One Piece Film: Red is the newest film in the long-running One Piece franchise, due for English dubbed release on the 4th of November.
The story of Film: Red focuses on Uta, the long-estranged childhood friend of Luffy and the adoptive daughter of Shanks. Uta has become a world-famous idol, and the straw hats arrive at her concert alongside her thousands of fans as Gordon, her instructor, and father figure in Shanks’ absence, watches from the sides.
We spoke with Gordon and Uta’s voice actors, the very talented Jim Foronda and AmaLee, about the production, their performances, and their parts in the story of One Piece Film: Red.
Interview with AmaLee (Uta) and Jim Foronda (Gordon)
What's it like working on a movie that had so much involvement from Oda himself?
Incredible I absolutely love every visual in this movie I've talked about it that you can screencap every scene of this movie, and it becomes a wallpaper, and the designs are fabulous for Uta and Gordon, obviously the older characters as well, but Gordon and me being the new guys it's really awesome to see all their character designs and all of the very iconic design elements in their designs to kind of fit them into the one piece world.
Yeah, it's to be part of an artistic juggernaut. I mean, it's still number one in Japan, but then you think about the animators and the conceptual designers and the writers and all of the Japanese cast, the dub cast, all the dub casts from around the world. And it's kind of like to be a part of this big collective creative endeavor. It's really, it's like humbling, and it's an honor to be a part of it as well, at the same time, just to be invited to become part of this. It's just really something, it gives you this really good feeling that's so hard to put into words, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. That was actually going to be my follow-up question, how does it feel to come into a franchise as big as One Piece on a feature film that's just absolutely kicked it out of the park in terms of visuals, box office, and everything?
I mean, an actor's dream come true. I mean, there's so much meat to the story, and we kind of just get to jump into a very established tale of these characters that, you know, have been iconic. And I've seen Luffy everywhere. So it's really awesome to be able to jump into those scenes and play off of actors that I admire. I love Colleen dearly. So it's…it's really a dream come true. And, really fun. It's such a fun movie. I can't wait for people to watch it.
Yeah, on a previous trip to Japan, we actually saw Chopper and Luffy traffic barriers when they were doing road works, and it was amazing because it's been running for two decades now.
Right, 25 years, I think.
We've been in the show, but this is like this is a penultimate creation, visual and audio splendor. It's so hard to describe how pretty and how just how colorful and not just visually but audibly, it's like there's a different palette of different styles of songs.
They took over Time Square for a couple of hours, which is wild. I've never been a part of a project that took over Time Square, so that was a milestone for sure.
Amazing, and the next thing I was gonna hint at was actually something Jim just picked up on there. You've been in the show previously, but what is it like coming back to something that you've been a part of before, but not quite on the weekly level to the same point as other people but coming back on such a big piece? At a time like this?
Sure. There was a similar question, and it's like I said that One Piece is a gift to character actors who can do crazy voices and wild voices to match what his designs are. Like, visiting your favorite theme park. It's what kind of ride are we going to go on this time? Oh, we're going to be a fish man who throws stuff, okay? And then you're gone for a while, and you come back? Oh, I'm gonna be a bell-ringing monkey that screeches a lot. Okay. One Piece, the show has been so much fun to work on. And Film Red, for me, is a completely different style of character in Gordon. And One Piece has always given me something new and fun. And Film Red is no different. It's that this was really something for this role, and I'm so so proud to be part of it, that I was entrusted with Gordon. It's a dramatic role. It's emotional. And it's, um, yeah. It's different from anything I've done for One Piece before.
I voiced a character in the Fishman arc as well. But it's really incredible to be back in the One Piece world, especially as such an iconic character like Uta, I get to jump right into this story again, that's really awesome. I also love the movie setting that One Piece Film: Red has because you get to see these character arcs in full, you don't have to wait every week, you don't have to wait every Friday for an episode to release. You get like a full character arc throughout a movie. It's really beautiful, and it's fast-paced and just super fun. You could just sit back and relax and eat your popcorn and drink your drink and watch us play.
The next question is for you, AmaLee, specifically about UTA. Do you think the people in the One Piece universe were expecting an idol with such a presence as Uta to be revealed as the daughter of someone as infamous as Shanks?
I don't think it was expected at all. But I think that's what kind of makes it wonderful. And it makes the world of One Piece seem so much larger than it already is at 1000 episodes. So it's like, Oh my God, who else is gonna be out there? But I think it's really awesome that she has so much history in the show already that hasn't been touched on. I think longtime fans are gonna love that because there's gonna be little easter eggs throughout the movie that they're gonna get to catch on to. I think it's really beautiful. And it's super, super fun to get to become a character that has so much past history with these iconic characters that have been around forever because I get to kind of play off of that. I think it’s a breath of fresh air for the One Piece universe that we get a character like Uta, who loves music, and we get this new story-driven movie with music. Everyone loves a good concert. I think it's super fun. I think it really changes the vibe of the movie and just makes it a blast.
Absolutely, class. I love that. Next for Jim, do you think if Gordon hadn’t lied to Uta about her past, would Uta have rejoined Shanks and gone on to join the red-haired pirates and spent more time with Luffy?
Oh, okay, how do I answer this question? Gordon is her second father, her adoptive father, and he’s looked after her pretty much as her only family member for however many years, and he just wants her to be safe. You always mean to do well, and somebody else has mentioned that there are good intentions. You mean well, but sometimes there's no telling without having all the information, so sometimes things just go wrong, you know?
Yeah, that's the way it goes. Absolutely. Next, how much training did it take to hit the low “Do-Re-Mi” notes for Gordon?
“Do-Re-Mi”? Ah well, I mean, I will karaoke sober. That's how much I love singing, you know. I’m not at the AmaLee level of singing, but I can carry a tune. I did a series of children’s videos early on in my career, and we were singing in that, and I've sung on other projects. For Gordon, it was just yanno “Do-Re-Mi”, right? Luckily I like to think I can carry a tune, nobody’s told me I can’t yet, so I guess that means I can. I think.
Exactly. Then why stop? Okay, the last one I had for AmaLee, given your background with music and everything, what does it feel like getting to play a character that just carries so much emphasis, weight, and importance on music?
Oh, I loved it. I loved Uta from before I even got cast. I was listening to the songs, and I was like, I might have to cover some of these like they're just good songs.
And then I got the call that I was cast, and it was a dream come true because I see so much of myself in Uta I mean, she's an idol that uses these transponder snails to broadcast her singing across the world, which is a little bit like YouTube, it's a little bit like streaming, so it was kind of really fun. I don't think I've had a character yet that has really been so close to my actual life, like in that kind of way with music. I've definitely sung as a singer before, but not that very close to being a YouTuber. So that was really fun. And I love her desperately. She's such a fun character, and the songs are awesome. And I really admire and respect her love for music. I think we both love music on the same level. So it was really fun, very easy to play. It's like method acting. Very easy.
Yeah, it felt like that watching the film, as a follow-up, are you gonna be covering the songs?
Yes, I'm gonna cover every single one. I'm releasing my own personal cover of New Genesis on November 4 to celebrate the release of the movie and to let my followers know that they should go check it out and watch it in theatres.
Hearing directly from the actors really helps us to understand the process of developing a character for the screen. What did you think of this interview? Are you excited to see One Piece Film: Red in theatres? Let us know in the comments!