An Interview with Lindsay Jones and Barbara Dunkelman of RWBY
Date: Friday November 11th 2016 [17:00] | Posted By: Lee
Lindsay Jones and Barbara Dunkelman voice Ruby Rose and Yang Xiao Long in the popular anime RWBY. The fourth season of the show has just been launched and we were lucky enough to catch up with them at the MCM London Comic Con for an exclusive interview and the chance to chat to them about the show, what we can expect from Volume 4 and the life of a voice actor and all round community figure at Rooster Teeth. RWBY Volume 4 can be seen on Rooster Teeth with new episodes being released every Saturday.
As is tradition with Otaku News articles, we try to keep them spoiler free. However this article does contain spoilers for RWBY.
Obviously we are all really excited for Volume 4 of RWBY. Is there anything in particular you think we should look out for?
Barbara: Well I think one of the coolest parts of Volume 4 is that all four girls are separated. So thatís a completely new part of the volume and something new we havenít seen in RWBY before. Like, the only time theyíve been apart was in the beginning of Volume 1 and then they all started working together so I think itís going to be interesting to see each characterís story play out and see their development within the season.
So yeah...the groupís now splitting up, so would you say thatís completely affecting the direction the show is going in?
Lindsay: I wouldnít say the direction really. Monty had planned this long in advance before the show even started, he had seasons and seasons and seasons in mind. So, he wanted this moment to occur and I think that itís not necessarily going to be something that is going to be a continuing pattern in the show, but I think youíre going to see a lot of growth in the characters from this experience
Barbara: Yeah, and I donít think itís changing RWBY and how it is. I think the voice of the show will always be the same just because we have had the same writers since the very start, but definitely the show is growing with the fan base so itís going to keep evolving like that
Yeah and it did take a dark turn in Volume 3 (which obviously Barbara, you know personally! *spoilers*)
Barbara: I feel like if you are just focusing on the four girls at the school, and thatís it, then it gets a little boring, youíve gotta go outside.
Lindsay: Yeah, life happens too!
Yeah I guess not every episode can be a food fight...
Speaking of which, would you say that was one of your favorite scenes?
Lindsay: Oh yeah. I would say my two favorite fights so far in RWBY are the food fight and then episode 8 of Volume 1 with the giant crow, the giant Nevermore.
Barbara: Thatís my fave too for sure.
Lindsay: Those are two amazing scenes, but the food fight was so much fun.
Barbara: Well the Volume 1 one was the classic, like, "Oh my gosh! They are working together for the first time (Lindsay: Wow!)". You get to see Team RWBY in action.
What would you say makes those scenes stand out above the rest of the show?
Barbara: Just seeing all the characters interact with each other and how they fight. Their fighting style, their weapons which is why I think a lot of people fell in love with RWBY, seeing the fight scenes and the choreography and everything like that. Then it was the story line that got people hooked on the show so I think it sets a lot of shows apart and the very unique fighting style of each character and you get to see them all come together
Lindsay: Especially in the earlier volumes when it was just Monty animating all the fight sequences. You can clearly tell itís his work and heís very detailed and he explained fight choreography much like dance choreography which I totally agree with. Itís very much mirror images of itself. For him a lot of the fight sequences also told stories about the characters in which the ways they are interacting with their opponents expresses their inner personas, so I completely agree with Volume 8...Erm I mean Volume 1 episode 8. Oops Spoilers! It sounds a little bit selfish but it was a huge rewarding moment for me playing Ruby, especially because this is the first time she proves why she got into the school early and kinda has this epic awesome anime moment.
Barbara: Where she just slices the head off the Nevermore. Itís epic! I almost teared up during that scene because itís just amazing. You get such chills and everything.
Lindsay: The silence afterwards and the sweet beating of the wings as itís falling down *makes wing noises* Wow.
Barbara: Everything about it is just beautiful.
Lindsay: It was fun to record to because we were at our old office, and we were actually up at the bull pen at the top of our office where people were working on their computers and trying to take care of administration stuff, so at that part sheís running up the hill for a solid...5 seconds, so the director said "Hey can you scream for like, 15 seconds". So Iím like "Sure iíll go for it" so as people are trying to quietly work and Iím like *Screams in Rubyís voice*.
