Geek It! Anime Festival Sydney 2020: VA Panel with Bryce Papenbrook, David Matranga and Ricco Fajardo
Some of the hottest dub voice actors of the anime industry made appearances at this year’s Anime Festival Sydney 2020. We’re talking about dubbed voice actors David Matranga (aka Shoto Todoroki from My Hero Academia), Bryce Papenbrook (aka Kirito from Sword Art Online, Eren Jaeger from Attack on Titan) and Ricco Fajardo (aka Mirio Togata from My Hero Academia).
Luckily for us, we got to drop by the voice actor panel featuring these awesome guests, and learnt about the voice-acting process. Check out random extracts from the panel below. Enjoy!
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Host: We’re sure there are plenty of fans in the room who are keen to take on voice-acting — how did you get to where you are today?
Ricco: I was on a movie set and we were joking and hanging around, and I was asked to audition for a show. And from there, I just kept auditioning and working hard. And here we are now!
David: I knew in high school that I wanted to be an actor but not necessarily a voice actor. I didn’t have plans to go to college but I decided to major in theatre and started doing impression theatre. I then went to grad school for acting, and then I got an agent. From there, I auditioned for many cartoon roles — that was a long time ago.
Bryce: My story is a little different. I grew up with a family of actors. My dad was working on a show called ‘Power Rangers’ and he played a bunch of characters. I loved going to work with him, and in one of the sessions, they were after someone with a kid’s voice, and my Dad’s like, “Here’s a kid!”
Host: When you guys were getting started, you would have said at one point, “I wish I had known that earlier”. What mistake have you made and/or what was it that you wish you had known at the start of this journey?
David: Ricco and I was talking about this on the way from the airport. You gotta enjoy the hustle of the job and you gotta enjoy the job itself. In order to stay in the business, you have to enjoy putting yourself out there. Whether it be auditioning for roles or doing the marketing and press — you have to get behind all that.
At the start, I’ve always been a destination-orientated person. But with this career, there is a bit of process involved and I used to always look at it with a business mindset. How do I diversify myself from others? During college, I was like, I guess I could do voice-overs. I then auditioned for voice-acting jobs and that led me to anime.
Ricco: I’ve always had a fascination with circus – the performing nature and spectacle of it. One day, I got the best advice from my instructor — I was like, “How did you do that triple backflip. Isn’t it scary?” He then responded, “Ain’t nothing to it than to do it”.
And I was like to myself, “That’s scary because what if I break my leg?” But when you think about it, there is a process. When you see magnificent shots of Bryce on the screen, you can hear and see the quality of work.
When you see someone who puts in a great deal of time and quality into art or acting — you can’t ignore good work. You might not like his/her style or you may not like the scene or character. However, when you see something good, you know it’s good. There is universal truth that time and dedication does actually make you good at something.
In today’s technology, our phones can create amazing movies, I can submit an audition using my microphone on my phone and send it off. But what really stops you, is when you do. So you gotta start recording and just keep going. Just like Mirio.
Bryce: If I can go back and tell myself something, it would be to “prepare to scream a lot”[audience laughs] and that I’m going to be “shredding my vocal chords”. [audience laughs]
Host: I’ve noticed that with all of three of you — you guys are really focussed on working out. Is working out part of the voice-acting job?
David: Everybody is different. For me, acting — whether it be on camera or voice acting — it is a physical medium. You’re using your body as a physical instrument even though you’re just hearing the voice. If there is an action scene, I’m still using my body. To me, it is part of my craft and I have to make sure that I’m fit and healthy.
Ricco: The voice is a tool. Like any artist or builder, you have to take care of the tools. If you’re a surgeon, you don’t want rusty tools. As a voice actor, you need to warm up your voice and get ready for your scene. If you’re not ready yet for that particular scene in the booth and you go unprepared, you’re pretty much done.
David: Every voice-acting role is different. You might have a role that requires a deep, angry voice, and then you might have an idol role where the character is airy with a high-pitched voice. You need to have the flexibility and keep your voice in shape.
