Date: 2012 January 18 14:00
Posted by Azure
We got a chance to chat to well known voice actor Vic Mignogna at the last MCM London Expo. We discuss a range of topics from getting into voice acting, dubbing anime songs, voice acting inspirations, and of course Full Metal Alchemist.
How did you get into voice acting?
Quite by accident actually, I'd been doing a lot of acting since I was young, but voice acting? I'd never really thought about that, or put it together. I was a big fan of a lot of shows as a kid, but it never occurred to me that there were people doing the voices of those characters.
Then about thirteen years ago I was working on a video production in Houston, and one of the guys on the production said "Hey, you got a lot of acting experience right? There's this place in town that buys all these Japanese cartoons and they dub them into English and they need actors."
So I thought that sounded like fun, and went and auditioned and got cast, ADV films was the name of the company. At the time it was just a tiny little group of people like us ( he gestures to the interviewers present), and the first show I did was Vega in Street Fight 2. I didn't know what they did with the shows once we'd recorded them, how they were sold, how they were distributed, how they were made; I would just go in record characters and leave.
Then it grew from there, after having done 15 or so shows with ADV I got invited to an anime convention, I never even knew they did those. I used to go to pop culture conventions like these ( MCM Expo), and dress up in my best Captain Kirk uniform or Obi-Wan or something. So I went to this anime con and was blown away. There were all these people dressing up as characters I'd played, or had toys, or action figures or wall scrolls. I was just blown away, I didn't even know this stuff existed.
Then I met people from FUNimation at a convention, and started working At FUNimation doing more and more snows, then I met people from Los Angeles and started working in Los Angeles. It just snowballed, I was just overwhelmed by how it took off. I never planned it, I always make sure to give credit to God. I didn't plan for it, I didn't study for it. A door just opened and I just hazardously stumbled through. It was a really good door.
You've started to dub a lot of songs for anime running on TV, a few years ago it seemed most changed the songs completely. What changed?
There isn't really a set time that they started dubbing songs, a lot of times the Japanese companies that owned the original music won't grant the licence to dub the songs, because they want to sell CDs of the original bands. Like Full Metal Alchemist, they wouldn't let us dub any of the songs. They wanted to promote all the bands that sung all those songs, they were all very popular bands over there (in Japan), so they didn't allow FUNimation to dub all the songs.
Then you come to One Piece or Dragon Ball Kai, then they got permission. I have a very extensive background in music; I've been singing, writing and producing music twice as long as I've been voice acting. I got the chance after ten years of not being involved in the music of anime at all, I just did voice acting. It was kinda weird, I did so much music, but they never asked me to do anything music related until I was asked to sing some One Piece songs, and there was the GT song, and the Kai theme. Since then I've done songs from DNAngel and Ouran High School.
It's just up to the Japanese companies what they allow to be dubbed.
What role are you most proud of playing?
Without question I would have to say is Edward Elric. I had no idea I'd be so impacted by that show and by that character. I remember when I was young, there was an actor named Yul Brynner, and he played the King in 'The King and I', he did all kinds of stuff but he was most known for playing the King in the King and I. He did that show for almost every night for thirty years on Broadway, thousands of performances. I realised that out of all of the characters I'd played, that as much as I loved Full Metal and that character, I'd played it longer than any other character I'd played. When you consider the original series, the OVAs, the movie, video games and Brotherhood ( which was longer than the original series), then the movie from Brotherhood and OVAs from Brotherhood, and then suddenly I'd played this wonderful character in this amazing show for something like 140 episodes.
There are a lot of roles I'm proud of; Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, Zero from Vampire Knights, and there's a show airing at the moment in the States called Kekkaishi, and I play Yoshimori the lead in that show, there's also Fai from Tsubasa, Ikkaku from Bleach; there are so many great shows, but it's so hard to top Full Metal.
Are there other voice actors that have inspired you?
No not really, but there are other voice actors that I have a great amount of respect for, and in many cases I've been doing it longer than they have, but they're really good at what they do. Laura Bailey is amazing, Lucy Christian is fantastic, Troy Baker ...they're just stupidly talented people. Laura actually plays opposite me in Kekkaishi, and of course she was Lust in FMA. So not so much as inspired, as much as admire and respect them.
...a lot of people suggest Mel Blanc.
I think they say that because everyone knows him as the Warner Brother's voice actor, he's amazing but when I was a little kid watching all those shows I never thought of being a voice actor. It never occurred to me to be a voice actor, so it never occurred to me. I remember being young, something like 13 or 14 and me and my friend loving Speed Racer. Now I didn't know it was anime, I didn't even know what anime was. I just knew it didn't look like Scooby-Doo, it didn't look like all of the other Western Cartoons. It looked different, the voices were different, the delivery was different, they way they were performed were different. So me and my friend ran around all the time imitating Speed Racer, so who could have known that fast forwarding thirty years that I'd be in the middle of anime, which Speed Racer was!
Have there been any roles you've auditioned for and not gotten?
There are always those yeah. But worse than that was the roles that I was cast in, then the company went down and they lost the licences and it went to another company. I don't know if you remember Sergeant Frog? I love Sergeant Frog, I got cast as Sergeant Frog, (Keroro) we did fifteen episodes; we were well into doing that show, and I loved it so much. Then ADV went under and all the licences went to other companies, and FUNimation got it and started over with it casting actors that lived locally. Suddenly it was gone. Same thing with Gurren Lagann, I was playing a great role and ADV went under and it went to a company in Los Angeles, but I wasn't living in LA at the time. I wanted to be involved in Death Note, but that went to a production company in Canada and you won't find any American voice actors in their productions, because that's part of the deal you have to use their people.
There are plenty of those, if you do anything long enough they'll be roles you really wanted to do or were gunning for and that's part of the business, there's rejection. You've heard that before. For every role you get there's ten or fifteen you audition for and didn't get. There was a particular role in Hetalia, and there was a role I was really gunning for. It came down to me and one other guy, but that other guy's voice was a bit higher than mine was and that was why he got the role, and that'll happen a lot.
But I will say I'm extremely grateful, and humbled for the opportunities I have gotten. I've played a lot of great roles, and I wouldn't change it for anything.
Otaku News and Voiceacting.co.uk would like to thank the following...
Vic Mignogna for agreeing to be interviewed and taking his time out of a busy event schedule.
We'd also like to thank everyone at London MCM Expo for arranging the interview.
Additonal thanks goes to Azure of Voiceacting.co.uk / Otaku News for typing up the audio transcript of this interview.
This article was a joint effort between Otaku News and Voiceacting.co.uk.