lots of those emails every week. So I am very, very, very grateful for what I do and the chance to be a part of this.
TZN: Wow, that’s really incredible. So, along the lines of favorite role, if you could play any character at all, who would it be?
VIC MIGNOGNA: Well, I would never say a show that is currently out because I would never want the voice actor who was actually voicing the role to think I am dissing him. Professionally, I would love to get the chance to be a part of a theater-released mainstream feature film. I would love to play a role in a Miyazaki film or do a Pixar film or something like that. I don’t know if that will ever happen but that would be a professional goal.
TZN: That’s quite an ambition; I certainly think it is possible.
VIC MIGNOGNA: It’s possible, unlikely, but possible.
VIC MIGNOGNA: Some directors are better than others, I will tell you that. Some directors are not good directors; they are not exactly sure what they want. They will poke around with different ideas while you are doing a line over and over again blowing your voice out because they aren’t really sure what they want. That’s the vast minority, not the majority of them. Most of them are awesome. They all have different techniques. One thing I really like about a good director is they trust the actors they have. For instance, if I am directing Laura Bailey, she knows what she is doing. Laura Bailey doesn’t need me to tell her how to voice act, she is amazing. So the best thing I can do is to help her be amazing; to make her comfortable and give her some background of the character, and then let her be Laura Bailey. Not go, “Okay Laura, do it just like this, repeat after me,” or be so insistent on getting an exact read out of her that you take away the uniqueness of her abilities. A good director is going to let the actors bring what they can to the character. That is the mark of a good director. At the same time, he will help guide or craft the whole production and bring it all together. Some of the best directors are actors, because they understand what the person on the other side of the microphone needs and knows how to communicate with them really well.
TZN: Thank you, I really appreciate you doing this interview with me.
VIC MIGNOGNA: Thanks Nick, I’m honored to be your first interview.
TZN: You took my, like, interviewing virginity.
[Room bursts out into laughter]
VIC MIGNOGNA: I feel so dirty, I should go to jail now. I took your interview cherry. But you know what, ten years from now when you are a famous interviewer, I’ll be able to say “Yeah, you know Nick? I was his first.”
Toonzone News would like to thank Vic Mignogna for taking the time to speak with us and taking Nick’s interview cherry. Nick would also like to thank TZ staffer purplehairedwonder for helping prepare some of the questions and his nerves. Visit Vic Mignogna’s official website for the latest news.