This past weekend at Anime Boston 2019, we had the opportunity to speak with Richard Epcar, veteran voice actor of over 600 characters from anime and video games. Some of his best-known roles include Batou from Ghost in the Shell, Jigen from Lupin the Third, Ansem and Terra-Xehanort from Kingdom Hearts, the Joker from several Batman games, and old Joseph Joestar from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. He has also served as a director and writer on many anime projects with his wife, fellow voice actor Ellyn Stern.
Richard Epcar shared his thoughts on connecting with his characters, his dream roles, and much more. He also offered exclusive insider info on the voice acting business. Let’s get started!
You’ve voiced over 600 characters, and some of them are similar to each other, such as Ansem and Terra-Xehanort and Joseph Joestar at different ages. How do you differentiate them?
You should cosplay as him!
And with Ansem and Terra-Xehanort, is there a bit of a difference?
How many times did you have to say “light” and “darkness” and “hearts”?
As a veteran actor, what are your thoughts on the changing face of anime as it steps out of its subculture roots and into more of a mainstream pop culture role?
And I think that’s pretty cool—it’s also a testament to how wonderful these stories are that these guys come up with. I think that’s really why all of this stuff is so popular. They come up with these incredible stories that are very different from what we grew up watching as kids’ cartoons. Our stuff is pretty linear when you look at it, pretty formulaic. But they really push the envelope, ask the tough questions, and I think people really like that! I think it’s really engaging, and that’s why they have such a devoted fanbase that’s growing and growing all the time. Which is great, because when we first started doing this stuff a million years ago, I worked on Robotech—it was one of the first big things I worked on—nobody really knew. They thought it was some silly little cartoon show, and then it blew up. They put it on network television, and it’s been growing leaps and bounds ever since.
With the recent passing of Monkey Punch [creator of the Lupin the Third series], what does it mean to you to voice one of the main characters?
And it was so bizarre—[Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure] kind of just fell in my lap by accident, actually. I said to them, “I’d like to bring back the original cast.” And they made us all re-audition for our roles again because they thought we were all decrepit and old now and we would sound different, but we all sounded exactly the same. So we did that, and the show went on Toonami as you know and was one of the top-rated shows—that and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. So because of that, they did another series that I just finished directing—another “blue jacket” series—and I’ve done three movies since then that I’ve directed and played Jigen in.
I mentioned earlier that Monkey Punch came when we were doing the “red jacket” series. It was really cool to meet him, and he and I share a love of James Bond. A lot of the stuff from Lupin is James Bond-inspired, so it was really cool to be part of that and to know that he loved that too. I was very sad to hear [that he died]. The longer you live, the more people you know who pass away, unfortunately. That’s kind of the reality of life. Isn’t that great...?
What have been some of your favorite interactions with fans?
So I get in there and it’s one of those huge rooms that’s packed to the gills—I mean packed! And I walked in and she goes, “Oh my god, it’s Richard Epcar!” and the whole place went nuts! It was like one the Beatles walked in—it was ridiculous. And I did a line and they all went nuts, and then they wouldn’t let me out. I was signing everybody’s autographs—it took me like an hour to get out of there. But that was really fun and they’re amazing, the Kingdom Hearts fans.
What line did you do?
(laughs) You know, whatever that means.
With how fans were anticipating the third series of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, people were excited to hear the cast from the first three episodes [that were originally broadcast on Crunchyroll three years before the full dub was released] reprise those roles. Did you have to audition again, and did you kind of know that you were going to be back?
Since you have your own famous blooper panel at conventions, is your style of acting and directing geared toward improv a little more than others?
So is it harder to improv when you’re dubbing and you have to match the lip flaps?
Are there any specific examples you can think of?
There’s an old show you did that a lot of people love—Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo.
(laughs) How do you prepare for anything like that? It’s honestly one of the zaniest things anyone has ever seen, even still to this day.
I finally agreed to do it and I’m really glad I did. It was really a fun show—I actually have some outtakes from Bobobo, but it’s such a crazy show that you can’t tell if they’re outtakes or not! I hear rumors that they’re bringing the show back, but nobody has approached me yet.
Do you have any characters that would be your dream role to play?
A video game, maybe?
How is directing yourself different from a more traditional voice acting setup?
The thing about directing is that you have all the control. When you’re acting in something, you’re a piece of the puzzle. But when you’re directing something, you’re putting the puzzle together. So it’s nice to be able to do both of those on a project—I really do enjoy it. And I get to work with one of my favorite directors!
Do you have any new projects coming out that you can tell us about?
Diamond is Unbreakable?
Thank you so much for speaking with us, Richard!
Richard Epcar is a boisterous and jovial person, just like many of his most beloved characters. He’s truly a professional who cares deeply about his work and his fans. Be sure to look for him as Ansem in Kingdom Hearts 3, Raiden in Mortal Kombat 11, and Joseph Joestar in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable this year.
What did you think of our talk with Richard Epcar? What are your favorite characters of his? Have you ever met him at a convention? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!