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 Luffy, Shanks, and Law’s voice actors, the very talented Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, and Matthew Mercer, about the production, their performances, and their parts in the story of One Piece Film: Red.
Interview with Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), Brandon Potter (Shanks), and Matthew Mercer (Law)
The first question for everyone, here. Just about how have your voice styles sort of changed over the years working on One Piece? And what specific sort of adaptations do you normally make for feature-length films like this?
That's a good question. I'll start on the smaller scale. Not so much the quality or timbre have had adjustments to Law's voice, more that I’ve now had more growing opportunities to show different sides of him. And in many cases, the more emotionally frustrated and loudly unhappy with other characters' side of him, you know, started very cool and collected he's unraveled as time goes on, just in the proximity of the Straw Hats. So that's definitely his journey.
It's a long trip, this show is very, very long. So you know, asking this particular question with this particular show, we've been at it for years and years and years, Colleen’s done what, like 1000 episodes, 16 years? My voice acting has changed, I’m not sure that this show changed it but by nature of being a human who grows and changes, yeah, it’s a little bit different now. Probably the main thing is that, personally, I’m just a little bit more relaxed when I go into a booth just because I’ve been in more of them now. So I just feel more comfortable than I did when I started all those years ago. And with this character in particular, even with this movie, with One Piece film: Red, in particular, you get to know more about the character, and you get more humanity revealed about them. So they're not just some towering pirate legend, you know, there's a human being there that has like a real past and in real connections with people and has made decisions that have real consequences. So just by nature of being in the booth, and, you know, listening to the Japanese and getting to add my own voice, you can't help but have a more rounded perception of the character and a more rounded voice for it. So I think, just by virtue of this thing, being so long, and so expansive, and so complete, there's just a little bit more humanity to it and a little bit more ease, I would say.
Obviously, Luffy's voice has changed, and my voice has changed both fairly significantly, some purposefully and some circumstantially, it's been 16 years. So he started off a lot higher, still gruff, but a lot higher. And then, as he's aged, we've tried to add in some lower resonance to him. And I feel like the gravel has also eased a little bit, I was trying so hard to make sure that it was very gruff and where they wanted it to be at the beginning. And I've kind of eased into it. And so it's less piercing, I think, in a lot of the battle scenes. But then also just, I've aged, so my voice is lower naturally, and can't take the abuse that it could when I was young, I used to be able to do this for six hours a day. And now I can do two hours a day if it's heavy-duty yelling, and I think it makes it more three-dimensional that we're growing together. So I'm glad that that's happening naturally and in a way that is organic to the show because it would be bad if he was staying the same and I was not.
Yeah, that's just the thing with such a long-running show what's going to happen and just off the back of that, specifically in this movie, but also in the rest of One Piece, specifically for you, Colleen. How do you make some of those noises with Luffy? I'm thinking more specifically, the seasick noises or when he's rolling around in the bubble. How does that come out sometimes?
I mean, a lot of it is listening to the Japanese voice actor and trying to pull in cuz she's so funny and specific, and I want to try to do a homage to her a lot of the time, so I'll gear it after that some of the time, but anytime Luffy goes underwater because we get plenty of those and they're always hilarious. It's me going *makes a drowning noise with her finger in her mouth*. That’s it. There’s no underwater filter.
I love it. Now for Matthew, about Law. Seeing Law hear Uta’s music and seeming so disinterested and unmusical and unfazed by it, irritated by Bepo’s presence and love for it, do you think by the end of the movie, he has some place in his heart for music and specifically Uta’s music and how it changes people throughout the run of the movie?
I think, definitely so though he is a character who has built his entire life and persona on not showing other people how he feels, that's how he stays alive. That's how he stays ahead of the game. You know, which is why I think he is so frustrated sometimes with Luffy is because it's a character that constantly forces him to show his hand at times, he's like, “What are you doing?!”. Yeah, what I love about Law is that there is a very deep well of humanity and emotion to him and his constant struggle to keep it at bay for the purpose of the things he wants to achieve. And in spite of himself, he can't help but continuously surround himself with people he cares about, people that would logically be a weakness, you know, to the things he wants to do, to the things he feels he has to do because those are all liabilities. These are people that are possible things that can be used against him, and I think his journey through the series and the stillness, that’s part of his kind of subtle arc over time, is you get that kind of hard heart melting a bit and how carefully you can try and not show it too much in spite of all the children that continuously seem to surround him.
Quick follow-up to that on the children's part, when they’re fleeing from Uta, do you think Law feels like a babysitter to Luffy and Bartolomeo?