So Lindsay you and Barbara completely agree on favorite scenes?
Lindsay: Yeah those are definitely some of my favorites. We have been talking about how one of the most rewarding scenes for us was the end of Volume 3, and we wonít spoil much but, itís a much sadder scene than anything we have done before and it really gets into the relationship of Yang and Ruby and it hits a new area that they have never explored before, especially since both characters are so very positive in earlier volumes, very happy go lucky, so to see them interacting on this very poniente level is very rewarding.
Barbara: Yeah and up until then it was such a shift for both characters because up until then Yang had been very motherly towards Ruby and very much wanting to take care of her and make sure everythingís ok but in that scene she is just completely defeated and is like "I donít care what you do. Iím just going to stay here and lie here."
Lindsay: And Ruby is like "I Donít have anyone to guide me now. What do I do?"
Barbara: Yang is all "Peace Out!"
Lindsay: Time to step it up Ruby *laughs*
In all fairness (*spoilers*) Losing an arm would do that to you right?
Barbara: I would say so. I would be pretty upset! Itís hard to punch someone with just one arm!
How would you say you see Yangís character growing now that sheís lost an arm?
Barbara: Well I think she has relied so much on her fighting and her abilities and her confidence, so when thatís taken away from her she almost has to discover who she is as a person without the fighting and without her abilities. To just learn to adapt to it and how she can move on from there. Itís going to be very interesting!
Iím sure we find out in Volume 4, but Iím guessing you canít say anything?
Barbara: I canít say anything no, but Yang is in Volume 4. Thatís all I can say!
Lindsay: I was just laughing in my head. You asked "How does she grow in Volume 4" and iím like "She grows it back haha! Surprise!"
Barbara: But itís just like a tiny little baby arm!
Lindsay: Awww Gross!!
Barbara: "High five sis!" *acts out a high five with a short arm*
Lindsay: Cosplays for that would be hilarious, with just a tiny little hand! . Weíve seen Yang cosplayers before where thereís a shadow where they have just painted their arm black up to the point where itís cut. Thatís pretty cool. I think the coolest one that iíve seen is someone who actually had had their arm amputated and they were like "Now I can cosplay this character" and iím like "Thatís so awesome!"
Barbara: And then they are like "Damn itís my left arm!"
Lindsay: Sorry! Gotta lose both now *laughs*
Given you canít say too much about Volume 4, are there any characters we should be watching out for?
Lindsay: Well the new characters.
Barbara: The one to...well you get a hint of her at the end of Volume 3, and itís pretty common knowledge what her name is, but Salem is a HUGE character moving forwards. Get excited for what you see from her!
Lindsay: Well episode 1 is already out so you get to see that sheís like the big baddy in that sense.
Barbara: Yeah itís heavily implied that she is the mastermind behind a lot of stuff
Lindsay: So I would definitely keep an eye on her and everything going on with that because itís a whole new part of the story and really, those are awesome characters, I love all of the villains in the show.
Barbara: Itís also great to hear Jen Taylor voice the character. All the Halo nerds are like "Oh Cortana!"
Lindsay: Oh Cortana, you so evil!
So you get to fangirl whenever sheís recording?
Lindsay: I think for every voice actor we get to work with now....Iíve been a fan of anime since I was in seventh grade, so to get to work with people like Vic Mignogna, Yuri Lowenthal and Elizabeth Maxwell is just awesome. We never thought we would get to do that in our lives!
Barbara: Yeah and we had a whole bunch of new voice actors come into the fold as well like Chris Sabat is like...the voice of Vegeta! And tonnes of other voice actors who are legitimate and make us sound....awful *laughs*
Lindsay: Yeah that is the saddest part when we start scenes and Iím like "That is amazing...and now Iím talking..."
Barbara: Iím like "Oh now Iím in a scene with Qrow. Iím in a scene with Vic Mignogna and Iím sounding like crap! *laughs*
When you both started at Rooster Teeth you started in very different directions from where you are now. You are now two of the most recognised personalities in the community.
Barbara: Thank you, thatís awesome to hear.
