Christopher Wehkamp spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about FunimationCon 2020, voicing Fire Force’s Takehisa Hinawa, the reception to My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, dubbing My Hero One’s Justice 2, and fan favorite Miles Edgeworth.
This interview contains mild spoilers for Fire Force.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Funimation took the initiative of making this virtual convention, it could very well be the future of all conventions. How do you feel about the digital concept of FunimationCon 2020 as a blueprint for other conventions moving forward ?
Christopher Wehkamp: Honestly, I’m really excited about it. I like the fact that especially during this time that we’ve got a chance to come together and really just celebrate anime. I think that’s the aspect I’ve missed the most about going to conventions. I think I did about 17 conventions last year, 17 or 18, and this year I’m really missing it. A lot! So, yeah I’m really excited that Funimation is getting involved in that. Especially, bringing a lot of really exciting content experiences.
Do you feel the pandemic has heavily stifled your your vocal work or are you able to work from home?
Yeah, fortunately a lot of the studios have really embraced the idea of working with Actors who have home studios like myself. I’ve been very lucky in that aspect of it. Being able to work at home, kind of brings its own challenges… But getting to continue to work with these characters and still turn in auditions every day.
There’s a memorable scene in Fire Force where Takehisa Hinawa nonchalantly shoots Shinra Kusakabe for ‘idle chatter’. Shinra naturally thinks he’s hurt badly at first and is beside himself. What was it like to record for Hinawa in that moment? It was undoubtedly fun delivering that line.
I mean it was really good! Takehisa Hinawa is kind of a disciplinarian and that particular scene really showed his disciplinarian side coming out. It was fun I think because the character of Shinra and also the audience don’t quite know what to expect. At that point you don’t know exactly exactly how his powers work. It ends up being a really comedic scene. I loved it.
I got to watch it from the perspective of being ‘in the know’, being the character that knew what was happening. So that was really cool, I love working with Derick [Snow], the English voice of Shinra. I’m super duper excited for the debut of Season 2.
What did you think of the reception for My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising cinema release as the voice of Shota Aizawa?
Oh wow, I got to go to the to the L.A. premiere in February, before the whole world was shut down. It was incredible. Getting a chance to be there with the cast and a lot of the cosplayers and fans showed up for it… It was just a once in a lifetime thing, one of the coolest nights of my life.
What made it all the better was the movie being fantastic! It’s got great animation. The story is really riveting. Some of the scenes are the best action scenes I’ve ever seen in an anime, period. To get to be a part of that, it’s an incredible honor! A great privilege.
You’ve voiced a lot of unique personalities throughout the years, my personal favorite being Miles Edgeworth. How do you approach crafting the fine details of a character beyond the script?
Thank you so much! It really does depend on the source material of the character, especially when it comes to dubbing anime. When I when I get to approach a character that already exists, in the case of Miles Edgeworth, I want to be pretty immersed in the context of that world and the game. Fortunately, that one worked out really well because I had originally played Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in 2005 on Nintendo DS. So, I was already pretty familiar with the game, the world, and certainly was already familiar with Miles.
And from there you’re just you’re trying to craft an experience that entertaining and palatable to a western audience. But still feels very authentic and in the case of Ace Attorney, very comedic. There’s a lot of really funny, goofy moments especially between Phoenix and Miles. Where they’re kind of playing off their rivalry. So really playing that up! Of course, Director Kyle Phillips did a fantastic job of loving the source material and putting us right where we needed to be in any given scene.
When you talk about gaming, you voiced Shota Aizawa in My Hero One’s Justice 2, how do you compare recording lines for it compared to the anime? Is it a lot different day-to-day? I know you have to do all those screams or is that about the same?
No, you’re right. That’s actually one of the big differences! A lot of the reactions that you do as part of a video game are a very different flavor of voice acting than you typically get in a booth, doing like an anime dub. Although anime dubs, English dubs certainly have their fair share of those sorts of reactions. But of course with a video game, you’re really recording two or three takes of every single one. So, that you can sort of have a palette of sounds to work with.
I would say one of the biggest differences with Shota Aizawa, was we struggled sometimes in fight scenes specifically or in high tension moments because he’s so cool and laid back. (laughs) The challenge with him often times is to bring intensity, while also sort of remaining in that place of stoicism or coolness. There’s probably not a better word for it than cool!
The director and I were doing our best to sort of match what was already existing in the Japanese performance but also make sure we were staying true to that ethic of not getting too big with it. Finding the place where Aizawa exists most authentically I think. And that was fun! Doing the video game is a lot of fun. It’s much more high energy than he normally is in any given episode of the show. Getting the chance to do that was just really cool, really special.
How have you protected your voice over the years? I know a lot of voice actors drink tea.
That’s one thing I do for sure, on days when I’ve doing commercial voice over or voice acting. I don’t drink coffee and I try not to eat a lot of heavy foods. I’ve noticed those things can really affect my vocal performance and especially my endurance. I try to get a lot of sleep, drink a lot of water and tea. And you know when you get to the loud stuff, it’s really about support.
Having a background in singing and knowing how to use the diaphragm. How to support vocals for shouting during fight scenes and exerting yourself really goes a long way. But there are those days, when it’s just like you know what? This is maybe just going to hurt a little bit. And I think it can hurt and not damage you if you’re conscientious and do it in the right way. But it’s something I try to be very conscious of and careful about. You have to protect your career!
Was voice acting something you always wanted to do?
Well acting really was, I was always an actor. I started off in elementary school as an actor and I acted all the way through school and through college as well. I kind of became an anime fan during college, when I started watching Adult Swim and Toonami. That really introduced me to a lot of really classic shows, I remember watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time. It just blew my mind!
So yeah, I always had it in the back of my head, I thought it would be amazing to be able to get it to do that. I think it was 2011 when I got a shot at auditioning at Funimation. That was kind of the beginning of it, and I realized pretty quickly that the work that I do in the booth was some of my favorite work.
There’s something about it, the reach is so huge now, anime has become this really mainstream thing. It wasn’t when I was younger. It was much more of a niche, sort of entertainment category and now it’s exploded into the mainstream in a big way!
I feel the same way, when I saw the Dragon Ball Super: Broly voice cast filled up the Theater at MSG, it was pretty impressive.
Yeah, it’s amazing to see because it was not like this, 20 years ago. So yeah, I think it’s really rewarding the reach that you get from doing these shows. And video games too! It’s a worldwide phenomenon. I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Learn more about FunimationCon 2020:
– Get the English Dubbed Fire Force Season 1 Blu-ray at Amazon and catch up with Takehisa Hinawa!