We had a lot of fun at the Sangawa Project in Pittsburgh over the weekend and were thrilled with the chance to sit down with two very talented voice actors for a chat. We got to talk to Monkey D. Luffy him(her)self, Colleen Clinkenbeard and the voice of Rainer the Armored Titan, Robert McCollum.
Colleen Clinkenbeard isn’t just a voice actor with some very notable roles like Hana in Wolf Children, Ezra in Fairy Tail, and Scarlet in Space Dandy. She is an accomplished director of shows like My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ravens and High School DxD. We had a lot of fun talking about her work, the industry and the convention experience.
I’ve been an actor my whole life and when I became friends with Laura Bailey she brought me up to Funimation to try and get me in the door. It [voice acting] clicked pretty much instantly because all I cared about was that I was getting to act.
I was quickly reminded [after getting hired] that my one of my professors in college told me that I was going to be a voice actor and at the time I had laughed at him.
Since I was 12, it was the only thing I did with my life. In college and high school, I did everything I could to do not just acting.
By far, it’s It directing; there is no comparison. I’ve acted, written and produced for Funimation, and directing is the only one that is mentally exhausting at times. Because as an actor your job is to get in the booth and just to do what the character does and do what your director wants and that is so freeing. As a director, you have to know what the project is and where it’s going and where this character came from. You have to know how all the pieces are going to fit together. I also find you also have to use a lot of different tactics to get a good performance out of each actor.
As an artist, sure you want more time, but when you look at it Funimation really changed the game. The simultaneous dubbing process, simuldub, is groundbreaking and its completely industry changing. There will, I believe, come a time where that’s expected.
We get to see the reactions to the episodes one episode at a time. We don’t have to record it all and then turn it in and then wait for a year to find out how fans are going to react to it. We find out fast if they’d wish we had done something differently with this character. We know all along and it’s more exciting; it’s more like theater.
With My Hero Academia, I don’t think I’d be as invested in it if I had recorded it all in one onslaught and sent it out rather than the fans getting excited and the studio getting excited about how good it is.
It is surreal sometimes. It is funny nowadays to have people come through the lines at a convention and be like “I grew up with you!” and “you’re the voice of my childhood.” On one hand that is awesome and on the other it’s a shock. You also get the chance to really understand your character. You get to live in your character’s head for so long. I know how Luffy [from One Piece] will react to anything. If you tell me what island he is going to and a little bit about it I can tell you how he is going to be on that island.
It gives me so much pride. I come to a convention and as I’m meeting people and think man my fans are so much cooler about stuff than the population in general. My son, at birth, had some brain damage, so he has a higher chance of developing autism. Yet, I knew as he was growing up if that was the case I’d be able to bring him to a convention and he would be able to fit in because people look beyond, people look to who you actually are. You can always find a place at a convention; we are the world of misfits and it makes you feel proud.
As the LGBTQ community goes it is well represented in anime, even though there are some stereotypes. There is a significant portion of anime that not only supports the lifestyle but makes it feel status quo. It doesn’t make a character that is LGBTQ an “other,” it’s a just people are people and sexual orientation is just a small part of the story. The character isn’t simply defined by it. I feel that there is something there for the LGBTQ community to latch onto in entertainment and there is something for them in anime and we haven’t done as good as a job as we can to express that.
There is a book I’m reading to my kid called Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke and it’s just a lovely little tale about a girl with a house on a turtle. The turtle comes to town and puts out a sign that says all the lost creatures, creatures that don’t have a home can come live here and we get characters like a zombie cat and a troll whose bridge was taken down by the government. I just think it would be so much fun to be animated.
Robert McCollum has more than 200 roles to his credit, working at Funimation for over 10 years. You can hear his voice acting talent in characters like Jellal in Fairy Tail, Date Masamune in Sengoku Basara and Kogami in Psycho-Pass.
I started out as an actor and theater kid and then decided it was time to be a grownup and went to college for business and moved to Dallas for sales and marketing. I then started acting again. I got the bug and realized it was more fun. I then started to do a lot of improv comedy. I quit the real job to pursue acting. It’s a scary thing to quit your job, but at about that time one of the guys I was doing improv with, Mike McFarland, was in at Funimation in its early days and said we just needed tons of people. I mean people were playing four or five roles in the same project. Voice acting with acting became my real job and voiceover in general was quickly the way to make a living in Dallas as an actor. I mean commercials, corporate and industrial training films, you were never going to get famous, but you could make a living as an actor.
As actors, we come in blind and you could be the first one recording on the particular scene. You hear the Japanese, you don’t hear the other actors, you don’t know the whole story. So it’s the director’s job to put you in the universe and explain what’s going on and make sure everyone in the same scene understands so it’s not disjointed. It’s up to the directors to explain that and keep in their mind what’s going on because we [actors] have nothing to go on.
It makes you much more involved in the shows. It used to be that you’d voice a small character and then it would go into the can and you wouldn’t think of it, hear about it, or see any of it for six months to a year. Then it gets released and you’re in the middle of a new project and you don’t even have the time to stop and watch it to see what you did; you’re kind of disconnected from it. But, now you’re like “I did that Thursday and it’s on the air on Monday and I can watch it and see the comments.” It makes it first-person instead of third-person to be involved in it.
We don’t know where the story is going to go. We aren’t getting a whole package of scripts six months ahead of time. The writers and directors are learning week by week. So sometimes you don’t know if a character is a good guy or bad guy or is going to die in two episodes. Each role could be interesting or the most amazing role ever.
It is much more director-driven than any other form. Because you don’t know where things are headed. The question is if we are we going to try and stay as true to the Japanese as possible and there are some properties where we try to copy the Japanese as close as we possibly can. In other shows the question is, is this show is just having fun and if so we’re going to have fun for our audience and it may be completely different.
Sometimes the director will have you jump ahead to a scene that helps you get a sense of a character and then you jump back to the beginning and start the recording.
It’s very rare we get to live with a character for that long. A lot of times shows are 12-episode arcs or two seasons at the most. So, it’s amazing to get to do a character for that long.
Because he was easy. He barely says anything. I had literally 12 lines in an entire season, yet he’s in the whole show and has a great presence. He’ll be standing in the background for the whole show and just say “yeah” [for our readers, just imagine imaging a Swedish person saying yeah].
I think that sometimes this tribe [anime lovers] is so open and accepting. People are looking for that and realize this is a place where they can fit in. In this case the interest and focus comes from wanting to be a part of this group. I think it goes both ways; there are anime fans that come to conventions and there are convention fans that come to anime.
Well as I’ve gotten older and gruffer I have come to really like bad guys. First of all, the more powerful the bad guy the better, because they don’t have to do much. The young striving hero has to power up and scream and the super powerful guys just need to grunt occasionally. The bad guys are usually cool and quiet and still and whisper a lot. It’s not yelling and screaming and proving anything. I think bad guys are way more fun.
I think it’s access. The very nature of the content is so huge and it’s been huge for years. But now that anyone can see it, anyone can find it and be like “oh, that’s cool – what else is there to watch?” and that search isn’t a week long, it’s seven seconds.
Well, he is trying to be a good soldier and is doing what he is told in both camps. It is hard to be a slave to two masters. It is taking its toll on him. I think there is a fair amount of remorse. I think we need to make some space for forgiveness.