Lindsay: Woo thank you!
Barbara: Suck it Bernie! *laughs*
Lindsay: And Gus! *laughs*
Starting from community management etc. and moving into this voice acting role, what advice would you give to other people wanting to follow the same path and emulate your success?
Barbara: Um...we are definitely both in unique situations on how weíve come about our jobs and our voice acting careers. Itís hard to emulate it exactly and my advice to people is do something youíre passionate about and donít necessarily try do something with the hopes of getting one specific job role or doing one specific thing because itís likely it could not happen and youíd be disappointed so I would say focus on something you are passionate about and you want to develop a skill for and then good things will come to you from that.
Lindsay: I would also say create. A lot of people say to me "Oh how do I get started" and iím like "Start!" Especially with voice acting, itís very very easy to sit down and say Iím going to try and copy this character which Iím a fan of or Iím just going to play around with voices that iíve been trying and that in itself is already a demo reel which is what you will be sending to a lot of auditions so in a sense youíve already begun the process.
Barbara: Record yourself too. Get a good microphone and go go go!
Were the auditions tough when you first went for RWBY?
Lindsay: Well we talked about how it was interesting the way that it started. Monty, the creator of the show, actually approached us and said "Hey I want to make an Anime and we would like you guys to voice the characters. Itís not set in stone but we have this in mind" and we were just blown away and very grateful to have that opportunity. So yeah we had auditions but they were a bit of a formality. We tried a couple of other characters, like I auditioned for Pyrrha but clearly Monty was interested in me playing Ruby and thatís it! *laughs*
Barbara: Yeah Monty created the characters with us in mind so it was already set that we would be the voices of them but we did audition as just a "Hey we did this! They can do it, weíre good!"
Lindsay: Yeah we can act, we promise!
Having worked on other shows such as "Day 5" and "Ten Little Roosters" did you prefer live action work to voice acting?
Barbara: It depends. There are some things I like about voice acting over actual acting and visa versa. With voice acting, itís easy in the sense that you donít have to focus on what you look like when youíre doing it so you could be crazy and very emotive and not have to worry about what you look like, but when youíre acting in real life you have other things to rely on that can convey certain emotions so you know your facial expression your gestures and everything so itís easier to act in that sense so there are challenges and benefits to both but I donít know if I could say what I prefer.
Lindsay: I definitely prefer voice acting but iím so socially awkward and Iím not very good at controlling my body, so especially with Ruby, sheís all over the place. Especially when trying to get the voice sometimes I really clench my body or try to position myself a certain way so to not care at all about how I look but to still get a solid performance and really portray the emotion is very gratifying. I like that.
Do you find yourself actually acting like the characters while youíre recording?
Lindsay: Oh yes, absolutely.
Barbara: I know Lindsay does, she hops around, takes off her shoes.
Lindsay: Yes I do take off my shoes, because kids do that and I start wandering around and waving and stuff. But weíve talked about how a lot of our persona is in the character already so I mean, Lindsay herself is very socially awkward already and very weird so she just goes into the character even more so now I can not worry about societal standards or put a filter on myself. I just remove that filter and go
Barbara: For Yang I donít find I need to get into character very much just because we are similar in a lot of ways and sheís just my voice too, so I donít really have to do much. Sometimes I have to read a bit of the script before we start recording just to be like "This is what happens. This is what Iím doing. This is the mindset I have to be in"
What does it feel like to go from the community which you loved before you started and actually becoming a massive part of it. Is it a dream come true?
Barbara: Sureal, very sureal.
Lindsay: Yes absolutely. Something we never thought we would get to do ever.
Barbara: Yeah like, Iíve been following Rooster Teeth since I was 14 and I lived in Canada and didnít think "Hey maybe one day Iíll go and work for them". That was not even on my radar at all. I just loved Rooster Teeth and loved what they did so to get to now work at Rooster Teeth but also be a main character in the biggest show that Rooster Teeth makes is so crazy
Lindsay: I didnít know much about Rooster Teeth before coming in and working. I watched the shorts first, I was a Youtube fanatic. So I didnít know much about the fanbase and once I found out about it and how passionate they were I was like "Wow this really is like a family, it would be awesome to be a part of it some day" now RWBY has kind of embraced that aspect too and now we have a RWBY family.
