EvilleCon 2014: Interview with Voice Actress Monica Rial

EvilleCon 2014

Monica RialThis year’s EvilleCon is happening March 28-30 at the Clarion Inn on Highway 41N in Evansville, Indiana. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to be able to go this year, but I was able to nab a few interviews with some of this year’s visiting guests. One of them is Monica Rial, voice actress extraordinaire. Monica has been in over 250 anime titles, voicing such memorable characters as Index from A Certain Magical Index; Treeya from Mass Effect: Paragon Lost; Carue, Kuina, and Tashigi from One Piece; Renge from Ouran Host Club; Stocking from Panty and Stocking; Tsubaki from Soul Eater; Sakura in various CLAMP titles related to Reservoir Chronicle: Tsubasa; Bulma in Dragonball Z Kai; and Kyoko from Full Metal Panic!. She has also starred in several video games, including Borderlands 2Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, Ms. Splosion Man, and Unlimited Saga. She’s also worked with voice directing and script adaptation for several titles.

I was really excited to be able to have an email conversation with Monica because she is one of my favorite voice actresses and has voiced some of my favorite characters (e.g. Tsubaki, Bulma, Kyoko, Sakura). It was great to be able to get a few moments, even if only online, to talk to her about her experiences as a voice actress for ADVFilms and FUNimation. She was incredibly nice and seemed genuinely interested in talking with us. So without further ado, our interview with Monica Rial!

DHGF: How did you initially get into voice acting?
MR: It was a total fluke. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be an actor but I never even considered pursuing voice acting. I was doing a show with Jason Douglas (who besides being a good friend is a BRILLIANT actor) and he suggested I audition for ADVFilms and gave me their number. He had been working with them for a while and he really enjoyed it. I called and they just happened to be having auditions that weekend. I auditioned and about 3 or 4 months later I was brought in to do walla (background voices) for Martian Successor Nadesico. Apparently, they liked what they heard because I was subsequently cast as Miharu in Gasaraki and Natsume in Generator Gawl.

TsubakiDHGF: What characters would you say you are most known for?
MR: Probably the characters who’ve appeared on television: Bulma in DBZ Kai, Shiro in Deadman Wonderland, May Chang in FMA Brotherhood, Tsubaki in Soul Eater… Oh, and definitely Stocking.

DHGF: A few of the VAs we’ve interviewed said they got their start through acting in stage plays and the like. Do you have any in/formal training in acting?
MR: Yeah, I’ve been onstage since the age of twelve. I studied acting throughout middle school, high school, and college. I’ve done numerous theatrical productions. I’ve played everything from Sally Bowles in Cabaret to Bianca in Taming of the Shrew.

DHGF: Has the voice acting process changed significantly in the past 15 or so years? If so, how?
MR: When I started very few people watched dubs or had any interest in American voice actors. Anime was incredibly expensive and dubbed anime was even more expensive. I used to go to conventions and I could act like an attendee. I could sing karaoke or I could walk around the dealers room and nobody cared! Now people know who I am and wait in lines to come chat with me. I think that’s so crazy! I’m so appreciative but I still feel bad about writing my name all over peoples’ things. ;)

DHGF: Do you have a process for getting into character? If so, what is it?
MR: It depends on the character. Usually, I’ll listen to music that reminds me of the character on the way to the studio. That gives me the opportunity to sing along to warm up. Once I’m at the studio, I don’t really have a process. I just jump in the booth and go!

DHGF: What have been your favorite characters to portray, and why?
MR: I can’t ever pick a favorite character because it’s like picking a favorite baby. I don’t know if it’s because of my weird voice or because I’m not afraid to look silly, but I get to play a lot of super cool characters. I love all of my characters but some of my absolute favorites are Michiko in Michiko & Hatchin, Shiro in Deadman Wonderland, Mei Rin in Black Butler, Haruka in Rahxephon, Izumi in Princess Nine, and Hyatt in Excel Saga.

DHGF: What characters, if any, have been the most difficult for you, and why?
MR: Kirika Yumura in Noir was extremely challenging because she was a girl of few words. I had to learn how to convincingly convey a plethora of different emotions while saying nothing but “Uh-huh.” It was so difficult but so rewarding. I’m really proud of my work in that show.

