Back in April, I had the chance to interview Vic Mignogna (last name pronounced Min-YAH-nah) for Sakura-Con 2017. The interview was a panel-style interview, where each member of the press went in turn. Out of five press groups, I went third. Helping me with the interview was my photographer, Natalia (Nat), who took all the photos you see here, as well as most of the photos during the Con.
Because the interview lasted about 20 minutes, I’ve split the interview into three parts. All questions asked in the first part are presented in their original order, except for the third question, which came in the second part of our interview, but I felt made more sense to include here.
G=Greg, V=Vic, N=Nat
G: We’ll start at the beginning. What first got you interested in voice acting?
V: I never set out to be a voice acting. I just loved acting. And what started me on my love of acting, to be quite honest, was Star Trek. When I was nine, ten, eleven, my parents had just divorced, and my mom and I were living in a little apartment in Monroeville, Pa. I came home one day from school and turned on the television — this little black and white 19 inch television — laid down on the floor in front of it, and here was this TV show, Star Trek. I watched it and I loved it. So the next day I watched the next episode and I became obsessed with it. I loved the stories they told, I loved the characters, I loved the characters relationships to each other, I loved the imagination of it all…and it made me want to do what they were doing.
So I found myself going back to school and auditioning for school plays, and then taking acting classes and going to acting camps: summer camps for acting, drama, theater. That took me into high school and college, continued acting, continued auditioning for things, performing any chance I got. And…that took me into my adult life, auditioning for community theater, and church programs, anything, again, to just…act. Do something I love doing.
And one day somebody said to me, “Hey, you should try auditioning for this place in town here in Houston. They dub Japanese anime and they need actors.” Well, all I heard was, “They need actors.” And I went and auditioned. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I had no idea where it would ever go or what would ever become of it. To me it was another opportunity to act, which was something I fell in love with when I was nine and ten years old. And that’s how I got into the industry, and….I never set out to be a voice actor. I just wanted to act. And voice acting gave me the opportunity to do it.
G: Who were some important mentors for you, and how did they help you with acting or voice acting?
V: Well, I never had any voice acting mentors because I’m kind of the old guy in the industry it seems now. I dunno how that happened. How did that ever happen?! But, y’know, I’ve been doing it for almost twenty years now.
As far as acting is concerned, I’ve always enjoyed the work of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy. The people that were in Star Trek made a big impression on me. I don’t really follow any particular actors except I have such nostalgic affection and feelings for the Star Trek actors. But as far as voice acting is concerned, I didn’t know anybody. I mean, everybody talks about Mel Blanc, who was the voice of Porky Pig and…Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny, and all that. He was amazing. But that’s not anime. You don’t really do voices like that in anime. Anime is a little more grounded in reality, in more real people kind of thing. So, I didn’t really know anybody in the voice acting world when I started doing it, didn’t have any mentors.
G: Who are some voice actors you admire now and why?
V: [Thinks about it] Laura Bailey, Caitlin Glass, Steve Bloom. People that I know personally and that I’ve done a lot of shows with and I have an enormous amount of respect for their abilities.
G: When you’re doing an English dub for an anime, do you take any acting cues from the original Japanese performance, or do you create your performance separate from the original?
V: No absolutely. Absolutely. There are three factors in a voice actor’s performance. The first factor is what the director wants. He’s ultimately responsible for the dub, right? So his ideas and his thoughts on what he wants you to do with the character, how he wants you to perform a certain thing, that’s one of the factors.
Another contributing factor is the actor himself. My ideas about how I want to do something. A good director will hire a good actor and then let the actor do what he does. Not try to control him and puppet him and make him imitate [the director], “Okay, do it just like I do it,” but let the actor do what he does. And hopefully the actor will bring some interesting things and some fresh ideas and some good performances [to the table].
So what the actor brings to the table is one factor, what the director brings to the table is another factor, and thirdly, what you mentioned: the original Japanese. Sometimes, the original Japanese is spot-on. Like, you don’t even have to hear the original Japanese to have the same instinct to do exactly what they did. But then there are other times when what the Japanese guy did does not really work in an English setting. Sometimes a reaction might be bigger or wackier than you think it should be. Sometimes he’ll make some interesting sound and you want to do something equivalent, but not the same thing. Or sometimes he’ll have a line of dialog that may not make any sense in English.
So, sometimes the Japanese actor will have some really good ideas, emotional cues and performance ideas and you’ll hear it and be like, “Oh I love that. That’s what we should do.” But then sometimes you’ll have different ideas and sometimes the director will have different ideas. So those are the three different factors.
G: So switching to kind of a…not as serious question.
G: Do you ever call up your friends and leave them messages as different characters?
V: [Big laugh] Y’know what, I used to do that until the dawn of caller ID. I literally used to do it for fun until caller ID came up and then your friends knew who was calling, so it kind of defeats the purpose.
I called a friend once and I left him a message and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I was like the landlord of some building and made up this huge story. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. And he called me back and goes, “Thanks for the message,” and I’m like, “What?” He goes “Caller ID, dude. I knew it was you.” And I’m like [bangs the table with his fist].
G: Which characters did you used to do?
V: Oh it wasn’t even a specific anime character. It was just some weird…some weird, y’know, hic. [does a Southern accent] Texas. Y’know. Kinda guy. I’m calling from so-and-so. Come on down to the office. [normal voice] Whatever. Just making stuff up. Again, it was funny until they knew it was you, and then, like, what’s the point?
N: Y’know you can put star 67 before the number and then it blocks caller ID.
V: I have heard that. Yes. I have heard that. I should do that.
WOMAN’S VOICE (Sakura-Con employee): Don’t encourage him.