Did you expect RWBY to be such a big hit when you first started recording?
Lindsay: Not at all. We were nervous because, 1. We had never made anything like an anime at Rooster Teeth before so we thought our fan base might hate it right off the bat, and 2. Weíre a Western company producing an anime so the rest of the world might hate it right off the bat! We were pleasantly surprised that not only was our fan base really receptive but now all these international audiences love the show too. I mean weíre getting dubbed in Japanese by Japanese voice actors who are HUGE in Japan.
Barbara: Yeah I donít think any of us could have expected the growth and just how itís taken off like it has. I mean, people we meet now know RWBY but donít know Rooster Teeth! Or be like "Hey you voice Yang right? Whatís your name?" They just donít know us but they know the characters and to see it just get so globally recognised and to be all over the place and to go to conventions and see cosplayers and even see pictures from conventions all over the world of cosplayers from RWBY itís just...itís crazy.
Do you ever wish people would recognise you from your podcasts and other work rather than just the characters?
Lindsay: The fact that people recognise me -period- is awesome
Barbara: I donít think it matters for us, yeah. Itís cool regardless of whatís happening
Lindsay: The funniest thing thatís happened, and weíve done this before a couple of times is because people donít know what we look like and especially as voice actors and they hear the characters and know the voice. My voice is clearly much lower than Rubyís in real life so if I meet people at conventions Iím like "Hi Iím the voice of Ruby" and they are like "Sure you are...ok". And I have to go into the voice and itís wonderful to see their face light up and go like "Oh my! Oh thatís fantastic!" We get that energy vibe too and we feel like weíre rewarded too just by having this interaction with the fans.
Barbara: Yeah it is really fun, there have been times where we have passed by cosplayers of our characters and Lindsay will be like "Hey I like your costume" thinking they would be like "Oh thatís Ruby, thatís so cool", but they would be like "oh thanks"
Lindsay: "Oh thanks Weirdo"
Barbara: But they donít actually recognise her or anything like that and they are just like "Whatever"
Lindsay: Usually a nice little "Bye" (in the voice of Ruby) is good and people go "Oh oh! Wait a minute!"
So, moving onto a more somber question, with the tragic passing of Monty Oum, has the show gone in the same direction of where he would have wanted it to go or are there any differences?
Barbara: Absolutely itís gone in the same direction. At the very start Monty brought on Miles, Kerry and everybody to write the show with him and to develop seasons and seasons of the show and so Miles and Kerry are very much aware of where he wanted to take it and they are definitely staying true to that.
Lindsay: We were speaking earlier about how when Monty approached us about RWBY in general before anything had been created he was like "let me tell you everything about this show that I want to make" and again he had seasons and seasons and seasons planned. We were like "Well Monty, why donít we make the show first before we get there!", but yeah, we basically have his game plans, for lack of a better term, set out in front of us and weíve done our best to stay true to what he would want for RWBY, especially moving forward with a lot of these character arcs and you know development.
Barbara: Weíre also trying to stay true to his quality, I mean, there is no one better than Monty and there never will be, in terms of what he was able to do and just his vision and his style and everything he was able to create and so trying to stay true to that as best we can, I think weíre doing a great job, but obviously some people notice "Oh that isnít as great a fight scene as Monty could create", but I think he would be very proud of what everyoneís producing.
Lindsay: Oh yeah, especially with the quality of the animation now. I think if he could see what the show looks like he would be blown away.
The art style is changing in Volume 4 isnít it?
Lindsay: Weíre actually in a new animation client now, so before we used Poser and in this volume we're using Maya. The biggest thing that youíre seeing is a shadow pass, so we have people whoís sole job is to go through and make sure that the shadows and lighting is properly placed.
Barbara: The lighting and the textures and the shadowing is beautiful. It just makes the show look so much more beautiful.
Lindsay: More defined, literally.
I havenít noticed any differences in the show, but continuing must have been quite difficult afterwards.
Barbara: It was but, as Monty always said, and we say now, keep moving forward.