Matt’s been saying that all day!
Oh yeah, the entire energy is the chaperone that didn't choose to be there, but everyone else wasn't available, and so I guess he has to do it, you know, it's that begrudging parent. I do this because I love you, kids, you know, that kind of energy, and it's a great comedic foil for all the excitement and energy that everyone else has surrounding whatever the story, and I think you need that both for the comedic beat and for people and many parents out there who are like “Yep, that was me last week.”.
Next one I have for Brandon, was actually from a good friend of mine, who's a massive fan of the series and, specifically, shanks. Already being Uta's father and Luffy’s role model, and sort of a father figure within the One Piece universe also, sort of a mythical figure, how in your voice acting techniques, and having done the role for quite a while, how do you balance the sort of aura Shanks gives off at being a lovely father figure, but at the same time, the deadliest and most powerful thing in the One Piece universe?
You know, it's interesting to use the word balance because sometimes it isn't a balance; actually, it's more like a light switch. So when you are doing the loving Father thing, just do that, don't worry about being a terrifying badass who can also be a loving father, just be a loving father. And then when it's time to be that sort of imposing figure, go ahead and do that, don't worry about being the tender loving father while you're about to do some murder, like that just doesn't make any sense. With both of those light switches, it's really important to have just people that you trust that you can bounce ideas off of, and the directors for One Piece have always been really good, you know, like Mike McFarlane or Anthony, they're all terrific, they know the characters, they love the show all of that. So anytime I have something that I'm like, “Ooh, maybe this actually is that kind of high wire thing.”, doing it, letting them listen to it, and then hearing what they have to say about it, you know, are we trying this again? Or does that strike the right chord? Am I on the right switch? Am I walking the tightrope? Am I doing the thing or not, you know, so it becomes about, you know, making a clear choice? And then when the choice isn't clear, leaning on the director and your friends, you know, so that they can help guide you.
Yeah, the collaboration is so important. I don't think enough conversation happens around that, we're happy to be performers there, but we don't know the entire tapestry of the story that's being told here. The directors have to keep that in mind the entire time and kind of balance between each of us to create the final product where it sounds even and then lively and real. And we're very lucky that we have such talented and passionate directors on these projects because we have to rely on them in a lot of cases, especially me, who's far removed from most of the cast in the production here like I definitely have to lean on them, and they're wonderful.
We’re the colors they’re painting with.
Just a quick follow-up to that one. Brandon, specifically about the singing part, the lullaby to Uta, did you enjoy that? Did you have to train for that? Did you have to do much for that? Or was it just fun?
I spent my whole career training for that one moment! It's funny because I remember that really, really clearly. When sometimes inspiration strikes, Lewis, sometimes it does, and when I was watching it, and I was hearing the Japanese, and it was, like, lovely and funny, you know, kind of all at the same time I was watching, I was like, I know what to do. You know, like you breathe in, and it suddenly is in your head. You know, sometimes you have to rely on techniques. Sometimes you got to, you know, rely on the directors, but sometimes you just kind of know what to do. And in that one little scene, I was like, I know what to do here, and I knew I'd done right when Anthony couldn't respond because he was laughing so hard. And I was like, okay, that's perfect.
I think we did that well. We did the good stuff here. Very good. All right, moving on.
Laughter is always a good telltale sign. Okay, one last question for Colleen about the story. Do you think Uta suddenly leaving Luffy at such a young age had an impact on his personality? Or do you think Luffy is so headstrong that he was gonna go the way he did no matter what?
That's a good question because I like to say that Luffy lives entirely in the moment and isn't caught up in his past or his future. It's one of my favourite things about him. But does that apply to the formative years as a child? And I don't know that I know the answer to that. But she's not the only experience he has with that kind of thing. I mean, he had brothers who did the same thing, he had Shanks who did the same thing. So he has a lot of characters who are kind of transitory in his life. And he, I think, in this world has just become accepting of the fact that that is the way that real-life relationships work in this world of pirates. You have people in your life to teach you and to train you and to give you love and experiences, and fun, and you have to be able to let them go because they're their own people and they're gonna live their own lives, and then be ecstatic when they come back, and you get to see them again like he is with Uta and Shanks. It's fantastic that they're back. That's great. But he doesn't seem super caught up in the idea that they have to stay together now. When he sees her again, he seems willing to let her go live her life again and to go live his own. So I feel like that's just become a facet of his personality that he's capable of dealing with, which is way healthier than the rest of us live our lives.
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!