DHGF: Do you ever watch any of the anime that you star in? If so, are there any you got particularly invested in?
MR: I’d be lying if I said I watch all if it. There’s simply too much. I have gone back and watched full series and/or certain scenes of shows I’ve been in because I want to hear everyone else’s work. I watched Deadman Wonderland during its run on Toonami and I’ve caught several episodes of Soul Eater, Casshern, and FMA. I sat down to watch an episode of Speed Grapher a few weeks ago and ended up watching half the show! It’s so good!

BulmaDHGF: So you’ve played as Bulma in a few of her more recent appearances in the Dragon Ball series, and you’ve voiced a few other characters that have been voiced by other people before. How do you handle this? Do you try to emulate previous voice actresss or do you primarily stay with your own style?
MR: I approach it much like I do with the original seiyuu’s performance. I want to pay homage to their performance but I don’t want to just copy whatever they did. Usually, if I’m voicing a character who was previously voiced by another VA, I’ll listen to both the original seiyuu and the original voice actor. I’ll take bits and pieces from both performances and then add my interpretation of the character. In the end though, it’s all up to the director. It’s their job to guide us into giving the performance they want for that character.

DHGF: You voiced Kyoko, Kaname’s best friend, in one of my favorite anime series, Full Metal Panic!, and then you voiced her again in Fumoffu and The Second Raid. Is this a common occurrence, and are you requested back or do you have to re-audition? Do you enjoy voicing characters repeatedly like that?
MR: If it’s a continuation of a storyline then no, we don’t have to audition again. You’re simply called by whatever studio has the title and asked to come in and record. I think if you ask any voice actor whether they’d like to do more seasons of any particular show they’ll say yes. We love our characters and we like to work. ;)

DHGF: I read in one interview you did previously that you like to joke that the little girls you often portray pay the electric bills and are fun to play, but that you would like to voice a bad ass female at some point. I was kind of curious as to where you would place Tsubaki from Soul Eater.
MR: Well, they don’t technically pay my light bill. ;) i just play so many little girls because that’s what my voice sounds like naturally. I do play bad asses on occasion, just not as often as I play little girls. As far as Tsubaki, I’d say she’s more badass than little girl. Even though she doesn’t have a super low voice (she’s a teen after all) she is a ninja and a weapon. You can’t get much more badass than that!
[DHGF Note: Agreed!]

DHGF: I’ve noticed that you’ve voiced a few video game characters as well. How is the process different or similar to voicing anime characters?
MR: Well, with anime the animation is already set in stone and we’re forced to match the preexisting mouth flaps. With video games, you usually record before the video game is created so you have a lot more freedom. You have more room to improvise and have fun with the characters. Anime is still fun but I call it “math acting.” You can’t just act, you have a million things you have to think about while you’re acting.

SakuraDHGF: Tiffany Grant and I had a discussion about her experience as a female in the anime industry, and she talked about differences in character design and her satisfaction with working as a voice actress. How do you feel your experience has been?
MR: I love that anime has such strong, female characters. It’s the one genre in entertainment where a women/girl can save the world and nobody questions it. I think the industry has come a long way in creating even stronger female role models. That said, as much as I enjoy some of them, I hate the message that harem shows send to young men and women. Guys, 10 girls aren’t going to magically fall from the sky and fall in love with you. You have to work for it! And girls, we should be supporting one another, not fighting over the same man. Especially one that’s not worth our time in the first place! Don’t ever sacrifice who you are for a boy!

DHGF: What’s your favorite thing about being a voice actress?
MR: I love that I can play characters that I’d never get to play onstage or onscreen. I get to play children, animals, inanimate objects, you name it! Also, when you work on camera everything has to be turned down ten notches. In the booth, I can be my spunky, silly self and that’s totally okay!

DHGF: What types of projects are you working on now?
MR: I can’t really talk about that because of those pesky NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) but I can say that there are some exciting things happening. :)

DHGF: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a voice actor?
MR: ACT! I can’t say that enough! It doesn’t matter if it’s at school, community theater, or Broadway. Just do it! You CANNOT be a voice actor if you’re not an actor. Period. Take classes, read books, do whatever you can to learn about the craft. It’s a lot of work but that’s what it takes to succeed!

If you have a chance to go to EvilleCon at the end of March, I highly recommend it. At the door, a three-day badge price is $40. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Monica for me, and maybe get something signed. I will be super jealous, as I was hoping to get something from Soul Eater signed by her. Regardless, EvilleCon is a good time, so if you’re in the area and are a fan of anime and video games, you should definitely go!

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