Lindsay: We joke about it but itís totally true, I think he would be the first person to be like "Get over it. Stop crying, enough, youíve wasted time on this!"
So moving on, what would you say was the most difficult scene for you to voice?
Barbara: For me, it was the most difficult but also one of my favorite scenes, it was the last episode of Volume 3. Obviously Yang has suffered a very serious injury and a part of her was taken away, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally. So that was definitely a change of pace for me and I had to completely shift my mindset in terms of what the character is like so that was quite challenging.
Lindsay: I think about the same for me, going into a different place with Ruby and trying to express this sadness that sheís never really portrayed before. Along with that, the physicality of getting into the voice is very difficult to do like laughing or crying as Ruby, so to explore those different areas, especially in Volume 3 was very interesting and challenging but again very rewarding once we finally got it right.
So are we going to see more of those challenges in Volume 4?
Lindsay: Oh yeah, absolutely. We are going to deal with more intense subject matter.
Barbara: More of the real world!
Lindsay: Weíre not going to be Emo, as Miles said, and I totally agree. This isnít going to be the sad Ruby, but yeah, weíre out in the real world dealing with things we havenít experienced before
Barbara: No more being at school with your teachers.
Lindsay: No more protective walls.
Who would you say your favorite characters are? (other than your own!)
Barbara: Iíve always said Nora is my favorite (Lindsay: Cutie!). I think that sheís also very similar to Yang that sheís very spunky and upbeat most of the time and it doesnít seem like anything could ever make her sad and I admire that in a character.
Lindsay: I say all the time, but I like Professor Port.
Barbara: That mustache though
Lindsay: That Ďstache, I love it! I love that Stache
Barbara: Dr. Oobleck is great as well. I love Joel.
Lindsay: Yeah Joel is pretty fantastic.
Barbara: I love the relationship between Dr. Oobleck and Zwei. I mean sure "Is it cool if I hit your dog with my batt?" Turn him into a fireball. Zweiís a cutie.
Barbara: Get excited for his Zwei semblance. Thatís totally a joke! That was a joke!!
Would you guys says you are as close in real life as you are in the show?
Lindsay: Yeah both professionally and personally. Iíve been working with Barbara now for almost 5 years which is crazy, time goes by way too fast. Weíve become very close professionally and worked on a lot of different projects together and acted opposite each other in many different things.
Barbara: We also get to travel a lot together for RWBY and conventions.
Lindsay: And in our personal lives we hang out all the time and Michael, my husband was actually friends with Barbara before I had even started at the company so we hang out together a lot and weíve spoken about how a lot of the relationships between Yang and Ruby are also between us (Barbara: Quite sisterly) and Barbaraís really organised and put together and Iím socially awkward and sometimes very mismanaged, so Barbara helps me keep my stuff together basically.
Barbara: And itís the same with the other two girls as well, Arryn and Kara. All 4 of us have been friends and have worked together in one way or another (Lindsay: I went to college with Arryn) Arryn doesnít live near me anymore, but when she did we were very close and good friends so itís cool to see that emulated in RWBY with Yang and Blake as well.
Lindsay: We all hung out together last night. Like, RWBY girls out on the town! It was so cool.
Barbara: Teeeeeam Ruby! Tearing stuff up...
Lindsay: More like Team Boozey...
Final Question: If you could work on anything at Rooster Teeth going forward, what would be your dream project?
Barbara: Itís hard to say anything else besides RWBY as thatís been my favorite thing to work on at Rooster Teeth so far but we have other animated shows as well that lindsay and I do voices for and thatís always fun as they are usually so different from the other voices we do.
Lindsay: I think weíve explored almost every area of the company
Barbara: We do yeah, and Iíve just started a new show called ĎAlways Opení which is like a more female geared show but itís meant for everyone but itís cool to have female guest appearances and hosts and stuff like that. Itís female driven.
Otaku News would like to thank Barbara Dunkelman (Yang) and Lindsay Jones (Ruby) for giving us such an awesome interview. The good folks at Rooster Teeth for sending Barbara and Lindsay our way, plus the MCM London Comic Con for inviting them over as guests.