Bryce: For me, martial arts help me with my voice-acting. I know the pain of getting punches and how to throw punches. So when there is a role that requires such sounds, I imitate those sounds for those scenes.
Doing those action scenes in the booth is important because they can easily sound inauthentic. For instance, when you’re in the booth and the instruction is “impaled by Gundam sword” — they actually don’t explain anything to you. They’d be like, “Ok, we’re going to start recording now” and then you just have to make the ‘sound’.
Ricco: There are a few unique anime sounds though. If you cut together a bunch of anime sounds, you’d be like, “That guy is a hack — he’s doing the same sounds!” They might be the same sound but they actually sound different. You can hear the difference.
Bryce: When it comes to dub, you have to voice the character and try to fit the words into the flaps of the characters’ mouth. One recent scene that stood out quite relatively to me — I remember in Sword Art Online: Alicization, there is a scene where Kirito is climbing a side of the building with Alice and he’s slightly holding her. However, he’s talking to her by facing directly to the camera whilst holding a backpack as well.
So to make it as if I was holding her and backpack, I was holding my own backpack and it was really heavy. That scene alone took two and a half hours. The scene was really difficult to voice — we had to try and get the syncing perfect. So as you can see, there are times where you really have to grind through.
I remember watching the episode for the first time as it aired on Toonami back in the States. There was a particular moment that literally lasted a second on the screen, and I was like, “I remember spending 30 minutes of my life on that bit”. But it felt great and the hard work paid off.
David: Those moments are the reasons why you rely on your toolbox, your techniques, and the things that you have learnt over the years. Sometimes the craft and impulse is there and everything magically works out. However, when it doesn’t, that is when you rely on your training and craft.
Host: What was it like to work on My Hero Academia?
Ricco: I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I am incredibly blessed to play a character like Mirio who is so wholesome.
David: We’ve been doing voice-acting for a fair bit now, and you work on all different kind of projects. As actors, we give 100% to our characters and make sure that we get the voice out there. It is always a special honour to work on a project that has an amazing fandom that people love, that people respond to, and connect to.
As an actor, I feel a huge responsibility to tell the characters’ story the way it’s meant to be told. When we were approaching the sports festival in My Hero, we knew that it was going to be a big thing, and we wanted to make sure that everything was right.
Host: How do you decide to get into character? Do you look at the character and just guess?
Bryce: When I did voice-acting for Fire Emblem the game, I actually had no idea that I was doing voice-acting for Fire Emblem. All I had was a picture of my character. His name is Henry and his picture shows him smiling.
The director was like “Okay, let’s find a voice for this character!” and the first line for Henry was “Yay, Blood!” [audience laughs] So I was trying out all these lines with enthusiasm, and it got to the point where he sounded like an evil Elmo which was the right voice for Henry.
So when you’re in the booth, you just have to be in the moment and adapt to the situation. You need to trust in your team to direct you in finding the right voice for the character. When you hit the right voice, you use it as a reference for your character from there on.
Host: When you’re in the booth and you have to do an emotional scene, do you have to think back to an emotional moment of your life? Is it easy to cry on cue?
Ricco: A lot of actors imagine the situation in front of them — others use their real life experiences. However, sometimes you cry for real and it doesn’t work with the scene. For example, when I played Taju in Dr Stone and he sees Yuzuriha for the first time in 4000 years, I was legit crying in the booth. The director was then like, “Sorry, it’s not working out”. I was wiping my tears off and I’m like, “Okay, let’s go again” But that’s all part of it. We’re working as a team and you have to trust in your colleagues to make the scene right.
Bryce: Every actor gets there differently. For me, I have to connect to something personal. When I’m talking to my love interests, I think about my wife. In terms of emotional scenes, I think about stuff that hits me deep Sometimes it’s really difficult to get there but when I look back at those moments, I feel proud of myself for putting myself into those situations and achieving those scenes in the end.
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